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Siege of Valenciennes (1793)

The siege of Valenciennes took place between 13 June and 28 July 1793, during the Flanders Campaign of the War of the First Coalition. The French garrison under Jean Henri Becays Ferrand was blockaded by part of the army of Prince Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, commanded by the Duke of York. Valenciennes fell on 28 July, resulting in an Allied victory.

Contents

  • Background 1
  • The Siege 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5

Background

Following the defeat of the French Republican armies at Neerwinden, the Allied army under the Prince of Coburg recovered much of the Austrian Netherlands and began besieging Condé-sur-l'Escaut, while the demoralised French army's attempts to relieve the fortress in actions at St.Amand and Raismes were driven back. By mid May Coburg was reinforced to a strength approaching 90,000, which allowed the Allies to drive the French from an entrenched camp at Famars on 23 May, and lay siege to Valenciennes.

Many of the French who had been driven from Famars took refuge in the fortified town of Valenciennes, raising its garrison considerably.

Coburg selected the recently arrived Duke of York to lead the siege operations with his own command and 14,000 Austrians, while Austrian General Joseph de Ferraris was attached to supervise the technical aspects. The British government were surprised by this, the British were inexperienced in heavy siege warfare and lacked equipment, it was even suspected the Austrians had some sinister reasons for choosing York [1] York's Chief of Engineers Colonel Moncrieff believed that the place could be carried by an assault without the need for a long protracted investment, but Ferraris would hear none of it and insisted on a formal siege of trenches following full procedures.

The Siege

It took a fortnight before heavy guns could be brought forward, but on 13 June trenches were finally dug and the siege began. 25,000 men undertook the siege, protected by a covering army of 30,000.

The siege operations of the Austrians proceeded at a slow pace, much to the frustration of York. Fitzgerald wrote "He sharply remonstrated with them, and in return was reproved for his excessive zeal".[2]

On 26 July, the main hornworks on the Eastern side were stormed by three columns, one of them of British troops (companies of the Guards supported by part of Abercromby's brigade).[3] York's chief of staff Murray wrote: "The keeping of the hornwork was entirely owing to us putting the Duke of York at the head. Repeated orders were sent by General Ferraris to evacuate it. Knowing the Duke's wishes on that head, convinced of the folly of such a measure, and strongly supported by Colonel Moncrieff, I gave positive orders to the contrary, which was approved in the fullest manner by His Royal Highness who was at that time at a redoubt a little to the rear"[4]

Following the fall of the hornwork Valenciennes surrendered on 28 July, the garrison being allowed to leave with the honours of war minus their weapons and munitions.

Aftermath

York was proclaimed as a saviour by the population of the town, which trampled the tricolour underfoot and declared him King of France.[5]

Although the released garrison troops were supposed to return to France and not fight again in the War, in fact many were immediately reassigned to the defence of Dunkirk by the French government.

Notes

  1. ^ Fortescue p.219
  2. ^ Fitzgerald II p.111, quoted in Burne p.56
  3. ^ Fortescue p.221
  4. ^ Murray, quoted in Burne p.56-57
  5. ^ Fortescue p.222

References

  • Brown, Robert (1795), An impartial Journal of a Detachment from the Brigade of Foot Guards, commencing 25 February, 1793, and ending 9 May, 1795, London .
  • Officer of the Guards, An (1796), An Accurate and Impartial Narrative of the War, by an Officer of the Guards, London .
  • Thiers, M (1845), A History of the French Revolution, London .
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