1702-07-26 – Combat of Santa Vittoria

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1702-07-26 – Combat of Santa Vittoria

French victory

Prelude to the Battle

On 25 July 1702, during his offensive on the right bank of the Po, Vendôme advanced with his army from Colorno to Sorbolo where he was joined by King Philip V with his escort. The king then assumed nominal command of the army. His retinue arrived during the night. The same day, Prince Eugène retired Starhemberg Infantry from the banks of the Crostolo and ordered Herbeville Dragoons to make a junction with Visconti's Corps at Santa Vittoria and then to retire on Reggio. Finally, Lieutenant-Colonel Martini from Vaudemont Cuirassiers was instructed to march to Montecchio with his 230 horse.

On 26 July, Eugène invited Solari to exert the greatest vigilance and recommended to Savoyen Dragoons to narrowly guard the mouth of the Crostolo. He also instructed Major-General Marquis Visconti to remain at Santa Vittoria to support Solari.


Map of the Combat of Santa Vittoria.
Courtesy: Dinos Antoniadis
A: French troops marching parallel to the canal, to outflank the Imperialists on their right
B: French troops marching on the road keading from Regio to Guastalla to attack the Imperialists on their front and left
C: The Imperialists assembled hastily in front of their camp
D: Imperialist camp commanded by M. Visconti, where a lot of baggage was captured
E: Narrow bridges where only two abreast could run away, the rest falling in the canal which had steep and high walls. Many troopers and horses drowned.
F: The Imperialists fled in great disorder, those who escaped saved themselves in the nearby woods.

The little town of Santa Vittoria stands some 12 km to the south of Guastalla, near Castelnovo di Sotto, on the steep banks of the Crostolo Torrent. The church and the largest part of the town were located on the left bank of the torrent. The Tassone Torrent flowed into the Crostolo in Santa Vittoria.

The road from Guastalla to Borgo delle Pieve and San Giacomo Minore passed the Tassone on a stone bridge at a place named Osteria Magnan. About 200 paces to the south of this bridge, the road leading to Reggio turned west and passed the Crostolo on another bridge reaching the main part of Santa Vittoria on the left bank of the Crostolo.

There was a second bridge on the Crostolo further south in Castelnuovo di Sotto. Finally, there was also a second bridge on the Tassone to the south of the Osteria Magnan, in the direction Novellara. On the way to this place, to the east of the Bondeno Canal, there were patches of small trees and shrubs.

Overall, the area of Santa Vittoria was covered with rice fields, mulberry plantations and vineyards and offered little room for the deployment of troops.

Visconti's Imperial Corps was encamped with its right anchored on the Crostolo at Santa Vittoria. The Tassone ran behind their position. There were only two very narrow bridges on the Tassone (one at Santa Vittoria and another on their left).

Visconti had been instructed to retire behind the Tassone in case of danger. Guido Starhemberg Infantry was expected shortly to build and occupy an entrenched bridgehead at Santa Vittoria.

Description of Events

On 26 July at 8:00 a.m., Vendôme left Sorbolo at the head of 14 grenadier coys (600 men) and 16 sqns to cover the march of the main army and to make himself master of a passage on the Crostolo torrent.

At 10:00 a.m., Vendôme reached Castelnovo di Sotto where he marked the camp of the main army. There, he was informed that Imperial forces were posted behind the Crostolo. He rested his troops for two hours and informed Philip V that he was advancing close to the enemy and was waiting for orders. Philip answered him that he could march to the enemy and that he would himself march to his support with the rest of the army.

At 11:00 a.m., Philip's army marched from its camp at Sorbolo.

Upon reaching the Crostolo at a ford, 7 km upstream from Santa Vittoria, Vendôme found the torrent unguarded. His soldiers passed the very steep-sided torrent in a single file.

Vendôme then received Sully's Brigade (6 sqns) and the Carabiniers (4 sqns) as reinforcement.

A priest then informed him that 4 Imperial cavalry rgts (Commercy Cuirassiers, Darmstadt Cuirassiers, Visconti Cuirassiers, Herbeville Dragoons) under Major-General Hannibal Visconti were encamped near Santa Vittoria between the Crostolo and the Tassone.

Vendôme sent a message to King Philip V, informing him that he would soon attack the Imperialists and asking the king to march with his cavalry to support him.

Vendôme then marched in two columns:

  • the first column, under d'Albergotti and Colonel Murcey, advancing along the dyke of the Crostolo to his left
    • Carabiniers (4 sqns)
    • Dauphin Dragons (2 sqns) dismounted
    • Lautrec Dragons (3 sqns) dismounted
    • Auvergne Infanterie (2 grenadier coys)
  • the second column, under Vendôme, advancing on both sides of the main Guastalla-Reggio road
  • d'Estrades Dragons (3 sqns)
  • Colonel Général Cavalerie (3 sqns)
  • Villeroy Cavalerie (2 sqns)
  • Montpeyroux Cavalerie (2 sqns)
  • Gendarmerie de France (1 sqn) under M. de Mezières
    • Gendarmes Anglais (1 coy)
    • Chevau-légers de Bourgogne (1 coy)
  • Sully's Brigade
    • Anjou Cavalerie (2 sqns)
    • Sully Cavalerie (2 sqns)
    • Desclos Cavalerie (2 sqns)
  • unidentified grenadier units (12 coys)

Riding at the head of the second column, Vendôme was accompanied by generals Tessé, Revel, de las Torres, Créqui, Vaubecourt, Marsin, Bezons, Mongon, d'Arènes, Mauroy and Chavigny.

