Olaf van Nimwegen on Dutch logistics
Edwin reminded me that Olaf van Nimwegen’s book on Allied logistics in the Low Countries during the War of the Spanish Succession has a lengthy English summary. So I’ve taken the liberty of posting it here, so that non-Dutch readers can see what they’re missing, and maybe it’ll encourage Olaf to get the book translated into English. The transcription is a quick-‘n-dirty OCR, so there may be a few formatting errors.
Olaf van Nimwegen, De subsistentie van het leger: Logistiek en strategie van het Geallieerde en met name het Staatse leger tijdens de Spaanse Successieoorlog in de Nederlanden en het Heilige Roomse Rijk (1701-1712), (Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1995), 339-344.
During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713/14), almost one million soldiers served yearly in the armies of the Second Grand Alliance (the Dutch Republic, England, the Holy Roman Emperor and a host of minor powers) and those of their opponents, the Two Crowns (France and Spain). At the beginning of the war field armies numbered between 60,000 and 80,000 men, but from 1708 onwards they increased in size to more than 120,000. Never before had Europe seen such masses. Only with the start of the Napoleonic wars would armies become even greater. The governments of early modern Europe, however, were unable to undertake the maintenance of their own creations. They had to restrict their role to supervising and delegating. Recruiting was left to the company commanders of the infantry and cavalry regiments. Procurement of food (bread and fodder) was farmed out to merchants specialising in army provisioning.
English historians tend to credit Allied successes during the war almost exclusively to John Churchill first Duke of Marlborough, commander-in chief of the Anglo-Dutch field army in the Netherlands from 1702 to 1712, in whom, according to Phelan in his article on Marlborough as logistician, “…the art of war had found its first and possibly greatest individual ‘manager’ in the business of war.“1 Only at the end of his short study does he point out Marlborough had dealings with bread purveyors, such as Solomon de Medina and Leonard and Adriaan van der Kaa.z David Chandler also praises Marlborough: “As an administrator, he was also without peer.”3 According to Chandler, attention must first be drawn to Marlborough’s skill in choosing dedicated members for his general staff: for example, Quartermaster-General Cadogan, secretary Cardonnel and the English resident in Frankfurt on the Main, Davenant. Nowhere does he mention, however, the cooperation with the Dutch officials and generals, such as Field-marshall Ouwerkerk, Simon van Slingelandt (secretary of the Council of State at the Hague), Jacob Hop (Treasurer of the Republic), the Field-Deputies (amongst others Geldermalsen, Goslinga, Vegilin van Claerbergen), the Receiver of the Contributions Pesters, Quartermaster General Dopff and the Generals Coehoorn, Albemarle, Tilly, Hompesch, Ivoy, to name but a few. The provediteurs or bread-purveyors are mentioned but briefly, and moreover, unjustly, in a negative sense. “The bulk bread contractors…were for the most part Spanish or Dutch Jews of varying reliability and venality.”4 And at the end of his study he writes:
It is true that the administrative systems he [Marlborough] inherited were often inefficient and rudimentary, but close supervision of the responsible
* I thank Mr. T.A. Anderson, Captain, U.S.A.F., for correcting the draft text.
 authorities kept such bread contractors as Solomon and Moses Medina and Vanderkaa up to the mark, or revealed the fraudulent practises of the less scrupulous who included Machado and Solomon Abraham.5
It is not difficult to explain this. English historians have all made extensive use of the same sources, namely Murray’s Letters and dispatches (1845) and Snyder’s Marlborough-Godolphin correspondence (1975). The former does contain some material concerned with logistics, but the greater part is as “matters of detail” omitted. Snyder points out that in the archives of Blenheim Palace “troop musters, forage contracts, and correspondence with kings, princes, and foreign ministers and generals abound.” This material was collected by Cardonnel. Nothing of this, however, is used by Snyder, because it did not relate to his subject.6 Moreover, most English publications on the War of the Spanish Succession, and indeed most Austrian, are biographical in nature. Because of this, English historians tend to portray Marlborough as a military genius whose plans were constantly frustrated by the overcautious or jealous Dutch. This is not correct. With the exception of the autumn of 1703 and the second half of 1705 Marlborough and the Dutch generals and Field Deputies cooperated very successfully with each other. The War of the Spanish Succession was a joint venture. By taking care of the logistics of the Allied army and putting the greatest number of soldiers in the field, the Dutch Republic enabled Marlborough, as Allied commander, to operate succesfully. At the end of 1711, when Marlborough had to defend himself against accusations of corruption, he pointed out”…that it is well known our army in Flanders has been duly supplied with bread during the whole war, and has received it with an exactness that will be hardly thought consistent with secrecy, and sudenness of some of the motions that have been made.”7
Lack of research about the logistics of the Allied army and unfamiliarity with Dutch sources, have hitherto prevented English historians from revising their view of the military side of the War of Spanish Succession. The Dutch historian Wijn has given a much more balanced view of the conflict than for example Chandler, but he also restricted himself to the more traditional aspects of military history. He pays only slight attention to logistics. This is very unfortunate because food supply was at the heart of the art and the conduct of the war, and sometimes it was even the aim of war itself. During the campaign on the Moselle in 1705 and in the Netherlands in 1707 for example, hardly a musket was fired.
