The Battle of Fleurus                   29/08/1622                      Spanish tactical victory



Commander: Count Ernst von Mansfeld
Infantry: 5 000 – 6 000 men
Cavalry: 4 000 – 5 000* men
Artillery: 11 guns

losses: 5 000 – 7 000 men

Commander: Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba
Infantry: 6 000 men
Cavalry: 2 200 – 2 400 men
Artillery: ?? pièces

Losses > 1 000 men

* some 1500-2000 of the horse mutineed before the battle and did not participate in the battle of Fleurus

Strategic Situation: After two years of disillusion, Frederick V, the elector of Palatinat decided to re-conquer his land. He manages to convince his Protestants allies to finance 3 armies, one commanded by the Count Mansfeld, another by Christian of Brunswich and the last by the Margrave of Bade-Durlach in total some  40 000 - 50 000 men. On the catholic side we find tow main armies, the league army under the command of  the Count of Tilly and a Spanish army under the command of Gonzalo de Córdoba. From April to June 1622 in a series of actions/battles on the Rhine valley (Wiesloch, Mingolsheim, Wimpfen and Hoechst) the dream of Frederick V failed and in august 1622 Mansfeld and Brunswich regroup the rest of their army near Sedan in France. The objective of the protestant army was to reach the Nederland passing through the Spanish Flanders.  The march started in Sedan and after passing Aubenton, Binche, Mariemont Mansfeld’s army arrive the 27th august near the village of Mellet. In the south of Mellet the protestant vanguard met the Spanish outpost which fought a delay action. The 29 of august Mansfeld deploy his army at the east of Mellet facing the Spanish army.

Protestant army: Mansfeld divided his army in three corps, on the right we find Streiff with some 1 000 – 1 500 horses, in the centre he place his infantry divided in 3 brigades (probably on the Dutch practice with 9-12 hopen/battalions) and his artillery and on the left flanck the core of his cavalry, some 3 000 horses at the order of Christian of Brunswick. In total we find some 10 000 – 11 000 men with 11 field guns.

Spanish army: this army is better known to us. Córdaba place on the extreme right wing, 800 musketters from tercio of Verdugo (commanded by the second official Sgt M Haynin) in a farm (ferme Chassart). On the right wing we have the 5 squadrons of cavalry under the order of the Colonel Gaucher. On the centre we have 4 infantry squadrons, the first formed by troops from the Tercio of Ibarra, Tercio of Verdugo, Tercio of Bucquoy and Tercio of Balançon, the second formed by the regiment of Fugger, the third by the regiment of Isemburg reinforced by free companies and the last one formed by the Tercio of Campolattaro and Tercio de Spinelli (both Italian). The left wing had some 1 000 horses (4 squadrons) commanded by Felipe da Silva. In total some 6 000 foots and 2 200 – 2 400 horses.

Note: Infantry number was quite low in the Spanish army because Córdoba had to dispatch several companies to reinforce temporally local garrison and because some of the infantry companies did not arrive in time.




A) After a short exchange of canon balls, Mansfeld ordered a general advance to attack the Spanish position.

B) On the right flanks, the protestant cavalry of Streiff hustles its Spanish counterpart which finds refuge behind their luggage.

C) Streiff reorders his squadrons and with the help of the advancing protestant infantry he attacks the Italian squadron of Campolattaro without success.

D) Meantime, on the left flank, Brunswick first attack is repulse by the squadrons of Gauchers. The protestant General launches 2 more attacks before being able to push back the Spanish cavalry.

E) Following his movement Brunswick attacks the Spanish infantry (squadron Ibarra). During two hours, the protestant tried to break the Spanish infantry but the stubborn resistance of the Ibarra squadron and the flanking fire coming from the Chassart farm ruins these attacks

F) Also, on the centre and the right flank the numerous protestant attacks failed to break the Spanish position

G) After several hours of fighting, Mansfeld orders an organised retreat of his exhausted army

H) After a refresh pause, Córdoba launch his cavalry under Gaucher to pursuit the enemy and attack him during his retreat. During the retreat the protestant army lost his cohesion with the cavalry well ahead, leaving the poor infantry behind. The next morning, Gaucher found the protestant infantry causing them, heavy losses (some 2000 dead) and capturing 2 small guns.



Balance: The battle stopped with a tactical victory for the Spanish side. Both armies suffered heavy casualty (some 1500 dead the same day + 2000 the next day) during the battles but the balance was modified by the victory of Gaucher the nest day against an unsupported infantry.  A large part of the protestant army (mostly horses) was able to reach Breda and join the Dutch force and participle in the operation around the siege of Berg op Zoom.





Acknowledgement

For this article I could benefit from had the useful help of  Pavel Hrncirik who had a copy of the book from Louis de Cornet, Histoire generalle des gverres de Savoie, de Boheme, dv Palatinat et Pays-Bas, depuis l'an 1616. Iusques celuy de 1627. Inclus.(1628), DE ROUBAULX DE SOUMOY, Bruxelles 1868-1869


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