Siege of Cambrai, 1677

Louis XIV's'made two attempts to take Cambrai from the Spanish, once in 1649 and again in 1657, however he was repulsed both times. During the Dutch Wars, Vauban'proposed to cut Cambrai and Valenciennes off by taking Condé-sur-l'Escaut and Bouchain first, and using these two towns as bases from which to strike at Valenciennes and Cambrai.

The Siege of Cambrai 1677, as viewed from the south of the city - the citadel can be seen on the right.

This plan was put into operation in early 1677, Condé-sur-l'Escaut and Bouchain falling without much resistance, leaving the way open for the siege of Valenciennes, which surrendered on the 17th March 1677.

Cambrai was now isolated and with 3 fortresses to the north of it in French hands the chance of relief was slim at best. Louis XIV was present in person at the siege, which was conducted by Vauban. The trenches were opened on the 22nd March, and the town fell on the 5th April, when the garrison retreated into the citadel.

Vauban attacked the citadel from the townward side. The operations had not progressed far when an impatient French officer called Du Metz, frustrated with the slow trench-digging, persuaded the king to let him lead an assault on the demi-lune. Vauban opined that it was too early to mount such an assault.

Plan of the siege, showing the trenches and batteries.

Despite Vauban's protests, Du Metz was allowed to carry out an assault on the demi-lune. His men managed to capture the work, but the garrison were able to mount such a withering fire from the ramparts of the citadel that he was forced to withdraw, with the loss of 440 men. 2 days later, Vauban retook the demi-lune with the loss of 3 men. In the future, Louis XIV was more trusting of Vauban's expertise.

The attack on the citadel.

After the demi-lune was taken, breaching batteries were set to work against the north-west bastion. On the 19th of April, the garrison surrendered after two breaches had been made (one by the batteries, one by a mine).

They had endured 29 days of siege (town and citadel). They marched out with the full honours of war, and Louis XIV congratulated the Spanish commander for putting up such a tenacious defence. The 1677 campaign left the Hainaut region firmly in the grasp of Louis XIV, and opened the way for further advances deep into the Spanish Netherlands.

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