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Ten Days' Campaign
Part of the Belgian Revolution
Tiendaagseveldtocht.jpg
The Prince of Orange leading the Dutch army in the Battle of Ravels on 3 August 1831.
Date2–12 August 1831
LocationFlanders, Belgium
Result
  • Dutch military victory against Belgians but Dutch withdrawal from Belgium as the French engaged the war
  • Dutch failure to suppress the Belgian Revolution
Belligerents
 United Kingdom of the Netherlands
  •  Belgian rebels
  • France Kingdom of France
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom of the Netherlands William II
Strength
United Kingdom of the Netherlands 26,000[1]
Casualties and losses
United Kingdom of the Netherlands 131 dead
590 wounded[1]


The Ten Days' Campaign (Dutch language: Tiendaagse Veldtocht , French language: Campagne des Dix-Jours) was a failed attempt to suppress the Belgian revolution by the Dutch king William I between August 2[1] and August 12, 1831.

Background

When the Belgian Revolution began in August 1830, the Dutch army suffered from extensive desertion by South-Netherlanders (Belgians), who were reluctant to serve any longer as they would have to fight their fellow countrymen. Before the war, the northern provinces (which were mainly Protestant) feared for the Catholic majority that was now present in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch government purposely held the Catholic Belgians back. In the army, most officers were Dutch and the bulk of the conscripted recruits came from the south. About two-thirds of the troops stationed in the Southern Netherlands deserted, and the morale of the remaining troops was severely damaged. This, together with the fact that the bulk (and often the best-trained part) of the Dutch military was stationed in its colonies, allowed the Belgian revolutionaries to quickly gain control over what is now Belgium. However, the leaders of the Belgian revolution had grown overconfident because of their early success and had not taken steps to build up a military force of their own.

King William I viewed the failure to suppress the Belgian revolt as a humiliation, and sought an opportunity to retaliate against the rebels. Even if reunification should prove impossible, he wanted to negotiate peace from a position of strength. Therefore, when William learned that the rebels had asked Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to be their king, he invaded Belgium.

The military campaign

On the morning of August 2, 1831, the Dutch crossed the border near Poppel. Belgian scouts noticed the advance, and a number of roads were blocked with felled trees. The first skirmishes took place around Nieuwenkerk. The Dutch supreme commander, the Prince of Orange, arrived in the afternoon to support his troops and, at the same time, Zondereigen was taken by the Dutch, with some 400 Belgians repulsed. Near Ravels, the Belgian army was rapidly driven into the surrounding forests by the Dutch and subsequently into a swamp. The Belgians later retreated to Turnhout, allowing the Dutch to set up camp. The sound of the Dutch artillery alarmed the population of Turnhout, who fled en masse towards Antwerp. The next day a Dutch force of about 11,000 prepared to take Turnhout, while another Dutch corps made a diversion towards Antwerp (in reality they would attack Turnhout from another direction). In the following battle, the Dutch smashed the Belgian forces, whose morale broke down early in the battle when the Belgian banner was torn apart by Dutch artillery and a soldier lost a leg to a cannonball. The Belgians were unable to hold their ground and fled.

On August 4, the Dutch took Antwerp. The flag of Brabant was taken down and the Dutch flag was hoisted. The Prince of Orange demanded that the flag be taken down again, because it symbolised occupation rather than a restoration of Dutch power. At the same time the Dutch armies split up and moved further into Belgium, defeating numerous militias and two regular Belgian armies with ease. The division led by Prince Bernhard moved upon Geel and Diest, and the Third division moved into Limburg. On August 8, the Dutch defeated the Belgian Army of the Meuse near Hasselt. On August 11, the advance guard of the Belgian Army of the Scheldt was defeated near Boutersem. The next day the Dutch army attacked and defeated the Belgians near Leuven.

For the Belgians all seemed lost. However, on August 8, they asked for French support, despite the request not being formally authorised by the government. A French army under Marshal Gérard crossed the border the next day. The Dutch had taken a risk by invading Belgium without the support of other allies (Russia wanted to assist but was having trouble suppressing the Polish revolution, and Prussia would not risk sending troops without Russia being able to secure its western borders); now they faced a possible war with the French. After an intervention by the British, the Dutch halted their advance and a ceasefire was signed on August 12. The last Dutch troops returned to the Netherlands around August 20, whilst Antwerp remained occupied until 1832, when it was taken by siege.

Aftermath

French Engineer Corps during the siege of Antwerp

Monument to the French soldiers who died during the siege of Antwerp (Tournai).

Although the Dutch population, especially the Protestants, rejoiced over the victorious campaign against the "Belgian rebels", King William reluctantly accepted that his dream of a United Netherlands was lost. The European powers came to see how fragile Belgium was, and at the final peace negotiations, the final division was favourable to the Dutch.

The King of the Netherlands, refusing to abandon the citadel at Antwerp, ordered the Dutch general Chassé to hold it at all costs. From the citadel, Chassé bombarded the city of Antwerp, setting fire to hundreds of homes and causing many casualties among the civilian population. The result was a second operation of the Northern Army of Marshal Gerard, who returned to Belgium on November 15, 1832, to besiege the citadel of Antwerp. This resulted in the participation of Belgian volunteers, who until then had been kept out of combat. The French commander had wanted to conduct the siege alone, fearing the volunteers would spread the idea of revolution beyond the borders of Belgium. At the time, several revolutions had broken out: in France, the last Bourbon monarch had been overthrown; in Germany, revolution was brewing; and in Poland, an insurrection was crushed by the Russians. Meanwhile, the young Belgian army had become better organised, trained, and equipped. They fought mainly along the Scheldt. By preventing the Dutch from blowing up the levees and attacking the Dutch fleet, which was providing assistance to Antwerp, Belgium thwarted attempts to rescue the city. It fell after 24 days under the direction of the French general of Engineers, General Haxo. General Chassé surrendered on December 23, saying he and his army had done enough.

Leopold I gave several guns of various calibers to France, and Marshal Gérard received a sword of honour offered by the King and the Belgian government in gratitude. The French Monument, carved in 1897 to celebrate the memory of French soldiers who fell for the capture of Antwerp in 1832, is located in Tournai, since the city of Antwerp refused to accept it.

References

  • "1830, De Geboorte van België – Van Willem I tot Leopold I" (in Dutch). 1830, The Birth of Belgium – From William I until Leopold I. Roeselare: Roularta Media Group. 6 September 2005. 
  • Prof. dr. E.H. Kossmann (1984) (in Dutch). De Lage Landen 1780–1940. Anderhalve eeuw Nederland en België [The Low Lands 1780–1940. One-and-a-half Century: The Netherlands and Belgium]. Amsterdam/Brussel: Elsevier. ISBN 90-10-01513-0. 
  • Prof. dr. Els Witte (2006) (in Dutch). De Constructie van België, 1828–1847 [The Construction of Belgium, 1828–1847]. Lannoo. ISBN 90-209-6678-2. 
  • Helmut Gaus (2007) (in Dutch). Alexandre Gendebien en de organisatie van de Belgische revolutie van 1830 [Alexandre Gendebien and the Organisation of the Belgian Revolution of 1830]. Gent: Academia Press. ISBN 90-382-1173-2.  80 pages.

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