Battle of Famars, or Valenciennes, 23 May 1793

Battle of Famars, or Valenciennes, 23 May 1793


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Battle of Famars, or Valenciennes, 23 May 1793

The battle of Famars or Valenciennes, 23 May 1793, was an Allied victory on the borders of France which prepared the way for the siege of Valenciennes. In the spring of 1793 the Allies (by now Austria, Prussia, Britain and the Netherlands) had gone onto the offensive, and after victories at Aldenhoven (1 March), Aix-la-Chapelle (2 March) and Neerwinden (18 March) had forced the French out of the Austrian Netherlands (modern Belgium). The focus of the war then moved onto the borders of France, where the Allies decided to conduct a series of sieges of the main French fortifications, amongst them Valenciennes.

French communications with Valenciennes were protected by a fortified camp on the heights of Famars. The camp at Famars was built on two parallel plateaux, separated by the river Rhonelle. The western plateau ran from Famars south to Artres. Its steep western and southern slopes and smoother northern slopes were defended by a series of detached strong points and redoubts, while the eastern slope was protected by the deep but narrow River Rhonelle, which cut a steep sided but shallow valley between the two positions. The eastern plateau was defended by a mile long entrenchment with three strong redoubts. The entire position was defended by around 25,000 men. The French also had a string of fortified positions running north-west from Valenciennes, through Anzin, Hasnon, Orchiers and Turcoing.

The Allied commander, the Prince of Saxe-Coburg, decided to launch an attack in nine columns, stretching from Turcoing at the north-west to Bavay to the east. On the right the Prince of Orange was to attack Orchiers, and his brother Prince Frederick was to attack Turcoing. General Knobelsdorf was to attack Hasnon, and Clairfayt was to attack Anzin. A column under Count Colloredo was to watch Valenciennes from the north east. To the left General Otto was to threaten Quesnoy, while a final column was to advance towards the Sambre from Bavai.

The main attack, in the centre, was to be conducted by two columns. On the right the Austrian General Ferraris, with twelve infantry battalions (three British under General Abercromby) and twelve cavalry squadrons, was to attack the eastern side of the French camp, drive them from the strongly fortified positions east of the Rhonelle, and then threaten to cross the river.

The left column, under the Duke of York, contained sixteen infantry battalions (four British) and eighteen cavalry squadrons. This column was to outflank the southern end of the French position by crossing the Rhonelle at Artres, at the southern end of the Famars plateau.

The main attack began at around 7.00 am. Ferraris successfully captured the long French entrenchment on the eastern edge of the eastern plateau, before halting to wait for news from the Duke of York's column. This part of the attack made much less progress. The Duke reached Artres, but was unable to force his way across the river, which at that point was defended by five French gun batteries. Leaving his heavy guns and part of his force at Artres, the duke carried out a long outflanking movement, crossing the river at Maresches, two miles to the east, and then moving to Querenaing, four miles to the west. There he was able to drive the French out of their outlying defences, but after eighteen hours of marching this had only brought him to the foot of the strongest part of the French lines, on the steep southern slopes of the plateau. The Duke realised that it was too late in the day to attack this position, and decided to wait until the next morning.

Elsewhere the Allies had very little success. Only the Prince of Orange, at Orchies, achieved his objectives, and every other French position held firm. Despite their successes, the French now realised that their position at Famars was untenable. On the night of 23-24 May they abandoned that position, and the camp at Anzin, reinforced the garrison of Valenciennes, and retreated to Bouchain, twelve miles to the south west of Valenciennes. The Allies were now free to begin their siege of Valenciennes, which held out until 28 July.

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Battle

The 1st Main Column of 16 battalions and 18 squadrons was led by the Duke of York and included the British Guards brigade under Gerard Lake, which had already seen action at Raismes on 8 May. Mack's instructions were for York to cross the Rhonelle by trestle bridges in the neighbourhood of Artres and then launch an attack on the Camp by its right flank. In other words, no resistance was expected until the attack on the French camp.

