Page images

That the other columns were not too weak is sufficiently shown by their having maintained, until withdrawn by order, the posts they had gained while they were detached to the support of the Russians.

General Brune's army re-occupied all the posts from which it had been driven, and its general position was now covered on the right by inundations, the only communications across which, the dykes, were fortified. The space between Alkmaar and the Zuyder Zee, was thus rendered defensible by small numbers, and Amsterdam was covered on the land side. The remainder of the army, which was successively reinforced, was concentrated between the Lange Dyke and the ocean, and the post of Oudes Carpel was strengthened by additional works, and by inundations. Schoreldam and the Koedyke were also fortified with greater care.

The Duke of York was anxious to renew the attack before the enemy should be further reinforced, and the arrival of the third division of Russians under General Emmé which joined him on the 26th, and of some detachments from England, had replaced the numbers lost on the 19th, but the state of the weather and of the roads, obliged him to defer operations until the second of October.

It has been already observed that the right of the enemy was no longer assailable, and the further precautions taken by them had rendered an attack in front not advisable. H. R. H. therefore determined to operate with his main force against their left, in the hopes of making such an impression as should materially reduce their means of future resistance.

The attack upon the enemy's left wing was made by three columns; that of the right under Sir R. Abercrombie, moving along the shore upon Egmont-op-Zee, that of the centre consisting of Russians under General Essen along the road, which skirts the Downs by Groet and Schorel, against Bergen ; that on the left under Lieutenant General Dundas, was in part to move on Schoreldam, in part to co-operate with General Essen in the advance on Bergen, and to endeavour to establish a connexion with Sir Ralph Abercrombie's.

A fourth columni under Sir James Pulteney, was to cover

the left of the army as far as the Zuyder Zee, and to threaten the enemy's right, further to avail itself of any favorable opportunity which might occur of supporting by more decided operations, those of the other columns.

The enemy were dislodged from Schoreldam and from the sand bills about Bergen and Egmont-op-Zee after an obstinate resistance, particularly near the latter post, in its progress towards which, Sir Ralph Abercrombie's column suffered severely. The loss of the enemy would have been much more serious if General Essen could have been prevailed upon to co-operate more vigorously in the attack upon the village of Bergen, the early possession of which might have rendered the retreat of the enemy's right very precarious. The general result of the attack was, that it placed the Duke of York's army on the 2d October, in a situation which would have enabled him to renew it on the following day with great advantage, and General Brune, in consequence, abandoned his positions in the night, and retired to the strong ground about Bever-wyck and Wyckop-Zee, with the greater proportion of his troops, while General Daendels, who had abandoned Oudes Carpel and Lange Dyke, fell back through Alkmaar to Purmerend.

Alkmaar was occupied on the afternoou of the 3d by detachments from General Dundas's and Sir James Pulteney's columns.

The British loss amounted to 237 killed, of whom 11 were officers, 1102 wounded, of whom 79 were officers, and 193 missing. That of the Russians was 13 officers and 157 soldiers killed or taken, and 20 officers and 403 wounded. Major General Moore was wounded early in the action, but did not quit the field until a second very severe wound obliged him to be carried off. Seven pieces of cannon and several ammunition waggons were taken from the enemy, whose loss in men was very great.

On the 4th, the right of the army under Sir R. Abercrombie pushed its posts beyond Egmont-op-Zee, Egmont op to Hoof, and Egmont Biunen; the centre occupied Alkmaar, and the villages in its front towards Limmen. The left was placed bebind the canal of Alkmaar between that town and Schermerhorn. The town of Hoorn on the Zuyder. Zee was re-occupied by a detachment from the left. The roads were in a dreadful state, and the conveyance of supplies of every description from the rear, had become very arduous. This circumstance and the necessity of giving some repose to the troops, prevented the Duke of York from immediately following up the success obtained on the 2d and sd by the attack on General Brune, in the strong position to which he had retired near Bever-wyck. On the sixth, however, he determined to push forward the advanced posts of the centre and right, and the enemy were driven from the villages of Ackersloot and Limmen by the guards, from that of Baccum by the Russians, and from the ground between that village and the sea by the reserve under Colonel Macdonald without much difficulty, although with some loss to themselves. Thus far and no farther it was intended that these corps should proceed, preparatory to the general attack in contemplation, but Colonel Macdonald having followed the enemy too eagerly on the right, in the Sand Hills, and the Russians having advanced to Castricum, which it was not intended they should attack, brought on a contest between these corps

and the reinforcement sent by the enemy, which, although it had no object, soon became a general action from Limmen to the sea, and was disputed on the right with great obstinacy, and with alternate success until late in the evening, when the enemy were driven back to their position, and the allies remained in possession of Baccum and even of Castricum, from which a detachment made by General Coote from Limmen bad driven the enemy.

