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Ten days campaign

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Title: Ten days campaign  
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Subject: Battle of Leuven (1831), De Leeuw van Vlaanderen (novel), National Monument (Amsterdam), 1st Parachute Hussar Regiment, Treaty of the Eighteen Articles
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Ten days campaign

Ten Days' Campaign
Part of the aftermath of the Belgian Revolution

The Prince of Orange leading the Dutch army in the Battle of Ravels on 3 August 1831.
Date 2–12 August 1831
Location Flanders, Belgium
Result

Belgian victory;

  • Initial Dutch military success against Belgians but Dutch withdrawal as the French engaged the war
  • Dutch failure to suppress the Belgian Revolution
Belligerents
 Belgium
Supported by:
France
United Netherlands
Commanders and leaders
Strength
24,000[1] 50,000[2]
Casualties and losses
91 killed &
453 wounded[3]
112 killed &
457 wounded[3]


The Ten Days' Campaign (Dutch: Tiendaagse Veldtocht, French: Campagne des Dix-Jours) was a failed attempt to suppress the Belgian revolution by the Dutch king William I between 2 and 12 August 1831.[1] The Dutch army invaded Belgium on 2 August, and over the course of the next few days defeated Belgian forces several times in battle and advanced deep into Belgian territory. However, on 8 August, the Belgian government appealed to France for support. Faced with an advancing French army, under Étienne Gérard, the Dutch withdrew.

Background

When the Belgian Revolution began in August 1830, the Dutch army suffered from extensive desertion by South-Netherlanders (Belgians), who were reluctant to serve any longer as they would have to fight their fellow countrymen. Before the war, the northern provinces (which were mainly Protestant) feared for the Catholic majority that was now present in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Dutch government purposely held the Catholic Belgians back. In the army, most officers were Dutch and the bulk of the conscripted recruits came from the south. About two-thirds of the troops stationed in the Southern Netherlands deserted, and the morale of the remaining troops was severely damaged. This, together with the fact that the bulk (and often the best-trained part) of the Dutch military was stationed in its colonies, allowed the Belgian revolutionaries to quickly gain control over what is now Belgium. However, the leaders of the Belgian revolution had grown overconfident because of their early success and had not taken steps to build up a military force of their own.

King William I viewed the failure to suppress the Belgian revolt as a humiliation, and sought an opportunity to retaliate against the rebels. Even if reunification should prove impossible, he wanted to negotiate peace from a position of strength. Therefore, when William learned that the rebels had asked Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to be their king, he began to prepare his invasion.

In 1831, a 50,000-strong Dutch force was built up in Brabant along the Belgian border, allegedly to protect the frontier, under the command of the Prince of Orange (the future King William II).[2] The Belgian army across the border numbered just 24,000, including both regular soldiers and the poorly trained and equipped units of the Garde Civique.[1] The Belgian force was split into two armies, known as the Army of the Meuse and the Army of the Scheldt, under the nominal command of King Leopold I and his Minister of War Amédée de Failly.[1] The Army of the Meuse was based in Limburg while the Army of the Scheldt surrounded the still Dutch-held citadel of Antwerp, however the distance between the two forces was too great and each was effectively cut off.[1]

The military campaign

Scene from the Dutch victory at the Battle of Leuven on 12 August

On the morning of 2 August, 1831, the Dutch crossed the border near Poppel. Belgian scouts noticed the advance, and a number of roads were blocked with felled trees. The first skirmishes took place around Nieuwenkerk. The Dutch supreme commander, the Prince of Orange, arrived in the afternoon to support his troops and, at the same time, Zondereigen was taken by the Dutch, with some 400 Belgians repulsed. Near Ravels, the Belgian army was rapidly driven into the surrounding forests by the Dutch and subsequently into a swamp. The Belgians later retreated to Turnhout, allowing the Dutch to set up camp. The sound of the Dutch artillery alarmed the population of Turnhout, who fled en masse towards Antwerp. The next day a Dutch force of about 11,000 prepared to take Turnhout, while another Dutch corps made a diversion towards Antwerp (in reality they would attack Turnhout from another direction). In the following battle, the Dutch smashed the Belgian forces, whose morale broke down early in the battle when the Belgian banner was torn apart by Dutch artillery and a soldier lost a leg to a cannonball. The Belgians were unable to hold their ground and fled.

Map of the Dutch march during the Ten Days' Campaign

On 4 August, the Dutch took Antwerp. The flag of Brabant was taken down and the Dutch flag was hoisted. The Prince of Orange demanded that the flag be taken down again, because it symbolised occupation rather than a restoration of Dutch power. At the same time the Dutch armies split up and moved further into Belgium, defeating numerous militias and two regular Belgian armies with ease. The division led by Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar moved upon Geel and Diest, and the Third division moved into Limburg. On 8 August, the Dutch defeated the Belgian Army of the Meuse near Hasselt. On 11 August the advance guard of the Belgian Army of the Scheldt was defeated near Boutersem. The next day the Dutch army attacked and defeated the Belgians near Leuven.

For the Belgians all seemed lost. Fearing the total disintegration of the army, Leopold called for international support on 8 August. Sylvain Van de Weyer was sent to attempt to solicit support from Great Britain while François Lehon was sent to France.[4] Although the British government was reluctant to send troops to support Belgium, the French immediately dispatched a force without informing the other Great Powers.[5] The movement of French troops into Belgium particularly worried the British, who felt that it could represent a threat to the European balance of power.[5] The French army under Marshal Étienne Gérard crossed the border the next day. The Dutch had taken a risk by invading Belgium without the support of its allies; Russia had wanted to assist but was having trouble suppressing the Polish revolution, and Prussia would not risk sending troops without Russia being able to secure its western borders;[6] now they faced a possible war with the French. After an intervention by the British, the Dutch halted their advance and a ceasefire was signed on 12 August. The last Dutch troops returned to the Netherlands around 20 August, whilst only Antwerp remained occupied.

Aftermath

French Engineer Corps during the siege of Antwerp

Although the Dutch population, especially the Protestants, rejoiced over the victorious campaign against the "Belgian rebels", King William reluctantly accepted that his dream of a United Netherlands was lost. The European powers came to see how fragile Belgium was, and at the final peace negotiations, the final division was favourable to the Dutch.

The King of the Netherlands, refusing to abandon the citadel at Antwerp, ordered the Dutch General David Hendrik Chassé to hold it at all costs. From the citadel, Chassé bombarded the city of Antwerp, setting fire to hundreds of homes and causing many casualties among the civilian population. The result was a second intervention by the Northern Army of Marshal Gérard, who returned to Belgium on 15 November 1832, to [[Siege of Antwerp (1832)|besiege the

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