1704, the Blenheim year


United Provinces

On the one hand the Dutch were quite satisfied with things so far: The war was not on their immediate frontiers anymore; the Rhine had been cleared up to Philipsburg; The Meuse was clear up to Huy; commerce was not hindered too much. On the other hand they of course also understood the danger the empire was in. This would lead them to support Marlborough's march to Germany.


The Whig party in England though at itself in favor of war, was not happy with the lack of results of 1703, and tried to turn away attention from their responsibility by attacking Marlborough and Godolphin for their role in it. The Tories doing much the same for different reasons


The Austrians were off course least happy in the winter of 1703. In the coming campaign Vienna would be threatened from Italy, Bavaria and Hungary. They desperately needed help.


The French were now in a position to end the war by marching on Vienna. To this goal they fielded 8 armies:

  • The Flanders army under Marshall Villeroy;
  • The upper Rhine army under Marshall Tallard;
  • The Franco-Bavarian army under Marsin;
  • The Piemont army under Vendome;
  • One in Lombardy;
  • The Savoy army under La Feuillade;
  • The Cevennes army under Villars;
  • The army in Spain under Berwick.

Most probably it would just be a matter of staying on the defensive in the Netherlands and at the same time march on Vienna to destroy the empire.


In the beginning of 1704 it had become quite clear just how effective Orry had been at redressing the financial situation. Berwick said: 'I have to do this justice to Orry that however mediocre his character he did not omit anything he thought useful or necessary. He meddled in everything and did everything.' (B. p. 5) A quite numerous army was now paid for by the king, and daily expenses could now be paid. Felipe then left Madrid for the army in the beginning of March. The enemies of Des Ursins thought this the moment to strike at her: Louis XIV sent an order recalling her (and her friends) to Felipe, while the ambassador, Puységur, D'Aubenton, Berwick and others had instructions to convince Felipe to follow it up, and so Des Ursins left. With Louis knowing that Felipe would blame the order on the ambassador, he also let Felipe know that he would name a new ambassador, which was the duke the Gramont.

By the instructions Torcy gave to Gramont it becomes clear that Torcy viewed Orry with distrust. When Grammont arrived in Madrid he soon learned how angry the queen was at the recall of Des Ursins. He then traveled to the army and met Felipe. Because the heat prescribed a suspension of the campaign Felipe then left for Madrid early July. And then the battle continued: Felipe had divided the function of secretary in two, meaning that he left the general function of secretary to the marquis de Rivas (whom he did not like), while in all cases concerning defense Canalez acted as secretary (look at the functions of the griffier in the Dutch politics section to understand what that meant). Practically this meant that all defense affairs were handled by Felipe, Orry and Canalez, and that Gramont could not get a grip on them. Louis XIV therefore wanted to reinstate Rivas as sole secretary.

When Gibraltar was easily taken by an Anglo-Dutch force on 14 August 1704, Gramont of course had new ammunition to complain to Louis XIV about Orry and Canalez. Louis XIV then got his way reinstating Rivas and recalling Orry to France. A new Despacho was then formed with the archbishop of Sevilla, the marquis de Mancera, the count de Montallano, the duke of Montalto, the count of Monterey and the marquis del Fresno. A composition that was not at all to the taste of the royal couple: even though Porto-Carrero was left out so were a lot of their favorites. Louis XIV believed that with this new order he could govern Spain, but this soon proved a mirage. After all the previous affairs the queen was that prejudiced against French ambassadors that Gramont could not win her trust, and because the queen overpowered Felipe she could in private overrule any decisions taking in the Despacho.

Gramont then decided he needed the assistance of the Des Ursins, who was in Toulouse, if he wanted to get anywhere with the queen. Des Ursins obliged him and in return got permission (16 November 1704) to travel to Versailles to acquit herself in person to Louis XIV. It seems that the consequence of giving Gramont access to the queen resulted in the queen gaining the confidence of Gramont in stead of the other way around. Soon after they consulted each other Gramont began to change his opinion about a lot of Spaniards he previously thought attached to the French cause. Half September he was complaining about the freshly reinstated Rivas, now taking the view of Felipe and Marie Louise in stead of Louis' view.


