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" We had expensive glory this time, and my poor regiment is quite annihilated "

M. the Comte de Rochambeau, commanding colonel of regiment Auvergne

Source :
SHAT – A1 3563, pièce 7
Translated fron the French by Richard Couture

Relation of the battle given by Mr. the marquis de Castries on October 16th, 1760.

On September 26, the movement of the enemies on the Lower Rhine determined the Maréchal de Broglie to send a Corps there. The certain news that he got a few days later that various corps had marched there, decided him to move troops there which were successively increased up to the number of 44 battalions and 38 squadrons.

M. de Castries who was charged of this command, arrived in Köln during the night from September 30 to October 1, one day after the crossing of the Rhine by the enemies. Upon his arrival in Köln, he learned that they had begun by attacking and taking the post of Rocrot, that they had taken advantage of the bateaux on the Ruhr and that they had marched from there upon Rheinberg, where they had surprised 100 men of Champfort's troop and 100 recruits from Fischer's.

Meanwhile, they sent people towards Rees. The total force formed a Corps of 3 to 4.000 men part of which remained at Büderich to cover Wesel, and the other part scattered in the country, captured a militia battalion at Kleve and burnt an arms magazine. Meanwhile, the remainder of the Hereditary Prince's Corps moved down the Lippe and invested Wesel.

It was only on October 3 or 4 that we positively acknowledged that the enemies had designed the great project of really besieging Wesel.

The situation where we then were on the Lower Rhine limited the first operations to the relocation inside the places of all the magazines remaining in the open country.

This relocation occupied all the time necessary for the arrival of the troops and then we changed these defensive dispositions to offensive dispositions to move forward.

The Divisions of the army arrived only successively in Köln. The enemies had not moved away from the siege, we decided to assemble at Serst all the troops arriving from France and from the army. The Fischer`s Corps was ordered to move to Closterme to cover the movements that we had to do. Several troops were moved to Düsseldorf and detachments were made on the right bank to split the attention of the enemy and to give him envy in this part.

In the evening of October 13, 31 battalions and 32 squadrons were assembled at Neuss. This same day, we formed the vanguard behind Closterme and gave it to M. de Chabot. It consisted of 5 battalions, 2 dragoon regiments and the Fischer`s Corps. The various arrangements concerning the navigation and the means to send waterborne relief to Wesel were achieved during the same period.

The news that we received of successive arrival of enemy troops, the fears that we had that the weakness of the garrison could endanger the place, all these reasons determined us to march on October 14 without waiting for the Divisions of the Maréchal Comte de Bissy and of the Chevalier de Maupeou, for the 6 battalions arriving from France, and for the Archiac and Conti regiments, forming altogether 18 battalions and 10 squadrons.

The Reserve marched on October 14. It was directed upon Meurs and the vanguard, leaving its camp before daybreak, was ordered to march immediately up to Rheinberg, even though this was distant of 8 lieues, to prevent the enemy, if possible, or to attack him before he could be reinforced.

Effectively, there were only 1.200 men when the vanguard reached the post. They would have been more than enough to defend the excellent post, if the good dispositions of the Comte de Chabot and those of M. de Fischer, whose Corps formed the attack, had not overcome the difficulties.

The impossibility to penetrate by the first direction that the infantry of Fischer's Corps had taken, obliged it to turn the place. It moved under the fire from the walls and when the enemies saw that their retreat could be cut, they decided to retire with losses of some 80 men and of 4 officers. In this affair, one could not praise too much the conduct of M. de Borngrave, major commanding the Fischer's Corps, and all his infantry.

The possession of this post made possible to us to debouch on Büderich and covered the boarding that we planned to immediately undertake at Orsoy, if the wind had not prevented the arrival of the bateaux.

It was in the same design of embarking troops at Orsoy, and to simultaneously support the Rouergue Brigade, that the Bouillon Brigade had been advanced in the same direction under M. de Roquépine.

The Reserve, who had left Neuss at daybreak, encamped at Meurs and was ordered to resume its march early the following day, October 15, to move on the opening of Clostercamp. It arrived there very late and was encamped at Gueldre on this side of the Rheinberg Canal. The Fischer's Corps was sent to the abbey to cover the opening there, and the Bouillon Brigade remained encamped near Rheinberg, always with the purpose of sending help to Wesel which was the main objective.

This same day, October 15, the Hereditary Prince showed up in front of Rheinberg with a few troops. They became more considerable, and he then deployed them in the plain to cover the movement that his remaining troops were making behind.

As the enemy line approached the town too closely, M. de Chabot made it move back with the fire of his artillery. The remaining of the day passed with shooting which produced nothing interesting.

The Reserve, arrived on this side of the canal, was encamped with its left on the road of the camp at Meurs, on the other side of which was a marsh, the right extended parallel to the canal, leaning against woods, the infantry in the first line, the cavalry in the second, and the Gendarmerie en potence in the plain behind the left.