Austrian Feldzeugmeister Joseph de Ferraris commanded the 2nd Main Column (12 battalions, 12 squadrons), which included Abercromby's Brigade of the British 14th Foot and 53rd Foot. It was to attack from the village of Saultain against entrenchments on the East bank of the Rhonelle. Feldmarschall-Leutnant Nikolaus Colloredo-Mels led the 1st Small Column against the Northeastern side of Valenciennes, while General-Major Rudolf Ritter von Otto directed the 2nd Small Column, threatening Le Quesnoy. [2] [3]

Soon after 2:00 am York's column moved off from its assembly point two miles behind Artres, but thick fog slowed their progress and the Rhonelle was only reached at 7.00am. York was accompanied by both Mack and Coburg's Chief-of-Staff Hohenlohe, the latter appointed by Coburg to ensure the untested York didn't do anything too rash. [4] As the fog lifted a beautiful dawn revealed their intended crossing point bristling with enemy infantry and artillery, which immediately opened fire. Mack was wounded right at the beginning of the action, so the untried Duke of York was left to make up his own mind as to his next course of action. His decision was to turn and counter-march his column towards Maresches two miles away to the south-east, leaving some Austrian guns and the troops already engaged behind to focus the attention of the French. Fording the stream there unopposed, York's light cavalry ascended the low ridge to the south of the village to probe the French flank towards Querenaing. [5] Unfortunately there were several delays and congestion at Maresches so it was 3.00pm before he was clear of the village, giving the French ample time to turn and face the threat, and 5.00pm before he reached Querenaing by a somewhat roundabout route. However the British cavalry moved behind the unprotected backs of the southern French open redoubts, their left patrol reaching almost as far as the Abbey of Fontanelle to the rear of the French position. The Allied cavalry had some success when they entered the open redoubts via gorges and cut down the defenders. The French cavalry attempted to retake the redoubts but were beaten off.

Meanwhile further north Ferraris's column had stormed the long entrenchment on the East bank ridge of the Famars position and driven the French back to the west of the Rhonelle. Earlier in the day several squadrons of French cavalry had been seen threatening his flank, whereby they were charged by the Hanoverian Life Guards and routed after a stiff fight. [6]

Finally York was ready to launch his attack, but at that point the cautious Hohenlohe stepped in and objected as the men were fatigued, York was obliged to postpone the assault until the next morning. [7] [8]

Although the French held their ground to the north Lamarche realised he was in danger of being cut off. Leaving Ferrand to defend Valenciennes, during the night the Republicans withdrew towards Bouchain, Caesar's Camp and Paillencourt. [9] The next morning York attacked, but the French had gone. Colloredo's column from the north were the first to enter the camp.


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Boggle gives you 3 minutes to find as many words (3 letters or more) as you can in a grid of 16 letters. You can also try the grid of 16 letters. Letters must be adjacent and longer words score better. See if you can get into the grid Hall of Fame !

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Battle of Tourcoing

When the British troops arrived in the Low Countries in 1793, the war had already begun a year earlier, and the French were hard pressed, attacked by a coalition that included Austria, Prussia, Spain and the Dutch. Including German auxiliaries, 17,000 of whom were hired in 1793, the British army in the Low Countries rose to 37,500 by late 1794. As in previous wars in the Low Countries, the British army, under George III’s son, Frederick, Duke of York, found itself confronting the problems of co-operating with allied forces operating to a different agenda. The campaign faced problems from its inception, although an Anglo-Austrian force defeated the French at the Camp de Famars on 23 May, Valenciennes surrendered on 28 July, after a successful siege, and on 18 August, at Linselles, the Guards under Major-General Gerard Lake drove back a larger French force under Jourdan and Béru at bayonet point. However, the British army, assisted by Hanoverian and Dutch forces, was ordered to besiege Dunkirk, a potent symbol of Anglo-French hostility and one whose fortification had only been permitted by the Treaty of Versailles of 1783. It was mistaken to attack Dunkirk, for it was not a crucial target and, by failing to remain with the Austrians, the British became a more tempting target for French attack. Once York reached Dunkirk, he found himself without the necessary siege artillery. Delays in its dispatch enabled the French to regain the initiative, first by flooding the marshes near the town and then by moving up a relieving army that pushed back the less numerous British and Hanoverians at Hondschoote (6 September). Dispersed French units wore down the defenders, and the French were then victorious, with a final attack. York abandoned the siege and withdrew to winter with the Austrians at Tournai.

