After the Devolutionary War of 1667 - 1668 in the course of which Louis XIV managed to seize Flanders and Franche-Comte without any problems, but whose gains were stopped by the unfriendly policy of Holland, who saw in the actions of the French monarch a threat to his security (however, quite rightly), the king decided to take revenge on the republic, forcing her to fight with France by oneself. To this end, Louis carried out a great diplomatic work, depriving the Netherlands of the support of allies.
Map of the Devolutionary War. According to its results, Louis joined Flanders, but Franche-Comte had to give, but not for long
The new war with Holland, which began in 1672, was supposed to be a cakewalk, but everything turned out somewhat differently. The European powers quickly came to their senses and realized that the fall of a rich and developed Holland and its absorption by France would inevitably break the balance of forces on the continent. As a result, a small, as the king intended, a military enterprise turned into a pan-European war. Spain, numerous German principalities and states, including Brandenburg and the Austrian Empire, came out against France on land. Now France itself had to defend its borders, defending itself on all fronts.
Louis, however, not only did not think about peace, but even decided to take advantage of the situation, capturing the Spanish province of Franche-Comté, which he had to clear in the previous war. The region of Franche-Comte lies between Switzerland and the rest of France, and during the time of the Sun King was a Spanish enclave, as Alsace was annexed to France during the Thirty Years War.
Fighting in 1674
The campaign of 1674 was just aimed at capturing Franche-Comte, with strategic defense on the other fronts. Covering the conquest of the region was a separate corps stationed on the Rhine, in Alsace, where the king left only 12,000 people under the command of Marshal Henri de Turenne - one of the most prominent commanders of history. Despite the modest forces in the hands of the viscount, his task was more than serious: the king’s enemies planned to invade the country here (the pro-French sentiment in Alsace was then still weak) and bring war into France itself.
1674 Campaign Map
Campaign Türenna on the Rhine in 1674 - 1675 became a textbook and entered the textbooks on the art of war. The American military specialist and historian Theodore Dodge even wrote that “if you need to write a manual on how to conduct a war of maneuver, it suffices to take one Turenna campaign - its actions provide exhaustive material on the topic”. For seven months, the marshal demonstrated all his skill and talent, going beyond the linear tactics and cordon strategy adopted at that time.
The campaign was crowned by the winter campaign of Turenna against the united German-imperial army at the end of 1674. The very thought of launching an offensive in the midst of winter at the end of the 17th century was absurd. And if you take into account the conditions under which it was necessary to act, it becomes clear why for many the actions of the marshal seemed suicidal.
French soldiers during the Dutch War
The fact is that the troops were to pass in the Vosges Mountains — marching along mountain roads during the height of winter was a dubious pleasure, moreover, the French did not have enough horses (for more than a month the commander was forced to take measures to replenish the equestrian). enough forage. Moreover, in spite of the reinforcements that had arrived from Flanders, the troops of the king here were almost double the size of the enemy (33 thousand versus 57).
Turenn, however, risked for a reason: reinforcements from the north had to be returned by spring, and the allies, having strengthened over the winter, would have opened the campaign of the next year with an invasion of Lorraine or the newly mined Franche-Comte, which could not be allowed, especially that the longer the Imperials remained in Alsace, the more difficult it would be to reclaim the area. Taking into account all these considerations, Turenn decided to open a campaign in the middle of winter, when it seemed that the fighting had already been completed. In this case, on the side of the marshal spoke also the element of surprise - the military affairs of that era did not know winter operations due to the nature of the supply and combat.
Are we going north? Or south?
Before the performance from Zaberna, where the Turenna headquarters was located, the commander did everything he could to convince the enemy that he had completed the fighting for this year and settled into winter apartments. As soon as the vigilance of the Allies was dulled, and they dispersed the troops for the wintering in the space between the Vosges and the Rhine, Turenn quickly completed all preparations and made November 29, 1674 ... to the north, moving away from the enemy.
The Chinese military thinker Sun Tzu wrote: "War is the way of deception." And, although Turen was not familiar with the work of the great Chinese, the marshal understood this maxim as much as the last. In order not to arouse suspicion among the Germans ahead of time, he decided to bypass the enemy’s position from an unexpected side for him - from the south. For this, Turenne originally moved north, then rounded the Vosges and turned south.
