Marlborough, p.28Richard Holmes
William Cadogan escaped north when the Jacobites arrived in 1689, and was commissioned as a cornet in the Enniskillen Dragoons. He fought on the Boyne and took part in Marlborough’s attacks on Cork and Kinsale. In 1694 he bought a captaincy in Thomas Erle’s Regiment of Foot, and was present when William of Orange recaptured Namur the following year. Cadogan went back to the Enniskillen Dragoons as major in 1698, but in 1701 we find him entrusted with the transport of Danish troops to the Low Countries, dealing with issues which went well beyond the responsibilities of the average major. ‘I had by the Danish post that came in this morning letters from the Duke of Württemberg and Mr Gregg,’ he told secretary Blathwayt,
which to my very great satisfaction brought an account that the final order was given for the march of the troops and that it would be dispatched by the same post, of which I immediately sent notice to the Danish Commissary General, and to let him know how we were now ready to receive the troops. I have ordered the ships to fall down the river with the first tide to Gluckstadt, and having before settled everything in relation to the march of the horse, there can be no further delay in this matter.26
There is no direct evidence that Cadogan knew Marlborough well because they had served together at Cork and Kinsale. After all, Marlborough was a lieutenant general and Cadogan a cornet, although his huge size did mean that he was a hard man to miss. Winston S. Churchill’s assertion that ‘they were already old friends’ is pure speculation. However, Cadogan had certainly earned Blathwayt’s approval by the way he dealt with the Dutch in early 1702, and the circumstances argue strongly for some previous relationship with Marlborough, because that summer he was appointed colonel of foot and quartermaster general on ten shillings a day. Marlborough gained him an extraordinary payment of £175.4s early in 1703, and soon afterwards he was appointed colonel of the Earl of Arran’s Regiment of Horse.
Cadogan’s career now moved in parallel with Marlborough’s. He was promoted steadily, and, like his chief, made a handsome profit from a variety of perquisites and investments. In 1709 he was able to spend over £6,000 buying the Caversham estate near Reading, and his share of what his most recent biographer calls the ‘net fraudulent profit’ on insider dealing in 1708 alone was over £33,000.27 In 1706 he slid easily into the House of Commons, in the Whig interest, as Member for Woodstock, a borough firmly in Marlborough’s pocket.
If we deplore Cadogan’s avarice we cannot but admire his courage. After the fall of Marlborough he must have known that his own future was decidedly cloudy, but he wrote to Robert Harley, now Earl of Oxford and one of the main agents of Marlborough’s downfall, asking permission to join him on his travels on the Continent. ‘The Duke of Marlborough’s ill-health,’ he wrote, ‘the inconvenience a winter’s journey exposes him to, and his being without any one friend to accompany him, make the requesting leave to wait on him an indispensable duty on me, who for so many years have been honoured with his confidence and favour and [owe] all I have in the world to his favour.’28 He was allowed leave, and was, as he must have expected, dismissed from all his appointments immediately afterwards.
When Marlborough’s fortunes turned again, Cadogan shared them. In February 1718, in uneasy combination with the Duke of Argyll, he was commanding the government forces putting down the Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, and heard that he was to receive a peerage. He wrote to Marlborough at once, to ‘beg leave to return my most humble thanks for your great goodness in being pleased to approve of the services I have endeavoured to render here, and Your Grace’s representing them so very favourably to His Majesty’.
He hoped to have his barony styled ‘of Cadogan, near Wrexham on the borders of Wales’. He reminded Marlborough that he had no son, and had settled his fortune on his brother, and so it would be very generous if the title could slide sideways after his own death. ‘I humbly beg pardon for mentioning it,’ he wrote, as if they were still back in the old days, as commander-in-chief and quartermaster general, ‘and entreat Your Grace to consider it no more than if I had not.’29 At that time the tiny hamlet of Cadogan was not deemed suitable to sustain a peerage, but when, after a flurry of distinguished diplomatic work, Cadogan was raised to an earldom, he was duly made ‘Earl of Cadogan in Denbighshire; Viscount of Caversham in Oxfordshire; and Baron Oakley, in Buckinghamshire’.30
Cadogan was big, hard-headed – often with a glass in his hand but rarely in drink – and an inveterate gambler, both at the tables and, less creditably, by advising his London-based business partner to bet on the progress of campaigns. ‘They now give 20 Guineas for £100 if either Mons, Charleroi, Lille, Tournai or Namur be not taken by the last of October,’ wrote his cautious associate, ‘but I won’t venture without your advice.’31 In the autumn of 1707, when Cadogan replaced George Stepney as envoy to the States-General, the same friend wrote to ‘congratulate you on two pieces of good news that the town is full of, one that you have won six thousand pistoles at play, and the other that you are to reside at the Hague in the room of Mr Stepney’.32 Cadogan spoke fluent French, and in 1702 he married Margaretta Munter, a beautiful Dutch heiress, and quickly added both Dutch and German to his languages.