In this position, the Reserve had in front of it the ways that it would use the following day to cross the canal and to march to the enemies if the embarkation was not successful. Effectively, we got bateaux to embark only 600 men including 100 men from the artillery.

M. de Sionville, lieutenant colonel of the Bouillon Regiment, received the command and was charged to bring with him M. de Boisclaireau, who would command in Wesel under M. de Castella. Their navigation succeeded, despite the works that the enemies had made on the Rhine, thanks to the precautions that M. de Sionville had taken. However, we could not be sure of it because the signals from the town were made at the same moment when the Hereditary Prince started his attack.

This Prince wanting to fight decided to march immediately, not waiting the attack that, he guessed rightfully, we should conduct. He resolved to make the remainder of his army cross the Rhine and to march to surprise us. Consequently, he masked Rheinberg with a 3.000 men Corps, passed through a quite considerable flooded area and arrived on the canal.

He launched a brisk attack with superior forces against Fischer's Corps. He passed through the communications lines that we had established and extended by his right to attack our left flank.

It was at 2:00 am that the attack upon Fischer's Corps began. This fire caused the Reserve to dress the ranks, but the darkness of the night prevented it to take any other precautions safe to send grenadiers and chasseurs of the Auvergne Brigade on the left at the place from where the enemies could debouch, to support Fischer's Corps as agreed the previous day. The Comte de Rochambeau carried out this disposition with such speed and such an intelligence to which the enemies owed the first difficulties that they encountered. He send patrol to scout on his left, but a patrol having found the enemy column, it fired and the attack began. As related by M. de Rochambeau to M. de Castries, it was ordered to the Auvergne Brigade, led by the Baron de Besenval, to march and support the Grenadier battalion.

M. de Wormser, at the head of the Alsace Brigade, was placed in hedges and houses located to the right of Auvergne and where fire was aimed. These two brigades sustained the enemies repeated attacks with a rarely seen firmness. The enemies stopped on his points of attack, we dealt with the means to oblige them to retire, and it was with this in view that the Tour-du-Pin Brigade, who was then arriving, was ordered to advance in column by the right on a wide opening debouching on Clostercamp, and from where we could take the enemy column from the rear.

The guns of this brigade began to create much effect on the enemy left flank. M. de Lugeac found an advantageous place, in front of the Gendarmerie which he was commanding, to establish guns. We placed two 16 pdrs. there which M. de Thriboulot made serve with a great brilliance.

The enemy attack well engaged, at daybreak we ordered to M. de Roquépine, who had remained with 8 battalions near Rheinberg, on the right, to come and to the Comte de Chabot to leave only 200 men of Fischer's Corps that he had in the town and to come with the remainder of the Corps.

The efforts that the enemy was making to seize the woods and the houses of Camps-Bruck, that the Alsace and Auvergne brigades defended, was causing them much losses. This obliged to send the Normandie Brigade in this area, led by the Marquis Dauvet, composed of this regiment and of the Bricqueville Regiment.

Until then, this brigade had remained in battle order to support Auvergne and Alsace, but the fire had grown so intense that we determined to send it in the hedges and that it was ordered to cross the roads to stop entirely the head of the enemy columns.

As the action lasted since three hours and could not be decided, M. de Castries went himself at the Tour-du-Pin Brigade to make it charge, at the point of the bayonet, the column sustaining the attack and fighting against Auvergne, Alsace and Normandie.

The mere march of the second battalion of this brigade decided the enemy to retreat. He was too arduously followed by our infantry who went into uncontrolled advance in the heather fields near Camps despite everything that could be done to contain it.

A few British squadrons swept down on it and soon forced those who were in the heather fields to fell back precipitously to the hedges from where they should never have gone out.

Then the Marquis Dauvet advanced the first battalions of Bricqueville whose fire stopped this cavalry. Two squadrons of the Royal-Piémont Regiment and one of the Balincourt Regiment, led by the Comte de Thiard, finally pushed the head of this cavalry, who had crossed the passes, back in the heather fields. We took a few prisoners and captured a standard. After this charge, the enemies immediately retired into their entrenched camp at Büderich.

While the left fought, a small enemy column appeared, trying to turn the right. It fired a few gun shots on the Royal-Etranger Brigade, commanded by the Marquis de Cursay, but he contained it until the arrival of La Couronne Brigade who, by its march from Stromeur to join the army, was moving towards its flank. Upon the approach of the brigade, it retired.

During the affair, the enemy wanted to attack Rheinberg. The Comte de Chabot, who commanded there with the vanguard, and who, not waiting for the orders given to him by M. de Castries, had moved part of his troops on his left to be in a better position to help him, walked immediately to his right when he heard that fire was moving away and he penetrated in Rheinberg at the moment when an enemy corps was going to attack it. His dispositions during this day were made with such accuracy that he was always able to help the left and to assure the right for which he was responsible. When the enemies retired, he debouched from Rheinberg, followed them up and took a few prisoners.

