Siege of Lille (1708)

The siege of Lille (12 August – 10 December 1708) was the salient operation of the 1708 campaign season during the War of the Spanish Succession. After an obstinate defence of 120 days, the French garrison surrendered the city and citadel of Lille, commanded by Marshal Boufflers, to the forces of the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene.

Siege of Lille
Part of the War of the Spanish Succession
MANTE(1800) p4.220 SIEGE OF LILLE -1708.jpg
Siege of Lille in 1708
Date12 August – 10 December 1708
(3 months and 4 weeks)
Location50°38′14″N 3°03′48″E / 50.6372°N 3.0633°E / 50.6372; 3.0633
Result Grand Alliance victory[1]
Belligerents
 United Provinces
 Great Britain
 Habsburg Austria
 France
Commanders and leaders
Habsburg Monarchy Eugene of Savoy,
Kingdom of Great Britain Duke of Marlborough
Kingdom of France Duc de Boufflers
Strength
35,000 besiegers,
120 heavy guns
80 heavy mortars
75,000 in vicinity[2]
16,000 garrison,
159 guns
100,000 in vicinity[2]
Casualties and losses
16,000 killed and wounded[3] 7,000 killed and wounded
159 guns[4][Note 1]
Plan-relief of the fortifications, comprising 16 bastions. The citadel is in the background.

The siege was famous among contemporaries for l'affaire des poudres ("the gunpowder incident"), where the Chevalier de Luxembourg with 2,000 horsemen passed through the Allied lines and succeeded in delivering 40,000 pounds of desperately needed gunpowder to the defenders.[2]

The siege was made possible by the defeat of the French army at the Battle of Oudenarde and the landing in Ostend of large amounts of ammunition and food after the Battle of Wijnendale. For most of the campaign, Eugene commanded the forces besieging Lille, while Marlborough commanded the forces covering those forces against external French interference. For a short period in late September however, after Eugene was injured on the 21st, Marlborough took command of both the besiegers and the covering force.

On 22 October the Allies entered the city at the staggering cost of 12,000 casualties; Boufflers continued to resist from Lille's citadel for several weeks, exacting an additional 4,000 allied casualties.[5] While the allies' deft manoeuvring frustrated French attempts to relieve their precious fortress—the last substantial French bastion in northern Flanders—Boufflers' valiant defence likewise prolonged the siege well into winter, to the point where no operations could be undertaken against France that year.[6] The French garrison of Lille capitulated on 10 December and the remaining defenders marched out with full honours of war,[Note 2] and Boufflers was decorated by Louis XIV.

For France, the results of the siege were mixed. The city's stubborn defence tied down Marlborough for the remainder of the 1708 campaigning season, preventing him from inflicting further damage on France in the aftermath of Oudenarde. But, with the loss of Lille, northern Flanders reverted to allied control; the Allies moved against Ghent, taking the city in late December. The fall of Lille also opened a corridor for an allied invasion of France in 1709, but this effort would run into a bloody standstill at the Battle of Malplaquet.

ReferencesEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Per the terms of capitulation, the remaining unwounded garrison, about 9,000 strong, would retreat unmolested to the major French fortress and military depot of Douai. (Bodart 1908, p. 158)(Oury 2020, p. 275)
  2. ^ Specifically, the articles of capitulation drafted by Marshal Boufflers on 9 December and accepted by Prince Eugene were:
    • The Lille citadel's chapel would not be used for the worship of any but the Catholic faith;
    • Lille's garrison would exit the citadel with horse, arms and baggage;
    • The garrison would traverse allied lines drums beating, bearing arms, and would carry in its train 6 cannons;
    • Each French soldier would depart with 12 musket shot;
    • French sick and wounded would be conducted to Douai at allied expense
      (Brun-Lavainne 1838, pp. 343–4)

CitationsEdit

  1. ^ Eggenberger, David, An Encyclopedia of Battles, (Courier Dover Publications, 1985), 243.
  2. ^ a b c Lynn (1999), p. 321
  3. ^ Childs (1982), p. 133
  4. ^ Bodart 1908, p. 158.
  5. ^ Chandler (1986), p. 89
  6. ^ Treasure (1985), p. 279, notes: "Boufflers defended Lille with inspiring determination, aided by old Vauban who had designed its fortification and now lent his services as a simple volunteer. The allies were made to pay dearly for the city which did not capitulate till December."

BibliographyEdit

  • Bodart, G. (1908). Militär-historisches Kriegs-Lexikon (1618-1905).
  • Brun-Lavainne, Élie Benjamin Joseph (1838). Les sept sièges de Lille: contenant les relations de ces sièges, appuyées des chartes, traités, capitulations et de tous les documents historiques que s'y rattachent, avec trois plans aux époques de 1667, 1708 et 1792.
  • Chandler, David (2003). The Oxford History of the British Army. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-280311-5.
  • Lynn, John A. The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667–1714. Longman, (1999). ISBN 0-582-05629-2
  • Oury, Clément (2020). La Guerre de succession d'Espagne : la fin tragique du Grand Siècle.
  • Treasure, Geoffrey (1985). The Making of Modern Europe, 1648-1780. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-05136-1.

External linksEdit