1902 Encyclopedia > Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne Turenne

Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne, Vicomte de Turenne
French general
(1611-75)




TURENNE. HENRI DE LA TOUR D' AUVERGNE, VICOMTE DE TURENNE (1611-675), a famous French general of the 17th century, was the second son of Henri, Due de Bouillon, by Elizabeth, daughter of William I., prince of Orange, and was born at Sedan on 11th September 1611. He was carefully educated in the strictest doctrines of the Beformed religion, and at the age of thirteen was sent to learn war from his uncles Maurice and Henry of Nassau in the campaigns of these princes against the Spaniards. In 1626 he received a commission as captain of infantry in the service of Holland, and by 1630 had shown such military capacity that Bichelieu invited him back to France and appointed him colonel of a regiment. He was present at the relief of Cásale, and on 21st June 1635 was made a maréchal de camp for his services at the siege of La Motte in Lorraine under De la Force. In that year he took command of a division in the army under Cardinal La Valette in the defence of Mainz, and, when the cardinal's army had to fall back on Metz from want of provisions, Turenne commanded the rear-guard, covering the retreat with admirable skill. In 1636 he was present under La Valette at the siege of Saverne, where he was wounded, and in the campaign in Franche Comté; in 1637 he served under the same commander in Flanders, took Landrecies, and drove back the cardinal infant from Maubeuge. In 1638 he served under Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar at the siege of Breisach, and in the following year was transferred to the army of D'Harcourt in Italy. It was at this epoch that he established his fame as a general. In November 1639 he covered the retreat of the army, and fought a famous engagement, known as the battle of the "route de Quiers" ; in 1640 he saved Cásale, and insisted upon not abandoning the siege of Turin, which town surrendered on 24th September ; in 1641 he took Coni, Ceva, and Mondovi; and on 11th March 1642 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general. After he had served for a short time in Boussillon, he was appointed by Bichelieu in 1643 to the command of the army in Italy, under Thomas of Savoy, although his brother, the Due de Bouillon, had just before been arrested as an accomplice in the conspiracy of Cinq Mars. Mazarin did not exhibit quite so much confidence in Turenne, and in December 1643 removed him from Italy, sending him to collect the remains of Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar's army and form them once more into an organized force ; but he softened the transference by creating Turenne a marshal of France on 16th May 1644.

Turenne's four campaigns in Germany, which largely contributed to the peace of Westphalia, have always been regarded as models in the art of war. In June 1644 he crossed the Bhine at Breisach, and was marching against the Comte de Mercy, the Imperialist general, who was at Freiburg, when he was superseded by the Due d'Enghien, better known by his later title of the Prince de Conde. D'Enghien, after fighting the three days' battle of Freiburg, left the army again to Turenne, who took Philippsburg and Mainz, and then went into winter quarters. In May 1645 Turenne was surprised by Mercy at Marienthal and de^ feated; but he skilfully concentrated the remains of his army and retreated into Hesse, where he was soon joined by D'Enghien. The two marshals, having reorganized their army, marched against Mercy and totally defeated him at Nordlingen on 3d August 1645, when Mercy was killed. D'Enghien again left the army to Turenne, who in conjunction with the Swedish army under Wrangel overran Franconia and Swabia, taking all the fortresses there in 1646. In 1647 he conducted a still more masterly campaign, and after beating the Bavarians and Imperialists in two engagements he and the Swedes occupied Bavaria, and drove the old duke out of his dominions.

