Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Marlburian Journals: John Marshall Deane at Blenheim

British Soldiers of the Marlburian Age 
 Dear Reader,

Today we are going to look at the diary of a soldier in the Queen Anne's First Regiment of Foot Guards during the War of Spanish Succession. John Marshall Deane, a private sentinel, recorded this of his experiences at the Battle of Blenheim.  This diary is taken from the Army Society for Historical Research Special Publication No. 12, on pages 10-13. For ease of reading, I have modernized the spelling, but kept the grammar and wording as it appears. You might want to listen to this song, penned in 1706, while reading.

"August the First. We being joined this day by Prinz Eugene, both our armies drew out to give the enemy battle, but in two hours we returned home to our camp again. August the 2nd.  The General beat at 2am, and there halted till a little light; and then marched and approached the enemy about 6am, and as soon as ever the enemy got sight of us they fired their great guns upon us, but we played none at them till toward 9am.

Monsr. La Count d' Tallard, head general field marshall, his headquarters was at Hoguestadt, and the Duke of Bavaria, general, likewise, both of the enemies army.

Prinz Eugene commanded the right wing that day and made a bold attack upon the enemy and the enemy did as bravely stand it and so stoutly behave themselves that Prinz Eugene was forced to give way,  but my Lord Duke of Marlborough hearing and seeing that, took some certain squadrons of Horse and assisted Prinz Eugene and regained the ground that was lost, but abundance was killed on both sides on that wing.

About 3pm our English on the left was ordered by My Lord Duke to attack a village on the left full of French called Blenheim, which village they had fortified and made so vastly strong and barricaded so fast with trees, planks, coffers, chests, wagons, carts, and palisades that it was almost an impossibility to think which way to get into it; but however there was orders for the battalion of Guards, my Lord Orkney's 2 battalion regiment, and brigadier Meredith's regiment and Lt. General Churchill's regiment and 1 regiment of Hanoverians to attack the village in which there were 26 battalions of the enemy. and each battalion as many men in it as a regiment of ours. Yet we according to command fought our way into the village which was all on fire, and our men fought in and through the fire and pursued others through it, until many on both sides were burnt to death.

At length, the enemy making all the force they could upon us forced us to retreat and to quit the village having lost a great many of our men but we rallied again, having received some fresh ammunition, resolving to give the enemy another salute. So that as soon as they perceived our design they beat a parley and fired all their pieces up in the air and Lt. General Churchill went to hear their conditions, which was to surrender as prisoners of war, to his Grace the Duke of Marlborough. The village was set on fire before we came to it by the enemy whereby they thought to have blinded our gunners, but great and grievous were the cries of the maimed, and those suffering the the flames after we entered the village and none is able to express it but those that heard.

Th battle went on from right to left very brave, the horse charging most furiously on both sides, and I must say our confederate forces behaved with themselves to a miracle being led on by brave and prudent generals and commanding officers, having made lanes through them, cutting and hewing them to a degree, that it seems rather a battle fought by Divine hand then to be fought by men; driving several squadrons of them in to the river Danube where they all perished, men and horse, and likewise abundance of them taken prisoners.

Their general and many other principal officers were taken in this battle, and I will endeavor to give the best account I can at the end of this particular journal. The number of prisoners taken are generally computed to be thirteen thousand thirty nine.  As for those killed upon the spot, I believe few or none can pretend to give that account being a thing seeming almost impossible; but this I can and will affirm that the earth was covered in a manner for three English miles together with dead bodies of both armies so that from any more such sights good God deliver me. The French and Bavarians were that day 6 thousand men stronger then we, by reason of Prinz Louis of Baden was left at Ingoldstadt to besiege it."

While Deane's account contains many flaws in terms of exact figures, and the precise timing of events, he nonetheless conveys a very personable narrative, which shows the fierce nature of the fighting at August 13th, 1704, at Blenheim in Bavaria. I hope you enjoy this primary source- we will likely be looking at him more in the future.


  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.