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Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne
The second son of Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, vicomte de Turenne, duc de Bouillon, sovereign prince of Sedan, by his second wife Elizabeth, daughter of William the Silent, prince of Orange, he was born at Sedan. He received a Huguenot education and the usual training of a young noble of the time, but physical infirmity, and particularly an impediment of speech (which he never lost), hampered his progress, though he showed a marked partiality for history and geography, and especial admiration of the exploits of Alexander the Great and Caesar. After his father's death in 1623, he devoted himself to bodily exercises and in a great measure overcame his natural weakness. At the age of fourteen he went to learn war in the camp of his uncle, Maurice of Nassau the Stadtholder, and began his military career (as a private soldier in that prince's bodyguard) in the Dutch War of Independence.
Frederick Henry of Nassau, who succeeded his brother Maurice as Stadtholder and Prince of Orange in 1625, gave Turenne a captaincy in 1626. The young officer took his part in the siege warfare of the period, and won special commendation from his uncle (one of the foremost commanders of the time) for his skill and courage at the celebrated siege of 's-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) in 1629. In 1630 Turenne left the Netherlands and entered the service of France, motivated not only by the prospect of military advancement but also by his mother's desire to show the loyalty of the Bouillon dominions to the French crown.
Cardinal Richelieu at once made him colonel of an infantry regiment. He still continued to serve at short intervals with the prince of Orange, who at the time had an alliance with France, and his first serious service under the French flag occurred at the siege of La Motte in Lorraine by Marshal de la Force (1634), where his brilliant courage at the assault won him immediate promotion to the rank of maréchal de camp (equivalent to the modern grade of major-general). In 1635 Turenne served under Louis de Nogaret, Cardinal de la Valette in Lorraine and on the Rhine. The French and their allies raised the Imperial siege of Mainz (8 August 1635), but the French army had to fall back on Metz from want of provisions. In the retreat Turenne measured swords with the famous imperialist General Gallas, and distinguished himself greatly by his courage and skill. The reorganised army took the field again in 1636 and captured Saverne (Zabern), at the storming of which place Turenne sufferred a serious wound. In 1637 he took part in the campaign of Flanders, including the capture of Landrecies (July 26). In the latter part of 1638, serving under Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar (1608 - 1639), he directed the assault on Breisach (reputed the strongest fortress on the upper Rhine), which surrendered on December 17. He had now gained a reputation as one of the foremost of the younger generals of France, and Richelieu next employed him in the Italian campaign of 1639 - 1640 under "Cadet la Perle", Henri de Lorraine, count of Harcourt (1601 - 1666). On 19 November 1639 he fought in the famous rearguard action called the battle of the "Route de Quiers", and during the winter re-victualled the citadel of Turin, held by the French against the forces of Prince Thomas of Savoy. In 1640 Harcourt saved Casale and besieged Prince Thomas' forces in Turin, which meanwhile besieged in their turn another French force in the citadel. The latter held out, while Prince Thomas had to surrender on September 17 1640, a fourth army which had invested Harcourt's lines being at the same time forced to retire. Turenne, who had by now become a lieutenant-general, played a major role in achieving the favourable result of these complicated operations. He himself commanded during the campaign of 1641 and took Coni (Cuneo), Ceva and Mondovi.
In 1642 he served as second-in-command of the French troops which conquered Roussillon. At this time Richelieu discovered the conspiracy of Cinq Mars in which Turenne's elder brother, the duc de Bouillon, had become implicated.
The relations of the principality of Sedan to the French crown markedly influenced the earlier career of Turenne; sometimes it proved necessary to advance the soldier to conciliate the ducal family, at other times the machinations of the ducal family against Richelieu or Mazarin prevented the king's advisers from giving their full confidence to their general in the field. Moreover his steady adherence to the Protestant religion provided a further element of difficulty in Turenne's relations with the ministers. Cardinal Richelieu nevertheless entrusted him with the command in Italy in 1643 under Prince Thomas (who had changed sides in the quarrel). Turenne took Trino in a few weeks, but was recalled to France towards the end of the year. He gained the rank of Marshal of France (December 19 1643) and soon departed to Alsace to reorganize the "Army of Weimar", the remnant of the late Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar's troops which had just sufferred a severe defeat at Tuttlingen (November 24/25, 1643). At this time, having reached thirty-two years of age, Turenne had served under four famous commanders. The methodical prince of Orange, the fiery Bernhard, the soldierly Cardinal de la Valette and the stubborn and astute Harcourt had each contributed much to the completeness of Turenne's training, and he took the field in 1644 prepared by genius and education for the responsibilities of high command.