Careful study of both the Cadogan papers and the Marlborough – Cadogan correspondence in the British Library shows the real scale of Cadogan’s contribution. First, during the winter months he was in charge of what we would now, less than elegantly, term ‘force packaging’ and was then called drawing up the order of battle. The Allied forces for the coming campaigning season were divided into brigades, usually on a national basis. Larger formations like divisions did not then exist, but it was customary to divide an army up into formations of the right and left wing, and sometimes to subdivide these further into first and second lines, appointing general officers to command them. Frustratingly for historians, these definitions held good for the whole of a campaign, so it was perfectly possible for the army’s right wing to find itself, after a good deal of marching and countermarching, on the left flank of the battle.
The process of drawing up the order of battle needed careful thought, to gratify national preferences and minimise clashes of personalities. Although generals might not always find it easy to ensure that another nation’s contingents complied with their orders, the generals of an allied army ranked on a common roll of seniority by the date of their current commission, and it was important to ensure that nations supplying large contingents did not suddenly find themselves commanded by a very senior officer from another, much less significant, force. In August 1703 Marlborough warned Godolphin:
If I leave the army some time before they go to garrison, it would be for the honour of the English that the right wing should be commanded by an Englishman; and that can’t be, there being several lieutenant generals among the foreigners that are elder [i.e. senior] than our lieutenant generals, so that I would beg the favour of the Queen that I might have a commission sent to me for my brother, he being the oldest [English] lieutenant general, to be General of the Foot. I desire that nobody might know of the commission, for if I did not leave the army before they went into garrison, I would not make use of the commission.33
When Marlborough went back to England the following month General Charles Churchill duly took command of the right wing of the army, the troops in English pay.
In the winter months Cadogan compiled orders of battle, sent them to England for Marlborough’s approval, and then awaited orders for ‘assembling the army at the time your Grace is pleased to direct it’. Assembling too early would start the logistic meter ticking too soon, with foraging parties bringing in hay and bread contractors busy. Assembling it too late, though, might mean that the French would be able to steal a march. In April 1709 Cadogan informed Marlborough: ‘Fine weather has forwarded everything, and a great deal of the corn which was thought lost begins to spring out again, so that suffering the assembly of the army for eight or ten days is as long as any will require.’34 On 10 April 1710 he acknowledged receipt of Marlbor
to give all orders that may be necessary in your Grace’s name. ’Tis with great satisfaction that I acquaint your Grace our magazines and everything of that kind are in the readiness that could be desired, and due care is taken for the providing wood, straw and [?] in the places the troops encamp at in their passage, what relates to the bread and bread wagons is also requested, so that I hope your Grace on joining the army will find all matters in the forwardness and order you expected.35
He did not merely act as the passive instrument of Marlborough’s endeavour, but developed operational plans along the lines laid down in outline by his chief. In February 1711 he announced:
I have the honour to enclose to your Grace the memorial I prepared for assembling the army in the middle of April NS [New Style, i.e. according to the Continental calendar] in order to make the siege of Douai. I [have] not entered into any reasons concerning the importance of the design, the facility of the expedition, or the impossibility of the enemy’s being able to provide supplies to subsist a body of troops able either to oppose our forming the siege, or to embarrass us by a diversion … This project is founded on taking the field on the 10th of April NS and success absolutely depends upon it.36
Douai duly fell in June.
Cadogan had prime responsibility for the army’s logistics, dealing with the Dutch contractors who supplied bread to the army when it was not so far from its bases that it was forced to bake its own. Roads and waterways alike were his concern. In August 1710 he wrote from Courtrai, possibly to Marlborough’s private secretary, to say:
I received at Lille the favour of yours by Colonel Alexander. I have endeavoured to execute his Grace’s commands in relation to the bread, and hope such measures as are now taken about that matter, as shall remove all … complaint in the future. I was obliged to go beyond St Eloi to meet the artillery boats. I came on with them all night and they are now passing the sluices at Harleseck. They will get this afternoon to Menin, and I hope tonight or tomorrow morning at the camp. If my Lord Duke should not be at home when this comes into your hands, I beg the enclosed may be sent to him.37
Cadogan was also Marlborough’s intelligence chief. He collated information extracted from prisoners and deserters, and given by officers who had been taken prisoner but were then exchanged. In August 1702, for instance, Lord Mark Kerr, Marlborough’s aide de camp, was captured and entertained by the Duke of Berwick, then a lieutenant general, who generously, as one nobleman to another, showed him the French army. The youngster kept his wits about him and reported that the French had seventy-two battalions and 109 squadrons, ‘but he says that our battalions are much stronger than theirs’.
