The Battle of Dettingen 1743

An account by Ensign James Wolfe, Höchst, dated July 4th 1743
From R. Wright. Wolfe. (1864), p. 43.

This is the first time that I have been able to write. The fatigue I had the day we fought and the day after made me very much out of order, and I was obliged to keep my tent for two days. Bleeding was of great service to me, and I am now as well as ever.

The army was drawn out between a wood and the river Main, near Dettingen, in five lines - two of foot and three of horse. The cannon on both sides began to play about nine in the morning, and we were exposed to the fire of theirs (said to be above 50 pieces) for near three hours. The French were all the while drawn up in sight of us and the fight began about one. The Gens d'Armes, or Mousquetaires Gris, attacked the first line, composed of nine regiments of English foot, and four or five of Austrians, and some Hanoverians. They broke through the Scotch Fusiliers, but before they got to the second line, out of 200 there were not 40 living, so they wheeled and about 20 of them escaped to their army. These unhappy men were of the first families in France. Nothing, I believe, could be more rash than their under-taking.

The second attack was made on the left by their Horse against ours, which advanced for the first time. Neither side did much, for they both retreated; and our Horse had like to have broken our first line in the confusion. The Horse fired their pistols, which fired their pistols, which, if they had let alone, and attacked the French with their swords, being so much stronger and heavier, they would certainly have beat them. Their excuse for retreating - they could not make their horses stand the fire!

The third and last attack was made by the foot on both sides. We advanced towards one another; our men in high spirits, and very impatient for fighting, being elated with beating the French Horse, part of which advanced towards us; while the rest attacked our Horse, but were soon driven back by the great fire we gave them. The Major and I, (for we had neither Colonel nor Lieutenant-Colonel), before they came near, were employed in begging and ordering the men not to fire at too great a distance, but to keep it till the enemy should come near us; but to little purpose. The whole of them fired when they thought they could reach them, which had like to have ruined us. We did very little execution with it. As soon as the French saw we presented they all fell down, and when we had fired they all got up, and marched close to us in tolerable good order, and gave us a brisk fire, which put us into some disorder and made us give way a little, particularly ours and two or three more regiments who were in the hottest of it. However, we soon rallied again, and attacked them with great fury, which gained us a complete victory, and forced the enemy to retire in great haste. 'Twas luck that we did give way a little, for our men were loading all the while, and it gave room for an Austrian Regiment to move into an interval, rather too little before, who charged the enemy with great bravery and resolution. When they retreated, several pieces of our artillery played upon them, and made terrible havoc; at last we followed them, but too late, they had almost all passed the river. One of the bridges broke, and in the hurry abundance were drowned. A great number of their officers and men were taken prisoners. Their loss is computed to be 6-7000 men, and ours 3000.

His Majesty was in the midst of the fight; and the Duke behaved as bravely as a man could do. He had a musquet-shot through the calf of his leg. I have several times the honour of speaking with him just as the battle began, and was often afraid of his being dash'd to pieces by the cannon-balls. He gave his orders with a great deal of calmness, and seemed quite unconcerned. The soldiers were in high delight to have him so near them. A horse I rid at the first attack was shot in one of his hinder legs, and threw me; so I was obliged to do the duty of an adjutant all that and the next day on foot, in a pair of heavy boots. I lost with the horse, furniture and pistols which cost me ten ducats; but three days after the battle got the horse again, with the ball in him, and he is now almost well again, but without furniture and pistols....

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