Chapter 107: Oranges Die
Chapter 107: Oranges Die
William bit back a cough and felt the stinging sensation in his chest. This was becoming a regular occurrence now and he knew he didn’t have long left to live. He took a sip of wine and then spoke in what he knew was accented English. “You all know why you are here. This war has been going on for quite some time now and we must find a way to finish it.” He coughed, and this time when he put his handkerchief to his mouth, and wiped his mouth, blood appeared on the chief. He sighed. “I am willing to hear proposals on what should happen next.”
Almost immediately, James Fitzjames, Duke of Berwick and brother to the King of England answered in English. “I think that we must attack the French at once. They are stationed south of the Scheldt, in great numbers. But they are in disarray, with their King ill and the Dauphin having returned to Versailles, they are having to readjust. Consequently, if we strike now and in great numbers we can push them back and keep pushing until they are thrown out of the Spanish Netherlands.”
“I agree with His Grace.” Arnold Von Keppel, a friend of William’s and a leading general in the Republic said. “We cannot let them regather and regroup, we must strike immediately.”
“And in what order?” The Earl of Marlborough and victor of the first and second battles of Scheldt asked. “How are we to structure this, when our own army is facing illnesses?”
“We must consider the limitations of what we can do and then go from there.” Berwick replied. “But I still believe that we can indeed push this through and achieve a victory.”
“A victory yes, but it would be costly, and the French would be expecting us to pursue this strategy.” Marlborough said.
“What makes you say so?” William asked. “If we were fighting King Louis’s father I would agree with you, but we are not. The generals around the French King lack the sense of those who served his father.” The fact that they’d managed to be defeated twice by Marlborough was example of that.
“Even so, it is the most sensible solution to what issue we are facing.” Marlborough said. “They would expect us to come for them where they are gathered. And as such they would plan accordingly.”
“What would you suggest we do then?” William enquired, he started coughing again, and had to put the handkerchief to his mouth once more, this time when he pulled back, it was completely covered in blood. He closed his eyes and felt a spasm of pain in his chest.
Marlborough didn’t reply immediately, instead he looked at the map, and William got the feeling that he was coming up with a strategy then and there. Eventually the man did respond, and William’s suspicions were confirmed. “We must attack the cities where they have garrisons. We have the guns to do it. I suggest we start with Ghent. Ghent is lightly guarded, and intelligence reports suggest that the populous there are not settling well under French rule. Once part of the army has left for Ghent, another part must depart for Alost to ensure that the French do not get suspicious. The part at Alost must engage the French and buy time.”
It was a sensible suggestion, William had to admit. Their reports indicated only thirty men from France’s army garrisoned Ghent, and the populous there was mainly being held in check through fear of retaliation of the bigger French army at Alost. “How many men would you send to Ghent?” William asked.
“Three thousand. One thousand to take the city, and another two thousand to head onwards.” Marlborough said.
“Onwards?” William asked, though he knew what Marlborough would say before he said it.
“To Ostend and Bruges. Those two cities are crucial to French control, if we take Ostend we free up another port for the ships of the Royal Navy to provide supplies to.” Marlborough said.
“You are counting on the enemy not thinking that men would be sent to these places.” Berwick said to the man who William knew was his uncle.
“Indeed, I am. But I am also counting on them thinking that the biggest concern would be Ghent. They will try and get passed the army at Alost, and when they fail to do that, or if they succeed, Ghent will have already fallen and they will be stuck trying to take it again, and this time we will be prepared.” Marlborough said.
“You would send the majority of the army to Alost then?” William asked.
“I think that would be sensible, Your Highness.” Marlborough answered. “It would ensure that nothing had been left to chance.”
William thought on this and due to lacking a better option said. “Very well, you shall command the force that heads to Ghent. Arnold, you shall command the army to march on Alost.”
“Yes, Your Highness.” Both men said.
His nephew Johann Wilhelm Friso then spoke. “And what of you, Your Highness?”
“I will ensure that Brussels remains ours.” William responded. And if I am lucky, I will not die before we have achieved victory.