The Council of State in The Hague and the Treasury in London took care of the food supply of the Allied army, whereby the latter almost always followed the example of the former. The influence of the Council of State was not limited to the material aspects of the war. Decisions of strategic and financial importance were only reached after a committee of the Estates General had held a conference with four to five delegates of the Council. One of the most important functions of the Council was the presentation of petitions to the Estates General. In these, the costs of a  year of the war were estimated by the Treasurer General of the Union. The expenses of the food supply were contained in two petitions: those of bread as part of the petitie voor de legerlasten, and those of forage in the petities voor de fouragemagazijnen.
Each year merchants could tender for the bread- and forage contracts. Between 1672 and 1707, though, this was only a formality, because the contracts were always given to Moses alias Antonio Alvares Machado, provediteur-generaal van de Staat, a Dutch Sephardic Jew. After the Glorious Revolution (1688) he also provisioned the English troops. No one was as skillful, financially and technically, as Machado when it came to organizing the bread and fodder supply of tens of thousands of soldiers and horses. The provediteur received from the Council a loan to the amount of half the value of the rye he had to buy. The rest and all other expenses, such as transport costs, tolls, milling en baking, he had to pay for himself.s
The Dutch Republic and England had agreed they would try to recover the Spanish Netherlands by using all their forces. In 1702 the Dutch paid for 102,000 troops (42,000 in garrisons) and England for 40,000. Until 1708 bread was supplied to the combined Anglo-Dutch field army using the rule-of-thumb of two English soldiers for every three paid by the Dutch. Between 1708 and 1713, however, a ratio of three to five was applied. Machado had therefore to supply bread to 50,000 Dutch and 30,000 to 35,000 English soldiers. After his death (16 December 1706) the Dutch share increased from 62,500 men in 1709, to 95,000 in 1710, after which it decreased to 80,000 in 1711 and 1712 because more troops were needed to garrison the many captured fortresses. The English provediteurs had to supply 37,500, 57,000 and 48,000 men respectively.
To enable the forage merchants to buy provisions, they received an advance (anticipatie) per ration to the amount of the difference between the contracted prize and 6 stuivers. The 6 stuivers were deducted from the soldiers’ pay. The advance was seldom paid in full and on time. This meant that the merchants often had to wait months or even years before they received their payment. The provediteurs and the forage merchants were themselves responsible for settling the accounts with the troops. As a result they often had to wait for several years on their money.
With the exception of sieges, armies burnt little powder until the First World War. During the War of the Spanish Succession one or two pounds of lead and powder were deemed sufficient per soldier for the entire campaign. The infantry and cavalry consumed about 100,000 pounds of powder during a battle and the artillery 9,000 pounds. Sieges, however, were much more costly. The siege of an average fortress required 1,000 shot per canon, 600 bombs and grenades per mortar and howitzer respectively, and at least 700,000 pounds of powder. All siege artillery was supplied by the Dutch; the English only had field artillery. The draught horses for pulling the artillery pieces and munition carts were rented.
To what extent were strategy and the course of the operations influenced by logistics? It was impossible for an army to operate without bread. And  since there were not enough windmills and ovens available in the cities of the Netherlands to grind and bake for the army and the inhabitants at the same time, provisions of Prussian rye (two thirds flour), enough for a total of 150 to 160 days, were stocked in 5 or 6 magazines before the opening of the campaign. The largest magazines were established in two or three very strong fortresses in the rear of the army. This made it possible to attack on a wide front. Farther away, two smaller magazines were stocked in case the army had to retreat. Between 1702 and 1706, magazines were established each year in Bergen op Zoom [and] Maastricht. This made it possible to attack Antwerp and Namur respectively. Bread was carried to the army using carts or wagons. Up to a distance of 40 kilometers (a two days’ march) the carts or wagons could travel within four days to and from the magazine to the army to deliver a new load for four days. In 1705, the Allied army suffered from a shortage of bread because Marlborough had failed to capture Louvain, with the result that the distance between the army and the magazines on the Meuse became too great. To prevent this from happening again, the number of breadwagons was doubled and a ‘good provision’ of flour was stocked in Zoutleeuw, halfway Louvain and Maastricht.
