Part 11: December 2 Broadcast
You are listening to BBC radio 4. In an hour, we will be discussing the history of Christmas before Christ. For the next hour, Professor David Stephenson will be presenting a documentary on the second 80 years war of the eighteenth century. This series will be running every third day, up to 50 episodes. If you want news of the current war in the Middle East please channel in to BBC radio 1.
Good evening, and welcome to BBC radio 4. Im Professor David Stephenson, professor of Dutch historical studies at Cambridge. This is the eleventh part of our 50 episode special on the second 80 years war over Europe. Joining me for these broadcasts are fellow researchers and scholars Doctor Albert Andrews, specialist in German studies from the Berlin academy, Professor Robert Lowe, specialist in French studies at Cambridge, and a graduate student and technical assistant, Anton Thatcher. Last week, we discussed the political gaff that spread the 80 years war to Europe.
With Westphalia, and for the most part Württemberg out of the picture, the Dutch had but a few options. Either they could press on to defeat Austria, who had pledged to free Westphalia, or they could attempt to back out of a war on the mainland in Europe so they could fight the British, who could no longer be convinced that the Dutch would not present a threat to their island nation.
The British in the West feared the titan that the Dutch had become.
De Vadder attempted to open negotiations with the Austrians, but with characteristic arrogance, the Dutch minister refused to grant any concessions, free Westphalia or lift the siege of Stuttgart, stalling any hope of progress with the Austrian Empire. Even more bluntly, he had stated outright that it would have been a much better prospect for the Austrians to agree to peaceable terms with the Dutch before they had cleared the channel and conquered Britain.
Committed now to defeating Britain, lacking the naval presence to invade, throwing hundreds of thousands of guilders to fund a war in India and locked in several wars across Europe, the Dutch were ill prepared to directly assail Britain. The battles in India had turned fairly low key after the spring offensive, but it did not take a brilliant man to know that both sides were preparing their forces for an oncoming battle, and money that could otherwise have been used to overwhelm the British were instead diverted East.
Instead, they opted to defeat their colonies, destroying their source of revenue and trade abroad. With threats on her trade routes in the Americas, around England and with armies marching on the thirteen colonies, the British would either starve economically, or be forced to pulling apart the channel fleet to stop the Dutch in the Americas.
British holdings in the Americas.
The Americas, and Boston in particular were a massive economic boost to the British. Their trade goods had come primarily from the Americas, sugar, tobacco, cotton and furs, and cities such as Boston were as productive and taxable as any in Europe. Without their colonies, keeping the British navy afloat, let alone any army at all would be next to impossible. Even if somehow, their soldiers were to work for free, the British could not purchase many of the items they would need to wage war. Cotton for soldiers uniforms, coal for their factories to produce the bullets they needed, metal for guns and ammunition. All were bought from afar, and what could be make domestically would be woefully inadequate to match what could be produced in France, Spain and all of America.
Dutch holdings in the Americas.
The British however, could do very little to protect their American holdings, save hope the colonials could defend themselves against the Dutch colonials. Neither could the Dutch send their European forces to invade the English colonies, entrenched as they were with the war with Austria. As such, the battle for Britain started as a war of colonists.
Dutch colonial marines square off against British line infantry. Both were highly professional, as inexperienced or under trained troops would often fare poorly when outnumbered, and in the Americas, native armies often vastly outnumbered the European ones. Smaller armies that could keep the natives in check meant more profits.
Starting by assaulting Port Royal, Dutch marines who had been waiting for backup from South America in the form of native auxiliaries drove their way into the city. The battle would become known as the Port Royal massacre.
A few hundred British soldiers backed by a few hundred armed citizens huddled throughout the city as the Dutch moved in. Not wanting to fight the natives armed with their axes in the narrow city streets, the gun armed British moved into open field near the city, the Dutch marines matching the move. The natives however, used the city and the buildings to cover their advance.
Dutch infantry move to open fields. Musket armed troops operated best with few obstructions to their firing line.
Dutch infantry, firing into the British line infantry were given a hard time of it by the superior drilling and experience the British had accumulated, but that mattered for little when their flank was hit by the axe armed natives. Holes in the British line had already accumulated where the armed citizenry had fled, and the flank was pushed back. While the last two battalions held out until they were down to near 10 men before they fled, the pursuing Dutch ran each and every one of them down. Rampaging through the city trying to catch up and kill the remaining armed citizens, the Dutch incapable of distinguishing the formerly armed and those who ran panic stricken in the streets cut them all down.
