Sunday, January 27, 2008

“Les Canards du Mein” (“The Ducks of the Main”)

The memories of that day remain indelible, and stir me even as I sit here at my writing desk a generation or more since. Indeed, the haunting images continue to stalk my thoughts and dreams as if they were falcons, determined on harrying their prey until the very end.

Rolling billows of powder smoke had obscured the setting sun, and the roar of cannon and the monotonously deep thundering of drums accompanied the Stygian gloom, to be interrupted periodically by the harsh popping of musketry.

Well I recall those grime-besmirched officers, weeping with the shame of defeat (if not the loss of honour). Tears coursed down in steady rivulets along their weary faces as they barked peremptory orders to try to save the remnants of their shattered and intermingled commands. Their throats were parched with gunpowder and strained by their endless- and all too often futile- exhortations to their men. All were exhausted. All were trying to escape that vast wall of steadily approaching redcoats, whose ranks could just barely be made out in the poorly lit distance, volleying mercilessly all the while.

Everywhere was chaos and misery; the pitiful cries of the wounded for succour, and the low, plaintive moans of the dying lying
in extremis amongst the carnage. The whole made for a ghastly panorama that was the embodiment of Dante's Hell.

It was upon a Saturday evening, June 27th 1743 as dusk fell upon the banks of the River Main. The
Battle of Dettingen was nearing its awful finale. The fates had determined that the day was to be one of the darkest in the annals of French arms, whilst being one of the most Glorious for His Britannic Majesty and Elector of Hanover, King George II, and for his Army of the Pragmatic Sanction.


I had often had the opportunity to play at cards over a bottle or two of claret with those worthy gentlemen
M. le Maréchal Noailles and M. le Duc Grammont. Finer and more pleasant company at the table one could not wish for, but on that day our King would have good reason to rue their services to the Crown.


It was at this moment of darkness that I, the 10th Marquis de Sangfroid, along with the Regt. de St. Vignobles, was given the opportunity to salvage a degree of Honour and Glory from the ruins of Defeat, and to have the chance to redeem at least in part the reputation of French arms that had taken so cruel a blow.

Next- The Action of the Rearguard at Seligenstadt.

1 comment:

Nigel Billington said...

I await the arrival of the regiment to 'save the day'.
de Ligne