The Battle of Val 1747
Narrative of the Battle of Laffeld by a French Officer
His Serene Highness, the Comte de Clermont and the Comte d'Estree being encamped with their Corps beyond Tongres, and not being in sufficient strength to await the arrival of the enemy, whose army was again advancing up the Demer, had left that position and camped behind this town and between it and Borcloen. On hearing this, Marshal de Saxe decided to march to the support of these two Corps. He had already planned this movement, and for the purpose placed troops in echelon between that force and himself. M. de St. Germain was at St. Trond with three Brigades of infantry, two of cavalry and a Regiment of Dragoons. The Marquis de Clermont Tonnere was between St. Trond and Tirlemont with four Brigades of cavalry and one of infantry. The Marquis de Senneterre was encamped at Tirlemont with four Brigades of infantry and two of cavalry. A part of our artillery was attached to each of these different Corps. The remainder of the army was near Louvain. The Comte de Lowendahl had advanced to Malines to cover our rear and the environs of Antwerp.
Such were our dispositions on June 29th when the order was given for a general movement. On this day the Marshal left Louvain about 6 p.m. Before his departure he had given orders for the army to move and had sent detailed instructions to all the detached Corps, which kept them on the march during the night. He arrived on the morning of the 30th at the camp of his Serene Highness, the Comte de Clermont. The troops which had left St. Trond arrived there at the same time and camped behind Tongres, as did those of the Comte de Clermont Tonnere, which had arrived soon after. Those from Tirlemont arrived at 6 p.m. and pitched camp beyond Tongres, between the town and Tongresberg. The army, which left Louvain at midnight, was on the march during this time, its van arriving at Tongres on July 1st at 3 a.m. ; it had encamped by 7 a.m. having marched 12 leagues in as many hours. The King did not leave until 8 a.m. with the reserve troops, and came to Tirlemont where he was due to spend the night, but he did not stop there and continued as far as St. Trond, where he passed the night, and on July 1st joined Marshal de Saxe beyond Tongres.
This General, wishing to reconnoitre the enemy's position, went in the morning with the troops which had arrived the day before. We found them established near General Headquarters, their right on the marshes formed by the head-waters of the Demer, and from thence stretching to the village of Rocsmer. Shortly afterwards we saw them extend on their left, which rested on the village of Laffeld ; they established their camp in this position.
The Marshal, having made a thorough reconnaissance, gave orders for a general advance. At the same time he ordered the advance of H.S.H. the Comte de Clermont's Corps, of which the infantry occupied the village and the cavalry was extended to the right. He ordered all the cavalry corps of Ms. de Clermont Tonnere and Senneterre to form at the foot of the heights of Herderen, their right resting on the village of Remps, and having in front of it Comte d'Estree's Corps. The infantry Brigades of M. de Senneterre's Corps were posted in the front line on the heights facing the Head-quarters. Twenty battalions were posted behind them. Ten Battalions were placed drawn back on their right. The remainder of the army was placed between this height and the Geere. In the meantime M. de S. Germain with three infantry Brigades remained in the neighbourhood of Tongres in case there was need to protect this position, where 50 pieces of artillery had been moved up. At nightfall the Comte d'Estree's Corps was moved to the extreme right after having been replaced by detachments of infantry which he had in the hamlet of Etelt.
The army bivouacked for the night.
At daylight on 2nd July the enemy's army was seen on the right as well as the centre in the same position as before : the Austrians between the Headquarters and Rocsmer : The Dutch between Rocsmer and a hamlet in front of Kistel : the Hessians, English and Hanoverians stretching from this hamlet to that of Laffeld. This left flank seemed to be contracted on its centre, and we had all the more reason to credit this when we saw them set fire to the village of Laffeld. On this we made our dispositions for the attack.
The Comte de Clermont with the Corps under his orders marched on Laffeld, having the cavalry on his right, and still further on the right d'Estree's Corps. They were supported by a number of cavalry Brigades of the army. During this time M. de Saliers with six infantry Brigades drawn from those which had passed the night between Herderen and the Sar was to attack the village of Vlytingen. Having reconnoitred, and not seeing any movement, two Swiss Brigades, destined for this attack, were transferred to the Comte de Clermont. The former found more resistance than expected at Laffeld, even these troops not sufficing, and it was found necessary to bring up the ten Battalions of Marines and the Irish, who were to the right of the troops placed on the heights of Herderen, and in addition the four Brigades allotted to M. de Saliers for his operation. At length, with the help of all these troops we took the village, where Brigades, which had forced an entry three times without being able to maintain their position, only did so in the end with the help of the attack which was made at the same time by Brigades of La Tour du Pin, the King and d'Orleans. These, in assaulting that part of the village facing them, also attacked the enemy infantry column which was continually being reinforced. This last attack was supported by cavalry, which was brought up on both sides of the village, and the artillery, which was also brought into action.
From the moment we had taken the village the enemy's one object was to retreat on Maestricht. The cavalry and carabineers pursued them as far as the village of Montenaken, making many superb charges. The enemy made strong resistance despite the fact that several squadrons were badly led, but at no time were their main forces involved.
The Marshal, content to have driven them thus far, turned over the command of these forces for the rest of the day to the Comte de Clermont, and himself returned to receive the King's orders on what remained to be done on our left flank. It was by then 2 p.m. The attack on the village had started before 10 a.m. and had been most spirited. as soon as our troops appeared in the open they were greeted by terrific fire from artillery of all types, which for two hours and more continued with great violence. Taking the village was costly, the defenders giving ground very gradually, and during the two and a half hours that the attack lasted the enemy returned continually to the attack on those of our troops which were of necessity reduced to a state of disorder through the crossing of hedges and ditches.
The Marshal, who had returned to the King, asked for orders to march on the enemy's right. The Dutch had made their retreat at the same time as the English, and at this time we only saw Austrians, who then started to retreat themselves. To follow them the Marshal took troops which had not been in action, ordering the Count de Clermont to proceed and cut them off beyond Rocsmer with a detachment of cavalry. The time taken to assemble these troops and make their dispositions gave the Austrians time to retire in good order. We followed them for a good league beyond the camp from which they had just retreated without being able to intercept them. Our forces halted on the ground they had won, and the King spent the night at headquarters.
This day cost us 5,000-6,000 killed and wounded ; the Comte de Baviere, Lt. General, killed ; Lt. Generals de Lautrec and e Beranger, Brigadier Generals de Froulay, de Guerchy and de Cregny, wounded ; Brigadiers Marquis, Chev. de Dreux, Emonin, la Tour du Pin, Basleroy, d'Erlack, Chev. de la Marck, Cernay and la Valette wounded ; Colonels d'Autichamp, d'Aubeterre, Bonac, Segur and Fenelons wounded ; the former has died of his wounds.
The enemy's losses are greater, and I estimate them at at least 9,000 men, added to which we have about 2,000 of their wounded and 700 or 800 other prisoners, amongst which there are a great number of officers, many of importance, and amongst them General Ligonier, M. d'Yssenberg and my Lord Portland. We captured 29 pieces of artillery, 7 standards, a number of flags, and 3 pairs of drums.
They first fell back upon Maestricht, and the following day had crossed the Meuse in order to encamp at Amby.
On the morning of the 3rd the Comte d'Estree marched with a large body of troops to Heur le Romain to encamp between the Sar and the Meuse. The Comte de St. Germain advanced to Kistal, where he camped in front of the Army, which had its right at Email, and its left at Rocsmer bent round towards Bilsen.
His Majesty lodged at G.H.Q. and Marshal de Saxe at Hoeselt.
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