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The Battle of Fontenoy

Posted in Anniversary, Famous battles on Saturday, 30 April 2011

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May 11 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Fontenoy, fought in 1745 between the allies and the French Army.

picture, Battle of Fontenoy, Irish Brigade, English army, Duke of Cumberland, Maurice de Saxe

The Irish Brigade fought on the side of the French against the hated English during the Battle of Fontenoy. Illustration by Severino Baraldi

The battle took place during the War of Austrian Succession near Tournai in present-day Belgium. The French armies had begun attacking the Low Countries in 1744 and had won some notable victories. The area of Flanders was under the control of Maurice de Saxe, a Marshal of France, in charge of some 50-60,000 men.

Against him were a coalition of British, Dutch, Austria and Saxony troops under the nominal command of the Duke of Cumberland. Saxe attacked Tournai, a key to the approaches of Ghent and Oudenarde. But the siege had a second motive – to draw out the allied forces before they reached full strength to a place where French defences were strong.

The initial attempts at a flank attack failed but a frontal assault penetrated the French lines. However, constant fire and cavalry attacks forced the British and Hanovarian troops back whilst the Dutch did little to help on the left flank. The French pushed forward and the Allies performed a fighting withdrawal and retreated to Ath, having suffered between 10-12,000 casualties, against the French figure of 7,000.

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