When the troubles of the Fronde (see FRANCE, vol. ix. p. 572, and MAZARIN) broke out, Turenne, who was in command of the veteran troops of Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar in Alsace, hesitated which side to take, till the Duchesse de LONGUEVILLE (q.v.), with whom he fell violently in love, persuaded him to side with the parlement. But his troops refused to follow him, and he had to fly with her to Flanders. He there took a command in the Spanish army under Don Estevan Gomar, and, when trying to raise the siege of Bethel, was utterly defeated by Du Plessis-Praslin. But in 1652 he defeated Conde at Gien, and nearly annihilated his army in the battle of the Faubourg St. Antoine. When the troubles of the Fronde were over, Turenne marched upon the frontier, and in several campaigns defeated the Spaniards over and over again, by these victories paving the way for the peace of the Pyrenees (1659), the natural complement of the peace of Westphalia. In these campaigns he had once more to fight against Conde, general-in-chief of the armies of Spain, and in 1654 he showed his superiority by raising the siege of Arras and driving the Spaniards from their lines. In 1656 Conde, assisted by Don John of Austria, won an exactly similar victory and relieved Valenciennes, which Turenne was besieging. The prolonged contest between the two was decided in 1658 by Turenne's victory of the Dunes, in which Cromwell's contingent of 6000 soldiers took part.

Louis XIV. now began to rule in reality, and one of his first acts was to create Turenne in 1660 marshal-general of the armies of France. Seven years later Turenne occupied French Flanders and took all the fortresses in that province, though the king was nominally in command of the army,—an exploit equalled in the following year by Conde's rapid occupation of Franche Comte. It was in 1668 that Turenne made his notorious change of faith. Born of Calvinist parents and educated a Protestant, he had in compliance with the tenets, of his religion refused to marry one of Richelieu's nieces in 1639, and had eventually married a daughter of the Protestant Marshal de la Force. But it can hardly be believed that he was converted at the age of fifty-seven from religious convictions. In 1672 the second great European war broke out, brought about by the ambition of Louis XIV. Turenne once more took command of the army, which the king accompanied, and speedily occupied the greater part of Holland, which, however, they were forced to evacuate owing to the Dutch cutting their dykes. In the following year Turenne marched into Westphalia to oppose the imperialist forces, and, though his army wyas small compared to that of Montecuculi, the imperialist general, he managed to make head against both him and the elector of Brandenburg. In 1673 he was compelled to act on the defensive; but in 1674 in spite of his inferiority of numbers he boldly resumed the aggressive. Crossing the Rhine at Philippsburg in June, and marching rapidly to Sinsheim, he defeated the imperialist general Caprara and the duke of Lorraine. He then retired for a time, but in December of the same year he made a sudden rush into the enemy's winter quarters and utterly routed the elector of Brandenburg, who was then general of the imperialists, at Colmar. Between the battle of Sinsheim and the clash at Colmar, Turenne, under orders from Louvois, committed the acts which are the greatest blot upon his fame by devastating the Palatinate. After the rout of Colmar, and the defeat of Turkheim which followed it, he laid waste the greater part of Alsace, as a defensive measure against another advance of the imperialists. He then advanced into the heart of Germany, and again met Montecuculi, who had succeeded the elector of Brandenburg as general-in-chief. The two generals manoeuvred for four months in much the same way as Wellington and Marmont marched and counter-marched before the battle of Salamanca; at last, on 27th July 1675, their field of battle was chosen, and, as Turenne was directing the position of a battery, he was struck by a cannon ball and killed on the spot. The news of his death was received with universal sorrow; Fleehier, Mascaron, Saint-Evremond, and Lamoignon wrote eloges of him; and Madame de Sevigne describes the consternation caused by his sudden loss. His body was taken to St-Denis, and buried with the kings of France. Even the extreme revolutionists of 1793 respected it, and, when the bones of the sovereigns were thrown to the winds, the remains of Turenne were preserved at the. museum of natural history until 23rd September 1800, when they were removed by order of Bonaparte to the church, of the Invalides at Paris, where they still rest.

Turenne's fame rests on his military achievements ; as a man he was not more distinguished for his virtues than the duke of Marlborough, whom in many respects he resembled. He had indeed the calmness of all philosophic, cold-minded temperaments, but few other praiseworthy qualities. As a politician he holds no high place. (H. M. S.)







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