Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies


Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies


caption=
partof=French Revolutionary Wars
date=April 24, 1794
place=Villers-en-Cauchies, France
result=Anglo-Austrian victory
combatant1=flagicon|France First French Republic
combatant2=flagicon|Holy Roman Empire Habsburg Austria
flagicon|UK|1606 Great Britain
commander1=Maj-Gen Chapuis
commander2=General Peter Ott
strength1=7,000
strength2=300
casualties1=1,200 killed, wounded or captured, 5 cannons
casualties2=95 killed, wounded or missing
In the Battle of Villers-en-Cauchies, fought on 24 April 1794, a small Anglo-Austrian cavalry force routed a vastly more numerous French division during the French Revolutionary Wars. Villers-en-Cauchies is 15 km south of Valenciennes.

Background

During the 1794 campaign in Flanders, Allied forces led by the Prince of Saxe-Coburg and the Duke of York sparred with the French Army of the North (Armee du Nord) under Charles Pichegru. When Austrian General Peter Ott found that a French force was threatening Landrecies, he took two squadrons of the Austrian 17th "Archduke Leopold" Hussars and two squadrons of the British 15th Light Dragoons to scout the movement.

Battle

Ott soon found himself facing a superior force of French cavalry with only 300 horsemen. At this time, the Austrian leader heard that Emperor Francis was nearby with a small retinue. To save his sovereign from capture, Ott determined to attack the French cavalry, who were deployed in line between Villers-en-Cauchies and a wood. When the Anglo-Austrians charged, the French cavalry wheeled aside, revealing a line of infantry with cannons in support. [Chandler "Dictionary", p 465]

Despite being drawn into a trap, the allied horsemen charged home and broke through the six battalions of French infantry, who belonged to Major-General Chapuis's command. [Smith, p 74] When the eight squadrons of French cavalry regrouped and counterattacked, Ott's horsemen routed them also. The allied horse pursued the fleeing Frenchmen for 8 miles in the direction of Bouchain.

Results

The French admitted a stunning 1,200 killed, wounded and captured [Chandler "Dictionary", p 465. Chandler gives 66 total Allied casualties.] out of a force of 7,000 men. They also lost 5 cannons. The Austrians lost 10 killed and wounded and 10 missing. British casualties were 58 killed and 17 wounded. [Smith, p 74. Smith also gives 800 killed, 400 wounded and 150 captured. The number of dead is ridiculous and may be a misprint. The British killed-to-wounded ratio also looks suspicious.]

Emperor Francis awarded all Allied officers in this action a special gold medal. Among the recipients were Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Craufurd, Ensign Robert Thomas Wilson and Captain William Erskine.

Commentary

During the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars, the French cavalry was particularly weak compared to the cavalry of their enemies. Historians blame this weakness on the loss of many aristocratic cavalry officers who fled France during the Revolution. [Chandler "Campaigns", p 69] In addition, the French infantry was filled with raw conscripts who were still learning their trade. Soon, the quality of the French cavalry and infantry would greatly improve as the officers and soldiers absorbed hard lessons at the hands of their enemies.

The next major engagement would be the Battle of Tourcoing on 17-18 May.

References

* Chandler, David. "The Campaigns of Napoleon." New York: Macmillan, 1966.
* Chandler, David. "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars." New York: Macmillan, 1979. ISBN 0-02-523670-9
* Glover, Michael. "The Peninsular War 1807-1814." London: Penguin, 2001. ISBN 0-141-39041-7
* Smith, Digby. "The Napoleonic Wars Data Book." London: Greenhill, 1998. ISBN 1-85367-276-9

Footnotes


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