Battle of Hoogstraten AD 1814
De Slag van Hoogstraten
Next edition dates to be announced (the event was last held in 2014 on the occasion of the 200th anniversary)
Hoogstraten (Antwerp province)
The geographical, cultural and historical context
Hoogstraten is a town located in the Belgian province of Antwerp, in Flanders region at the northern border of Belgium, about 35km from Antwerp, 90km from Bruxelles and 25 km from the Dutch city of Breda. The town is named after the “hoge straat” or “high road”, a military highway that linked the old towns of Antwerp and 's-Hertogenbosch (in the Netherlands). The town’s existence is measured from 1210, when it was granted the title of "free town" and a charter with certain privileges, such as exemption from some taxes or from ecclesiastical territorial sovereignty. Under the rule of Count Antoon de Lalaing (1480–1540) and his wife, Countess Elisabeth van Culemborg (1475–1555), the “Land van Hoogstraten” became a county, a title bestowed by Archduchess Margaret of Austria (1480-1530, Princess of Asturias and Duchess of Savoy and Governor of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1507 to 1515 and again from 1519 to 1530). The St. Catherine’s Church formed the center of the town. Behind the church on a slight hill stood the castle of the Count who owned all the land for miles around. Hoogstraten remained in the hands of the Lalaing-Culemborg family until 1709, after which the town was transferred to the Salm-Salm family. In 1740 Hoogstraten was elevated to a Duchy by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740), but barely half a century later, during French rule, it lost its titles of “town” and “duchy”.
On January 11, 1814, during a very freezing winter, in the territory of Hoogstraten a heavy battle was fought by the troops of the French Emperor Napoleon I, and an allied Prussian, Russian, English and Dutch army, which sought to capture the harbour and city of Antwerp and later to invade the Belgian region. Napoleon realized soon that loosing the port would open the door for the English fleet, so he sent immediately the “Jeune Garde Française”, his elite force commanded by general François Roguet, at the Dutch-Belgian border to diverge the attack.
The battle line stretched from Kalmthout to Turnhout, and the battle itself consisted in a series of heavy fighting and skirmishes which took place from January 11th till January 14th 1814 in the town of Hoogstraten and the surrounding villages Wuustwezel, Loenhout, Meer, Minderhout, Wortel, Rijkevorsel, Brecht, Westmalle and Oostmalle. Since the main focus was on the French positions in and around the town of Hoogstraten and its parishes, and Hoogstraten itself was the only place of some importance in that time, the series of skirmishes have been simly named “The Battle of Hoogstraten”. Napoleon’s “Jeune Garde” managed to retreat in good order to Antwerp and although fighting an overwhelming allied force, prevented the harbour of Antwerp to fall in the hands of the enemy. Both sides suffered casualties, on the Prussian-Russian side were killed on that one day more than 500 men, while on the French side there were almost 900 casualties. The city of Antwerp only surrendered one month after the Emperor of France abdicated and was exiled to the Isle of Elba.
Hoogstraten commemorates the events of 1814 with a wide range of activities and events scheduled all year round, including the presentation of a book, a themed exhibition "The forgotten battle - Hoogstraten January 11, 1814" on display from August 2 to December 21 at the Stedelijk Museum (Begijnhof, Hoogstraten), a Living History weekend in May featuring a huge bivouac and the greatest battle ever reenacted in Flanders fields with over 800 re-enactors coming from all over Europe, the unveiling of a monument on November 11, and finally at the end of November "1814, the Forgotten Battle", a new family musical with 350 singers, musicians, dancers, actors and extras. The special 200th anniversary celebrations include many more interesting activities for young and adult people.
The great historical event will take place in the first weekend of May. The French and Allied bivouacs and the battlefield are situated right next each other in order not to have to move heavy equipment too far, and also to enhance the social contact between both parties en contribute to a familiar atmosphere between all re-enactors. On arrival the visitors will enjoy a real timetravel back in history, by meeting an enormous bivouac like in 1814 this would be the case and full of life: soldiers cleaning their muskets, cooking soup on a wood fire, sleeping on straw, while other troops are marching. There will be as well an authentic historical market with many sutlers and traders from all over Europe, historical shelters for many fresh products, the “academie d'amour” (women of pleasure), a fortune teller and other quacks, and of course a plenty of camp followers like it happened with the Napoleonic Age armies.
The rich programme includes a torchlight parade through the downtown accompanied by drummers, pipers, a official remembrance (commémoration officielle) of the battle of Hoogstraten, military manoeuvres and drills, demonstrations of infantry, artillery and cavalry in early afternoon, guided tours at the historical bivouacs and many other educational activities and workshops, cuisine of the period at the historical taverns, and of course battle re-enactments on Saturday and Sunday. The reconstruction of the battle of Hoogstraten will be the greatest reconstruction ever made in Flanders with pyro-technics, an artillery bombardment, field hospital, cavalry charges, infantry attacks involving more than 800 reenactors, 40 horses and 16 cannons.
Please contact the Organizers for confirmation and further details.
Info & Contact
Event official organization
Hoogstraten Heritage Association
Hoogstraten City Council
Address: Vrijheid 149, 2320 Hoogstraten
Tel.: +32 033401911
Fax: +32 033401966
Tourism office/Dienst voor toerisme
Address: Vrijheid 149 - 2320 Hoogstraten
Tel.: +32 033401955
Stedelijk Museum Hoogstraten
To get to know more about Hoogstraten and the 1814 Napoleonic Wars:
pictures on this page © www.slagvanhoogstraten.be
Hoogstraten on Google Maps:
Video reportages and trailers of the event: