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Campaigns of J. de Mercoyrol de Beaulieu,
captain in the regiment of Picardie
1762 campaign (abstract)
Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, in spite of the two advantages gained by Mgr the prince of Condé, seeing he could not make retrogress the French Army backward anymore and that Frankfurt, object of his ambition, [ escaped to him, and having ] regret of still be unable, at this time, to better succeed than he had done at the time of the battle lost at Bergen, however took the wise resolution to draw advantage from the multiplied faults of our Generals; the position on right bank of the Ohm was more perfectly known for him than during preceding campaigns, when, for lack of this knowledge, he let the army of the King pass this stream, then under command of the marshal duke of Broglie, which, since then, pushed this prince and his army with so much advantage that everything predicted for the marshal a very brilliant campaign. But the shadow that Mr. count of Muy causes to him at Warbourg, having under his command the division which was previously under those of Mr. count of Saint-Germain, made eclipse all this brilliance and the Diemel river, between these two armies, made there to consume the supplies of these two armies and to finish the campaign which, from its beginning, appeared so threatening for the enemies.
Prince Ferdinand, well assured, seen the goodness of the position that presented heights, escarpments and woods all along right bank of the stream of the Ohm, its embanking and its swampy parts, decided to seize this position, from where it appeared to him evidently that with 40.000 men it would be easy for him to contain all the forces of the French Army from 60.000 to 70.000 men; that from this defensive he could, with 20.000 or 25.000 men, undertake the siege of Cassel and, taking it, to repair the humiliation which it had felt, obligated to raise the siege that it had undertaken at the beginning of 1761, defended at that time by Mr. the count de Broglie, with that current defended by Mr. The count de Diesbach, lieutenant-general.
All his combinations in this respect were extremely right, his defensive didn’t feel failure, the siege of Cassel was done and the taking crowned them with success. Mr. the count de Diesbach, missing there many things necessary to a long siege, was obliged to surrender. It occurred there no interesting feat of arms; the fortifications alone made defense of it and, when they were battered, the General capitulated, glad to obtain the honors of the war. The army reasoned on a so soft defense; General Diesbach was the goal of many matter, but the peace which succeeded little of days after this event, left in the doubt if he had not received secret orders to surrender this place, and its attack, its defense and its capitulation were forgotten soon.
It occurred, during this siege, the attack of the small town of Amoenebourg and its castle. The enemies, concentrating on right bank of the Ohm, had only left in this city, girded with a simple wall, only one fathom and a half high in some of its parts, and a castle bad for its defense but better closed, the city and the castle located one and the other on a very high knoll, the enemies, I say, left, for the guard of the one and other, 500 men: this position is located on the left bank of the stream of the Ohm, with a stone bridge on the aforesaid stream, at side of which is a flour-mill with a big square tower, in stone also, which forms part of this mill and the housing of the miller and his family. This mill being too distant of the city to be protected from it, the enemies had built, on the other side of the bridge, one redoubt, carelessly made, to defend the passage of the bridge. With the arrival of the French Army, Amoenebourg was invested and the mill attacked, and, without resistance, the enemies quit and where it was established a guard of 200 men.
The marshals of Estrées and Soubise, finding indecent that the city and the castle of Amoenebourg, which were in the medium of our army, were longer occupied by enemies, charged Mr. de Boisclaireau to seizing it and, for this effect, a body of 2.000 men of infantry and some gun gave him to beat the castle.
Mr. de Boisclaireau went, in the morning, to recognize the position which he proposed to attack the night after. Around the two hours of the afternoon, he had his artillery in position, which fired on a wall and, in few hours, it made a breach. He arranged his troops for the attack of the city and the castle, so that it was carried out at the same time.
The Hanoverian officer who was in command of the one and the other had not left more than thirty men to go up on some parts of the wall of the city, and had all his troops in the castle, feeling it was impossible to keep both; so the troops which attacked parts of the city did not find any resistance and, instead of going after to the castle for, by attacks, to divide the forces of it, they remained in the places by where they had penetrated; their commander occupied himself of preventing the mess and that nothing was taken or stolen to the inhabitants.
Mr. de Boisclaireau climbed, with approximately 600 or 700 men, by the breach, that he found abandoned and not an enemy to defend it, but, emerging in the court who followed, he was overwhelmed by a sharp fire of musketry. His soldiers, without order and knowledge of the place that they attacked, go to a door that the luck presents to them, but without other tools of force to break it that the small ones and bad axes. Numbers of them are killed there and the others cannot succeed; looking for some other exit, that they don’t meet, they take the party to retire towards the breach and to take cover from a sure death while remaining longer in this court, where, shot from the front and of the two flanks by the windows, the courage of Achilles and Alexander became useless.
A small group of a dozen men, using a ladder of a cart they find, raise it towards a window: it is unmanned and closed; they break through it; undoubtedly that the noise attracts somebody there; two of our soldiers had already entered; the enemies who arrive in this room wound them both and make them prisoners, fire some shots by this window and the small group of officer and soldiers, which had increased, also regained the breach.
As the day approached, Mr. de Boisclaireau took the party to withdraw and the taking of this castle was definitely missed, not without many complaints from Mr. de Boisclaireau, who reproached the two officers commanding the troops of the two attacks made by the city, their negligence and unconcern to have neglected to go on the castle, after having gained the city, and to make the attack on this side of it, which had shared their forces and had procured to Mr. de Boisclaireau to succeed in his attack and maybe to themselves to be the first to penetrate and to seize the castle.
