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ROY, Captain William

... This Plan of the Battle of Thonhausen gained August 1 1759: by His Britannic Majesty's Army, under the command of His Serence Highness over the French Army commanded by Marshal Contades

Thomas Major, London, 29 February 1760
610 x 670 mm., in early wash colour, complete with TWO original overlays showing the development of the battle, with some repairs to the lower margin, lower right corner of text replaced in facsimile, small tears to upper margin repaired, otherwise in good condition considering its rarity.
Extremely rare battle plan complete with TWO FOLDED OVERLAPS. The EARLIEST USE OF FLAPS RECORDED on a printed map in Britain. The Battle of Minden, or Thornhausen, took place 1 August 1759 and formed part of the Seven Years War. The Anglo-German force was commanded by Field Marshal Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick. They were met by the French army under the Marshal of France Louis, Marquis de Contades. It was an Anglo-German victory and a remarkable battle which has gone down in history (see below). This battle plan is surveyed and drawn by the famous William Roy and engraved by Thomas Major (1719-99) engraver to his Majesty. Major General William Roy RE (1726-90) was a military cartographer and one of the most important figures in the early days of the Ordnance Survey. He learnt his craft mapping the Highlands of Scotland following the Rebellion in 1745.

“The vast majority of maps, whether printed or manuscript, depict a single moment in time, in essence a cartographic snapshot. One of the difficulties on a two-dimensional map is how to depict, in a coherent way, a progression of events, for example the stages of a military campaign, or more particularly the phases of a battle. For England, overlays on manuscript maps are recorded as early as the sixteenth century, for example Richard Poppinjay’s plan of Portsmouth from the 1580s has an additional overlay to depict proposed additions to the defensive works of the port … For some reason, printed maps seem to have lagged behind in the use of overlays, and it would seem that it was not until the Seven Years War that the next recorded examples of maps with overlays can be found, curiously all attributed to the same year, 1760, and with the impetus coming from British mapmakers and publishers.

Two battles are represented, the siege of Quebec depicted by the London mapmaker and publisher, Thomas Jefferys Sr., and the battle of Minden, depicted by the Scottish cartographer William Roy, and found in a London printing by Thomas Major, and a Dutch derivative engraved by Jacob van Schley, and published by Pieter de Hondt in The Hague in the same year. While the story of the battle of Quebec is well -known, that of the battle of Minden – an extraordinary battle, by any standard – will bear recounting here.

Minden is one of the most famous battles in the annals of the British Army, celebrated to this day by the units descended from the six British infantry regiments that took the leading part in the battle: the Royal Anglian Regiment, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Kings Own Scottish Borders, the Royal Hampshire Regiment and the Light Infantry. The Royal Artillery does not bear battle honours as such – the regimental motto ‘Ubique’ (‘Everywhere’) signifies its prominent role in battles around the world – but the 12th. Heavy Battery of the Royal Regiment of Artillery has the Red Minden Rose painted on its gun barrels and the 32nd. Light Battery’s flags, signs and vehicle markings include a red rose and the date “1759” below the Battery’s number.

In July 1759, the French seized the town of Minden. While secure inside the town, the allies, Germans and British, threatened the lines of communication. The allied commander, Ferdinand of Brunswick spread his forces thinly to lure the French from the town, and on the morning of the 1st August 1759 the French ventured out in strength. The French were numerically superior, so Ferdinand determined to attack before their units could fully deploy after crossing the River Weser. So it happened, but not exactly as Ferdinand planned.

The day started in almost a party fashion for the British infantry. As they were marching through a field of roses, common all across the battlefield and in the hedgerows, the infantrymen began to pick the flowers to decorate their shakoes. In the confusion of battle, Ferdinand’s orders seem to have been misunderstood by the British infantry commanders. To his astonishment, Ferdinand suddenly realised that the two British infantry brigades were advancing on the main French army, without any support. The first brigade was commanded by Major General the Earl of Waldegrave, and comprised battalions from the 12th Foot, 37th Foot and 23rd Foot. The second was commanded by Major General Kingsley, containing the 20th Foot, 51st Foot and 25th Foot and two Hanoverian regiments.

Soon the French saw the advancing lines and began to bring their artillery to bear. The British artillery commander, Captain William Phillips, seeing the danger, brought his heavy artillery up in support at the gallop, an unheard of and almost impossible feat for heavy artillery, and soon silenced the French gunners. The British infantry continued their advance, and the French sent their first line of cavalry to attack. Traditionally, infantry would form a square when threatened by cavalry, using pike and bayonet to keep the cavalry at bay. This, however, was not a day for the rule-book. The British officers kept their units in line, and advanced on the cavalry. At almost the last possible moment, the British halted and at the range of about ten paces fired their volley. The French line was thrown into confusion, whereupon the British infantry charged, with the bayonet, driving off the survivors.

Waldegrave reformed his units and continued. A second wave of French cavalry was sent to attack, and similarly dealt with. Finally, at about 9am, the French commander sent his elite cavalry reserve into the fray. This was the critical point of the battle. The British infantry had their flanks completely exposed and had virtually no support. If they wavered, all could have been lost. Instead, courage and discipline told. The line stood firm, and the controlled volley inflicted heavy casualties on the French cavalry. Seeing this, it was the French who wavered. With their cavalry in full retreat, and the rest of the allied army approaching, the demoralized French began to withdraw back to the safety of the town. One final blow and the French could be routed. Seeing the opportunity, Ferdinand ordered the British cavalry to advance. The British cavalry commander, Lord George Sackville, brought his units up to the frontline but, despite new orders from Ferdinand, refused to pursue the French.

The British feat of arms cannot be underestimated. Moving heavy guns at the gallop was one thing, but the infantry attack on the French cavalry is the first recorded incident of this kind in military history. French losses on the day were terrible. Of 51,000 troops in the French force, between seven and ten thousand were killed or wounded, and forty-three guns and 17 colours captured. Not surprisingly, the British regiments bore the brunt of the allied army’s casualties. Of the 4,434 men who went into battle with the six British infantry regiments, 78 officers and 1,252 soldiers were killed or wounded” (Baynton-Williams).

A remarkable item of which only one example is listed on COPAC at the British Library. Provenance: Jonathan Potter Choice Items 4 no. 54; private collection of Rodney Shirley. British Library Maps * 30520.(1.). Baynton-Williams ‘Maps with flaps: maps with printed overlays’, ‘MapForum.com’ issue 15 & ‘Map Forum’ issue 6 pp. 44-7; refer Baynton-Williams (2008) ‘Maps of War’ pp. 140-3; Tooley’s Dictionary; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).
Stock number: 7720

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