Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Heroic, but futile

The high point came in 1745 at Fontenoy, on the Scheldt. Cumberland attacked a position strongly fortified by Saxe. The British infantry made one of the most remarkable attacks in its history. Forming under heavy artillery fire, the thin red line marched slowly in perfect order for half a mile, constantly closing up the gaps torn in the ranks. Not firing a shot, the redcoats advanced until within fifty yards of the enemy. A French commander, according to legend, stepped out in front of his line, bowed low, and requested the English gentlemen to fire first, an English officer responded to this courtesy by proposing a toast to the gallant foe. Then the British fired, and several crack regiments of the French army simply melted away under their crushing volleys. But the attack was in vain, for the Dutch and Austrian allies had not cleared away their sections of the French line, and the British had to retire.

(from A History of England and the British Empire)

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