The village has seen a battle taking place on 16th october 1793 which gave it its current name.
Indeed, it was a battle won by the French army against Austria.
The name of „battle of Wattignies” refers to figths which took place on 15th and 16th october 1793 to release the city of Maubeuge (10km in the north) from an Austrian blocus. 15th october was marked by a defeat in Dourlers by the French army while in 16th october the same army won at Wattignies.
Globaly, the battle took place along a front approximately 30km long from Monceau Saint-Waast on the West to Beaumont (currently in Belgium) on East with fights at Saint-Rémy Chaussée, Monceau Saint-Waast, Obrechies and Quiévelon. After the defeat on 15th october, Wattignies was considered as a strategic plateau close to Maubeuge. Regarding fight at Wattignies, French had been rejected on 15th October but on 16th, they managed to take the village after hard fights and push away Austrians behind the current Belgian border. This success was realized by 3 soldiers columns directed toward Wattignies from South (column Jourdan) and from East (columns Duquesnoy).
This battle was led on the French side by Lazare Carnot, member of the « Convention » (National constituent Assembly) sent by the « Comity of Public Safety » and by general Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, commandant of the «north army». They were assisted by Jourdan's subordinates, generals Florent Joseph Duquesnoy, Antoine Ballant, Pierre-Raphaël Paillot de Beauregard et Jacques Fromantin. On the Austrian side, troops were led by the Prince of Saxe-Coburg assisted by generals Clerfayt, Terzy, Haynn.
According to estimations(1), 45000 French soldiers fought against 21000 Austrians which resulted on the death of 5000 French and 2500 Austrian soldiers.
These confrontations happened during the French Revolution (year II of the first French Republic). A league of neightbor countries wanted to dismiss the young Republic. The Austrian emperor Francis II sent his troops to attack from the north of France. The current Belgium was part at that time of the Austrian Empire.
A memorial was erected in 1893 to celebrate the centenary of the battle. It is still in good place in the center of the village, close to the city hall.
A small museum explaining the battle can be visited for free by appointment to the city hall. A various selection of relics are exposed with explanations (in French until now).
If you are interested by this battle, you can find more information (in French) in
P. Palmiotti's (volonteer founder of the museum) website. Websites (in French) from the Carmagnole Association as well as the one from Avesnois museums are having pages about this small museum.
(1) According "La Campagne de 1793 à l'armée du Nord et des Ardennes"(Campaigns of the North and Ardennes army in 1793), V. Dupuis, 1909 (Gallica, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (French National Library)).