Nov 7, 2016
I've never been a fan of the French Revolution. It was a violent, bloody affair responsible for a great deal of the socio-political problems of the past two hundred years. Worse yet, it's often misrepresented as a great step for 'Liberty, Equality, & Fraternity.' That being said, there were some nifty parts of the Revolutionary Period. The War of the Vendee, the assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday, the uniting of Europe to defeat Napoleon. . .
. . . and the 1795 Battle of Texel. . .
The French Revolutionary Wars are a convoluted and near-unbelievable collection of battles with a ragtag French Army fighting in Northern Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and in all the Little Germanies, as well as uprisings in France. . . before Napoleon brought order and conquered much of the rest of Europe.
Between 1792 and 1797, the French fought the War of the First Coalition against Austria, Prussia, The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Spain, Britain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Halfway through the war, the French Revolutionary Army launched a surprise attack on the Dutch.
The National Convention in Paris had decided that the French needed to capture the Dutch Navy docked in the Netherlands. They ordered the Army to attack the Dutch. The problem for the French, however, was that the Netherlands was protected by three huge obstacles in the form of the Maas, Waal, and Lek rivers. The Dutch had burned the bridges crossing the rivers, and with Autumn rains flooding the country, the French had no way to bring boats. Further, with most of the Netherlands below sea-level, General Jean-Charles Pichegru, who was in command of the Invasion, worried that the Dutch would flood the fields and drown his army.
By January, Winter had descended upon the Low Countries, freezing the rivers solid. Pichegru crossed into the Netherlands in December, surprising the Dutch Army. In a month, they had they had captured most of Holland, and by 16 January, the Dutch had effectively given up, and on the 19th, the French entered Amsterdam.
While in Amsterdam, Pichegru learned that the Dutch fleet was anchored about 50 miles North at Den Helder on the Zuiderzee. The fleet of 14 Dutch ships had been trapped there by ice due to the unusually cold Winter. Pichegru sent his subordinate Jean-Guillaume de Winter to lead a detachment of the 8th Hussars to capture the fleet.
de Winter and his men found the Dutch fleet, right where they had been told it would be. Under the cover of darkness, and with their horses' hooves muffled, the French snuck across the frozen harbour. . . right up to the ships! The hussars boarded the ships, and without a single French casualty, the Dutch admiral surrendered.
The French kept the ships until that May when they turned the ships over to their newly-formed Dutch client state, the Batavian Republic, for the 'low cost' of 100 million Florins.
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