The march was organized first-class: despite supply difficulties and severe weather conditions (the roads were covered with snow in the mountains and washed out in the valleys). The army was divided into separate columns, each of which was assigned its own route. The columns were in constant contact so that the army could unite within 24 hours. Belfort - a place in the Southern Vosges on the border of Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté was appointed a meeting place.
Map of the winter campaign Turenne with the designation of the route of the French army to Turckheim and key campaign points
The troops overcame great difficulties, moving along impassable roads in winter, the fodder was barely enough: they even had to stop in order to pull up the rear and gather provisions. Marshal himself was invariably among his soldiers, encouraging them and sharing with them all the difficulties of the march.
The removal of most of the French army from the winter apartments did not go unnoticed by the allies: units were sent into the Vosges, and the main forces of the army even wanted to be concentrated against Turennes. At Remiremon, the marshal decided to “reassure” the enemy by capturing the town (having, among other things, exceptional strategic importance), demonstrating that he was simply covering the army’s retreat to new apartments in Lorraine. After the capture of Remiremont, the French consistently occupied passes in the mountains, and on the eastern slope of the Vosges Turenne detached 5 thousandth corps, distracting the attention of the Germans while the main forces of the army moved south.
Already on December 14, the army reached the vicinity of Belfort, from where Turenn planned to launch an invasion. However, this was not immediately possible: the troops were tired, there was not enough food, artillery and infantry could not keep up with the cavalry. Marshal had to give the soldiers a 10-day rest to bring the army back to normal. This delay in the offensive somewhat leveled the effect of the Turenna maneuver, but, nevertheless, the Allies did not expect it to invade and could not gather all their forces.
Coming out of Belfort on December 27, Turenn planned to catch the imperial army from Mühlhausen, for which he, with a small cavalry detachment, moved there with a forced march. The Allies managed to escape before the attack of Turenne, only the rearguard was able to overtake. In the course of the fleeting battle, the Germans were driven back, several dozen prisoners were taken. The battle of Mühlhausen did not have much tactical significance; however, he reinforced the morale of the French and shaken the resolve of the allies.
Marshal overcomes the gravity of the campaign with his soldiers
Without losing time, the marshal sent separate corps to Basel and the Rhine in order to cut off small enemy detachments that were located in those places. The "catch" was worthy: several troops of croats and a whole linear regiment were taken prisoner. At the same time, the main forces were moving north to Colmar, where the main apartment of the enemy army was located.
The combined German-Austrian-Brandenburg army in the region numbered almost 60 thousand people. However, the strength of the army was also its weakness: each German prince personally commanded his troops, diversification prevented the adoption of adequate decisions, made it difficult for the French to organize timely repulse. In the end, the German army took up a position between Colmar and the small village of Türkheim, with the front facing south of the stream, the Logberg.
A frontal attack on the well-fortified position of the Allies was doomed to failure: the French did not have enough strength, there was not enough artillery for such an enterprise. General Bournovil firmly dug his army, built in two lines, with sufficient reserves. In the case of the use of Türenn linear tactics, he had no chance to break the defenses of the allies, but the marshal was not one of those who act according to a pattern and blindly follow the “tenets” of his time.
French soldiers. Cavalry, infantry, guards
Leaving for reconnaissance, the commander noticed one feature of the battlefield: along the right flank of the hostile army, the Fecht brook flowed, which rested on the Turkheim marketplace, where it spread in two: the roads in the creek valley were considered impassable, so the allies did not bother with sufficient cover for this direction and the village itself. They couldn’t even think that Turenn would be able to take advantage of this direction: consciously substituting the flank of his troops, leading them through the swampy terrain. And Turenn could and did it brilliantly.
The French army numbered about 30 thousand soldiers (marching losses were compensated by recruits recruited), the combined German army barely reached 40 thousand people (out of almost 60 to Turenne’s speech) - the rest were scattered, captured or did not reach the main army.
Victory without blood
On the morning of January 5, 1675, French troops marched on Eggsheim and moved in three columns towards the enemy. Avant-garde and the left column Türenn immediately ordered to follow the left road along the spurs of the mountains, while the center and right columns were built for battle. In fact, Turen divided his army into attacking and restraining units: while the smaller part of the army (12 thousand), left at Legelbach, held down the enemy, the remaining forces (16 thousand) had to bypass the right flank of the allies. The command in the center was entrusted to the comte de l'Orge, and the marshal himself led the attack from the left, giving it decisive importance.