In 1794 the Austrians and British had some initial advantages in the Austrian Netherlands, winning engagements at Villers-en-Couches (24 April) and Beaumont (26 April). In the latter cavalry attacks on the French flanks defeated advancing columns with heavy casualties. The British cavalry proved stronger than its French counterpart, which had been greatly disrupted by the Revolution, not least because the bloodstock was hit when many horses were eaten. British success culminated in the battle of Willems (10 May): the French cavalry was swept aside and their infantry broken. Repeated cavalry attacks supported by infantry and cannon broke a French square.

However, on 17-18 May 1794, in the battle of Tourcoing near Tournai, the French under Pichegru used their local numerical superiority to defeat British and Austrian units: in the battle, York’s army was given inadequate support by the Austrians, and it was forced to stage a fighting withdrawal. Thereafter, York retreated, pushed back by stronger French forces, abandoning the Austrian Netherlands and falling back through the United Provinces during a hard winter. The British fought well when they engaged, but they were outnumbered and had lost the initiative, and the river lines could not be held, not least when the rivers froze.

Nijmegen, which the French had attacked, was evacuated on 7 November, and, although the more numerous French were driven across the Waal in the battle of Tüyl on 30 December 1794 and defeated by a British attack at the battle of Buren on 8 January 1795, the outnumbered British, now under Lieutenant-General William Harcourt, retreated through inhospitable terrain. Their medical, transport and supply systems proved inadequate and the army suffered greatly from sickness, reducing its effectiveness. There was a terrible shortage of shoes, bread and uniforms. In April 1795 the British were evacuated from Bremen, although a small cavalry force remained in Germany until that December.

Battle of Tourcoing, (17-18 May 1794)

The Battle of Tourcoing halted the Allied advance from Flanders into northwest France during the campaign of 1794. The fighting was scattered and confused, and did not produce a decisive victory for either side. The Allies, however, decided to take up defensive positions and make their main effort farther south.

The French plan for 1794 called for an advance by the Army of the North on Brussels, capital of the Austrian Netherlands. The Allies hoped to make their main effort around Landrecies. By the second week of May several French divisions under General Joseph Souham had advanced in the midst of the Allied right wing. Generalmajor Karl Mack Freiherr von Leiberich recognized the opportunity to cut off Souham and crush his force by means of a concentric attack by Allied forces around Tourcoing. Mack’s plan called for six separate columns, but their movements were hampered by lack of communications and coordination. Although the Allies had 80,000 men in the area, only 62,000 were able to participate in the battle.

Souham recognized the situation as well. In the absence of General Jean-Charles Pichegru, he planned to throw most his forces against the Allied right under Feldzeugmeister Franz Sebastian de Croix Graf von Clerfayt. Reports of movements by Austrian and British troops on 16 May caused Souham to scrap that plan and concentrate his forces on the two columns advancing against him in the center. When the Allied attack began on 17 May, things quickly fell apart. Clerfayt’s column on the right was held up by an unexpectedly fierce French defense on the river Lys. Columns on the left under Archduke Charles and Feldzeugmeister Franz Kinsky Graf von Wichinitz und Tettau were hampered by fog and moved more slowly than expected. Only the central columns, consisting mostly of British and Hessian troops under the Duke of York, achieved their goals for 17 May. The Guards Brigade particularly distinguished itself in overrunning several French defensive positions.

By the morning of 18 May Souham had massed his forces. Archduke Charles and Kinsky ignored orders to move faster, and Clerfayt was diverted by General Dominique Vandamme’s brigade. Souham’s main attack quickly captured Tourcoing and forced the British from their advanced positions. Showing remarkable discipline, the British Guards cut their way out of several encirclements, though the British cavalry and artillery suffered great losses. During the retreat on 18 May the civilian drivers cut the traces and abandoned most of the guns and caissons, and thus the cavalry regiments following on the same road were not able to pass easily. Needless losses of horses and men resulted.