Situation of the front in early 1704

In northern Europe the campaign of 1703 had not done much to remedy the defection of Bavaria form the empire. On the upper Rhine Louis of Baden still stood his ground but had not been able to prevent the French from entering Bavaria. The French were now poised to strike at Vienna. In Italy the allies had lost all initiative.

The Bavarian campaign of 1704

This is how the Moselle plan came up. The allies had to do something to prevent a strike at Vienna and thought to redirect French attention this sector. Marlborough was to march about 40,000 men (of which about 10,000 Dutch) up the Rhine.

The first step the French took was reinforcing the Franco-Bavarian army by sending new troops to it. This brought it to a total of 50,000 men. At the same time this happened Marlborough, with 19,000 men (14 battalions 39 squadrons) started his march up the Rhine obviously going to the Moselle. After Villeroy with a large detachment from the Flanders army had started a pursuit on a parallel course, the Dutch sent 8 battalions and 21 squadrons of Danes to reinforce Marlborough.

This paralyzed French operations: they felt they needed to know what Marlborough would do before acting themselves. The reason for this is simple: If Marlborough would use boats on the Rhine he could be back in Holland in no time, while the French did not have this possibility.

On 7 June 1704 Marlborough crossed the Main making it clear to all that he would try to crush Bavaria. This gave Marlborough the advantage of the inner line of communication with Louis of Baden. Marlborough and Louis could concentrate their armies giving them local superiority wherever they wanted. The French generals now saw only a slight chance to save Bavaria, and would have preferred not to send it any aid. Louis XIV however ordered Marshall Tallard to assemble an army and march into Bavaria.

With Louis of Baden leaving 30,000 men on the lines of Stolhofen commanded by Eugenius he joined the rest of his army with Marlborough's on 22 June 1704, it then totaling 76 battalions and 177 squadrons. This included the 12 Dutch battalions under Lt-general van Goor that were already in the area since last year. The first goal of the now united army commanded by Marlborough was the city of Donauw�rth. This led to the Battle of the Schellenberg for a hill dominating the city.

On 2 July 1704 the assault began. The 50,000-60,000 strong allied army sent assault troops against the 14,000 defenders commanded by Count Arco. This became quite a bloodbath that I want to describe separately. Finally the allies succeeded with 6,000 lost of whom about 1,500 killed. Of the 14,000 defenders 5,000 got away and rejoined the main body of the Franco-Bavarian army. With Donauwörth falling to the allies soon after the road to Bavaria lay open.

The allies then send raiding parties through the country in order to wreak destruction and induce Max Emanuel to peace. Max Emanuel reacted to this by spreading his army throughout Bavaria to protect important points. The most important concentration of the French under marshal Marsin was at Augsburg

Negotiations were then opened in order to bring the Bavarians into the allied camp. Just as the Elector seemed to bow to allied pressure he on 14 July 1704 received a message that Marshall Tallard (marching from the Rhine since 1 July) was in the Black forest marching on Villingen with 40 battalions and 60 squadrons totaling about 35,000 men. Negotiations were then broken off.

Now things did not look that good for the allies. They had failed to accomplish anything after taking Donauwörth. On 5 august Tallard, Marsin and the Elector joined their armies south of Ulm. Luckily Eugene had followed Tallard's movement with a lot of his troops from Stollhofen, and soon joined Marlborough.

With the armies now only about 30 km's apart the allied generals decided that Louis of Baden would besiege Ingolstadt with 20,000 men. The French decided to crush Eugene's small army of 18 battalions at Höchstädt. After Eugene had sent an alarm Marlborough joined him there on 11 August.

On 13 August 1704 66 battalions and 160 squadrons (56,000 men) prepared to attack. The French had 84 battalions and 147 squadrons (about 60,000 men). The battle was fought with Eugenius on the right wing against Marsin and the Elector, and Marlborough on the left against Tallard. The army of Tallard would be completely destroyed and Tallard himself taken prisoner. The army of Marsin and the elector retreating. Bavaria would soon be completely conquered by the alliance.

