Battle of Marquain
|Battle of Marquain|
|Part of the French Revolutionary Wars|
|Kingdom of the French|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Théobald Dillon †||Louis-François de Civalart|
During Biron's attempts to capture Quiévrain and Mons, marshal Théobald Dillon made a feint towards Tournai. Leaving Lille with 10 squadrons, 6 battalions and 6 guns, he met the Austrian major-general Louis-François de Civalart, encamped with 3,000 men on the heights above Marquain. Austrian skirmishers attacked the French vanguard so heavily that the French realized Civalart wished to bring on a pitched battle, whereas Dillon had orders to avoid one.
Seeing the enemy coming down to meet him and unsure of his own troops (who had frequently been insubordinate on the march from Lille), Dillon obeyed his orders and commanded a retreat. At the first sign of a French withdrawal, the Austrians fired their guns several times despite being out of range, with none of their shots even reaching Dillon's rearguard. Despite the French troops' fear of their own generals, the cavalry squadrons covering the retreat panicked just as at Quiévrain. Hearing the guns, they rushed into their own infantry shouting "Sauve qui peut, nous sommes trahis" ("Every man for himself, we are betrayed"). This spread confusion in the French force, which fled in disorder across Baisieux towards Lille, leaving behind its baggage, munitions and all but 2 guns. Dillon tried in vain to rally his retreating troops before the enemy could attack and was shot by one of his own troops.
The force re-formed level with the Fives gate, with a mixture of soldiers from different regiments forming a garrison. Dillon's second-in-command, the engineer colonel Pierre-François Berthois, was stopped by the soldiers, hung from one of the battlements and fired him and 3 or 4 prisoners from a gun. Wounded, Dillon was shot in a cart and bayonetted. His body was tied to the cart and dragged through the streets as far as the Grand Place, where it was thrown on a fire, made up of signs from several neighbouring shops. Dillon's cousin Arthur complained to the Assembly and his murderers were punished and his widow granted a pension to raise her children.
- Victoires, conquêtes, désastres, revers et guerres civiles des Français, volume 7