Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Logistics and Strategy win the Nine Years War [preview]

In September I’d like to run a design session on mechanisms that lead to players making decisions on logistics and strategy. The more I read on the ‘Glorious Revolution‘ and the military aftermath, the more I realise that what lead to victory wasn’t the weapons or the tactics. It was logistics and strategy that determined who won.

The Nine Years War

Siege_of_Namur_1695 Jan van Huchtenburg

Siege of Namur in 1695 painted by Jan van Huchtenburg

This was most of Europe Vs the French from 1688 until 1697. One of the main players on the allied side was William of Orange, who was part of the League of Ausburg. The Nine Years War was just one of the many balance of power struggles from the mid 17th century into the early 18th.

The ‘Glorious Revolution’ looks like an attempt to bring in England and Scotland on the League of Augsburg side. Both nations were majority protestant, although this war was less about religion than the exercise of power. King James II/VII had strong Catholic sympathies, and may well have been a Catholic. However there’s no decisive proof on that, it could just have been an unsubstantiated fear based on his tolerance and allowing Catholics to hold office. Either way it was enough to get him deposed.

In the end the fighting in Britain, especially Ireland, was a distracting sideshow for both William of Orange and King Louis XIV. Neither commited their full effort to it, although William did reluctantly spend the summer of 1690 campaigning in Ireland rather than the Low Countries.

My reading is that you can’t properly understand what happened in Britain from 1688-94 without seeing it in the wider European context. Britain became the imperial power that it was because it was drawn into a pan-european power struggle.

Logistics and strategy

The Nine Years War bled the treasuries of Europe dry. It didn’t quite bleed the manpower dry, but it was close. Armies in the Nine Years War were huge, ahead of their time logistically.

Many of the field armies exceeded a hundred thousand men. The French had a near continuous front in Flanders. The men mostly marched and dug, in an effort to turn flanks and lay siege to key places. There weren’t many field battles, and when there were comparitively few were involved.

The armies were for the most part still firing by ranks using Matchlock muskets. Only a handful of battalions had firelocks. Even fewer could fire by platoon (only the Dutch and British). So doctrine and equipment are less important than logistics.

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3 Comments
  1. Peter Merritt

    James – have you seen the campaign rules in Bernie’s “RealTime” Marlburian game/system? Routes, sieges (army sizes) dictated as much by forage & supply system as the enemy!

  2. Peter Merritt

    I seem to remember a friend (v.keen on Marlburian) remarking on a series of letters from the Great Man, and how they were full of moans about shoes, allied politicians, horse forage; nothing about, ah – oh yes, the French! This was on the road to a little place called Blenheim…

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