MARLBOROUGH – BATTLE OF RAMILLIES Field diary of Dr Samuel Noyes, Chaplain to the Royal Scots Regiment, 1st Regiment of Foot, commanded by Lieutenant-General the Earl of Orkney, serving under the Duke of Marlborough in the Low Countries, kept while on active service between 20 April 1705 and his return home on 2 November 1706, and covering both the campaign of 1705 and the Ramillies campaign the following year; Low Countries, 1705-6

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Lot 97
MARLBOROUGH – BATTLE OF RAMILLIES
Field diary of Dr Samuel Noyes, Chaplain to the Royal Scots Regiment, 1st Regiment of Foot, commanded by Lieutenant-General the Earl of Orkney, serving under the Duke of Marlborough in the Low Countries, kept while on active service between 20 April 1705 and his return home on 2 November 1706, and covering both the campaign of 1705 and the Ramillies campaign the following year; Low Countries, 1705-6

Sold for £ 5,000 (US$ 6,333) inc. premium
MARLBOROUGH – BATTLE OF RAMILLIES
Field diary of Dr Samuel Noyes, Chaplain to the Royal Scots Regiment, 1st Regiment of Foot, commanded by Lieutenant-General the Earl of Orkney, serving under the Duke of Marlborough in the Low Countries, kept while on active service between 20 April 1705 and his return home on 2 November 1706, and covering both the campaign of 1705 and the Ramillies campaign the following year; with a long account of the battle itself (with on the facing pages some jottings of casualties, seeming made soon after): "May the 11th [24 May New Style] (Saturday) we marcht the Foot in 4 Columns the Horse in 2 on our Flanks to Cors-Waeren/ This Even: Orders were given for Every soldier to take as much powder & Bal as would make up each man 18 Shot & to fetch straw from the nearest Villagers for that we should march very early accordingly our first orders were to march before break of day, but those were contradicted & we began our march about 3 on Whtsunday morn: May 12, & after a very little way the countrey being very open we divided into 8 Columns about 11 when we expected no such thing we the Enemy not only resolved to stand us but marching towards us, They possest themselves of 3 Villages (Lann, Atredlise & Petite with the Hedges & Hollow wayes about them/ Between one & 2 we began to Cononade each other, About 40 minutes after the disposition being made we began smal shot to them out of the Village & on our Left. The Fire was very violent for the time but after about 2 hours dispute seeing their Horse, which were cover them, defeated they quitted the place & fled/ There was firing one while al the way to our Right but to no great purpose/ The Duke exposed himself during the whole time as a private Man/ For the Dutch horse who beat the Fr: on our Left run Shamefully at first But the Duke himself lead them a 2d & 3d time to the charge & then they behaved very bravely but the Duke as tis confidently reported was himself over run & Coll: Bringfield mounting him again as he held the Dukes stirrup had his brains beat out with a Cannon Bal. In short there were 6 Battalions 4 in Dutch & 2, Viz: Churchils & Mordants, in English Pay that could be said to be engaged & yet at 5 the Victory was gained & al, except the pursuit over. After a little while the Foot were ordered to march after them, which they dd at a very great rate til 9 of the Clock, but in vain, however Our Horse & Dragons were before us, & took the Regimt. du Roi, 4 Battalions entier, having enclosed them in a Wood but not til they had mauld the Irish Dragoons, They took also abundance of Wagons carrying Provisions & Bread & Sutlers Carts, & twas supposed al their Wheel Baggage, & a World of strong stond horses, they could not get off their Artillery but left it here & there in the Villages as they passed to the number of 56 Besides this Count Talliards Son & Mon.s de Luxemburg & 2 Major Gen.ls were taken in the fight & some Prisoners almost in every Regimt. to the number in the whole of better than 5000, This night we lay in a confused manner upon our Arms & May the 13th (Whitsun Monday) we marcht to Meldert camp by Munt St. Andre/ This night at 9 when we thought to have a good nights rest we recd orders to strike our Tents immediately, to march at ten & to be with 22 other Battalions besides our 2 at the head of Depts Dragoons at 11... And now the consequence of Our Victory as smal as we had thought it appeard to be very great/ The News met us that the Enemy had abandoned Lovain the day before at one in the afternoon..."; the diary illuminated by numerous personal touches ("...they made a Battery of 7 or 8 pieces of Cannon firing upon us as we marcht off but to little or no effect/ One of their Balls light between my Horses Leggs & another at the same time went just behind my back..."); kept in a vellum wallet-style pocket book, the entries written on the rectos with additional notes added to the blank facing pages; later ownership inscription on outside cover of T.H. Noyes, 1874; together with a typescript prepared by him the same year, nearly 40 leaves, plus numerous blanks, minor dust-staining but overall in excellent, sound condition, contemporary vellum, dust-stained, with wallet-style enclosing flap intact, 8vo, Low Countries, 1705-6