In addition to dealing with day-to-day tactical intelligence, Cadogan ran a network of agents in France, especially at the principal seaports. In 1708, for example, his agent at Dunkirk told him that a French fleet was ready to embark fifteen battalions and the Old Pretender in person, and he was informed immediately the fleet sailed northwards. He then sent a sloop, escorted by a fast Dutch privateer, to tell Admiral Sir George Byng what was afoot, and prepared to embark ten British and Dutch battalions for Scotland, the expedition’s probable destination, as soon as a convoy arrived.38 In the event the comte de Forbin, commanding the French squadron, missed his landfall, and by the time he entered the Firth of Forth, his selected objective, Byng was close behind. Forbin did not regard the loss of his little squadron as a price worth paying to get James’s force ashore, and he ran for it, losing one ship, the Salisbury, captured in 1703, to her namesake HMS Salisbury in the pursuit. Forbin had mishandled the expedition, but even if James had landed the countermeasures initiated by Cadogan would probably have doomed the enterprise.
The collation of information gleaned from agents and the interception of mail over the winter months enabled Cadogan to help Marlborough fix his annual campaign plan. At the opening of the 1710 campaigning season he gave Marlborough a full intelligence brief as soon as he arrived, telling him of
my appointing the several persons I employ, to meet me on Tuesday next at Tournai. As your Grace arrives at Ghent only on Wednesday, I can come from Tournai early on Thursday to met you at Oudenarde and give your Grace an account of all I shall be able to learn of the enemy’s strength in the lines … 39
Some of his intelligence was of strategic importance, and went straight to the government. In May 1709, when the French were making discreet overtures for peace, he told Sunderland that three enemy agents with passports from the Dutch had passed through The Hague on their way to Antwerp. One was ‘the post-master of Paris; and the other a Spanish courier’. He thought that the third was Marshal Boufflers, travelling incognito. Two days later he confirmed that Torcy, the French foreign minister, had passed through Brussels, and a week afterwards he was able to forward to Sunderland the peace terms Torcy had covertly offered to the Dutch. He was later able to tell Sunderland:
The last advices from Paris say the Dauphin with the Marshal Villars is to command here next summer, the Duke of Burgundy with the Marshal d’Harcourt on the Rhine, and the Duke of Burgundy in Dauphiné …
None of the French troops on this frontier have as yet received either money, clothes or recruits, nor is there any appearance of even endeavouring to form such magazines as will be necessary to subsist the troops they must bring into the field to cover their places exposed in Flanders.40
Some information was paid for in cash, but there was sometimes a hint of payment in kind. ‘You will give me leave to remember my good friend the Conseiller Intime,’ Cadogan told Marlborough’s private secretary in 1705. ‘I hope the Tokay and the lady are provided for him as promised.’41
Cadogan’s practical good sense meant that he was never misled by simple theoretical strengths. Precise organisations varied a good deal, and some regiments (like the four-battalion Régiment du Roi) were very much bigger than others, so the armies of the age reckoned their infantry strength in battalions and their cavalry strength in squadrons. A battalion, usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel, consisted of several companies, and was meant to comprise eight hundred officers and men, while a squadron of cavalry contained two to four troops under a major or a senior captain, and had a strength of perhaps 150 officers and men. Unit numbers, often high at the start of a campaign, tended to fall off as the season wore on because of battle casualties, sickness and desertion. It was easy for one army to have more battalions and squadrons than its adversary, but actually to have fewer soldiers. In June 1707 Cadogan told Raby that Marlborough had one hundred battalions of foot and 164 squadrons of horse facing 120 French battalions and 190 squadrons, but the latter were ‘so weak that our troops who are all complete exceed them in number as much as in goodness. I think the King of France does with his troops as his money, makes three hundred men pass for a battalion, as a Louis d’or for Fifteen Livres, and our folly gives this cheat currency.’42
Cadogan’s officers needed to pay constant attention to the fluctuating strengths of friendly and enemy forces. Amongst the papers of Henry Davenant, English envoy to Frankfurt and Regensburg and one of Cadogan’s correspondents, are numerous orders of battle of troops provided by German states, as well as detailed assessments, apparently from a French source, of enemy strengths. French battalions, each of thirteen companies (themselves of forty-five men and three officers apiece), should comprise 624 soldiers, and squadrons, each of four troops of thirty-five men and three officers, should number 152 soldiers. ‘But,’ added Davenant’s French informant, ‘as the infantry is not usually fully up to strength, we can reckon the battalion at 550 men at the opening of the campaign,’ falling to five hundred or even 450 as it went on.43
Cadogan was even more than chief of staff, master logistician and chief of intelligence. When the army was on the move he often commanded the cavalry of the advance guard, moving about half a day ahead of the main body, likely to meet the enemy first and send a contact report back to Marlboro
In so much of what follows it is sometimes hard to see where Marlborough ended and Cadogan began. Lord Strafford, admittedly a boyhood friend of Cadogan’s and a political foe of Marlborough’s, told Robert Harley: ‘I do believe the greatest part of my Lord Marlborough’s victories are owing to him; and even the Pensionary said to me, “Si vous voulez avoir un duc de Marlborough un Cadogan est nécessaire.”’ Yet recognising the part played by Cadogan does not diminish Marlborough’s stature. He could not be everywhere and do everything, and the careful delegation of responsibility, with authority to back it up, enabled him to shine as commander, alliance manager, administrator and diplomat.
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