"Thus march these English, that dewy morning, Thursday, June 27th, 1743, with cannon playing on their left flank; and such a fate ahead of them, had they known it;--very short of breakfast, too, for most part. But they have one fine quality, and Britannic George, like all his Welf race from Henry the Lion down to these days, has it in an eminent degree: they are not easily put into flurry, into fear. In all Welf Sovereigns, and generally in Teuton Populations, on that side of the Channel or on this, there is the requisite unconscious substratum of taciturn inexpugnability, with depths of potential rage almost unquenchable, to be found when you apply for it. Which quality will much stead them on the present occasion: and, indeed, it is perhaps strengthened by their 'stupidity' itself, what neighbors call their 'stupidity;'--want of idle imagining, idle flurrying, nay want even of knowing, is not one of the worst qualities just now! They tramp on, paying a minimum of attention to the cannon; ignorant of what is ahead; hoping only it may be breakfast, in some form, before the day quite terminate. The day is still young, hardly 8 o'clock, when their advanced parties find Dettingen beset; find a whole French Army drawn up, on the scrubby moor there; and come galloping back with this interesting bit of news! Pause hereupon; much consulting; in fact, endless hithering and thithering, the affair being knotty: 'Fight, YES, now at last! But how?' Impetuous Stair was not wanting to himself; Neipperg too, they say, was useful with advice; D'Ahremberg, I should imagine, good for little.
"Some six hours followed of thrice-intricate deploying, planting of field-pieces, counter-batteries; ranking, re-ranking, shuffling hither and then thither of horse and foot; Noailles's cannonade proceeding all the while; the English, still considerably exposed to it, and standing it like stones; chivalrous Grammont, and with better reason the English, much wishing these preliminaries were done. A difficult business, that of deploying here. The Pragmatic had no room, jammed so against the Spessart Hills, and obliged to lean FROM the River and Noailles's cannon; had to rank itself in six, some say in eight lines; horse behind foot, as well as on flank; unsatisfactory to the military mind: and I think had not done shuffling and re-shuffling at 2 P.M.,--when the Enemy came bursting on, with a peremptory finish to it, 'Enough of that, MESSIEUR'S LES ANGLAIS!' 'Too much of it, a great deal!' thought Messieurs grimly, in response. And there ensued a really furious clash of host against host; French chivalry (MAISON DU ROI, Black Mousquetaires, the Flower of their Horse regiments) dashing, in right Gallic frenzy, on their natural enemies,--on the English, that is; who, I find, were mainly on the left wing there, horse and foot; and had mainly (the Austrians and they, very mainly) the work to do;--and did, with an effort, and luck helping, manage to do it.
"'Grammont breaks orders! Thrice-blamable Grammont!' exclaim Noailles and others, sorrowfully wringing their hands. Even so! Grammont had waited seven mortal hours; one's courage burning all the while, courage perhaps rather burning down,--and not the least use coming of if. Grammont had, in natural impatience, gradually edged forward; and, in the end, was being cannonaded and pricked into by the Enemy;-- and did at last, with his MAISON-DU-ROI, dash across that essential Hollow Way, and plunge in upon them on their own side of it. And 'the, English foot gave their volley too soon;' ad Grammont did, in effect, partly repulse and disorder the front ranks of them; and, blazing up uncontrollable, at sight of those first ranks in disorder, did press home upon them more and more; get wholly into the affair, bringing on his Infantry as well: 'Let us finish it wholly, now that our hand is in!'--and took one cannon from the Enemy; and did other feats.
"So furious was that first charge of his; 'MAISON-DU-ROI covering itself with glory,'--for a short while. MAISON-DU-ROI broke three lines of the Enemy [three, not "Five"]; did in some places actually break through; in others 'could not, but galloped along the front.' Three of their lines: but the fourth line would not break; much the contrary, it advanced (Austrians and English) with steady fire, hotter and hotter: upon this fourth line MAISON-DU-ROI had, itself, to break, pretty much altogether, and rush home again, in ruinous condition. 'Our front lines made lanes for them; terribly maltreating them with musketry on right and left, as they galloped through.' And this was the end of Grammont's successes, this charge of horse; for his infantry had no luck anywhere; and the essential crisis of the Battle had been here. It continued still a good while; plenty of cannonading, fusillading, but in sporadic detached form; a confused series of small shocks and knocks; which were mostly, or all, unfortunate for Grammont; and which at length knocked him quite off the field. 'He was now interlaced with the English,' moans Noailles; 'so that my cannon, not to shoot Grammont as well as the English, had to cease firing!' Well, yes, that is true, M. le Marechal; but that is not so important as you would have it. The English had stood nine hours in this fire of yours; by degrees, leaning well away from it; answering it with counter- batteries;--and were not yet ruined by it, when the Grammont crisis came! Noailles should have dashed fresh troops across his Bridges, and tried to handle them well. Noailles did not do that; or do anything but wring his hands.