M. de Wormser and M. de Besenval had commanded the two brigades of Alsace and Auvergne during the entire affair. These two brigades were those who suffered the most, it is to their firmness and to the valour and the intelligence of these two general officers that we owe the success of this day.

The Marquis de la Tour-du-Pin has been wounded by a shot in the thigh, the Marquis d’Escars, colonel of Normandie, by a shot at the head. The Comte de Rochambeau, colonel of Auvergne, has been slightly wounded. The Baron de Wanguen, brigadier, colonel commanding the Alsace Regiment, has been captured at the beginning of the action. M. de Grenneville, officer of the Gendarmerie, has been killed by a gun shot.

The Marquis de Bricqueville, colonel of the regiment of the same name, has highly distinguished himself at the head of his regiment.

M. de Ségur, aide de camp and cousin of the lieutenant general of the same name, has fought hand to hand with lord Dawn, a British colonel, and has conducted himself in a very distinguished manner.

The losses are considerable on both sides. Ours, who fell mainly on the Normandie, Auvergne and Alsace brigades, amount to 2.469 men killed or wounded and to 192 officers of all ranks. Those of the enemies are estimated to more than 4.000 men. The part of our army who took part to the fight could have been of 12.000 men including the cavalry and that of the enemies to 15.000.

The staffs of the army, of the infantry and of the cavalry have been very useful to the Marquis de Castries, and have shown the most brilliant valour in this day.

The Comte de Branisky, a Polish lord who is volunteer in the French army, and who had arrived at the Reserve while the action began, has assumed all the most dangerous communications and has accomplished them with the greatest intelligence.

M. de Castries has similarly used the Baron de Kettler and Colonel Altorp, officers in the Empress' service.

The army crossed the canal on the same day and encamped with its right at Rheinberg, where the headquarter was established. The Comte de Chabot marched with his vanguard up to Ossenberg.

On October 17 at daybreak, we reconnoitred the enemy. The Comte de Champagne, colonel of the Rouergue Regiment, was posted in front along the Rhine dyke with the grenadiers and the chasseurs of the brigade. He pushed up to one lieue from Büderich where the enemies held firm and where shooting lasted the whole day. The Marquis de Roquépine supported M. de Champagne with the Liège Brigade and was slightly wounded.

We reconnoitred the places where it is possible to debouch from the plain extending from the plain of Borth up to Büderich. Once we had reconnoitred them, we moved to the entrance of the plain the entire vanguard of the Comte de Chabot which he linked with patrols and posts with M. de Roquépine occupying the Rhine Dyke.

There was a very sharp skirmish in the plain of Borth and in the woods standing on the right and on the left of this plain. Many people were killed or wounded on both sides.

The army encamped on the plain behind the village of Borth where the headquarter was established.

On October 18, the Marquis de Castries who planned to attack the enemies in their entrenched camp, and who the previous day had already prepared his places to debouch upon them, mounted on his horse when day came, beat the general quarters, and was preparing to mach forward when he learned that the enemy had left at midnight, and had crossed back the Rhine on its bridges and in its small boats. He sent the vanguard of M. de Chabot to follow up the rearguard. A few troops of the Thianges and Royal dragoons charged the last troops, the rearguard of the enemies crossed the Rhine. It was protected by the fire of 22 big field pieces, the bridge was broken and remained in our possession.

M. de Castries arrived at 11:00 am on October 18 in Wesel, and he immediately ordered the Bouillon and Normandie brigades into the town. They were going to sally with the garrison to march against the trench, but the enemies lifted siege before.

The objective was fulfilled, and the small advantages that we could have on the right bank could lead to nothing essential, we decided to canton the Reserve on the left bank. The extreme tiredness that the troops suffered, and the horrible weather persisting, have made us consider this alternative as the only one that could be advantageous.

When one considers that the troops who had fought on October 16 at Camps-Bruck had left Cassel on October 3, he soon realises that the impossible had been made to make them arrive so promptly and that it was only with means of all kind that it had been attained.

   French Losses at Clostercamp

Infantry

Regiment

Captains

Lieutenants

Privates

Killed

Wounded

Killed

Wounded

Killed

Wounded

Normandie

7

25

2

25

200

438

Auvergne

7

23

2

26

203

512

La Tour-du-Pin

-

3

-

2

4

69

Bricqueville

-

8

-

1

21

106

Alsace

5

28

3

22

387

519

Total

19

87

7

76

815

1644

Cavalry

Regiment

Officers

Privates

Horses

Killed

Wounded

Killed

Wounded

Killed

Wounded

Crussol

-

-

-

1

-

-

Royal-Piémont

1

2

3

6

8

13

Poly

-

-

-

3

-

14

Balincourt

-

-

2

16

22

25

d'Escars

-

1

-

2

2

10

Total

1

3

5

28

32

62

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