This anonymously written account concerns itself with an early episode in Britain’s struggle with the Revolutionary France that would shortly evolve into Consulate France and then the First Empire of the French under its charismatic emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It was a period of almost continual warfare which embraced all the nations of Europe until the downfall of the Napoleonic era in 1815, some sixteen years after the events described in this book. This historical analysis is a rarity and certainly at the time it was written its author believed it to be unique. The British Forces employed came under the command of the Duke of York and were supported by Russian troops under Fersen and Essen, it was accompanied by a naval force which had considerable success particularly in the capture of enemy vessels. Whilst the campaign on land—with its battles at Bergen, Alkmaar and Egmont—is an interesting one for the student of the period it concluded indecisively in an armistice. The principal advantage for the British was that is was able to embark and could fight again another day. The campaign provided many British officers with valuable lessons which they would take account of, by not repeating this campaigns errors, during the long years of battle to come particularly on the Iberian peninsula.
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In this position the French and Dutch troops remained until the 8th of September; on that day General Dumonceau arrived with a division of Dutch troops, about 6,000 strong, which was placed in the centre at Koe Dyke. By this accession General Brune’s army was increased to about 21,000 effectives; and, acting upon peremptory orders received from the Batavian Directory, he now planned a combined attack upon the centre and right of the British position, in the hope of being able to crush the corps of Abercromby before the arrival of the Russians and the Duke of York. The morning of the 10th was fixed on for the attack, to be made by his whole force in three columns.<br>
On the right, a body of Dutch troops, under General Daendels, was to assemble in front of St. Pancras and advance down the Lange Dyke to carry the villages of St. Maarten and Ennigenburg. The centre column, likewise composed entirely of Dutch troops, under General Dumonceau, was to march from Schoreldam against Krabbendam, carry a bridge which there spanned the Zuype Sluys, and so force the head of the British position. To the left column, composed of all the newly-arrived French troops, under General Vandamme, was assigned the difficult task of moving out from Schorel, possessing themselves of the villages of Greet and Campe, and then, after driving the British outposts from the sand-dyke, force their way down the Slaper Dyke, a road skirting the Downs to Petten, so as to turn Abercromby’s right, and so, by rendering his present position untenable, compel him to fall back to that which he had occupied on first landing.<br>
At daybreak on the day appointed, the several columns were put in motion; but, fortunately, information of the impending attack had been conveyed to the British general and dispositions made for their reception. On their left, Vandamme’s column, after passing through the sand-hills, forced back the British advanced posts, and then attacked the two brigades of British foot-guards, who were appointed to defend the head of the Great Dyke and the Slaper Dyke. Some companies of French grenadiers penetrated as far as the canal bordering on the Great Dyke, but found themselves unable to ford it, and were all either killed or taken. After several ineffectual attempts to storm the position, in one of which General David was slain. General Vandamme found himself taken in flank by the fire of four British armed vessels stationed near the shore, and thereupon fell back along the road to Alkmaar.<br>
The attack of the centre column, under General Dumonceau, on Krabbendam, was not more successful than that of Vandamme on the British right. At the hour appointed for moving, one brigade of Dutch infantry was not forthcoming, and another, tinder General Bonhomme, having by some mistake taken the road to Ennigenbrug, got in the way of the right column, under General Daendels, advancing to attack that post. This disconcerted the whole plan as regarded the Dutch troops, for General Dumonceau, fearing to lose time, took upon himself to send General Bonhomme with part of his brigade against Ennigenburg, whilst he himself led the remainder against Krabbendam.<br>
The village was soon carried, in spite of a heavy fire from some field-pieces placed to enfilade the approaches; but the attempt of the Dutch infantry to storm the strong and commanding position at the head of the dyke of the Zuype canal was foiled by the determined gallantry of the two battalions of the 20th regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smyth and Major Ross. Abercromby himself commanded here, and bringing up some other battalions from the left, he drove the Dutch troops back on Schoreldam, while two French battalions, which had been detached to their support and had just entered the village of Krabbendam, were also compelled to give way.<br>
By this check, General Daendels, who, on finding the road to Ennigenburg obstructed by Dumonceau’s brigade, had advanced to St. Maarten’s and carried that village, in spite of a spirited defence by Colonel Spencer and the 40th regiment, found himself obliged to give up all idea of making further impression on that side and hasten to General Bonhomme’s support. Having succeeded in rallying their disordered troops, the Dutch generals again brought them up to the attack, but with no better success than before; and on seeing his right threatened by the British reserve, who were advancing from Schagen, Daendels fell back at about ten o’clock to St. Pancras. From this village they decamped, on a false alarm that the British were pursuing them, a few hours later. The loss in the Gallo-Batavian army was supposed to be nearly 1,000, including 40 officers killed and wounded. In the British army the loss was comparatively slight, amounting to only 37 men killed, 14 officers and 133 men wounded, and 18 men missing. Among the wounded officers was Lieutenant-Colonel Smyth of the 20th, shot through the leg, and Major-General Moore, who commanded on the right, received a slight flesh-wound.<br>
After this engagement, the hostile armies remained for a few days in the positions they had previously occupied, and no further offensive operations were undertaken on either side. Abercromby, on his part, held to his former determination of remaining on the defensive until the Duke of York should arrive; while General Brune, convinced, by the result of the action of the 10th, that any further attempt to dislodge the British from their entrenchments, or to oppose the landing of their other divisions, would he futile, contented himself by taking measures to render his position as strong as possible, in order to resist their penetrating farther into the country; for this purpose he caused the roads to be cut up, redoubts constructed at the heads of the different dykes, and the natural difficulties already in existence increased as much as possible.