The Ten days campaign
(Tiendaagse Veldtocht) (August 2
– August 12 1831
) was a failed attempt to suppress the Belgian revolution
by the Dutch king William I
When the Belgian Revolution
began in August 1830, Dutch armies stationed in what is now Belgium suffered from extensive desertion by Southern Dutch troops, who were reluctant to fight the people among whom they lived. In total, about two-thirds of the troops stationed in the Southern Netherlands deserted, and the morale of the remaining troops was severely damaged this together with the fact that the bulk (and often best trained part) of the Dutch military was stationed in its colonies, allowed the Belgian revolutionaries to quickly gain control over what is now Belgium.
However the leaders of the Belgian revolution had grown overconfident because of the early successes and had not taken steps in building up a military force of their own.
King William I, like many in the Northern Netherlands, viewed the failure to suppress the Belgian revolt as an enormous shame and wanted to get revenge on the rebels. When William learned that the rebels had asked Leopold of Saxe-Coburg to be their king, he invaded Belgium.
In the morning of August 2
, the Dutch crossed the "border" near Poppel
. The Belgian scouts
had noticed the troops and a number of roads were blocked by cutting the trees around them. The first fights took place around Nieuwenkerk
, the Dutch supreme commander, the Prince of Orange
, arrived in the afternoon to support his troops and, at the same time, Zondereigen
was taken by the Dutch and some 400 Belgians were repulsed. Around Ravels
, the Belgian army was rapidly driven into the surrounding forests by the Dutch and later into a swamp
. The Belgians later retreated to Turnhout
allowing the Dutch to set up camp, but the sound of Dutch artillery scared the population of Turnhout
and people started to flee towards Antwerp
en mass. The next day some 11,000 Dutch soldiers prepared themselves to take Turnhout, while another Dutch army made it seem they were heading for Antwerp (in reality they would attack Turnhout from another direction). In the following battle the Dutch smashed the Belgian forces by breaking their morale early, and after a number of events (the Belgian banner was torn apart by Dutch artillery and a soldier lost a leg to a cannonball), caused the Belgians to flee.
On 4 August Dutch troops took Antwerp, and the Brabantic flag was taken down and the Dutch flag was hoisted. The Prince of Orange however demanded that the flag be taken down again, because it would symbolise occupation rather than a restoration of the Dutch power. At the same time various Dutch armies split up and moved further into Belgium defeating numerous militias and 2 regular Belgian armies with ease. The division lead by Prince Bernhard then moved upon Geel and Diest and the Third division moved into Limburg. On August 8, the Dutch defeated the Belgian Army of the Meuse near Hasselt. On August 11, the advance guard of the Belgian Army of the Scheldt was defeated near Boutersem. The next day the Dutch army attacked and defeated the Belgians near Leuven.
For the Belgians all seemed lost; however, on August 8, the Belgians had decided to ask for French support, despite the request not being formally authorised by the government. A French army under Marshal Gérard crossed the border the very next day. The Dutch had taken a risk by invading Belgium without supporting allies (Russia wanted to assist but experienced trouble with suppressing the Polish revolution and Prussia would not risk sending troops without Russia being able to secure its western borders) and now they faced a possible war with the French (who never hid their intention of annexing Belgium from the beginning) and after an intervention by the English the Dutch halted their advance and a ceasefire was signed on August 12th. The last Dutch troops returned to the Netherlands around August 20th and Antwerp would remain occupied until 1832.
Although the Dutch population was largely satisfied with the campaign, King William was now convinced his dream of a United Netherlands was lost. However, due to the campaign, the European powers came to see how fragile Belgium was and at the final peace negotiations, this resulted in a final division which was more favourable to the Dutch.