Research Subjects: Biographies

Horse Artillery Officers of the Netherlands Serving from 1813 to 1815: Bijleveld, Adriaan

By Geert van Uythoven

Bijleveld, Adriaan

Adriaan Bijleveld was born on 12 March 1787. After having finished his education as a cadet on the artillery school in Zutphen, since 25 May 1802 as a cadet-élève, on 29 October 1804 Bijleveld became a 2nd lieutenant with the Horse artillery company no.1 commanded by Captain David Esaias Bo(o)de, which was in garrison in The Hague. He remained there until 1805, when the company embarked at Den Helder for the invasion of Britain on 28 May, but soon disembarked again to leave for Germany to take part in the 1805 campaign. Leaving Utrecht on 12 September the company took part in the surrounding of Mack’s Austrian army at Ulm. Here, Bijleveld commanded the howitzer section of the battery, participating in the bombardment of the city on 16 October after which Mack surrendered. Bijleveld fired fifty howitzer grenades at the city. Returning to Holland after the campaign, the company reached its assigned garrison in The Hague again on 6 April 1806.

Not for long though, as the 1806 campaign would start soon. On 24 September 1806 the company, now commanded by Captain Christiaan Everhard Johan Hogerwaard, became part of the (Dutch) Army of the North, attached to Marshal Adolphe-Edouard-Casimir-Joseph Mortier’s VIII Corps d’Armée. On 29 October 1806 Bijleveld was promoted 1st lieutenant. He took part in the campaign in Swedish Pommern 1807 (Stralsund, Altcosenow, siege of Kolberg). During the retreat, Bijleveld was ordered to the beach to keep a few Swedish sloops at bay which tried to land infantry. At Ukermunde (16 April) Bijleveld was first ordered to advance with the howitzer section and to dislodge the Swedes by lobbing grenades over some houses, which he accomplished quickly. On the same day, at Sprengfelde, Bijleveld was again ordered forward with his howitzers, this time to expel the Swedes from that village. He was also present at the siege of Danzig (20-26 May). Assigned to the 1st Division (Géneral de Division Claude-Ignace-François Michaud, later Géneral de Division Charles-Louis-Dieudonné Grandjean) of Mortier’s Army Corps, the company took part in the battle of Friedland 14 June 1807, where Mortier’s Corps formed the left wing of the French army. The Dutch horse artillery was in position in front of Heinrichsdorff village. Firing all day long until 6.00 p.m.; having fired all available ammo, the battery was taken out of the line. Bijleveld distinguished himself by the well aimed fire of his howitzer section.

On 8 August 1808 Bijleveld was appointed to the horse artillery as a 2nd captain by King Louis Bonaparte. Still with the Horse artillery battery no.1 he took part in the campaign in Northern Germany 1809 against Von Schill. On 31 May Stralsund, the fortress-city in which Von Schill had sought refuge, was attacked by Dutch troops and a Danish auxiliary corps. The horse artillery fought a two hours long duel with the 24-pdrs on the city walls, supporting the assault on the city. In August of that year the Horse Artillery Company No.1 returned to Holland, with Amsterdam assigned as its garrison. On 17 October 1809 the company was disbanded, the Horse Artillery Company No.2 being renumbered to No.1. Captain Hogerwaard became its commander. Joining his company in Zeeland province, Bijleveld arrived when the fighting against the British invasion was already over, and the company did nothing more then guard duty, remaining in garrison on Noord-Beveland island until 13 February 1810. After that the company moved to the province of Noord-Brabant. On 9 July of that year the Kingdom of Holland was incorporated in the French Empire. The Dutch horse artillery first formed the 7me Régiment d’Artillerie à Cheval, but this regiment was soon disbanded again on 31 March 1811. Bijleveld in the meantime was on 29 October 1810 promoted 1st captain, and became company commander. He would hold this rank until 1814. His first posting however was not with an artillery battery, but from 19 August 1810 on with the staff of the General Inspector of Artillery. Again not for long. On 18 January 1811 Bijleveld received orders to go to Spain, to take over command of the Dutch former Horse artillery battery no.3 after its commanding officer had died. His journey took a long time. After Bayonne travelling became difficult and dangerous because of the Spanish insurgents, and only on 26 June he arrived with his company in Guadix, now being the 7th company of the 4me Régiment d’Artillerie à Cheval. He found his company in a sorry state. To bring his unit up to strength he received fifty French soldiers, who by 1st Lieutenant Pieter Anthony Ramaer were described as uitvaagsels (‘scum’).

