Of the Siege of Dunkirk

An account of the siege of Dunkirk and the actions of the Anglo-French Armies before the battle in the Dunes of 1658

Covent Garden, January 1698

Early on the morning of the 15 May ’58 (os), Marshal Turenne beleaguered Dunkirk on the Newport side, and Major-general Morgan with his six thousand English and a brigade of French horse on the Mardyke side. So that there might be communication between Marshal Turenne’s camp and his own, Morgan made a bridge over the canal. When Dunkirk was close invested, Marshal Turenne sent a summons to the governor, the Marquis de Leda. This man was a great captain and brave defender of a siege and answered the summons with great defiance. With this, Marshal Turenne immediately broke ground, and carried on the approaches on his side, whilst the English did the same on theirs. It is observable, that the English had two miles to march every day, upon relieving their approaches. In this manner the lines were carried on, both by the French and English, for the space of twelve nights.

When the Marshal Turenne had intelligence that the Prince of Conde, the Duke of York, Don John of Austria, and the Prince de Ligny, were at the head of thirty thousand horse and foot, with resolution to relieve Dunkirk. Immediately upon this intelligence, Marshal Turenne and several noblemen of France went to the king and cardinal at Mardyke. They desired his majesty and his eminence the cardinal to withdraw their persons into safety and leave their orders. His Majesty answered, that he knew no better place of safety than at the head of his army, but said it was convenient the cardinal should withdraw to Calais. Then Marshal Turenne and the noblemen made answer, they could not be satisfied, except his majesty withdrew himself into safety, which was assented to. Then the king and cardinal, marching to Calais, left open orders with Marshal Turenne, that, if the enemy came on, he should give battle or raise the siege, as he should be advised by a council of war.

When the enemy came to Bruges, the Marshal Turenne thought it high time to call a council of war, which consisted of eight noblemen, eight lieutenant-generals, and six marshals du camp, but never sent to Ambassador Lockhart or Major-general Morgan. The whole sense of the council of war was, that it was great danger to the crown of France to hazard a battle in that straight country, full of canals and ditches of water. With several reasons being shewn to that purpose, it ran through the council of war to raise the siege if the enemy came on further. Within half an hour after the council of war was risen, Major-general Morgan had the result of it in his camp, and went immediately to Ambassador Lockhart, to know if he heard anything of it. He said he heard nothing of it and complained that he was much afflicted with the stone, gravel, and some other impediments. Major-general Morgan asked him to go with him the next morning to the head-quarters if he were able.

Next morning Marshal Turenne sent a nobleman to Ambassador Lockhart and Major-general Morgan, to desire them to come to a second council of war. Immediately, Ambassador Lockhart and Major-general Morgan went with the nobleman to Marshal Turenne’s camp. By the time they came there, the council of war was ready to sit down in Marshal Turenne’s tent. Marshal Turenne satisfied the council of war that he had forgot to send for Ambassador Lockhart and Major-general Morgan to the first council of war, and therefore thought fit to call this, that they might be satisfied. Then put the question; if the enemy came on, should he raise the siege on the Newport side, and give them battle, or raise the siege and retire. The marshals du camp ran away with it clearly to raise the siege, alleging what danger it was to the crown of France to hazard a battle within so straight a country, full of canals and ditches of water. They then explained that, if the enemy came upon the rock, they would be cut between Marshal Turenne’s and Major-general Morgan’s camps, and prevent their conjunction. Two of the lieutenant-generals ran along with the marshals du camp and shewed the same reasons. But Major-general Morgan, finding it was high time to speak, and that otherwise it would go around the board, rose up. He desired, that he might declare his mind, in opposition to what the marshals du camp and the two lieutenant-generals had stated. Marshal Turenne told him he should have freedom to speak his thoughts.

Then Major-general Morgan spoke, and indicated that the reasons the marshals du camp and the two lieutenant-generals had given for raising the siege were no reasons; for the straightness of the country was as good for the French and English as for the enemy.  And whereas they alleged, that, if the enemy came on the bank between Furnes and Dunkirk, they would cut between the two camps, Major-general Morgan replied, that it was impossible; for they could not march upon the bank above eight a-breast; and farther, he alleged, that Marshal Turenne’s artillery and small shot would cut them off at pleasure. He then added, that was not the way the enemy could relieve Dunkirk, but that they would make a bridge of boats over the channel, in an hour and half, and cross their army upon the sands of Dunkirk, to offer Marshal Turenne battle. Further, Major-general Morgan did state what a dishonour it would be to the crown of France to have summoned the city of Dunkirk, broke ground before it, and then raise the siege and run away. He desired the council of war would consider, that, if they raised the siege, the alliance with England would be broken the same hour.

Marshal Turenne answered, “That, if he thought the enemy would offer that fair game, he would maintain the siege on Newport-side, and Major-general Morgan should march, and make conjunction with the French army, and leave Mardyke side open.” Upon Marshal Turenne’s reply, Major-general Morgan did rise from the board and, upon his knees, begged a battle; and said, that he would venture the six thousand English every soul. Upon which, Marshal Turenne consulted the noblemen that sat next him, and it was desired that Major-general Morgan might walk a turn or two without the tent, and he should be called immediately. After he had walked two turns he was called in; as soon as he came in, Marshal Turenne said, “That he had considered his reasons, and that himself and the council of war resolved to give battle to the enemy, if they came on, and to maintain the siege on Newport side; and that Major-general Morgan was to make conjunction with the French army.” Major-general Morgan then said, “That, with God’s assistance, we should be able to deal with them.”

With this the council was dismissed and the officers retired to their commands to ready themselves for future battle. In my next, I shall give account of the Battle as viewed from the Republican English Army.

William Savage

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Of the Siege of Dunkirk
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An account of the siege of Dunkirk and the actions of the Anglo-French Armies before the battle in the Dunes of 1658 

An account of the siege of Dunkirk and the actions of the Anglo-French Armies before the battle in the Dunes of 1658 

An account of the siege of Dunkirk and the actions of the Anglo-French Armies before the battle in the Dunes of 1658 

Of the Fight in the Dunes
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An account of the Battle of Dunkirk as fought between the Anglo-French and Spanish Armies in the Dunes on 4th June 1658

An account of the Battle of Dunkirk as fought between the Anglo-French and Spanish Armies in the Dunes on 4th June 1658

An account of the Battle of Dunkirk as fought between the Anglo-French and Spanish Armies in the Dunes on 4th June 1658

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