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Marlborough At Ramillies Essay

3161 words - 13 pages

Marlborough at Ramillies
Marlborough at Ramillies

Marlborough at Ramillies

2LT John C. Flanagan
SFC Booth
AOB 10-94
Executive Summary
John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, is undoubtedly one of the greatest military commanders ever. Even though he commanded his armies in the early eighteenth century, there are many things we can learn from him. One way to gain this knowledge is by examining the Duke's leadership at the battle of Ramillies through the Principles of War.

Marlborough at Ramillies
The Age of Reason was "a time when the ordinary officer preferred anything to fighting, [but] Marlborough . . . preferred ...view middle of the document...

"4 The War of Spanish Succession allowed each of them to use their expertise to carry out the "unusual opinions."
Indeed, the fight for the throne of Spain--vacated by Charles the Sufferer--provided the setting for Marlborough's campaigns. Both France and the Empire had viable claims to the throne. However, if either side were to gain Spain, the delicate European balance of power would have been disrupted. Diplomats from the two sides and Spain had decided to divide up the spoils equally in order to keep the balance. Just before his death, though, Charles decided that he did not want his empire divided; he changed his will leaving the throne of Spain to the grandson of Louis XIV. Thus began the War of Spanish Succession.5
In order to fully understand this battle, you must analyze the technology of the time. The infantry, as it had always been, remained the centerpiece for tactics. The infantry used flintlock muskets. This advance over the matchlock increased both mobility and firepower because the flintlock was less cumbersome and quicker to fire. The soldier no longer had to use a rest to support the barrel when firing. In addition this musket was outfitted with a socket bayonet rather than the plug type. This allowed for the possibility of firing the weapon while the bayonet was fixed. This in turn alleviated the need for pikemen, thereby increasing firepower even more.2
England entered the war in 1701 and it lasted through about 1712. In this twelve year period, "although Marlborough was pre-eminently a seeker of battles, . . . he conducted thirty sieges and fought only four major actions in the open field."6 There are two reasons for his restriction. First, although Queen Anne gave Marlborough free rein to fight as he wished, he still had to appease the "timorous counsels of his allies."7 On several occasions Marlborough was in a very advantageous position to defeat the French Army, but was stopped by the Dutch Government and other allies.8 Second, the Duke was faced with Louis XIV's bastion system of fortification developed by his chief engineer, Vauban. These fortifications slowed his progress by forcing him to conduct numerous sieges and retain a large battering train. "Marlborough's train of eighteen heavy guns and twenty siege mortars required 16,000 horses and 3,000 wagons to move it and covered thirty miles of highway."9
Even with these obstacles in his way, he still managed to meet up with the French army in the Battle of Ramillies. This battle was fought on 23 May 1706 in northwestern Europe, the Lowlands.3 Although the two armies were looking for each other, this meeting was mutually unexpected--both sides expected that they would meet in a couple more days at the earliest. Marlborough intended to camp for the evening in the town of Ramillies. However, Villeroy already had his troops encamped at this location. At one o'clock in the morning, the opposing sides discovered each other and the battle...

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