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Battle of the Lippe
Part of the Eighty Years' War
Nederlaag van het Staatse leger bij Wesel, 1595.jpg
'Defeat of the Dutch States Army near Wesel, 1595'. By Simon Frisius and Frans Hogenberg.
Date3 September 1595
LocationNear Wesel (present-day Germany)
Result Spanish victory
Spain Spain  United Provinces
 Kingdom of England
Commanders and leaders
Cristóbal de Mondragón Philip of Nassau (DOW)
Robert Vere
500 cavalry 500 to 700 cavalry
Casualties and losses
60 100 to 300

The Battle of the Lippe was a cavalry action fought on 2 September 1595 on the banks of the Lippe river, in Germany, between a corps of Spanish cavalry led by Cristóbal de Mondragón and a corps of Dutch cavalry, supported by English and French troops, led by Philip of Nassau. The Dutch statholder Maurice of Nassau, taking advantage of the bulk of the Spanish army was busied in operations in France, besieged the town of Groenlo in Gelderland, but the elderly governor of the citadel of Antwerp, Cristóbal de Mondragón, organized a relief army and forced Maurice to lift the siege. Mondragón next moved to Wesel, positioning his troops in the southern bank of the Lippe river to cover Rheinberg from a Dutch attack. Maurice aimed then, relying in his superior army, to attract Mondragón to a pitched battle, for which he planned an ambush to brought the Spanish army to a trap. However, the plan was discovered; the Spanish were victorious thanks to Mondragón's long experience and inflicted a number of casualties to the Dutch, including Philip of Nassau and several other high-ranking Dutch and English officers in the army of Maurice of Nassau.


In July, 1595, during the Eighty Years' War, while the main Spanish army in the Netherlands was busied in France in operations against the French Royal Army, Maurice of Nassau led the Dutch States Army (numbering 8,800 men and 16 guns) under the walls of Groenlo, a town in Spanish hands in the province of Gelderland. Cristóbal de Mondragón, the elderly Spanish governor of Antwerp, who had been left in commnad of the Spanish forced in the Netherlands, collected a little army gathering forces of several garrisons and marched to Groenlo through Brabant and Gelderland.[1] Mondragón was willing not only of relieving the town, but also to lure Maurice to a pitched battle.[1] The Dutch general, however, on receiving news of his enemy's march, lifted the siege and retreated two miles out of Groenlo. Mondragón could therefore ressuply the town unmolested.[1]

Groenlo being secured, Mondragón marched south to Rheinberg to cover the town from a Dutch attack. He encamped his army nearby to Wesel, while Maurice followed him and took positions at Bislich, both armies being separated by the Lippe river.[1] The Spanish position was strong; the rearguard and the left flank covered by the Rhine, and the right flank by the Lippe and a range of moorland hills called Testerburg.[2] Maurice planned then a mock ambush to lure Mondragón to a general action and destroy the Spanish army. On his hand, Mondragón was also whisful of bring down his enemy into a trap. For several weeks both armies looked at each other, ofen skirmishing when both cavalries sallied to forage.[1]

On 1 September Maurice gave the command of the ambush to his favourite commander, Philip of Nassau.[3] Maurice instructed him to cross the Lippe river the following day at dawn and fell over the Spanish sentinels. Then, in the appearance of Mondragón with the main army, he was to retreat to his camp, thus luring the Spanish troops to an ambush.[3] The young soldier, in command of some 500 or 700 Dutch and English horse, was accompanied by his two brothers, Ernst Casimir and Ludwig Gunther, besides several other Dutch officers as the count Ernst of Solms, Paul and Marcellus Bax, and the English captains Nicholas Parker, Cutler and Robert Vere.[3]


Cristóbal de Mondragón y Otalora, by Hillebrant Jacobsz van Wouw I, 1599.

On 2 September, at dawn, the Dutch force crossed the Lippe across a pontoon bridge. Maurice awaited him with 5,000 infantry and the rest of his cavalry arranged for the battle in a hills nearby to Wesel.[3] They aimed to caught Mondragón off guard, but thus was not the case. An experienced commander, the Spaniard noticed Maurice's intentions and prepared a counter-ambush.[4] He gave his lieutenant Juan de Córdoba instructions of reinforce the escort of the foraging troops and also to hid in a wood nearby four of his cavalry companies: those of count Hendrik van den Bergh, Girolamo Caraffa, Marquis of Montenegro, Paulo Emilio Martinengo and de Córdoba's own.[4]