The allies had about 6,000 killed and the same number wounded. The total Franco-Bavarian losses during and after the battle of Blenheim can be calculated from the only 3,000 Bavarians and 13,000 French reaching France again: thus 60,000 minus 16,000 = 44,000 lost in this period. From the campaigns of 1703 and 1704 combined the number is about 150,000 minus 16,000 = 134,000 soldiers lost

The Hungarian campaign of 1704

The Hungarian rebellion grew bigger and bigger. At the end of 1704 it had consumed central Hungary, with only a string of West-Hungarian cities (e.g. Sopron), some fortresses and the bigger cities of Transylvania remaining to the emperor. The Kuruzzen (loosely organized cavalry) had even started to plunder the surroundings of Vienna.

In regular combat the Hungarians were however defeated in the battle of Koronco in June 1704. North of the Danube the rebel army also suffered a major defeat in the battle of Nagyszombat (nowadays Trnava) on 25 December 1704. The imperial general Heister succeeded in reconquering the right bank of the Danube. These victories did not achieve anything however, as the beaten Hungarians tended to quickly regroup after each defeat

On the Rhine

On the Rhine Villeroy had started his march against the lines of Stollhofen on 17 August. Hearing of the disaster in Bavaria he decided to help the retreating forces and marched to Villingen to save at least some of them. The aforementioned remnants of the elector and Marsin joined him there on 24 August.

The German campaign after Blenheim

Again the allies offered terms to the elector that was about to see his whole lands occupied, but again he refused. The allies left general Thüngen with 15,000 men to besiege Ulm that would fall 10 September. On 8 September the allies had crossed the Rhine near Philipsburg. Quickly Marlborough and Eugenius marched to the Lauter a tributary River to the Rhine south of Landau. Louis of Baden marched 12 September with 31 battalions and 40 squadrons to start the siege of Landau that fell 24 November 1704 (M. to H. 12-09-1704). Marlborough then started to march troops to Trier on 20 October (M. to H. 20-10-1704), leaving half the Hessians, the Luneburgers and the English troops with Prinz Eugen who covered the siege of Landau(M. to H. 26-10-1704). Marlborough captured Trier on 29 October 1704 and immediately started fortifying it employing 6,000 locals, while general Hompesch garrisoned the place with Marlborough covering it for some time (M. to H. 31-10-1704).The prince of Hessen with 12 battalions captured Traarbach that fell 18 December 1704. The approach roads to enter France next year via Thionville seemed opened.

The Italian campaign of 1704

With the balance of forces as it was the defense of Savoy would have to rest on its fortifications for the moment. These were:

  • Turin: Bombarded 27 August 1704, siege starts May 1706
  • Cuneo: Not attacked or captured in this war?
  • Saorge: The fortress protecting the Roya valley near Nice would remain in Savoiard hands.
  • Nizza / Nice: Siege begins March 1705, City taken 10 April 1705, Citadel capitulates 4 January 1706
  • The Saint Elme citadel in Villafranca / Villefranche (near Nice): Besieged and taken March 1705. (Villefranche on 7 February 1705 and the fortress on 3 April 1705?)
  • Montmelian (fortress): Destroyed after capitulating 17 December 1705
  • Demonte (fortress): Seems not to have been attacked by the French
  • Chivasso / Chivas: Siege starts 16 June 1705, taken 28 July 1705
  • Verrua / Verrus (fortress): Siege starts 14 October 1704, surrenders 9 April 1705, the long siege seems to have cost the French many casualties.
  • Ivrea / Yvrée: Captured 20 September 1704
  • Bard (fortress): Seems to have resisted only 9 days in 1704, I cannot find the exact date of its surrender.
  • Vercelli / Verceil: Taken by Vendome 19/20 July 1704
  • Santa Maria di Susa (fortress): Taken in 15 days by La Feuillade 12 June 1704

During all these operations Victor Amadeus still had an army in the field that moved around. In short one can say that the French made good headway in 1704. From this material I can however not conclude that Victor Amadeus was near seeing his whole country occupied soon.