Footnotes

  • ʻNOW THE CONSEQUENCE OF OUR VICTORY AS SMAL AS WE THOUGHT IT APPEARD TO BE VERY GREAT' – AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE BATTLE OF RAMILLIES, and the Duke of Marlborough's campaigns of 1705 and 1706, the latter, with its major battle and four major sieges, making it the most successful campaign of the Duke's career. The author, Dr Samuel Noyes, was a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and Chaplain to the Royal Scots, first Regiment of Foot, the premier infantry regiment in the British Army (and had indeed been considered for the captain-generalcy, in the event being passed over by Dr Francis Hare, tutor of Marlborough's son). Numerous entries in the journal, interlarded with vivid details of life on campaign, show Noyes to have been a regular correspondent of the Anglican establishment at the highest level ("...Saturday Aug.st the 11th We marcht al to Corbais/ When we came to our camp the Wind was so high that Officers tents were set up not without the greatest difficulty. Monday the 13th I wrote to the A. Bpps. Bps. of London & Ely, Deans of Cant: & Lincoln & Provost of Kings..."). Indeed, he has made a list of his correspondents on one of the fly-leaves: they comprise the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishops of Ely, Salisbury and London, the Provosts of Eton and King's, the Deans of Canterbury and Lincoln, and Henry Boyle. Reversed at the end of the volume are some miscellaneous lists and jottings that also bring the writer to life. For example, on the fly-leaf are lists of clothing purchased before going into camp, including £4-10s spent "For a sword"; and the address "To Mrs Kerr Widow of Lt Tho Kerr of the Royal Reg.mt to be found at Baylie Strachans house at Musselborough near Edinburgh" (Thomas Kerr, of the Royall Regiment of Foot was commissioned lieutenant, 14 May 1702).

    The pocket book was lent by his descendent, Sir Herbert Noyes, to Winston Churchill when preparing vol. ii of his Marlborough: His Life and Times, where it is acknowledged (see the catalogue of the Churchill Papers). It is also described by the poet Alfred Noyes in his autobiography, where it is described as 'the battered [sic] old diary of another Anglican forebear who had served as chaplain in Marlborough's army in Flanders. Its very terse and practical entries were more concerned with night marches and military manoeuvres than with any religious views' (Two Worlds for Memory 1953, p. 194). Letters by Noyes dating from the 1704 campaign were published by S.H.F. Johnston, ʻThe Letters of Samuel Noyes, Chaplain to the Royal Scots', Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, vol. 37 (1959), pp. 33-40 and 128-135. A fourteen-day pass issued to him as Chaplain of the Earl of Orkney's Regiment, to go to Holland for fourteen days, with his servant Edward Grubb, issued 29 March 1705, is in the British Library (Add. MSS 33273, ff. 127-128b).

    For a recent assessment of the Earl of Orkney, under whom Noyes served, see the notice by Lawrence B. Smith in the ODNB: 'In an age inevitably overshadowed by the duke of Marlborough's reputation he has escaped significant recognition as a military commander. None the less, he was a remarkable subordinate general in his own right. Courageous, indomitable, and tenacious, this stoic and often almost humorously laconic Scot endured deprivations with his regiment and seldom failed to achieve the tasks assigned him; indeed, his achievements often exceeded others' wildest expectations. One of Marlborough's most able lieutenants and wing commanders, he missed not a single major battle or siege in either the Nine Years' War or the War of the Spanish Succession... His timely efforts in 1705 ensured the allied army rescued the besieged town of Liège. At Ramillies in 1706 he achieved notoriety in commanding a dangerous infantry advance through a marsh to assault fortified positions. Secretly designed as a diversionary assault on the French left, his attack was more successful than Marlborough had anticipated or intended, and, when he viewed the time right to launch the primary assault in the French centre, Orkney's troops had gained so much initiative that several couriers were required to procure his withdrawal. Tersely protesting that it 'vexed him to retire' (Cra'ster, 315), Orkney proceeded to command his forces' withdrawal in an orderly fashion under heavy enemy fire and rejoined the main assault. At the battle's conclusion he led the allied cavalry in a relentless twilight pursuit of retreating enemy forces'.
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