The work of reorganization over, Marshall Turenne began the campaign in June by crossing the Rhine at Breisach , but almost instantly an army under the duc d'Enghien (afterwards the great Condé) joined him. The Duke, as a prince of the royal house, took the chief command of the united armies of "France" and "Weimar". The four famous campaigns which followed brought to an end the Thirty Years' War. The desperately-fought battle of Freiburg against Count Mercy 's Bavarians (August 3, 5 and 9, 1644) proved the chief event of the first campaign, after which the French successfully besieged Philippsburg. Before the capitulation Enghien withdrew and left Turenne in command. The marshal opened the campaign of 1645 with a strong forward movement, but Mercy surprised and defeated him at Mergentheim (Marienthal) on May 2. Enghien was, again sent to the front with the army of France and Turenne's army was greatly increased by the arrival of a Swedish force and a contingent from Hesse-Cassel. The Swedes soon departed, but Enghien commanded 20,000 men when he met the Bavarians in a battle even more stubbornly contested than Freiburg. The French forces killed Mercy and decisively defeated his army at Allerheim.
Ill-health forced Enghien to retire soon afterwards, leaving Turenne for the third time left in command of the French army. Again he did not fare well against the larger forces of the imperialists, but the campaign ended with a gleam of success in his capture of Trier (Trèves). In the following year (1646) he obtained more decided successes, and, by separating the Austrians from the Bavarians, compelled Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria to make peace (signed March 14, 1647). In 1647 he proposed to attack the thus weakened army of the emperor, but was ordered into Flanders instead. Not only was the opportunity thus lost but a serious mutiny broke out amongst the Weimar troops, whose pay was many months in arrear. The marshall's tact and firmness were never more severely tried nor more conspicuously displayed than in his treatment of the disaffected regiments, amongst whom in the end he succeeded in restoring order with little bloodshed. He then marched into Luxembourg, but was soon recalled to the Rhine, for in 1648 Bavaria had returned to her Austrian alliance and was again in arms. Turenne and his Swedish allies made a brilliant campaign, which was decided by the action of Zusmarshausen (May 17), Bavaria being subsequently wasted with fire and sword until a second and more secure pacification was obtained. This devastation, for which many modern writers have blamed Turenne, was not a more harsh measure than was permitted by the spirit of the times and the circumstances of the case.
The Peace of Westphalia (1648) brought little peace to France, which soon became involved in the civil war of the Fronde. Few of Turenne's actions caused sharper criticism than his adhesion to the party of revolt. The army of Weimar refused to follow its leader and he had to flee into the Spanish Netherlands, where he remained until the treaty of Rueil put an end to the first war of the Fronde. The second war began with the arrest of Condé and others (January 1650). Turenne, intended for arrest with them, escaped in time and with the duchesse de Longueville held Stenay for the cause of the "Princes" - Condé, his brother Conti, and his brother-in-law the duc de Longueville. Love for the duchess seems to have ruled Turenne's action, both in the first war, and, now, in seeking Spanish aid for the princes. In this war Turenne sustained one of his few reverses at Rethel (December 15, 1650); but the second conflict ended in the early months of the following year with the collapse of the court party and the release of the princes.
Turenne became reconciled and returned to Paris in May, but the trouble soon revived and before long Condé again raised the standard of revolt in the south of France. In this, the third war of the Fronde, Turenne and Conde stood opposed to each other, the marshall commanding the royal armies, the prince that of the Frondeurs and their Spanish allies. Turenne displayed the personal bravery of a young soldier at Jargeau (March 28, 1652), the skill and wariness of a veteran general at Gien (April 7), and he practically crushed the civil war in the Battle of the Faubourg St Denis (July 2) and the re-occupation of Paris (October 21). He still needed to deal with Condé and the Spaniards, however, and the long drawn out campaigns of the "Spanish Fronde" gave ample scope for the display of scientific generalship on the part of both the famous captains. In 1653 Turenne had the advantage: he captured Rethel, St Menehould and Muzon , while Condé succeeded only at Rocroy . The short campaign of 1654 was again to the advantage of the French; on the July 25 the Spanish were defeated at Arras. In 1655 more ground was gained, but in 1656 Turenne was defeated at Valenciennes in the same way as he had beaten Condé at Arras. The war was eventually concluded in 1657 by Turenne's victory at the Dunes near Dunkirk, in which a corps of English veterans sent by Cromwell played a notable part (June 3-14); a victory which, followed by another successful campaign in 1658, led to the peace of the Pyrenees in 1659.
On the death of Cardinal Mazarin in 1661 Louis XIV took the reins of government into his own hands, and as one of his first acts appointed Turenne "marshall-general of the camps and armies of the king". He had offered to revive the office of constable of France (suppressed in 1627) in Turenne's favour if the marshall would become a Roman Catholic. Turenne declined. Born of Calvinist parents and educated a Protestant, he had refused to marry one of Richelieu's nieces in 1639 and subsequently rejected a similar proposal from Mazarin.