Dutch native Auxiliaries burst from the cover of the city. British red coats while well trained were no match for them in melee combat if they haven't softened up their numbers with volleys beforehand.
The Dutch were able to slowly crawl northward towards the English holdings in North America, and had already secured Florida from Spain, giving them a base to operate from and stage attacks on the mainland. They had only the massive garrison on Nassau in the Bahamas left to contend with to secure a northward campaign against Britain.
The British army at Nassau was considerably larger than the one in Port Royal. They were, however, poorly trained and soft due to the pleasant nature and lack of violent natives on the Bahamas.
Unlike in Port Royal, the Nassau garrison was massive. Near 2000 men had crowded on the tiny island, and the Dutch would have to pay dearly for it. So long as they were there, a small and fast fleet could ferry the English army into the rear forces of the Dutch advancing from Florida. At that point, the Dutch would be cut from their supplies fighting a two front war. That was not the war the Dutch intended to fight. If they had wanted any hope at all of winning this war, Nassau would have to fall.
Fortunately, the British American fleet had moved to join the channel fleet some time before, lacking the presence in the Americas to contest the Dutch, and firm in their knowledge that they would be desperately needed elsewhere. This meant the city could be attacked. Whether or not the Dutch could win would be another story entirely.
Unfortunately, the Dutch forces were dealing with their own issues at home and in India. Their armies in India had been near reduced to scraps, and replacing the dead would cost over a million guilders. Nearly 6 months tax and trade revenue. They needed even more than that if they wanted to win.
In Europe, Ouewerkerks army, as well as the professional Amsterdam guard were battered, though would cost only tens of thousands of guilders. They were also in suitable condition to await more funding before being replenished, and so were left as is. However, their depleted numbers made it impractical to immediately move against Austria.
In addition, the last Spanish Royalists in Lombardy had managed to rile up the few followers they had remaining. A thousand all told, this was their last desperate push. Waaldeck, still held up in Milan had only a depleted army of 800 or so to oppose them, but unwilling to risk a Spanish resurrection, he moved out at once to deal with the Lombardy rebellion.
Waaldeck and his army move to check the Lombardy rebellion.
The Lombardy rebels had worn black caps and uniforms rather than the yellow ones they would have worn under Spain. Setting fire to factories and generally causing pandemonium under the cover of darkness, they had hoped dearly to avoid a fair fight against Waaldeck. Advancing on them on a dreary and wet winter day, Waaldeck was at a slight disadvantage. With such poor weather making out the men in their dark clothes was more difficult than it could otherwise have been.
The Lombardy rebels dressed in black to avoid detection in night raids and ambushes.
Waaldecks troops moved forward, splitting into several groups to flush out the rebels. Waaldeck and his cavalry remained back guarding the artillery, aware that he would be a priority target for enemies skulking in the murk. The professional regiments of infantry took the right position, and advances, while their militia moved to hold the left flank of the hill they were advancing upon.
Waaldeck is confronted with a large hill obscuring his field of view. Reports that the enemy was behind it, he opted to flank the hill rather than take it.
The Lombardy rebels moved their superior numbers to try to counter each in turn while taking the central high ground. Coming under intense fire in the forest to the right of the hill, the rebels were bogged down with only a single volley fired before the Dutch could reform their line and fire back.
Lombardy rebels move into position. The Dutch had a hard time pinpointing where they were in the gloom.
The Dutch were in a solid position to counter the enemy troops on the hill, a battalion of militia and another of line infantry encircling them. The fire from both ends quickly caused the men to rout and fall back, freeing the militia battalion to reinforce the first militia battalion below the hill on the left in their firefight against another group of Spanish rebels.
The Dutch opted to avoid taking the high ground, knowing the rebels would try to take it. A rebel battalion is surrounded by Waaldeck's forces and are quickly destroyed.
On the right, the battle was no contest. Under intense cannon fire and the deadly rank fire of the well trained Dutch soldiers, the Lombardy rebels broke and ran, Waaldeck and his cavalry springing to run them down in the rain. However, a rear guard consisting of two more rebel battalions had covered the retreating men, who hastened off the battlefield. Waaldeck and the gendarmes could advance past them, and were stalled until the infantry finished their fights and advanced, which would take some time.