The Spanish campaign of 1704

According to Berwick himself, he arrived in Spain in 1704 with 18 battalions and 19 squdrons (B. II/1). Berwick planned to open the campaign on 1 May. He himself and Felipe would march on the right bank conquering Salvatierra, Monsanto, Castel-Branco, and all the area up to Villaveila. 't Serclaes would march on the left bank, conquer Castel de Vide, Port Alègre, march to Nisa in order to link up with Berwick by means of pontoon bridges at Vila Velha de Rodao. From there they would march jointly on Abrantès, and make further plan upon arriving there. Don Francisco Ronquillo and Joffreville would enter Portugal by way of Almeida with 14 squadrons.

Felipe arrived at the army on 3 May. The army then marched on 4 May with 25 battalions and 40 squadrons. Salvatierra was soon besieged, the 2 battalion garrisson shamefully surrendering themselves into captivity on 7 May after only two days of siege. Segura and Rosmarinos were also quickly taken. Monsanto was then taken in three days. Castel-Branco defended itself for only four days. The Dutch general Fagel who was at Sourcira with two Dutch battalions was then surprised when Lt. General Marquis de Thouy surrounded him at the break of dawn with 8 battalions and some cavalry. Though Fagel himself escaped, major general Welderen and the soldiers had to surrender themselves.

't Serclaes' part of the plan, that he had to execute with 4 French and 8 Spanish battalions together with 30 squadrons, did not go that well. He was opposed by the duke of Schomberg, the English general, who was at Estremoz with a considerable force. 'T Serclaes therefore stayed at the border of Estremadura, telling Berwick that his communications and supplies from Spain would be cut if he advanced. Berwick believed this to be not the case, but due to 't Serclaes being somewhat timid, stating that he would even have retreated to Badajoz had not the French Maréchal de Camp le Chevalier d'Asfeld prevented him from doing so.

Seeing that despite the reiterated orders by Felipe V, 't Serclaes would not advance, Berwick now made arrangements to go march towards him. He garrisoned Castelo Branco with 5 battalions and 15 squadrons under the command of De Gaëtano, left a guard of 2 battalions and 1 squadron by the ship-bridge of Vila Velha de Rodao and then crossed the Rio Tajo there. He now marched to Nisa, and from there to the enemy strong point of Portalegre. Here 't Serclaes arrived at the same moment Berwick did. Portalegre was defended by two Portuguese and one English Btn. but was taken the very next day with the garrison taken prisoner.

The Portuguese Marquis de Las Minas had meanwhile assembled 18 battalions and 18 squadrons at Amlmeida. He began by taking Castle of Guinaldo, and from there crossed the Serra de Estrela at Pena Major. He then retook Monsanto. De Gaëtano now became frightened that his supply line to Zarza would be cut. and retreated to Zarza. Here De Gaëtano was met by De Ronquillo, who had marched with a petit corps towards him. At Zarza De Joffreville, sent by Berwick, now arrived. He persuaded De Ronquillo to reconnoiter the enemy in force by sending 15 Squadrons back over the border, leaving 8 battalions further back at a defile. This cavalry then met the Portuguese army marching towards them and could only retreat through the defile by repeatedly charging at the enemy. The rear guard then frightened the infantry that had retreated to Salvatierra in advance of it. The main body of infantry taking them for the Portuguese ignomously took to flight to Alcantara, while the supplies were plundered by soldiers profiting from the panic. The infantry only returned to Zarza on the next day.

The French Maréchal de Camp who had been detached by Berwick with 3 battalions and 6 squadrons with orders to recross the Rio Tajo at Vila Velha de Rodao and then march to Ronquillo by way of Castelo Branco, meeting with him at the same defile. Risbourg not knowing of the recent action then met the Portuguese army there in stead of Ronquillo's. He however kept his forces so well that the enemy not aware of his exact strength did not dare to attack him. He thus retired to Castelo Branco where he linked up again with Berwick who had gone there with 8 battalions and 14 squadrons in order to save Monsanto. Felipe stayed at Nisa with the rest of the army.

Berwick now wanted to do battle with Las Minas. He therefore ordered De Ronquillo to meet him at Duero, and himself camped on the left bank of the Ponsul river. De Las Minas now marched on the Castelo Branco road towards the pontoon bridge. Berwick with his now united army then camped near Castelo Branco on the next day, with the intention of attacking De Las Minas on the next. Learning of this De Las Minas then retired to a position in front of Pena Major. Because it was impossible to attack De Las Minas there Berwick left Lt-General the count d'Aguilar in command of the camp and himself went to Nisa to rejoin Felipe.