Philip of Nassau dispatched the Bax brothers with several troops over the Spanish foragers. On finding a force much larger than they expected, the Dutch officers thought that something was wrong sent a report back to Philip of Nassau.[5] The young commander, nevertheless, was sure of his success and moved on with his troops and his noble entourge to attack the Spanish cavalry, aiming to prevent its escape.[5] The Spanish were, on the other hand, ready to attack. Two scouts had found the track of the Dutch force, and Mondragón, anticipating the Dutch, deployed his cavalry blocking Nassau's way.[4] The Dutch force passed through a narrow path in a small forest. Coming out to open field, the Dutch column was surprised by the Spanish cavalry.[5]

There was a firece fight. Nassau had formed his men into eight squadrons, but caught by surprise in a narrow passage, the Dutch soldiers were unable of use their lances, so were forced to defend themselves with sabres and pistols.[5] Juan de Córdoba charged them ahead of his company and Van den Bergh's men, followed by Carlo Maria Caracciolo and the 's-Hertogenbosch cavalry.[4] The Dutch seemed at first to were winning the action, but then Paulo Emilio Martinengo charged on his flank and broke a squadron, allowing Córdoba to regroup his troops and renew the attack, this time with success. The Dutch cavalry fled disorderly, attempting to save itself before the Lippe river. Córdoba sent his cavalry in persecution.[4]


Portrait of Philip of Nassau by Jan Antonisz. van Ravesteyn, circa 1610-1620.

The battle is recorded for the heavy death toll among the Dutch commanders. Philip of Nassau was mortally wounded at the beginning of the action, shot point black through the body with an harquebus.[6] Robert Vere was slain by a lance thrust in the face.[7] The landdrost of Zallandt and count Ferdinand Kinski were also killed. Count Ernst of Solms was mortally wounded and captured. Together with Philip, he was carried to Rheinberg, were the Dutch commander died this same night. Ernst Casimir was captured and ransomed for 10,000 florins.[6] Mondragón dispatched him to Maurice of Nassau with the bodies of the dead counts. As for the battle losses, sources vary. The Frenchman Guillaume Baudart set Dutch losses at 88 horses, 83 prisoners and 24 killed.[8] The Italian Guido Bentivoglio claimed more than 300 Dutch soldiers killed as opposed to about 60 Spanish casualties.[9] The English author Edward Grimeston wrote, in his book A General History of the Netherlands, that "this was a pettie battaile of young and hot blouds, who prooved but bad Marchants that got nothing".[10] The North-American historian John Lothrop Motley highlighted the key role played by the 92-years old Mondragón in the Spanish victory:

This skirmish on the Lippe has no special significance in a military point of view, but it derives more than a passing interest, not only from the death of many a brave and distinguished soldier, but for the illustration of human vigour triumphing, both physically and mentally, over the infirmities of old age, given by the achievement of Christopher Mondragon. Alone he had planned his expedition across the country from Antwerp, alone he had insisted on crossing the Rhine, while younger soldiers hesitated; alone, with his own active brain and busy hands, he had outwitted the famous young chieftain of the Netherlands, counteracted his subtle policy, and set the counter-ambush by which his choicest cavalry were cut to pieces, and one of his bravest generals slain. So far could the icy blood of ninety-two prevail against the vigour of twenty-eight.

John Lothrop Motley History of the United Netherlands: from the death of William the Silent to the twelve years' truce. Vol. 2, p. 341

Spanish and Dutch armies spent three more days observing themselves from their encampments, but no action ensued. Then, on 11 October, Mondragón retired back to the Brabant. Maurice aimed to cut off his retreat, but the Spaniard succeeded in bringing his troops to a secure position.[11] Three months later the elderly general died in the citadel of Antwerp.[11]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Motley p. 337
  2. Henty p. 331
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Motley p. 338
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Carnero, p. 375
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Motley p. 339
  6. 6.0 6.1 Motley p. 340
  7. Henty p. 332
  8. Baudart, Guilleaume: Les guerres de Nassau, p. 226
  9. Bentivoglio, Guido: Las guerras de Flandes, p. 388
  10. Grimeston, Edward: A Generall Historie of the Netherlands, p. 1104
  11. 11.0 11.1 Motley p. 342


  • Motley, John Lothrop (1888). History of the United Netherlands: from the death of William the Silent to the twelve years' truce. New York: Harper & brothers. OCLC 8903843. 
  • Carnero, Antonio (1625) (in Spanish). Historia de las guerras civiles que ha avido en los estados de Flandes des del año 1559 hasta el de 1609 y las causas de la rebelion de dichos estados. Brussels: en casa de Juan de Meerbeque. OCLC 433106763. 
  • Henty, George Alfred (1891). By England's Aid, Or The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604). London: Blackie & Son. OCLC 26944050. 

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