THE DUTCH ARMY 1792-1815

Jan Bruinen


1. Historical Introduction
2. The Dutch Republic 1790-1795
2.1 The State
2.2 The Army of the Republic 1790-1795
2.2.1 Introduction
2.2.2 Generals
2.2.3 Infantry
2.2.4 Cavalry
2.2.5 Artillery and auxiliary troops
2.2.6 Flags (under construction)
2.2.7 The end of the army (and the beginning of the Army of the Batavian Republic
  Bibliography (under construction)




1792-1795 Period: The Dutch Republic
The summer of 1789 saw in France the end of the old regime. “Le quatorze juillet” or the 14th of July 1789 shook the world as the beginning of a new era although the direction in which everything evolved, nobody at that moment knew.

On that day in July 1789 the Bastille, a sign of the power of the king in Paris, was attacked by the crowd and fell to the rising power of the masses and that day saw the beginning of what is now know as the “Wars of the French Revolution” which lasted from 1792 until the 18th of may 1804 when Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself as Emperor of France.

The next step occurred on the 10th of August 1792 as the Paris mob invaded the Tuilleries whereby the royal family became prisoner of the people and the monarchy suppressed. The monarchy became abolished on the 21th of September 1792, one day after the battle (or better “the cannonade”) of Valmy.

At last, the final step was taken and on 21st of January 1793 Louis XVI followed by his wife Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine. Thousands of victims would follow in the next years.

On the 20th of April 1792 the French Assembly declared war on the Austrian monarchy, although for some time the emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia already wanted to restore the authority of the French king.
Therefore, the French were already building up their armed forces consisting of parts of the old royal army and masses of volunteers.
In April 1792 French troops invade Belgium, which was then part of Austria, but they weren’t very successful and were beaten back. An invasion into French territory was intended by the combined Austrian/Prussian armies under command of the Duke of Brunswick. Luckily for the French (or at least the revolutionaries) the invasion was beaten back at Valmy.

After the execution of the king, England had sent home the French ambassador and as a result of this and various other political disputes, France declared war on England, The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (also known as the "United Provinces” or “Dutch republic") and Spain.

So, in the campaigns of 1793 for the first time in fifty years (the last war in which a Dutch army operated was the War of the Austrian Succession: 1740-1748) a Dutch army had to take
The campaign would last until 1795 when the Republic was invaded and the Stadtholder William would flee to England.
The Dutch Republic became the Batavian Republic; its army was reorganized.
For information about the 1790-1795 period see chapter 2.

1795-1805  Period: The Batavian Republic
So in 1795 the Batavian Republic was declared. It had a parliament with at its head a Raadspensionaris; the function of Stadtholder was abolished. A more modern form of parliament was created with, at least theoretically, more representatives from the people than before. The new republic was condemned to contribute a lot of money to the empty treasury of France, feed a French army who was occupying the Republic and organise a new army to help the French troops.
An invasion by the sea of British and Russian troops is 1799 was beaten back as was a small invasion of Dutch émigré’s from Hanover. Dutch troops participated in the 1799 campaign in Holland itself but also in Germany.
They also helped France to occupy Hanover in 1803 and lent military help in the 1805/1806 campaigns in Germany and Poland.

In 1806 the Netherlands became for the first time in its history an independent kingdom although with a king not of its own choosing.

Information about this period can be found in Chapter 3.

1806-1810 Period: The Kingdom of Holland
 In France the year 1804 had seen the crowning of Napoleon Bonaparte as emperor Napoleon. One of his goals was to have a lot of influence and by that way control the armies of the surrounding countries. These could be used as a boundary against the new formed coalition (England, Prussia, Austria and Russia). What better way was there then to create kingdoms for his family? His brother Jerome received in 1807 the new made Kingdom of Westphalia (western Germany),  another brother, Joseph, became King of Spain in 1808 and a brother in law, Murat, became in 1808 Grand Duke of Kleve-Berg (Germany). Italy was governed directly by Napoleon but his stepson Eugene became later Viceroy.
But already in 1806 another brother, Louis Napoleon (in Dutch Lodewijk Napoleon), was crowned King of Holland.
So in fact this was the first time that the Netherlands itself had a king, and a French one for that.

Although Louis was Frenchman, in the Dutch literature he has a reasonable good press as his concern for the Dutch welfare and his social interest in the Dutch people wasn’t expected. He tried to speak Dutch (with no great success), was giving his sympathies to people who lost their homes and possessions when a great flood led to the braking of various dykes, was around when a great fire ruined a large part of Leyden and so on. He started the building of the now famous royal palace on De Dam in Amsterdam; build the royal library and various museums. Also new, uniform, laws were introduced and the Netherlands became more one country.
But he got in trouble with his big brother Napoleon when he acted not tough enough against smugglers who traded with England as this would ruin the trade economics of Holland. When in 1809 he acted not vigorous enough against an invasion by British troops on Walcheren, Napoleon abolished him and Holland became part of France.

The information about this period is presented in Chapter 4

1810-1813 Period: Part of the French Empire
This French period lasted 3 years in which Dutch troops fought under French flags in whole Europe, from Spain to Russia, and a lot of Dutch soldiers were killed. From the 15.000 Dutch soldiers who went to Russia only some 500 came back.
The trade, which already was frustrated by British attacks on Dutch trade ships and colonies and by French laws against trading with the enemy became even worse affected when French custom personnel were stationed on the Dutch coast. The result was unemployment, poverty and diseases because of shortages of food. Also the conscription was introduced in the country. 
But Napoleons armies were more and more defeated by the Coalition troops who advanced on France itself, French allies (mostly German as Bavaria, Saxony) defected and French troops were pulled back partly from the Netherlands to defend the homeland.
The information about the 1810-1813 period is described in chapter 5.

1813-1815 Period: Kingdom of the Netherlands
The defeat of the French armies gave the opportunity to the Dutch, helped by various foreign troops to free the country. On November 30th 1813 the Prince of Orange, son of the former Stadtholder landed from England and although there were still French troops on Dutch soil, he was declared King of the Netherlands in December 1813.
After the abdication of Napoleon in April 1814, the map of Europe was partly reshuffled and the Netherlands received Belgium (a former Austrian territory) as buffer against France.
Of course Napoleon came back in 1815, was beaten at Waterloo on June 18th, and abdicated again and sent, until his death, to St Helena.
Dutch and Belgian troops of course participated in the fighting at Quatre Bras and Waterloo and although in the past their efforts were criticized by the British military, today their role in the defeat of Napoleon is recognised.
As a lot of information is already known about this period, I doubt that a lot info will be in Chapter 6. 

Although maybe this chapter is reasonably long it puts the following chapters in their timeline and gives the connection from one chapter to the following.