The Battle of Val 1747

Military Memoirs of Lieut. - General The Hon. Charles Colville
Journal, Society for Army Historical Research Vol 27 1949 Summer/Autumn & Winter.

June 18th.

We had orders to be in readiness to march. 'Twas said the Army made a motion to the left.

June 19th.

At four in the morning we struck our tents, and marched by the left at five. We passed thro' the village of Minster Bilsen, where we observed that the French had raised breast works across all the avenues to the place, and laid the foundations of two considerable batteries to command the principal road, but it appeared that we came sooner there than they expected, by their abandoning their works unfinished, 'tho they took care to pull up the roads, and lay them under water, so as to render them as difficult as possible. The situation of the village is such that it is capable of being made a considerable obstacle on the march of an army, having the advantage of the Demer running thro' it, tho' the river is in this place very small. We had marched but a short league when we halted, and continued so 'till betwixt two and three afternoon, when we marched onto the ground marked out for us. We lay upon our arms 'till six, when we received orders from the Duke, who was out reconnoitering towards the enemy, to pitch our tents. There was a detachment made of a thousand men from our corps under the command of Col. Hugo in the morning, who joined us again upon the march. Count Doun was last night detached from the Army with eighteen Battalions and twenty Squadrons, who are now encamped with us. General Baronai's corps is likewise here, so that we have a considerable body. The camp lyes with the left at . . ., the right extending to . . ., the Duke's quarters at the Commanderie, and the Prince's at . . . The French at Tongres, a league and half from us, and by our situation we lye betwixt them and Maestricht, which is distant from us about two leagues. On our coming to our ground, Col. Hugo's detachment was again ordered out to take post in the village of . . ., and the picquets, as usual, were posted in the front of the left wing.

June 20th.

Betwixt one and two in the morning we were under arms, and continued so 'till fair day light. Then we grounded our arms in the front, and returned to our tents. About seven, we marched by the left, leaving our tents standing, and passed thro' the village of . . . on the road to Tongres. We came soon in sight of the enemy's advanced parties, and saw the Irregulars on both sides begin to skirmish. We then quitted the road, inclining to the left, where we took the advantage of hedges, posting ourselves behind them, and improving them into breastworks. Here we remained 'till midday, during which time the enemy's Hussars came down from an hill in our front, and set fire to a village before us. From this station we also saw the enemy gathering together in great bodies, and assembling nearer us round the village of . . ., but they were chiefly Cavalry. From this post we moved further to the left, marching thro' the village of Vlytingen, and took possession of the highest place of the village behind hedges. At the same time, the other Regiments of the Reserve manned the rest of the hedges. About two o'clock our cannon began to fire, and forced some of the enemy's advanced parties to retire, We, and all our Army assembling upon our left, and by their situation our village became a very important post on their right. In the evening, we learnt by some of the enemy's deserters that the French intended to have attacked us that day, but their cannon was not come up. The night was very cold and rainy, which we employed in casting up breast works for our defence. Nothing happened extraordinary betwixt us and the enemy.

June 21st.

In the morning we found the armies in the same position they were in the night before, our left within a league of Maestricht, but between the enemy and the town. Nothing but cavalry to be seen on the left wing of the enemy. In the forenoon, the cannonading was renewed with great vigour on the left, about the same place they had fired the night before, but ours seemed to have the advantage. Betwixt twelve and one there came orders for our Regiment, the Welsh, and Col. Hugo's command to march with all expedition to sustain the left. We marched as hard as we could for about an hour, and at last arrived at the field, where we had the mortification to see the last Regiment of the British obliged to retreat. No sooner were we formed, than a body of Dutch horse came full gallop against us, pursued by an equal number of the French. This threw the Welsh on our right into confusion, and disordered some of our platoons: but while the French continued the pursuit, we put our men into good order, and had an opportunity of giving them a good fire upon their return, which brought down a standard, and many men. We drove them quite back, but when we began to look round us, and saw no troops either on our right or left, and that the French cavalry were crowding down so fast as to threaten to surround us, it was judged proper that we should incline away to the right, in order to join some other corps, which we did slowly and in good order, notwithstanding the severe cannonading we suffered. This was all the action we were in, by which we lost several men, but not an officer wounded. The whole scene of action had, it seems, been confined to the village [Lauffeldt], opposite to which we drew up, and from which we saw the last Regiment repulsed; our troops had been in possession of it in the morning, but were overpowered by the enemy, and drove out. Our people recovered it again with great bravery and resolution, but the enemy sending a whole column, with a battalion abreast to renew the charge, and swarms of troops flowing constantly in afresh upon our men, they were obliged at last to abandon it. Several posts about it were taken different times, and it was a very warm action for both sides, and great slaughter made I orchards and in all the hedges round. The enemy made all their effort upon our left, while the whole right wing of our Army, and a great part of the left looked on without firing a shot of consequence. The brunt of the action fell upon the British and Hannoverians, who suffered greatly. We took about twelve colour and standards of the enemy, and two generals, and we lost one standard of Greys, and sixteen pieces of British cannon, and Sir John Ligonier fell into their hands thro' a mistake of imagining one of their Squadrons to be an Hannoverian one. Their loss is allowed to be double to ours, nor can they be said to be great gainers, 'tho we quitted the field to them, especially as we secured the chief point we had in view, that of preventing their laying siege to Maestricht, to which place we retired the same afternoon without any hurry or confusion, Prince Wolfenbuttel, with a body of Imperial troops, bringing up the rear, who lost a great many men by the enemy's retreat. When our Regiment got to Maestricht, we found almost all the left wing there before us, drawn up under the cannon of the town. In this situation we remained 'till it grew dark, exposed to the heavy rains that fell, and the excessive cold, for we had very bad weather for some days past. From this we moved a little up the hill, with a design to encamp, and it happened to be my turn to go into town for ammunition to complete us. In the night, I met with the first of the troops on their march thro' the town.

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