Mr. de Boisclaireau had for this purpose a sharp sorrow; I found him overpowered from it a few days afterwards, when he asked me to diner in Bauerbach, where I were; he made me share of a report that he had made to justify himself, where he highly charged a battalion commander of the regiment du Roi infantry, that night under his command, commanding the grenadiers and chasseurs battalion of this regiment. I observed to him that verbally saying all that it contained to the marshals of Estrées and Soubise, I did not see there a disadvantage, but that if his writing was given, that was going to attract to him a debate and that I didn’t see where the continuations could halt; I live him shared to take the party that I advised to him; he should take it, because it was not any more question of this business.
As one took preparations for a second attack to seize this castle and his garrison, the commander, who missed there food and ammunition of war, proposed to give this castle; he wanted the honors of the war. This condition rejected, we wanted him and his troop, prisoners of war and, after talks which lasted twenty-four hours, they surrounded prisoner of war.
Some days after, it happened an event of which nobody could return account which had been the first cause, which made judge that those, either ours or enemies who had it started, were killed during this action.
The English occupied the redoubt which defended the passage of the bridge on the Ohm and its right bank, as we also defended it on left bank, occupying the mill and the tower about which it was spoken formerly. Naturally and without agreement, it had been established that, on both sides, no one would fire, when at the point of the day, it was fired, from one of these two positions, some rifle shots, without knowing which had started; a sharp fire established between the enemies and the redoubt, and us with the mill and the tower; light troops, to support this position from our side, went there; a brigade of infantry, prevented to go there in the event of an attack, went at once. Curiosity [ was large in ] our camp; all there was upright. The enemies, who also had troops prevented for the defense of the redoubt in the event of an attack, without other orders, also went there, and, as one arrived of both sides, one fought there. The guns of the regiments which had arrived there started to mix with the fire of musketry; the enemies, in their turn, made some guns approach. Our Generals ordered whereas guns of divisions of the park were led there; the two armies, which saw reciprocally their movements, took up arms; the artillery multiplied on both sides so much that, in three hours, hundred guns on each side made a terrible fire.
Prince Ferdinand did not know what we wanted to carry out according to any combination or art of war; he could not fall to him in idea that our project was to pass the stream and to attack him in its camp; but as well of other faults made with the war made him think as they could multiply, and the siege of Cassel, of which a part of its troops were then occupied, determined it, with any event, to support, by its cannonade, bridge fears it of which the English were charged and, putting its army in battle, to wait to see what it would come from there.
His movements were done under the eyes of the French Army, and ours seemed, in their turn, to copy themselves on those of the enemies.
Fire being continued between the redoubt, the mill and some bad entrenchments which were established there, the English troops in the redoubt suffered there infinitely, being seen and being plunged from the tower of the mill, which carried the English to make them relieve several times. The fire of the guns was so considerable, that, to arrive there, the English, starting from a wood bouquet, came at full speed, one behind another, and gained the redoubt; those who left it went from there like the others had come, and on the road, either of the ones or others, always some were cut off by the fire of our artillery. A many guns were pointed on the redoubt and had it so extremely destroyed that the English stayed there mainly prone, the others kneeling. In the course of this action, which was more than eight hours long, the English were relieved ten times there; it was observed that those which left it were not never more than half of those that had came there; so they supported the main portion of the loss of this day, which was for them of 1.400 men; that of the remainder of their army of 600 men; for us, it was estimated of 800 men at the maximum
This action was named the action of the Bridge of Fools; hazard engaged it, and badly by the way, prince Ferdinand of Brunswick suspected us of having project to undertake on his camp, thing impossible, since to go to them there existed on the stream of the Ohm only the stone bridge between the mill which we occupy and the redoubt on the right bank that the English occupied; [ there was ] consequently impossibility with us to pass this stream as to them, which could think of it on no reason, when we could have that to release besieged Cassel, but any combination, in some connection that it was, became false, badly seen of prince Ferdinand, like our marshals of Estrées and of Soubise, and, with a very right reflexion, one gave to this day the name of the Bridge of fools.
The artillery, on both sides, consumed there two thirds of its powders and balls by the fire of one hundred pieces of cannon of which made use each army, and this day, followed, little of days after, a cease fire and peace preliminary, made close to 3.000 victims.
Four days afterwards, we were informed of the capitulation of Mr. the count de Diesbach, who surrendered Cassel under the conditions of the honors of the war, and the immediate junction of his garrison to the army, which was not very content with his weak defense. His reasons were that he was badly supplied in food and ammunition of war. The reproaches had been able to be prolonged, but respective mails arriving to prince Ferdinand and to the marshals brought peace to them. This news made more particularly regret the loss of the unhappy of the action of the Bridge of Fools and absolutely extinguished any matter on the prompt surrender of Cassel.
The suspension of arms was proclaimed in the two armies and, two days after, there was an interview between prince Ferdinand, accompanied by all the general officers of his army, and the marshals of Estrées and prince de Soubise and all the French general officers. Our marshals gave a splendid halt to prince Ferdinand and to his Generals. All took place with the biggest courtesy and all were happy ones of the others. The armies then started to go back each one in its respective kingdom.
According to the old practices, the regiment of Picardie left the conquered countries one of the last; it passed by again the Rhine only towards the end of December, after staying a few weeks in Aschafenbourg. This division of the army was confined in Oppenau a few days, from where it left to enter in Alsace, where it was established to hold garrison in the towns of this province, and the 22 of January, the regiment of Picardie arrived in Strasbourg, where it was established, to enjoy there a peace and a rest deserved well, after a war of six campaigns, all very multiplied in events of danger, sorrows and tiredness.