Siege of Condé, April-10 July 1793

The siege of Condé of April-10 July 1793 was part of an overly cautious Allied campaign on the borders of France in the spring and summer of 1793 that gave the French a chance to recover from the disasters that had befallen their armies earlier in the spring (War of the First Coalition). At the start of 1793 the French were in control of the Austrian Netherlands, and under General Dumouriez were planning to invade Holland. Their plans were disrupted on 1 March, when an Austrian army under the Prince of Saxe-Coburg attacked across the Roer, forcing the French to abandon their siege of Maastricht, and defeating Dumouriez at Neerwinden on 18 March. These defeats pushed the French out of Brussels, but worse was to come. By the end of March it was clear that Dumouriez was increasingly hostile to the radical government in Paris. When he was removed from command in favour of General Dampierre, Dumouriez attempted to convince his army to rise against the government, and when this failed fled into exile with the Austrians (5 April).

These defeats moved the main focus of the war from Belgium and Holland to the French border. At a conference in Antwerp in early April the Allies decided to conduct a series of sieges of the main French border fortification, starting with Condé-sur-l'Escaut and Valenciennes, before moving on to Dunkirk, which was the main target of the British government.

By the end of April three Allied contingents were involved in the blockade of Condé. To the west were 8,000 Prussians under General Knobelsdorf, at Saint Amand, Lecelles and Maulde, on the Scarpe. To the south was Clairfayt, with 12,000 men at Vicoigne and Raismes (north west of Valenciennes) and Bruay and Fresnes on the Scarpe, between Condé and Valenciennes. Too the north the Prince of Würtemberg had 5,000 men. A small British contingent, under the Duke of York, was also available in the area.

Dampierre made two attempts to lift the siege. The first, on 1 May, involved an attack along most of the Allied line, and made no progress. The second, on 8 May (battle of Condé or Saint Amand) came close to breaking the Allied line, but ended in failure after the arrival of part of the British Guards brigade and the death of Dampierre leading a frontal assault on part of the Austrian line.

The fate of Condé was sealed when the Allies forced the French to abandon their camp at Famars on 23 May, and began a siege of Valenciennes. Any new French efforts would have concentrated on raising that second siege, but no major effort was made. Condé held out for two more months, before surrendering after a severe bombardment. The fall of Condé was followed by that of Mainz (23 July) and Valenciennes (28 July), but the slow pace of the Allied campaign had given the French a chance to raise new armies, and in the second half of the year the Allies would suffer a series of defeats. Condé itself remained in Austrian hands until 30 August 1794, when it was liberated after the French victory at Fleurus (26 June 1794)

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 January 2008), Siege of Condé, April-10 July 1793 ,

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