Vendôme advanced in this formation for 6 km. The guards of the Imperial camp (100 horse) marched against Vendôme's columns, vainly trying to delay their march while Imperial cuirassiers and dragoons saddled and mounted. Indeed, most horses were grazing along the Tassone when alarm was sounded and it took some time before they could saddled and ready for action.

When Vendôme arrived within sight of the camp of the Imperialists, he went on a meadow to his right to reconnoitre the camp. Seeing the great disorder prevailing in this camp, he ordered M. de Créqui to attack the camp by the highway while he formed 8 sqns on the meadow.

The Imperialists, posted in small houses, initially offered some resistance but Vendôme's grenadiers soon drove them out. Then the Imperialist camp was attacked from three sides.

The Imperialists offered poor resistance and tried to retire behind the Tassone, whose banks were quite steep in this area, across the two narrow bridges that they had behind their camp. These bridges were partly blocked by the baggage-wagons who had started to pass the river when alarm had been given. Panic spread and many cavalrymen fell into the river and drowned. Vendôme pursued them beyond the river up to the neighbourhood of Guastalla.

Count Auersperg in Guastalla had been soon informed of the ongoing combat at Santa Vittoria and he hurried in this direction but he fell from his horse and had to be taken back to Guastalla.

During this time, Philip V had passed the Crostolo at the head of 9 sqns but arrived too late to take part in the action.

Prince Commercy gathered what troops he could. He then rode towards Santa Vittoria at the head of Herbeville Dragoons and Savoyen Dragoons, followed by Jung-Daun Infantry and Guido Starhemberg Infantry.

Herbeville Dragoons arrived at the worst moment. The French had already passed the southern bridge to the right bank of Tassone. Major Count Jörger led 2 dismounted squadrons of the regiment against the bridge. After a fierce struggle, Jörger's dragoons managed to recapture the bridge. Jörger himself was wounded and lost a standard. The French began to give way. Vendôme launched a second attack against the bridge but Herbeville Dragoons, who had by then remounted, drove back the assault.

This latter action saved the routing cuirassiers but could not prevent the capture of their entire baggage by the French. Visconti's cuirassiers gradually rallied in the bushes near Novellara and then retired on Guastalla.

After the engagement, part of the French vanguards encamped near Santa Vittoria while the main body encamped at Castelnovo di Sotto on the left bank of the Crostolo.


In this engagement, the Imperialists lost 500 men dead or wounded; including captains Passern and Baldwin of Darmstadt Cuirassiers who were killed in action; Lieutenant-Colonel Graf Arberg, Major Samnitz of Starhemberg Infantry (who happened to be present at the camp), Captain Count Zichy, Captain Propf and Captain Pochet of Darmstadt Cuirassiers, and Captain Clett of Commercy Cuirassiers fell wounded into the hands of the French; Lieutenant-Colonel von Falkenstein of Commercy Cuirassiers, who had been badly wounded, was brought back to Guastalla by his cuirassiers; Visconti's son who had been wounded was rescued too.

Vendôme captured 300 prisoners (including Lieutenant-Colonel d'Arenberg of Darmstadt Cuirassiers and 7 captains), 1,000 horses, 3 pairs of kettle-drums and 16 standards (2 pairs of kettle-drums and 13 standards according to the Austrian War Archives) and plundered the Imperialist camp near Santa Vittoria.

The French lost 120 men dead or wounded, including about 20 officers.

Order of Battle

French Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Duc de Vendôme

Summary: 26 sqns, 14 grenadier coys

Cavalry (26 sqns)

  • initial force (16 sqns)
    • Dauphin Dragons (2 sqns)
    • Lautrec Dragons (3 sqns)
    • d'Estrades Dragons (3 sqns)
    • Colonel Général Cavalerie (3 sqns)
    • Villeroy Cavalerie (2 sqns)
    • Montpeyroux Cavalerie (2 sqns)
    • Gendarmerie de France (1 sqn) under M. de Mezières
      • Gendarmes Anglais (1 coy)
      • Chevau-légers de Bourgogne (1 coy)
  • reinforcements (10 sqns)
    • Carabiniers (4 sqns)
    • Sully's Brigade
      • Anjou Cavalerie (2 sqns)
      • Sully Cavalerie (2 sqns)
      • Desclos Cavalerie (2 sqns)

Infantry (14 coys) under Brigadier de Carcado seconded by Colonel Comte de Chamillart

Imperialist Order of Battle

Visconti's Corps

Commander-in-chief: Major-General Hannibal Visconti

Summary: 24 sqns

  • Commercy Cuirassiers (849 men in 6 sqns)
  • Darmstadt Cuirassiers (969 men in 6 sqns)
  • Visconti Cuirassiers (993 men in 6 sqns)

Commercy's reinforcements

  • Herbeville Dragoons (6 sqns)
  • Savoyen Dragoons (6 sqns)


This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 4, Vienna 1877, pp. 263-269
  • Pelet and Vault: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 2 pp. 236-241, 728-730