Ramillies - Encyclopedia

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RAMILLIES, a village of Belgium, in the province of Brabant, 13 miles N. by E. of Namur, between the sources of the Little Gheete and of the Mehaigne. It is famous for the victory of the Allies under the duke of Marlborough over the French commanded by Marshal Villeroy on the 12th/23rd of May 1706. The position of the French on the high ground about Ramillies was marked by the villages of Autreglise (Anderkirch) on the left, Offuz on the left centre, Ramillies on the right centre and Taviers on the right close to the river Mehaigne. In front of the last was a smaller village, Franquenay, which was held as an advanced post. Between these points d'appui the ground was mostly open upland, and the position as a whole was defective in so far that the villages were barely within cannon-shot of each other. It was particularly strong on the flanks, which were protected by the marshy beds of the Mehaigne and the Little Gheete. Ramillies stands almost on the watershed of these adjacent valleys, and here Marlborough decided to deliver his main attack. The forces were about equal, and were at first equally distributed along the whole line of either party. Marlborough's local concentration of force at the spot where the attack was to be pressed home was made not before, but after the action had opened (cf. Neerwinden). Villeroy's left wing of cavalry and infantry was secure - and at the same time immobilized - behind the upper course of the Little Gheete, and the French commander allowed himself to be imposed upon by a demonstration in this quarter, convinced perhaps by the presence of the British contingent that a serious attack was intended. The morning was spent in arraying the lines of battle, and it was about 1.30 when the cannonade opened. Soon the first lines of infantry of the Allied centre and left (Dutch) opened the attacks on Franquenay and Taviers and on Ramillies, and, when after a severe struggle Taviers fell into the hands of the Dutch, their commander, Marshal Overkirk, led forward the whole of the left wing cavalry and fiercely engaged the French cavalry opposed to it. The ground was open, both parties had placed the greater part of their horse on this side, and it was only after a severe and prolonged engagement (in which Marlborough himself took part like a trooper and was unhorsed) that the Allies were definitely victorious, thanks to the arrival of a force of cavalry brought over from the Allied right wing. Meanwhile the principal attack on Ramillies had been successfully pressed home, the necessary concentration of force being secured by secretly and.skilfully withdrawing some British battalions from the right wing. While Villeroy was trying to bring up supports from the left to take part in the cavalry battle, the French in Ramillies were driven out into the open, where the Allied cavalry, having now' gained the upper hand, rode down many battalions. Most of the French cavalry from the other wing, having to force its way through the baggage trains of the army (these had been placed too near the fighting lines), arrived too late, and once Ramillies had fallen the whole line of the Allies gradually took up the offensive. It was not long before the French line was rolled up from right to left, and the retreat of the French was only effected in considerable confusion. Then followed for once a relentless pursuit, carried on by the British cavalry (which had scarcely been engaged) to Louvain, 20 m. from the field of battle. Marlborough's unequalled tactical skill and judgment thus sufficed not merely to win the battle, but to win it with so large a margin of force unexpended that the fruits of his victory could be gathered. The French army lost, in killed, wounded and missing, some 15,000 men, the Allies (amongst whom the Dutch had borne the brunt of the fighting) scarcely one-third as many.

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