Based on an article by Peter Brusse in the Amsterdam "Volkskrant"; see also Clowes IV, pp 407-412.
Exactly two hundred years ago one of the bloodiest wars on Dutch
soil took place in northern North Holland (the peninsula between
the North Sea and the then Zuider Zee, now IJsselmeer). Although
80,000 soldiers took part in this campaign, involving an
Anglo-Russian invading force and Dutch-French defenders, it has
never received a prominent place in Dutch history books, perhaps
because later authorities preferred to forget that the support of
the local population for Stadhouder William V, who had fled from
the French, and his English supporters was less enthusiastic that
had initially been hoped.
The French had forbidden the puppet Dutch ("Batavian")
republic to trade with Britain, and the Dutch economy had
suffered greatly. The British thought to exploit this situation
to restore the pro-British William to the Dutch throne. On 27
August 1799 a British fleet appeared off Den Helder, and within
three hours 7,000 men were on the beach near the town; only 20
men being lost by drowning. The Batavian general Daendels was
taken by surprise and lost 1400 men and narrowly escaped with his
life when his horse was shot from under him. The Batavian
garrison of Den Helder spiked its guns and evacuated the town,
which although well protected on the seaward side, had minimal
defensive works on the landward side. The Batavian fleet, under
vice-admiral Storij, which had been in the Texel, withdrew to a
poorly defensible position in the Vlieter, a channel in the
Zuider Zee, and, also not having been effectively purged of
Orangist elements, surrendered without firing a shot.
Encouraged by events, the Stadhouders son, the later King William
I, joined the British forces to further stimulate local support.
This proved to be sadly lacking and provisioning of the troops
became difficult. On 13 September the Russian troops arrived.
Although the invading forces now stood at 35,000, the Russians
were exhausted and underfed after the long sea journey.
On 19 September the Russians took the offensive, earlier that
agreed with the British, and travelled south along the coast,
eventually reaching the town of Bergen in an exhausted state.
After plundering the place, they were unable to resist a French
counterattack and lost 1500 dead.
Two weeks later the English attacked. The French abandoned
Alkmaar and on 6 October the crown prince celebrated, somewhat
prematurely, the restoration of Orange rule in the church there.
A service of thanksgiving by the British commander, the Duke of
York, later that day was cancelled at the last moment when the
Duke had to depart for Castricum where a battle was developing.
That town passed from British-Russian to Batavian-French hands
several times until the former finally fled, losing 2536 men and
11 guns; the Batavian-French losses stood at 1382.
The battle of Castricum persuaded the Duke that his position was
untenable. After a chaotic retreat, in which two field hospitals
were "forgotten", he reached an agreement with the
French commander, Brune. The British and Russians were allowed to
withdraw, without paying reparations, and retaining captured
bounty. As thanks, Brune received a number of magnificent horses
from the Duke. By 19 November all the British and Russian troops
had been embarked and the whole unhappy episode was over.