By 19 May most of the Allied forces were back at their starting point. French losses were approximately 3,000 men killed and wounded, and 7 guns lost. Allied losses were heavier, with 4,000 men killed and wounded, and another 1,500 captured. As many as 50 guns were captured.

Tourcoing was a moral defeat for the Allies. The Austrians, who were the dominant partners, decided to remain on the defensive in Flanders. The Battle of Tournai on 22 May confirmed this decision. The French, on the other hand, saw Tourcoing as a victory, confirming their method of warfare as superior to prevailing orthodox tactics.


Stipple engraving by Daniel Orme after Mather Brown, published by Daniel Orme, London, 1796.

The British, Hanoverian and Austrian triumph at the Siege of Valenciennes (13 June to 28 July 1793) was one of several early allied victories in the Flanders campaign (1793-95) during the French Revolutionary War (1793-1802). But they were unable to advance much further beyond the French border fortresses.

The French eventually won control of Flanders through their decisive victory at the Battle of Fleurus in June 1794. The Duke of York's British force returned home in 1795, having lost over 20,000 men in two years of fighting.


Controversial Treatment Methods

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Despite all his efforts, Rush had just a flawed understanding of yellow fever as anyone else at the time. His undeniably harsh treatments—including bloodletting, “Mercurial Sweating Powder,” and forced vomiting𠅍id not curb the spread of the disease, and critics argued it only increased his patients’ suffering. These critics included Hamilton, who took up his pen to spread the word of the gentler methods prescribed by his own doctor, which involved taking cold baths, drinking Madeira wine and hot brandy and ingesting large amounts of quinine (aka “Peruvian bark”), according to biographer Ron Chernow.

Stevens’ homeopathic approach proved little more effective than Rush’s more traditional methods, however, and yellow fever continued to spread. By the time it subsided in November 1793, the disease had killed 5,000 people, or about one-tenth of Philadelphia’s population at the time, and infected hundreds of thousands of others. Despite extensive research on the disease in the decades that followed the epidemic, it would take more than a century𠅊nd a savage outbreak among troops fighting the Spanish-American War�ore Dr. Walter Reed proved in 1900 that mosquitoes carried yellow fever.


The Christiana Riot

In Christiana, Pennsylvania, a group of African Americans and white abolitionists skirmish with a Maryland posse intent on capturing four fugitive enslaved people hidden in the town. The violence came one year after the second fugitive slave law was passed by Congress, requiring the return of all escapees to their owners in the South. One member of the posse, landowner Edward Gorsuch, was killed and two others wounded during the fight. In the aftermath of the so-called Christiana Riot, 37 African Americans and one white man were arrested and charged with treason under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law. Most were acquitted.

In February 1793, Congress passed the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that forbade slavery, to forcibly return enslaved people who had escaped from other states to their original owners. The law stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”

As Northern states abolished slavery, most relaxed enforcement of the 1793 law, and many passed laws ensuring fugitives a jury trial. Several Northern states even enacted measures prohibiting state officials from aiding in the capture of runaways or from jailing the fugitives. This disregard of the first fugitive slave law enraged Southern states and led to the passage of a second fugitive slave law as part of the 𠇌ompromise of 1850″ between North and South.

The second fugitive slave law called for the return of enslaved people “on pain of heavy penalty” but permitted a jury trial under the condition that fugitives be prohibited from testifying in their own defense. Fugitive slave trials like the Dred Scott case of 1857 stirred up public opinion on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Meanwhile, fugitive enslaved people circumvented the law through the “Underground Railroad,” a network of persons, primarily free African Americans, who helped fugitives escape to freedom in the Northern states or Canada.


Siege of Valenciennes

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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 Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Valenciennes fell on 28 July, resulting in an Allied victory.

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 Saint-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 in the Battle of Famars on 23 May, and lay siege to Valenciennes.