"The Fight lasted four hours; ever hotter on the English part, ever less hot on the French [fire of anthracite-coal VERSUS flame of dry wood, which latter at last sinks ASHY!]--and ended in total defeat of the French. The French Infantry by no means behaved as their Cavalry had done. The GARDES FRANCAISES [fire burning ashy, after seven hours of flaming], when Grammont ordered them up to take the English in flank, would hardly come on at all, or stand one push. They threw away their arms, and plunged into the River, like a drove of swimmers; getting drowned in great numbers. So that their comrades nicknamed them 'CANARDS DU MEIN (Ducks of the Mayn):' and in English mess-rooms, there went afterwards a saying: 'The French had, in reality, Three Bridges; one of them NOT wooden, and carpeted with blue cloth!' Such the wit of military mankind.
"... The English, it appears, did something by mere shouting. Partial huzzas and counter-huzzas between the Infantries were going on at one time, when Stair happened to gallop up: 'Stop that,' said Stair; 'let us do it right. Silence; then, One and all, when I give you signal!' And Stair, at the right moment, lifting his hat, there burst out such a thunder-growl, edged with melodious ire in alt, as quite seemed to strike a damp into the French, says my authority, 'and they never shouted more. ... Our ground in many parts was under rye,' hedgeless fields of rye, chief grain-crop of that sandy country. 'We had already wasted above 120,000 acres of it,' still in the unripe state, so hungry were we, man and horse, 'since crossing to Aschaffenburg;'--fighting for your Cause of Liberty, ye benighted ones!
"King Friedrich's private accounts, deformed by ridicule, are, That the Britannic Majesty, his respectable old Uncle, finding the French there barring his way to breakfast, understood simply that there must and should be fighting, of the toughest; but had no plan or counsel farther: that he did at first ride up, to see what was what with his own eyes; but that his horse ran away with him, frightened at the cannon; upon which he hastily got down; drew sword; put himself at the head of his Hanoverian Infantry [on the right wing], and stood,--left foot drawn back, sword pushed out, in the form of a fencing-master doing lunge,--steadily in that defensive attitude, inexpugnable like the rocks, till all was over, and victory gained. This is defaced by the spirit of ridicule, and not quite correct. Britannic Majesty's horse [one of those 500 fine animals] did, it is certain, at last dangerously run away with him; upon which he took to his feet and his Hanoverians. But he had been repeatedly on horseback, in the earlier stages; galloping about, to look with his own eyes, could they have availed him; and was heard encouraging his people, and speaking even in the English language, 'Steady, my boys; fire, my brave boys, give them fire; they will soon run!' [
"The English Officers also, it is evident, behaved in their usual way:--without knowledge of war, without fear of death, or regard to utmost peril or difficulty; cheering their men, and keeping them steady upon the throats of the French, so far as might be. And always, after that first stumble with the French Horse was mended, they kept gaining ground, thrusting back the Enemy, not over the Dettingen Brook and Moor-ground only, but, knock after knock, out of his woody or other coverts, back and ever back, towards Welzheim, Kahl, and those Two Bridges of his. The flamy French [ligneous fire burning lower and lower, VERSUS anthracitic glowing brighter and brighter] found that they had a bad time of it;--found, in fact, that they could not stand it; and tumbled finally, in great torrents, across their Bridges on the Mayn, many leaping into the River, the English sitting dreadfully on the skirts of them. So that had the English had their Cavalry in readiness to pursue, Noailles's Army, in the humor it had sunk to, was ruined, and the Victory would have been conspicuously great. But they had, as too common, nothing ready. Impetuous Stair strove to get ready; "pushed out the Grey Dragoons" for one item. But the Authorities refused Stair's counsel, as rash again; and made no effectual pursuit at all;--too glad that they had brushed their Battle-field triumphantly clear, and got out of that fatal pinfold in an honorable manner.