The loss sustained by both parties in this engagement, brought on with the sole desire of supporting the advanced posts, was very severe. The British lost in killed, wounded, and missing, 50 officers, and 1425 men, the Russians 1110, including officers.

Although the Duke of York's army had repulsed the enemy, and maintained every post which it had occupied early in the day, the consequences of this useless action, and the loss sustained in it, rendered its effects equivalent to a defeat. It obliged H. R. H. to suspend the meditated attack, and reduced his numbers at a moment when he had no expectation of further reinforcement, and when the enemy's means were hourly increasing. He no longer possessed that superiority of force which

was indispensable to the continuance of offensive warfare. The state of the roads, and the consequent difficulty of bringing up provisions and ammunition have been already adverted to.

These circumstances, the advanced period of the season, and the unfavorable position as a defensive one, which the army then occupied, added to the disappointment of the expectations of an insurrection of the Dutch people, rendered it very evident that no further movement in advance, nor a continuance in the station then occupied, presented that prospect of advantage which could balance the risk attending them, and H. R. H. was induced, by the advice of Sir R. Abercrombie and the other Lieutenant Generals, to abandon an enterprise of which the increasing dangers were not compensated by any probability of success, and to retreat to the position of the Zuype, where he would be nearer his magazines, and wait with greater security for instructions from England.

The troops began their retreat on the evening of the seventh, and the centre and right reached the Zuype on the following day without any interruption from the enemy or any other loss than that of 50 wounded, left at Egmont-op-Zee, whose state did not admit of removal. The left retired more gradually.

General Brune's light troops did not approach the position of the allies until the evening of the eighth. On the ninth they reoccupied Warmenhuysen, and on the tenth they pressed upon the rear of the left wing, under Prince William of Gloucester, by which, however, they were kept in check until night, when it continued its retreat without being further molested: On the same day they appeared in force upon the whole line, but retired without attempting any thing.

The Duke of York time in adding to the strength of his position, and in directing the sick and wounded to be sent to the Island of the Texel or to England, and the removal to England also, of the Dutch Levies, which were forming at the Helder.

Henceforth the resumption of offensive operations was out of the question, and H. R. H. had to decide between the alternative of continuing on the defensive in the position which he occupied, or of endeavouring to evacuate, by some means or other, North Holland.

It was a choice of evils. The position which he occupied was good, and the troops under his orders might long have resisted the enemy's attempts to force it; but at this advanced season H. R. H. could not look to the certainty or even the probability of the arrival of reinforcements or even of supplies; repeated attacks would necessarily have caused a serious diminution of his force, and the uncertainty of the navigation might have produced starvation. The unhealthiness of a marshy country had already entailed great sickness, the increase of which would cause a reduction in his numbers, possibly still more considerable than the sword.

The enemy, on the contrary, were daily acquiring strength, and could multiply, hasten, or retard their attacks at pleasure, without dreading any deficiency of supply.

If repulsed or beaten, their retreat was open, and they could not be followed; at least nothing would have been gained by following them.

If H. R. H.'s position had been forced, which sooner or later must have been the case, he might possibly have made a second stand in a position, marked out between it and the sea, but still enbarkation must have been the ultimate resource, and that embarkation must have been effected under the attack of a superior enemy, and possibly attempted when a contrary wind would have exposed the transports to destruction, supposing even that a sufficient number should have been collected to receive the troops.

Admitting these reasons to operate forcibly against any attempt to maintain a defensive position, it must be allowed that some of them operated in no less a degree against reembarkation under the attack of an enemy. The gain of a march would have availed little, for the whole army could not have been embarked at once, that part which remained on shore would have been exposed in a two-fold degree to the efforts of an enemy already possessing the advantage of superiority in reference to the whole, and might have been destroyed in sight of the ships, or in the act of embarking. At all events, under the most favorable supposition, a strong rear guard must have been sacrificed, and unless the wind should favor the

« PreviousContinue »