Scheme of the Battle of Turckheim
Interestingly, even the associates of Turenne did not understand the meaning of his maneuver. So the lieutenant of the gendarmes de la Far addressed the commander with the words: "I beg to excuse me if I dare to report to you that we are greatly disturbed by the movement you have undertaken." The fact is that the French column could not keep the correct order when driving on rough terrain, substituting its flank to the enemy. Turenn, however, was well aware that the enemy would not risk withdrawing from their homes and exposing strategically important Colmar, the main base of the allies in this campaign, and they lacked the strength to cover all the space from Turcheim to Colmar.
The village of Turckheim was occupied by only two battalions of German infantry, and even those were decided to withdraw as superfluous. The French soldiers quietly walked along the Vecht stream, along poor roads (after the march through the Vosges, they were used to) and rough terrain. Upon learning that Turkheim was not busy, Turenn immediately sent several squadrons of dragoons to the village in order to have time to gain a foothold until the enemy recovered. The infantry at this time held positions along the creek, preparing to hold defenses.
Battle for Turckheim
Only when it became clear that the French had occupied Turkheim and are now hanging over the right wing of the allied army, did the German command appreciate the importance of the settlement for the position of the allies and the breadth of tactical views of the French marshal. But it was too late. In the camp of the allies, confusion reigned.
As a result, it was decided to send considerable forces in order to repel Turkheim (instead of, for example, try to break through the enemy center): 12 infantry battalions, 30 cavalry squadrons and 6 guns — altogether more than 10 thousand people. But it was not for nothing that Turenn attached such importance to this direction - he had something to respond to the German attack.
While in the center there was a sluggish battle - de L'Orge did well with his task and shackled enemy units from the front - a stubborn fight ensued at Turkheim. The key point was the mill, which lies on both sides of the stream Vecht. The imperial battalion initially managed to knock out a weak French detachment from there and occupy the mill, but soon the mill was repelled by the attack of several French battalions. Lieutenant-General Foucault, who commanded the left flank of the center, moved his artillery closer to the battlefield at Turcheim, which began to hit the Germans with an amphibious fire. By the way, Foucault himself, who was on the front line all the time, was killed in this battle.
In the end, Turen brought the guards into battle and overthrew the enemy who approached the village, however, did not develop his attack due to the lack of free cavalry at hand and the onset of darkness. By the end of the day, the Allies were in the ticks of a smaller number of the French army: Turenn ordered to occupy the heights beyond Turkheim and threatened to enter the Allied messages with the Northern Alsace. There was a threat surrounding the Allied army. Marshal was preparing to continue the battle the next day, and therefore saved power: his troops were pretty battered battles and marches of the previous days, so it was worth taking care of their own soldiers.
The losses of the parties were insignificant: the French lost about 800 people, the allies were up to 3 thousand, but the commanders of the allies clearly understood the gravity of their position: despite the small losses, the fighting spirit of the soldiers was broken, and the positions of the French were strong as ever.
On the night of January 6, the Allies began to retreat to Strasbourg. The French army spent the night right on the battlefield, under the open sky. The next day, having learned about the enemy's retreat, Turenn occupied Colmar with all the supplies meant for the 60,000th army, and in pursuit he sent a small equestrian detachment (4,000). Army was given a dive.
After a rest, the French moved north in pursuit of an allied army. The Germans, without thinking of resistance, retreated to the Rhine itself, which they crossed on January 14, 1675, clearing Alsace. According to various estimates, between 20,000 and 35,000 people out of 60,000 crossed with General Bourneville, the Brandenburg Elector and the Duke of Lorraine - the rest were killed or captured by the French.
Campaign Hero Henri de La Tour d'Auvern Turenne
In just a few weeks, Turenn managed not only to ward off the threat of an invasion of the enemy in France, but also to completely clear Alsace of the enemy troops, having achieved this with so little blood. The performance of the marshal in the middle of winter, his skill and entanglement of the enemy and a skilled eye, put Turenna on a par with the greatest commanders of history - for good reason Napoleon mentioned the commander among seven great generals of all times, and Alexander Vasilievich Suvorov set Turenna’s campaigns as an example to his officers.
After the end of the campaign, Marshal applauded the whole of Paris (however, the inhabitants of the capital also cursed Turennes hysterically during the retreat from Alsace), and the commander, as always, modestly described his successes, saying “we won”. The Viscount was already planning the next year’s campaign, hoping to move the war to the Palatinate and Palpatinat, not knowing that he had only a little more than six months left to live.