The Allied victory at Ramillies (23 May 1706) was the turning-point in the war. Ramillies was remarkable in two respects: firstly, it was one of those rare battles which both sides had deliberately sought, but even more importantly, was the early date at which the battle had been fought, namely at the beginning of the campaigning season. This meant that the Allies had more than five months to make conquests. In Louvain, Malines and Gand the provisions stocked for the French army were captured almost intact by the Allies, which meant that the advance could be continued without any loss of time.
With the fall of Antwerp on 6 June 1706, the War of the Spanish Succession entered a new stage. The great cities of Brabant and Flanders had no significant fortifications. For their safety they had depended on the ‘lines of Brabant’ and the French field army. With the decision to attack Menin the Allies penetrated the pre carre or fortified zone protecting the Northern frontier of France. The fortresses of the frontiere de fer were all very strong. This meant that the Allies would have to systematically conquer fortress after fortress before they could enter France itself. An alternative for this very costly strategy did not exist. No army could ignore or bypass a enemy fortress without exposing its lines of communications to grave dangers. Were the supply lines cut, the army would almost immediately be without bread.
Magazines stocked with rye made it possible for an army to operate everywhere and as long as it was required. Without them warfare in the Netherlands, an area covered with fortresses, was impossible. Siege warfare demanded that the armies spent most of their time in encampments. For every 10 days during the War of the Spanish Succession, eight or nine were spent in a camp. The length of the encampements varied from 1 day to 118 days (siege of Lille in 1708). If the  armies had ravaged the countryside in search for food in the same way as had been the case during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), the much bigger Allied and French armies of the War of the Spanish Succession would never have been able to operate for so long in such a small theatre of war as the Netherlands.
The magazine system gave an army virtual freedom of action as far as its bread was concerned. This solution was only partly applicable to the supply of forage. As a rule, campaigns were not opened until the grass had grown sufficiently for the horses to eat. Usually not before the middle or the end of May. It was impossible to supply the army in the field with dry forage (oats, hay and straw) during the entire campaigning season. Not only would the costs become prohibitively high, but apart from that there were also practical reasons which made it unfeasible. On average a ration of dry forage weighed 12 kilograms. Dry forage could therefore only be carried from the magazine to the army over a maximum distance of 10 to 15 kilometers. Otherwise the horses would be ruined. This meant that an army would literally be shackled to its magazines. From 1710 onwards the Allies, however, did use special forage magazines, called reservemagazijnen, to get a head start at the beginning of a campaign. This enabled them to enter into the field 30 to 40 days before the French army could be concentrated. In this way the Allies had been in a position to besiege Douai unopposed in 1710. That these magazines could not be used to same effect in the next two years was due to the unexpected death of emperor Joseph and the effective counter-measures of Marshall Montesquiou who blocked all crossing on the river Sensee respectively. Between May and October forage as a rule was collected in the field. Until the harvest (August) the standing crop was simply mowen by the troops, after that the farmers’ storehouses were emptied. Once the area around the army had been cleared of all forage, the commander-in-chief had no alternative than to look for a new camp. This could have very serious consequences. In 1703, for example, the Allied army commanded by Obdam was almost destroyed at the battle of Ekeren, because Marlborough and Ouwerkerk had crossed the Jeker too soon. By the end of June all forage between the Jeker and the Meuse had been eaten. As a result they were no longer able to pin down the main French army in the South. The failure of the Moselle campaign of 1705 was for a great part the result of the lack of forage between the vineyards. By systematically devastating the country side round about a city, a siege could be made impossible, because the attackers would not be able to feed their horses. Marshall Villars used this tactic with great success in 1709 and 1710 to prevent the siege of Douai and Arras respectively.
The War of the Spanish Succession was the last war in which the Dutch Republic participated as a great power. Forty years of almost continuous warfare with France exhausted the Dutch finances. Each year the Dutch had had to bear the brunt of the fighting. Not only had they contributed the greatest share of soldiers, they also had to undertake all the sieges. Wijn has shown that many accusations of Dutch timidity were false and  that the Dutch had a much greater share in the Allied victories then is admitted or is deliberately left out by English and Austrian historians. That the entire system of supply for the Allied army was organized by Dutch merchants under the supervision of the Council of State and the Estates-General has, up to now, received hardly any attention. Hopefully this study will help to give to the provediteurs, the Council of State, the Field-Deputies and the Dutch generals the recognition they deserve.”