Tourcoing 1794 - EN
At the beginning of 1794, General Cobourg, generalissimo of the coalition armies, cherished the hope of bringing revolutionary France to its knees during the coming campaign.
The decisive operations were to take place in the north of France, where the coalised armies already occupied several strongholds. But to succeed in his plans, he must succeed in defeating the Armée du Nord, which had already inflicted the defeat of Hondschoote and Wattignies during the previous campaign. During the month of May, General Mack, Chief of Staff to the Prince of Coburg, conceived a manoeuvre to encircle a large part of the Armée du Nord operating around Courtrai.
On 17 May (28 Floréal Year II), the coalition army, divided into six columns, went on the offensive. The first engagements took place around Roubaix, Tourcoing and Mouscron, which fell into the hands of the coalition. But the French pulled themselves together and launched a counter-attack on Mouscron, which they fought hard to regain. Bussche's column of generals, seriously curbed, pitifully withdrew towards Tournai.
On 18 May (29 May), Cobourg, in spite of this setback, remained confident and intended to continue his offensive. But he underestimated the commander of the enemy troops in the sector, General Souham, who organized a powerful counter-attack. While Moreau's division shielded itself against General Clairfayt's powerful column, the rest of the French units threw themselves on the columns of General Otto and the Duke of York. Tourcoing is retaken and both columns waver in shock. They are soon forced to retreat, which gradually turns into a rout. The Duke of York is forced to jump with his horse into a river, the Espierre, to escape capture. On learning of the rout of Otto's and the Duke of York's columns, the other allied columns retreat.
The French remain in control of the battlefield and win a clear victory which will be followed, a little more than a month later, by that of Fleurus.