Siege of Namur, 1692

In 1692 Louis XIV moved to take Namur, taking personal command of the army. An additional force under Maréchal de Luxembourg covered the siege. The king's chief engineer, Vauban was responsible for the siege operations.

Map of the siege of Namur in 1692, showing the trenches and batteries.

The trenches were opened before the city on 29th May. The French guns were firing on the town's defences within a few days and the siege made good progress, despite the garrison making a small sortie, which was repulsed without difficulty.

A breach was made and the garrison (which was commanded by Coehoorn) surrendered the town on 5th June. They surrendered according to a treaty which allowed them to retire into the citadel and stated that the garrison would not fire on the town and the French could not attack the citadel from the townward side. The French agreed to these terms without realising that the citadel's weakest side was its townward side.

The citadel of Namur lies in the angle between the Meuse and Sambre rivers and had recently been reinforced by Coehoorn. Shortly after the surrender of the town, the weather worsened, causing logistical problems to slow the siege operations. Unwilling to break the treaty by attacking from the town side, the French settled down to besieging the citadel. It was here that the battle between Vauban and Coehoorn took on epic proportions. As Vauban dug his attack trenches, Coehoorn dug works on the reverse slope so as to be hidden until the French were on top of them. To show his comitment to the defence, Coehoorn had his own grave dug. In the event, he was wounded at during the siege but did not die.

The walls of Fort William were breached and were carried by assault on 12th June. The besiegers then placed batteries to attack the citadel's hornwork but were unable to open fire because the roads had become impassable due to heavy rain, so ammunition could not be brought up. By the end of June, the army was running low on supplies of all kinds, and many of the French cavalry horses were starving.

At this point Vauban suggested to the King that it would be better to attack from the town side and break the treaty, than to raise the siege altogether. Batteries could easily be constructed on the edge of the river, and ammunition could be brought in by boat. The King sanctioned the construction of the batteries but forbid them to open fire. The garrison of the citadel could not fire at the French when they saw them building batteries on the town side, as this would be breaking their side of the treaty, so the French dug in their batteries unmolested.

In the meantime a small outwork in front of the citadel called the Priest's Cap was breached (not from the town side) and was carried by assault on 29th June. The breach in the hornwork itself was not yet practicable, so it was decided to throw some fascines into the ditch at night in order help the breach form more quickly. During this operation it was discovered that the work was lightly manned, and the French were able to capture it by stealth.

The following morning, on seeing that the hornwork had been captured, the garrison capitulated and marched out with the honours of war. The siege lasted 37 days, and Coehoorn could be satisified with this long resistance against the skilled Vauban. He was to have his revenge in the siege of 1695, when Namur fell to his attack.

Back to the "Sieges" page