He had later married a daughter of the Protestant Marshal de la Force, to whom he was deeply attached. But he sincerely deplored the division of the Christian church into two hostile camps. He had always distrusted the influence of many dissident and uncontrolled sects; the history of Independency in the English army and people made a deep impression on his mind, and the same fear of indiscipline which drove the English Presbyterians into royalism drew Turenne more and more towards the Roman Catholic Church. How closely both he and his wife studied such evidence as was available is shown by their correspondence, and, in the end, two years after her death, he was prevailed upon by the eloquence of Bossuet and the persuasions of his nephew, the abbé de Bouillon , to give in his adhesion to the Orthodox faith (October 1668). In 1667 he had returned to the more congenial air of the "Camps and Armies of the King," directing, nominally under Louis XIV, the famous "Promenade militaire" in which the French overran the Spanish Netherlands. Soon afterwards Condé, now reconciled with the king, rivalled Turenne's success by the rapid conquest of Franche Comté, which brought to an end the War of Devolution in February 1668.
In Louis XIV's Dutch War of 1672 Turenne accompanied the army commanded by the king which overran the Dutch United Provinces up to the gates of Amsterdam. The terms offered by Louis to the Prince of Orange only aroused a more bitter resistance. The Dutch opened the dikes and flooded the country round Amsterdam. This heroic measure completely checked Turenne, whom the king had left in command. News of this event roused Europe to action, and the conflict spread to Germany. Turenne fought a successful war of manoeuvre on the middle Rhine while Condé covered Alsace. In January 1673 Turenne assumed the offensive, penetrated far into Germany, and forced the Great Elector of Brandenburg to make peace; later in the year, however, the famous imperial general Montecucculi completely out-manoeuvred Turenne: Montecucculi evaded his opponent, joined the Dutch and took the important place of Bonn. In June 1674, however, Turenne won the battle of Sinzheim , which made him master of the Palatinate. Under orders from Paris the French wasted the country far and wide, and this devastation usually counts as the gravest blot on Turenne's fame, though it may rank as no less justifiable than other similar incidents in medieval and even in modern war. In the autumn the anti-French allies again advanced, and though Turenne was again outmanoeuvred, his failure on this occasion was due to the action of the neutral city of Strassburg in permitting the enemy to cross the Rhine by the bridge at that place. The battle of Enzheim followed; this was a tactical victory, but hardly affected the situation, and, at the beginning of December, the allies were still in Alsace. The old marshall now made the most daring campaign of his career. A swift and secret march in mid-winter from one end of the Vosges to the other took the allies by surprise. Sharply following up his first successes, Turenne drove the enemy to Turkheim, and there inflicted upon them a heavy defeat (January 5, 1675). In a few weeks he had completely recovered Alsace. In the summer campaign he once more faced Montecucculi, and after the highest display of "strategic chess-moves" by both commanders, Turenne finally compelled his opponent to offer battle at a disadvantage at Sassbach . Here, on July 27, 1675, he was killed by almost the first shot fired. The news of his death was received with universal sorrow.
Turenne's most eloquent countrymen wrote his éloges, and Montecucculi himself exclaimed: "II est mort aujourd'hui un homme qui faisait honneur a l'homme." His body was taken to St Denis and buried with the kings of France. Even the extreme revolutionists of 1793 respected it, and, while they threw the bones of the sovereigns to the winds, they preserved the remains of Turenne at the Jardin des Plantes until September 22 1800, when Napoleon had them removed to the church of the Invalides at Paris, where they still rest.
Napoleon recommended all soldiers to "read and re-read" the campaigns of Turenne as one of the great captains. His fame as a general outshone that of all others in Europe at a period when the populace studied war more critically than ever before, for his military character epitomized the art of war of his time (Prince de Ligne). Strategic caution and logistic accuracy, combined with brilliant dash in small combats and constancy under all circumstances of success or failure perhaps emerge as the salient points of Turenne's genius for war. Great battles he avoided. "Few sieges and many combats" was his own maxim. And, unlike his great rival Condé, who appeared as brilliant in his first battle as in his last, Turenne improved day by day. Napoleon said of him that, his genius grew bolder as it grew older, and a modern author, the duc d'Aumâle (Histoire des princes de la maison de Condé), takes the same view when he says: "Pour le connaître il faut le suivre jusqu'à Sulzbach. Chez lui chaque jour marque un progrès."
In his personal character Turenne showed little more than the nature of a simple and honourable soldier, endowed with much tact; but in the world of politics and intellect he seemed almost helpless in the hands of a skilful intriguer or casuist. His morals, if not beyond reproach, were at least more austere than those prevalent in the age in which he lived. He operated essentially as a commander of regular armies. He spent his life with the troops; he knew how to win their affection; he tempered a severe discipline with rare generosity, and his men loved him as a comrade no less than they admired him as a commander. Thus, though Condé's genius appeared far more versatile, Turenne's best represents the art of war in the 17th century. For the small, costly, and highly-trained regular armies, and for the dynastic warfare of the age of Louis XIV, Turenne functioned as the ideal army leader.
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