1795: The Battle of Texel takes place during the War of the First Coalition. The war itself was fought between 1792 and 1797 and involved several European monarchies battling the French First Republic. This particular battle had the Republican French facing the Dutch Republic. Den Helder is located at the northern tip of North Holland and south of the island of Texal in what was, at the time, a shallow portion of Zuiderzee bBay. In the fall of 1794, the French began their conquest of the Netherlands and by January 1795 had taken Amsterdam to use as a winter base. Only eighty miles north, a Dutch fleet of fourteen ships was anchored at Den Helder.
The winter was exceptionally cold and the Zuiderzee froze solid. The 8th Hussar squadron was led by Jean-Guillaume de Winter northwards. He and his troops arrived at Den Helder on this night. The fleet was, as intelligence had suggested, trapped in the ice. Each hussar carried along on his horse, one infantryman of the 15th Line Infantry Regiment. They quietly approached the ships after the hussars had covered the horses’ hooves with fabric. The ice held and the hussars and infantrymen were able to complete the sneak approach and board the ships. The Dutch lost 14 warships and 850 guns along with several merchant ships. It is the only time in military history where cavalry captured a fleet. It is to be noted that one other time cavalry, on land, was able to secure the capture of two ships stuck on a sandbar.
The entire Dutch resistance was quashed when the fleet surrendered. There is some dispute about whether or not an actual battle with shots fired ever took place or whether the Dutch simply surrendered to overpowering forces. The French had been drafting young men for years prior to this and had a supply of infantrymen to take and hold lands. After the fall of the Low Countries, France established the Batavian Republic as a puppet state. The troops rolled on into Prussia and after a peace treaty with Spain, they were able to move eastward. By the following year, with three fronts advancing, one of them under Napoleon Bonaparte, the French troops linked up and could march on Vienna.
The French continued their move forward with some defeats. However, Napoleon’s creative battle tactics were able to offset these. By February 24, 1797 the last battle was fought resulting in an unconditional surrender to the French troops and Austria’s forces were the last to fall, this time. The Treaty of Campo Formia was signed in October and Austria ceded Belgium to France and recognized France’s control of the Rhineland and much of Italy. The War of the First Coalition ended although Great Britain and France remained locked in hostilities.
It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse. – Adlai E. Stevenson
A siren is the sound of the twenty-first-century cavalry on the way. – Rosamund Lupto
We pay for the navy, and we have no commerce for the navy to protect; we pay for the army, and we loathe and execrate the work upon which it has been engaged. – John Edward Redmond
Neither the Army nor the Navy is of any protection, or very little protection, against aerial raids. – Alexander Graham Bell