Turnhout (battle of 1597)

by Bartholomeus Willemsz Dolendo


Date of first edition:  1600/1601

Date of this map: ca. 1600/1601

Dimensions (not including margins): 31 x 22,5 cm

Dimensions (including margins): 35,4 x 27,7 cm

Condition: Very good. Wide margins.

Condition rating: A+

Verso: blank



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The battle of Turnhout, January 24, 1597. On the left the advancing army under Maurits, on the right the English horsemen under Robert Sidney and Francis Vere and Perker. Above the battle and flight Spanish battles. In the distance right corner of the van Herenthals.

Out of 4,000 Spanish soldiers and 500 horsemen nearly over 50% were casualties; 2000 were killed or wounded. In addition thirty-eight ensigns were taken and prisoners numbered around 600. Of the allied force only fifty were casualties including ten killed. The whole action was won by around 800 Dutch and English horsemen and the majority of the Dutch infantry were never brought into action. That night the victors rested in Turnhout and the next morning the castle there capitulated and the Dutch promptly burned parts of it. However, in a few days Maurice had to leave the city before the arrival of Spanish reinforcements led by the Archduke Albert who after hearing of the defeat left his winter quarters. The Spanish Tercios of Francisco Velasco and several units of cavalry, which together with the survivors of the battle advanced against him. The allied force then began their return march to Geertruidenberg. The victory at Turnhout therefore did not result in any long term strategic gain since there was no follow up.

Dolendo (1571 – 1626) was a Dutch goldsmith, engraver and drawer. This view is made after J. de Gheyn.


At the time the battle had great importance for the evolution of mounted warfare for two reasons:

  • The first impact was that Maurice’s army had demonstrated the superiority of the new type of cavalry, the cuirassiers or reiters, as used by Henry IV of France at the battle of Ivry. The cuirassiers wore half armour and a light headpiece and were armed with several pistols but also carried carbines as well as a sword. No lance was carried so instead of being arrayed in a thin line to maximize the number of lance being deployed they charged in a dense formations (eight in depth) and fired their pistols only in the moment of contact. This tactic, which had already defeated French gendarmes (lancers in full armour) at Ivry, proved to be effective as well against the lighter Spanish demi-lancer.
  • The second impact was that the Dutch and English cuirassiers, with the support of a few hundred musketeers, had destroyed a regiment of Spanish tercios without the help of their own heavy infantry. These lessons on the value of the cuirassiers were quickly learned and most European armies abandoned the employment of lancers soon after, with only the Poles retaining them within their famed husaria. The Spaniards finally drew their conclusions after the defeat at Nieuwpoort three years later.

A commemorative Dutch medallion was made after the battle in 1597 – The Battle of Turnhout and Spanish defeats, by Prince Maurice of Nassau (front), 1597, by Gerhard van Bijlaer. The troops of Prince Maurice chase after the Spanish (reverse).