In the meantime, Napoleon had started his preparations for the Russian campaign. Forty thousand troops in northern Spain had to return to France. As a result, Bijleveld was ordered north to fill up the gap. Leaving behind its guns the company marched to Valledolid, arriving there on 9 January 1812. During that year nothing of importance happened. By February 1813 the company, only 33 men and 13 horses strong by now, received orders to march to Bayonne and from there to Verona (Italy), where the depot of the regiment was. However, arriving at Valence on 26 February 1813, Bijleveld was redirected to Metz, to be brought up to strength with raw conscripts from the 6me Régiment d’artillerie à cheval, originating from every part of the French Empire. Bringing up to strength did only take one day (20 April) and Bijleveld was to join the Grande Armée in Germany immediately. Arriving in Dresden on 10 June the battery was assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Corps (Général de division Horace-François-Bastien Sebastiani de la Porta), attached to the Division of Général de division Rémy-Joseph-Isidore Exelmans. On 29 June 1813, Bijleveld became a knight in the Légion d’Honneur. With Marshal Macdonald at the Katzbach, on 27 August Bijleveld’s battery was one of those covering the retreat of the defeated French army. Overrun by charging Russian cavalry, when left behind in an exposed position after the French cavalry had been defeated, Bijleveld received lance thrusts in the left hand and shoulder and was taken prisoner. Until 20 September he remained prisoner in Breslau, after which he was released and joined the Netherlands army. Arriving in The Hague on 8 February 1814, he had already been appointed company commander with the horse artillery, receiving the rank of captain, on 22 January 1814.

On 14 June 1814 Captain Bijleveld was ordered to ‘s Hertogenbosch with four (depleted) horse artillery companies and eight cannon. From these finally the 2nd company was formed, which on 12 February 1815 moved to Bergen-op-Zoom. On 20 March he was joined here by Captain Pieter Anthonie Ramaer’s 6th company of the Horse artillery corps, which was used to bring Bijleveld’s battery up to strength. On 29 March Bijleveld received orders to join for the time being De Perponcher’s 2de Nederlandsche Divisie of the Netherlands Mobile Army, which was desperately short of foot artillery. After this would become available, Bijleveld was to transfer his battery to the artillery reserve of the Netherlands Mobile Army. This was not to be, as events unfolded on a much to fast pace. On 1 April Bijleveld joined his Division near Quatre-Bras, and his horse artillery battery would be the first Netherlands, indeed the first battery of the whole Anglo-Allied army, that saw action during this campaign!

So Captain Adriaan Bijleveld, 28 years old now, commanded the 2nd company of the Horse artillery corps. Other officers in his company at this time were: 1st Lieutenant Alfred Henry Wasseroth de Vincy; 2nd Lieutenant Frederik Wilhelm Dibbetz; 2nd Lieutenant Wijnand Koopman. Train detachment: 1st Lieutenant Van der Hoeven; 2nd Lieutenant Jacobus Bruijns. On 12 June 1815 the battery had a strength of 4 officers, 100 others, and 104 horses. The train detachment had a strength of 2 officers, 110 others, and 182 horses. This battery was armed with six short 6-pdr bronze cannon, and two 24-pdr (iron) bronze howitzers. Being with De Perponcher’s 2de Nederlandsche Divisie and attached to the 2nd Brigade (Prince Karel Bernhard of Saxen-Weimar) of that Division, brought them into action at Frasnes on 15 June. Bijleveld had placed his guns ‘in park’ near Frasnes, behind the outposts manned by the 2nd bat/2nd Regiment Nassau (Major von Normann). When early that day gunfire was heard from the direction of Charleroi, Captain Bijleveld limbered his guns. Around 6.30 p.m., French lancers tried to surprise the Nassau outposts but were detected in time. Bijleveld retreated to a height north of Frasnes and deployed, with both howitzers commanded by 1st Lieutenant Wasseroth de Vincy on the chaussee itself, and three cannon on either side. The Nassau battalion deployed in line on both sides of his battery, with two companies in skirmish order still inside Frasnes. More cavalry of the 2nd Cavalry Division Piré reinforced the French and drove back the Nassau skirmishers. When between 7.00 and 8.00 p.m. the French lancers debouched out of Frasnes for a frontal attack, they were received with a barrage of grape-shot, which threw them back into the village again with loss. The French cavalry began turning the position at Frasnes, and in order not to be cut off from their own troops Major von Normann and Captain Bijleveld decided to retreat to a new position half way to the crossroads. The retreat was a fighting withdrawal, with the artillery retreating by section and deploying alternately to keep the French cavalry at bay. Bijleveld finally deployed with four guns on the road south of Gemioncourt Farm of which one gun was positioned at the outpost on that road; two guns on the road to Marbais (and Namur); and two guns and the train at the crossroads itself.

On 16 June in the morning, the Netherlands troops were in order of battle about two thousand paces south of the crossroads. Horse artillery battery ‘Bijleveld’ was deployed with four cannon and a howitzer on both sides of the chaussee towards Frasnes; three cannon to the right of the chaussee commanded by 1st Lieutenant Wasseroth de Vincy; the other one and the howitzer on the left of the chaussee commanded by 2nd Lieutent Dibbetz. All vehicles were behind Quatre-Bras itself. The battery was covered by a company of the 27ste Bataljon Jagers. The remaining two cannon and howitzer, commanded by 2nd Lieutenant Koopman, were deployed on the height of Quatre-Bras, covering the road to Marbaix. To their right and somewhat further back, six guns of the Foot artillery battery ‘Stevenart’ were deployed. During the morning of the 16th, only some minor skirmishing took place, but around 2.00 p.m. Marshal Michel Ney started his attack in force. The French deployed two batteries (fourteen guns) just north of Frasnes, which concentrated their fire on Bijleveld’s battery, inflicting heavy loss and smashing the limber of the howitzer, the same shot wounding the 2nd Lieutenant Dibbetz. As a result, Bijleveld had to retreat his remaining four guns to a new position between Gemioncourt and Quatre-Bras, where he was joined by the remaining guns of the foot battery later. The French artillery now turned all its attention to Stevenart’s foot battery, killing Captain Stevenart. After the commander of the artillery of the 2de Nederlandsche Divisie Major C. van Opstall also was out of action because of being wounded, command of the artillery of the 2de Nederlandsche Divisie passed to Bijleveld. In their new position, Bijleveld’s horse battery as well as Stevenart’s foot battery were charged by some squadrons of the 6me Régiment Chasseurs à Cheval (when the attack of Van Merlen’s light cavalry brigade had been defeated), receiving again severe losses, but remaining operational by using the horses of the mounted gunners to reform horse teams. After the battle, the howitzer that had been left behind in its initial position would be recovered. 2nd Lieutenant Koopman redeployed his three guns north of the crossroads, facing south.

At Waterloo on 18 June, Bijleveld had to detach one howitzer (commanded by sergeant J. Kappy) to 2nd Lieutenant Leopold Winssinger’s foot artillery section, which was in position north and sideward of Papelotte. With the remaining seven guns Bijleveld stood in the first line, on the right wing of the 1st Brigade (Major-General Willem Frederik van Bylandt) of the 2de Nederlandsche Divisie (De Perponcher), covering the road to Genappe. The four guns on the left were commanded by 1st Lieutenant Wasseroth de Vincy; the remaining three on the right by 2nd Lieutenant Koopman. As most people know the position of this brigade was very exposed initially, and around 12.00 a.m. it took up another position more backwards, behind the crest. Bijleveld followed, pulling the guns with drag ropes. Because of the difficult terrain one of the ropes broke, and as a result a gun had to be left behind. This gun was retrieved under enemy fire by 1st Lieutenant Wasseroth de Vincy and two gunners later during the day. The battery took part in the fighting during the remainder of the day, with no further details available. Losses of the battery at Frasnes, Quatre-Bras and Waterloo was four gunners killed; two officers and twelve other wounded; 38 horses killed and 13 wounded (including the train); and three horses missing. In addition, one 6-pdr and two 24-pdr howitzer caissons, and two 6-pdr limbers had been destroyed during the fighting. Over these days, the battery had fired 939 ball and 57 canister rounds with his 6-pdr cannon, and 237 grenades and 9 canister rounds with both howitzers. Most ammo was replenished after the battle of Waterloo from French caissons.

Having suffered heavily during the last days, Bijleveld marched his battery back to Brussels on the 19th to recover, joining the 2de Nederlandsche Divisie again on the 28th of the same month. He remained in the vicinity of Paris until 1 December, when he received order to return to the Netherlands to Antwerp. Here, the newly promoted Major Bijleveld (9 november 1815) transferred the battery to Captain Joachim Frederik Muller, who marched it back to ‘s Hertogenbosch. He was appointed a knight 4th class of the Militaire Willemsorde (‘Military order of William’) on 11 August 1815.

In his rank as major, Bijleveld was assigned to the 3de Bataljon artillerie Nationale Militie. On 1 January 1816 he arrived in Delft, and was in garrison in Dordrecht from 2 December that same year until 16 March 1819. Then he returned to the horse artillery again, holding the same rank, on 26 February 1819. His garrison was in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. On 18 July 1824 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel with the 3rd field artillery battalion, in garrison in Maastricht. He was promoted colonel on 13 February 1834. Finally, on 1 January 1841 he was promoted major-general, and pensioned out of the army on the 16th of that month. He died on 14 March 1852 in ‘s Hertogenbosch.

Assessment:

Bijleveld was one of the most experienced company commanders available to the Netherlands army for the Waterloo campaign. He had a resolute and reliable character. He had taken part in ten campaigns all over Europe, and had the luck never to be wounded seriously. In Spain as well as in Germany he had to cope with lack of material and raw personnel. As such he was one of the most qualified officers to raise and train an artillery company from scratch, and that he succeeded in doing this was illustrated during the Waterloo campaign, especially at Frasnes and Quatre-Bras. He was an excellent and reliable officer commanding artillery on the battlefield, but he had no outstanding qualifications in staff positions.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2014

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