The Dutch line infantry were able to double up the rate of their volleys by firing in organized ranks. The musket fire was devastating compared to the sporadic return fire.
The rear guard was scattered in two poorly supported positions, one behind the other using stone fences as cover, possibly so that the second one could cover the inevitable retreat of the first. However, it did mean the Dutch army could easily flank each formation rendering their cover useless. To help insure the capture or death of as many rebels as possible, the Dutch militia on the left moved to attack the first rear battalion, while all three professional battalions moved past to siege the second line. When the first line crumbled, Waaldeck ran them down, while the men who were meant to guard their retreat were hunkered down to resist an attack, unable to support them.
Dutch militia charge the first wave of the Spanish rearguard. The Spanish were forced off their wall by rear fire from a militia battalion working in tandem with these militia.
The few rebels remaining managed to retreat past the Ticino river, but were run down when the Dutch crossed with their cavalry. The rebellion had ended, but news had not yet reached Lombardy, and so the citizens remained in a near state of revolt, but this was soon rectified by the return of Waaldeck and his force which set about policing the populace.
Milan at least somewhat in hand, the Dutch needed to assess their priorities. Unlike India, the Americas had been run by approximately stone age hunter gatherers and subsistence farmers. The land was not surveyed for mines, mills were not set up and the land wasnt cleared, plowed or prepared for intense agriculture. The money they could make were from the few expensive plantation that grew trade goods. However, as sparse as the money earned in each province was, the Dutch couldnt forget that they still represented a modest sum of money flowing into British coffers.
The Americas were a land of untapped potential, but at the time, they were little more than potential.
On the other hand, the India theater could be abandoned without granting more advantages to the British. The advantage in India lay in its immense wealth, her vast taxable population and resource rich countryside which at the time, the Americas could not match. Keeping what they had of India, and perhaps making further inroads into India would mean far, far more money to defeat the British in all theaters.
India was a rich land, well developed, and a hub of some of the most expensive resources in the world. Spices.
For now, the Dutch had ended the year investing in the Indian army. They had reasoned that they had enough forces that a single replenishment at significant cost would pay for a 1723 campaign in America, which they were currently very stable in. In India, their grip was far more tenuous, but could be solidified in a year so long as they were given the time needed to reinforce their battered battalions.
The unexpected skill, discipline and ferocity of the Barghir warriors of India may have influenced the decision to invest in their Indian armies.
In Europe, both armies were considered in good enough condition to persist as they were. Their hold over Westphalia was tying down the Dutch guard army, while Ouwerkerk remained around Stuttgart with his garrison force, but other than this slight flip, the Dutch were in an excellent position to defend against an Austrian attack. However, with the need for a strong garrison in Westphalia to prevent rebellions, and in Stuttgart once it was taken, they would not at all be in position to take the attack to Austria at the time. That would come once they had the funds to reinforce Ouwerkerks militia army so they could advance with the guard.
The Dutch had essentially 3 armies in Europe. None would be available to fight the Austrians any time soon, unless the Austrians managed to move on the offensive.
And so while 1721 had started with a bang, it ended with relative peace, but it was a tense one. The Dutch settled down in preparation for the oncoming war, as did her enemies. With trade and tax income still flowing in, tens of millions of guilders every year, the crushing Dutch economy was probably a match for all her enemies combined. Even spread across three theaters, the Dutch armies were mighty, and barely a drain on her coffers. Still, spread thin and surrounded on all sides, it would be up to the preparations and choices made now would dictate the course of the war. No one could afford to relax now.
Compounding the problems of the Dutch that December, Morroco and the Cherokee Nation of Native Americans had declared war on them, threatening their flanks in their push against Britain in both America and Europe. Neither nation was significant to be a threat, but their presence and antagonism were a drain on Dutch resources nonetheless. It would be something in the back of those in charge of the Dutch armies for the coming years, as no detail could go ignored.
Though hopelessly outmatched, the Cherokee were greatly worried by Dutch progress into the Americas.
In our next broadcast, we present the Dutch preparations for the continuing war. Next we will be talking about Christmas before Christ. In half an hour, we will be presenting world news. If you want news of the current war in the Middle East please channel in to BBC radio 1. David Stephenson will be presenting more on the 80 years war in 3 days.