By Land and by Sea

May 14th, 1703.

The siege of Termonde has been resumed, or more like restarted. The Austrians get back to their trench digging, while the other Alliance troops improve and extend the lines they defended. These lines now extend from the Rupel to the Scheldt and have become almost impregnable. Fortified outposts extend along the two rivers as well, to provide warning of any attempt to cross them.

The small garrison of Termonde – despite the non-existent chance of relief now – seem determined to hold their fortification as long as they can. Meanwhile the reduced French army prowls about outside the fortifications like a famished wolf.

Berwick has withdrawn across the Scheldt to under the walls of Ghent, there to reorganize his battered army. He sends message after message to Versailles requesting more reinforcements and draughts of replacements. Also requests to be rid of his two quarrelling sub-commanders.

May 23rd, 1703

A breach has already been made in the walls of Termonde. Apparently the fortifications had not been well maintained recently. The garrison commander beats the chamade and asks for terms.

May 24th, 1703

The garrison of Termonde are allowed to leave with honours of war, armed and with full ammunition pouches and trailing a brass 4-pdr. They are escorted to within range of the French forces, where they are permitted to depart. Termonde has fallen!

Marlborough sets about having the walls of Termonde repaired and strengthened further. The siege cannon are hoisted aboard barges and sent down to Antwerp for safe-keeping.

June 11th, 1703

Having left a garrison in the repaired and strengthened Termonde, Marlborough makes a sudden move. His army is quickly across the pontoon bridges still on the Scheldt and he has the fortress of Sluys surrounded before they even have an inkling that the enemy is approaching. Trenches of circumvallation and contravallation are started.

June 13th, 1703

To try to counter this move, Berwick moves from Ghent to Bruges. Marsin argues that he would have been better to stay at Ghent.

June 20th, 1703

Having received some reinforcement draughts, Berwick is feeling a little bolder. Looking at the map, he determines that Marlborough has only one choice for a supply route – from Antwerp along the road through Zelzate. If he can cut that supply line, Marlborough will be forced to fight on his terms.

1703-3

June 22nd, 1703

Berwick has arrived just south of Zelzate and ordered his troops to dig in. Marlborough will have to fight him now!

June 24th, 1703

Two days, and nothing has happened. The English troops are just 5 miles away, and some of their cavalry are in place observing the French, and yet nothing happens. No supply convoys fall into the French hands. They must have been warned. Marlborough is trapped and is doing nothing about it!

June 26th, 1703

An intrepid junior French officer has made it through the Alliance lines and back again. His report: The Alliance forces are not concerned about the French being across the road to Antwerp, because their supplies are being landed across the beach northeast of Sluys by the Royal Navy!

June 28th, 1703

Frustrated, Berwick pulls back to just east of Ghent to ponder his next move. His trap should have worked! He just could not think along the lines of the English, with all their ships and the sea.

He knows he has to come up with something. The news is that the Alliance has already started their first approach trench. Sluys has maybe a month before the garrison commander has to consider surrendering.

July 7th, 1703

A dispatch arrives from Versailles. Berwick is commanded to break the siege of Sluys! That’s easy enough for them to command! Not so easy for him to perform. The British and their mercenaries will be dug in like little moles.

After considerable pondering he decides to distract Marbrouck. If he can’t stop the siege of Sluys he’ll take Termonde back and threaten Antweerp. He gives orders for the army to move the next day.

July 13th, 1703

Termonde is invested and the digging is well under way.

July 26th, 1703

A breach is pronounced useable on the landward side of Sluys, and on the seaward side a smaller breach exists, where the Royal Navy guns have been pointing the weaker defences. As night falls, while Marlborough has his troops make loud demonstrations in the trenches close to the landward breach, troops land from boats from the RN ships and storm the unregarded seaward side. The attack is a success! Sluys is taken!

July 28th, 1703

The Grand Alliance Army moves on Ghent to see about threatening the supply route of Berwick. As the British and Hanoverian cavalry approach, night is falling. A sentry calls out to the British 5th Dragoons, “Quel regiment?” Thinking quickly of a similarly-clothed French regiment, Lt. Colonel Brody shouts back, “La Reine.” The gates are opened and the cavalry rides in. Quickly dragoons are told off to seize the gatehouse. A total of two shots are fired and one dragoon lightly injured before the complete garrison of Ghent surrenders. Later inspection discovers a huge stock of foodstuffs and gunpowder as well as siege artillery shot. This was Berwick’s main depot!

July 29th, 1703

The Alliance Army is across the Scheldt and back to the town of Alost, but now they are facing the opposite way. Cavalry pickets spread out northeast and quickly encounter their French counterparts.

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July 30th, 1703

Berwick is pinned between two rivers with an army in front of him and a fortress at his back. Upon investigation, he finds that he has no pontoon train, so crossing a river is out of the question. He must either fight his way out, starve or surrender.

Wait! There is a ford over the Rupel along a lesser road that leads to Brussels. If he can get there before the Alliance troops are fully deployed he might yet escape.

(Please Note: Berwick’s decision to besiege Termonde, putting him in a difficult situation, was not decided by die roll. I specifically contrived this to put the French Army in a situation where they had to cross the front of the Alliance Army. This was an attempt to recreate the situation of August 2nd,, 1702. There Marlborough managed to get on the enemy’s flank and rear and the only option they had was to go streaming past his Army, which was set out in order of battle. The only thing that prevented him from destroying the French were the United Provinces political representatives, who refused to allow the Netherlands troops to engage in battle. They declared there was no point to fighting, as the enemy was already retreating. Had they acquiesced, it is very likely that the French Army under Boufflers would have been destroyed.

However, to make things interesting, the Alliance Army will NOT be deployed. They too will be marching for the strategic bridge, to stop the French. Their advantage: they will have considerably less distance to travel.)

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