The marquis de Villadarias captain-general of Andalusia now came on the scene with 10 battalions and some squadrons. He had orders to attack Castelo de Vide, and to help him Berwick sent him 8 French battalions under the chevalier d'Asfeld. Castelo de Vide garrisoned by 2 Portuguese and one English battalion was not well fortified, but it had a good and large castle, that could give the French quite some trouble because they lacked good artillery. However, after only four days the walls began to crumble and the Portuguese governor started to negotiate. When the French demanded that they would become prisoners of war the English part of the garrison refused. The French now started to intimidate the governor by stating that all the soldiers would be killed and the women raped if he did not surrender. The governor then surrendered, and let the French into the city. The English, who did not agree, seized the castle in order to defend themselves, but the governor had ordered all gunpowder thrown into the wells, leaving the English no choice but to surrender too. The marquis de Villadarias would then go on to capture de castle of Marvao.

Heat, sickness and the supply situation now became such a problem for Felipe's army that he decided to take up the summer camps in Spain. The invasion army now razed Castelo de Vide, PortAlegre and Castelo Branco, retaining only Marvao, Salvaterra and Segura. On 1 July Berwick then retired to Ciudad-Rodrigo, D' Aquilar went to Alcantara, 't Serclaes retired to Badajoz and Villadarias went back to Andalusia.

Results: Thus the only territorial result of Berwick's spring campaign was the possession of three border fortresses. The allied had lost several battalions prisoners of war, and Berwick had lost only a few men in combat. On the other hand he had however lost many men and horses to sickness, and his army was therefore considerably diminished ('extrêmement diminuée par les maladies.') though he had been victorious at all engagements. A fact by which it becomes doubtful which side had in the end had the advantage.

On the personal level Berwick blamed 't Serclaes for dallying for a month and thereby ruining the campaign. On the allied side the English blamed the duke of Schomberg for doing nothing and replaced him by Galway. The logistics side of the French campaign seems to have been ruined by the fact that the supply was organized with wagons, for which there were no roads in the theater. As a consequence the bread never arrived in time nor in sufficient quantity. On top of that it was not baked enough (to increase the weight) and arrived from Spain rotten by heat. The artillery and munition supply was also insufficient, but did not hinder that much because the alliance garrisons did not seriously try to defend themselves. It was also discovered that in Spain good horse fodder could not be found everywhere (as was the case in northern Europe), and so almost all Spanish and two thirds of the French horses did not survive the campaign.

In view of the recent French siege of Barcelona (during the war of Ligue of Augsburg), the actions Louis had undertaken against Catalan culture in France, and the damage so far done to Valentian trade, unrest had spread, especially in Cataluna. This led the allies to attempt an action for capturing Barcelona which failed.

After this the alliance conquered Gibraltar on 4 August. Meanwhile trouble broke out between 't Serclaes and Berwick, which resulted in Berwick being recalled and replaced by Tessé. The two crowns then in the beginning of October started a siege of Gibraltar under the command of the marquis de Villadarias.

The naval campaign of 1704

The French had concentrated all their naval forces at Toulon. In July 1704 the Anglo-Dutch fleet started bombarding Gibraltar, and the prince of Hessen landed with 1,800 English and Dutch marines. On 4 August Gibraltar capitulated. It is important to note here that vessels could then not winter at Gibraltar, the harbor lacked the facilities for this and the fleet would still have to retire to the north before winter. (These facilities would later be built.)

The French then sent their fleet of 50 ships of the line and 24 galleys commanded by the count of Toulouse to Gibraltar. On 24 August near Malaga this force met the Anglo-Dutch fleet of 53 commanded by Rooke. The French command was: Front by De Vilette Mursay, centre Toulouse/d'estrées, rear De Langeron. The Anglo-Dutch was Shovell/Leake, Brooke, Callenburgh. The battle was a long drawn out cannonade in which no ships were lost, but both sides took heavy casualties of 2,000-3,000 men. The French claimed victory though they cleared the sea. Because the allies had more ships in store to the north, and the French did not sail again with their full fleet, this battle marks the beginning of allied supremacy in the Med.