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Battle of Neerwinden (1793)

The Battle of Neerwinden (18 March 1793) took place near the village of Neerwinden in present-day Belgium between the Austrians under Prince Josias of Coburg and the French under General Dumouriez.

One should not confuse this battle with the Battle of Neerwinden (1693) fought a century earlier.

The battle marked the end of Dumouriez's attempt to overrun the Low Countries and the beginning of the Allies’ invasion of France. The Austrians under Coburg, advancing from Maestricht in the direction of Brussels, encountered the heads of the hurriedly assembling French army at Tirlemont on 15 March 1793, and took up a position between Neerwinden and Neerlanden. On 18 March, however, after a little preliminary fighting, Coburg drew back a short distance and re-arranged his army on a more extended front between Racour and Dormael, thus parrying the enveloping movement begun by the French from Tirlemont. Dumouriez was consequently compelled to fight after all on parallel fronts, and though in the villages themselves the individuality and enthusiasm of the French soldier compensated for his inadequate training and indiscipline, the greater part of the front of contact was open ground, where the superiority of the veteran Austrian regulars prevailed. In these conditions an attempt to win a second Jemappes with numerical odds of 11 to 10 instead of 2 to 1 in favour of the attack was foredoomed to disaster, and the repulse of the French Revolutionary Army was the signal for its almost complete dissolution.

Neerwinden proved a great disaster, but not a great battle. Its details merely show the impossibility of fighting on the 18th century system with ill-trained troops. The methods by which such troops could compass victory, the way to fight a sans culotte battle, evolved only later.

Original text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica