1702-08-15 – Battle of Luzzara
Prelude to the Battle
The Franco-Spanish army forced Eugène to lift the blockade of Mantua, to evacuate most of his positions on the left bank of the Po and to concentrate his army on the right bank in the area of Motteggiana. The Franco-Spanish forces were large enough to operate in two separate armies on each bank of the Po.
On 15 August at 1:00 a.m., the King of Spain marched by the left in two columns from Testa to pass the Parmigiana Canal and the Tagliata, planning to encamp at Luzzara upstream from the mouth of the Crostolo. The first line formed the right column under the king's personal command and the second line, the left column under Lieutenant-General Tessé. Meanwhile, the king had ordered Vaudémont to advance on Borgoforte on the left bank of the Po. Philip's cavalry was interspersed with his infantry in his two columns. Once more, Vendôme was preceding the main body with a vanguard of grenadiers (24 coys) and dragoons (2 rgts).
The march of the Franco-Spanish army was not detected by the patrols of the Imperialists.
Vendôme planned to establish his new positions to the north of Luzzara and then to engage battle on the following day
At Guastalla the Po turn northwards almost at a right angle and keeps this direction down to the mouth of the Oglio where, near Borgoforte, it turns eastwards once more. From Borgoforte, good roads led to Luzzara by Suzzara or by Tabellano and Riva. The latter road was known as the "Strada delle Carrere" (Quarry Road). Near Tosini, these two road ran parallely in flats on each side of a moat known as the "Po morto" (Dead Po) or "Po Vecchio" (Old Po). Another possible way to reach Luzzara from Borgoforte ran along a large dyke from Tabellano. Finally another dyke ran from the Po to Riva.
Riva was a small hamlet located on the eastern slope of the main dyke. 1,000 paces north of Riva, on the same side of the dyke, there was a large farm at Guisato while, south of Riva, there were two small farmhouses at Segarba to the west of the main dyke.
Some 1,200 paces to the north-east of Luzzara, there was an Augustin Monastery with a church and an enclosing wall. Then, about 2,000 paces east of Luzzara, stood the Castle of Tomba, linked to Luzzara by a lane.
Luzzara itself was subdivided in two parts: the town and the castle which was not a massive building but rather an assembly of several buildings surrounded by a wall and a moat. A bridge linked the castle to the town located north. A few houses and farmhouses lay scattered outside the town along the road to Suzzara and to the Augustin Monastery.
The terrain between Riva and Luzzara was partially planted with mulberry trees and vines which, in addition to the many ditches and dykes made any movement very difficult.
Note: the second map illustrates the positions and entrenchments built by both armies after the battle of Luzzara. Therefore, troop deployment is not representative of the order of battle on the day of the battle (see our own orders of battle for this). However, this map neatly illustrates the terrain on which the battle took place.
Description of Events
At 8:00 a.m. on 15 August, Vendôme's vanguard arrived in front of the Castle of Luzzara which was defended by a garrison of 400 foot under Major Hüttendorf of Jung-Daun Infantry. Vendôme summoned the commander of the place who refused to surrender.
Vendôme then encircled the Castle of Luzzara with detachments and marked the camp for the main army who would encamp with its left on the Po and its right anchored on small houses. He planned to engage battle only on the following day and to encamp securely near the enemy, establishing his front facing north and north-east along the bank of a stream flowing towards Segarba and the main dyke, and from this stream in the direction of the Augustine Monastery and of Ferrari. The main dyke, located almost in the centre of the French positions, would divided them into two wings. A secondary dyke linked the main dyke to the Po, forming a hook on the left flank of the planned French positions.
The first shots fired by the garrison of Luzzara finally attracted the attention of some of Eugène's cavalry patrols. However, they were unsure if they were facing only a few detachments advancing on Luzzara or the vanguard of the Franco-Spanish army.
Around 9:00 a.m., some dragoons troops arrived to reinforce Vendôme's advanced guards.
Around 10:00 a.m., Eugène, still waiting at Sailetto, was finally informed that enemy was on the march. He decided to attack Vendôme before his entire army could deploy. General Vaubonne immediately rushed towards Suzzara at the head of 500 horse to reconnoitre the area. During this time, Eugène set off from Sailetto with his army, marching in two columns by the right. The first line forming the left column, advancing on Luzzara by Tabellano to the east of the main dyke; the second line forming the right column, advancing along the Po to the west of the main dyke. Eugène and his staff rode at the head of the left column.
Shortly after 10:00 a.m., Vaubonne's detachment bumped into the advanced posts of the Franco-Spanish.
Vendôme was informed that 500 Imperial horse had attacked one of his outposts and forced it to retire and that the grenadiers of Albemarle Infanterie along with Senneterre Dragons and Estrades Dragons were trying to drive the Imperialists back.
Vendôme went to reconnoitre the situation in the area of this outpost. On his return, he learned that Imperial troops were appearing near the Po. He soon realized that these troops were the head of the columns of the Imperial army.
Eugène sent General-Adjutant Charrée forward with 20 horse to reconnoitre the French positions at Luzzara. His left column marched first. The right column, led by the Prince of Commercy, was delayed on the way and arrived near Luzzara 30 minutes after the left column.
It was noon, progress of the Imperial columns was slow under the warm sun, when Eugène received a first message from Charrée, specifying that part of the Franco-Spanish army was in the plain of Luzzara, halfway between Riva and Luzzara, preparing for the battle.
Vendôme had already given order to deploy in order of battle, anchoring his left wing to the Po River, while the Imperialists were also deploying. Both armies suffered much delays while deploying, due to the nature of the terrain cut by several ditches and dykes and covered with vegetation.
As the head of the Franco-Spanish columns arrived, Vendôme directed them to their assigned positions. Piémont Infanterie was deployed en potence, facing north-east, behind the dyke. Its left flank was covered by Senneterre Dragons (3 sqns) and 1 sqn of Spanish cavalry. La Marine Infanterie soon took position to the left of Piémont Infanterie. M. de Langallerie commanded in these quarters.
At this moment, the head of Eugène's left column appeared on the heights near Luzzara. Vendôme immediately sent Duguast's Brigade (2 bns of Lyonnais Infanterie, 1 bn of Isle de France Infanterie and 1 bn of Dillon Infanterie) across the dyke against this column. Duguast's Brigade first linked with Piémont Infanterie. Grancey's Brigade (1 bn of Grancey, 1 bn of Flandre, 1 bn of Ponthieu) then deployed to the right of Duguast's Brigade, soon followed by Montandre's Brigade (3 bns of Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie) who deployed to the right of Grancey's Brigade, to the east of the dyke. Duguast's Brigade stood at the angle of the potence.
Lieutenant-General Albergotti assumed command of the French infantry deployed between the dyke and the Po. Before noon, with the troops available, he could form only a single infantry line.
Behind Albergotti's infantry on the left wing, stood M. de Bezons at the head of a cavalry corps (Colonel-Général, Montpeyroux, Uzès, Du Bordage, Bourbon, Anjou, Piemonte Reale Cavalleria and Savoia Cavalleria, later joined by other cavalry units.
To the east of the dyke, Lieutenant-General Créqui supervised the deployment of the Franco-Spanish troops. The Gendarmerie and the Carabiniers were posted on the right wing. The centre was formed by Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie (as previously mentioned), by Dauphin Dragons, Estrades Dragons, Lautrec Dragons and Languedoc Dragons, and by La Reine Cavalerie and Broglie Cavalerie. Anjou Infanterie later reinforced the centre.
In the area of the dyke, Vendôme and Philip V worked tirelessly to establish a battery to cover the approaches of the dyke. Instead of sending the new brigades arriving at Luzzara to form a second line, Vendôme preferred to assemble them in two reserve corps behind Luzzara: one behind the right wing, the other behind the left.
Prince Eugène ordered Starhemberg's column to halt about 30 minutes to the north of Suzzara to allow Commercy's column to catch up. Meanwhile, Eugène advanced to reconnoitre Vendôme's positions.
It was now almost 3:00 p.m. and Commercy's column was still lagging behind.
Finally, around 4:30 p.m., the head of Commercy's column aligned with the head of Starhemberg's column. However, Eugène had now lost the opportunity to attack the Franco-Spanish army while it was deploying.
Both armies were now so closed that Eugène could not consider any flank march. In these conditions, Eugène decided to used the troops of Starhemberg's column to form the left wing to the east of the dyke; and those of Commercy's column for the right wing to the west of the dyke. Vendôme's advanced left wing immediately draw Eugène's attention. Indeed this wing could easily threaten Eugène's line of communication with Sailetto. Nevertheless, Eugène wanted to gain initiative. He thus decided to attack with his right wing (Commercy's column). However, to allow Commercy to fulfil his task, Eugène transferred 1 bn of Nigrelli Infantry, 3 bns of Herberstein Infantry, 2 bns of Guttenstein Infantry, 3 Danish bns, 6 sqns of Taaffe Cuirassiers and 2 sqns of Corbelli Cuirassiers from the left to the right wing.
Eugène posted a grenadier detachment at Riva near the dyke. The terrain between the main dyke and the Po was especially difficult, covered as it was with bushes and numerous smaller dams. Such a terrain made cavalry actions almost impossible. Therefore, Eugène's cavalry was kept in a second line behind both wings. Savoyen Dragoons formed the extremity of the left wing while Prince of Vaudémont stood behind this left wing with his cavalry (Pfalz-Neuburg Cuirassiers and Vaudémont Cuirassiers).
Commercy conducted a reconnaissance but failed to notice the potence extending behind a secondary dyke on the enemy left wing. Nor did he see the Irish of Duguast's Brigade on the enemy extreme left wing. Commercy was then instructed to wait for Eugène's signal to launch his attack.
At 5:00 p.m., Eugène gave the signal to attack by firing two cannon shots. The Imperialist artillery immediately opened against the French lines and Vendôme's battery answered. This artillery duel lasted for an hour.
Combat to the west of the main dyke
At 6:00 p.m., the Imperialists attacked by their right were they had concentrated most of their forces, hoping to cut the French from the Po and to relieve the Castle of Luzzara which had been invested. The Franco-Spanish troops had not yet all reached their assigned positions and only part of the army could sustain the attack of the Imperialists.
The first Imperial bns advanced fiercely supported by a few sqns. Suddenly, they were the target of flanking fire coming from before, when she suddenly flanking fire from Montandre's Brigade (Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie) and Piémont Infanterie posted behind a small dyke. Losses in the Imperial bns increased rapidly and they began to waver. Simultaneously, Prince Commercy fell from his horse, mortally wounded by several musket balls.
Senneterre Dragons then launched a brilliant attack against the right flank of the Imperial infantry. The 4 Imperial bns posted at the extremity of the the right wing, as well as the sqns covering then fell into disorder and routed. French sources mention that the French captured two guns during this attack. The routing Imperial units quickly rallied.
Already, Bagni Infantry and Herberstein Infantry supported by 2 sqns of Serényi Dragoons replaced the retiring units and renewed the assault, advancing against the Irish infantry posted at the apex of the potence. However, as the bns of the former wave, they fell under the crossfire of Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie and Piémont Infanterie. Macdonnel, Captains de Changin, Lange and Baron Fomentin of Bagni Infantry were killed while Lieutenant-Colonel Count Waldstein and Count Kuefstein were severely wounded.
Prince Eugène was on the left wing when he was informed of the death of the Prince of Commercy, a close friend of him. He immediately rode to take command of the right wing. Cheers of his soldiers welcome him.
Troops of Eugène's right wing, who had started to give way, rallied. Eugène ordered to launch a new attack. Guttenstein Infantry along with the Danish advanced supported by Serényi Dragoons. A terrible combat ensued. Once more, the Irish held their ground and once more the assault was driven back. However, Guttenstein Infantry immediately renewed the attack and managed to break into the French positions and to capture two colours. Other imperial regiments followed and the Irish finally gave way. Perche Infanterie was broken and Sault Infanterie, attacked in front and flank, was forced to abandon its positions.
Despite courageous attempts of French officers to stop them, the Imperialists broke through the left wing. Piémont Infanterie, Lyonnais Infanterie, Isle de France Infanterie, Royal Vaisseaux Infanterie were separated from the rest of Vendôme's army in isolated positions along the Po. Grancey Infanterie, posted near the main dyke, also gave way. Lieutenant-General Bezons rushed to the spot with Colonel-Général, Ourches Cavalerie, Montpeyroux Cavalerie and Bourbon Cavalerie. He managed to contain the advance of the Imperial infantry.
It was 9:00 p.m. and the Imperial infantry of the right wing had successfully driven the Irish, Perche Infanterie and Sault Infanterie out of their posts and advanced 1,000 paces into the French positions.
Combat in the centre
Prince of Liechtenstein at the head of the grenadiers and 2 bns of Nigrelli Infantry advanced along the main dyke and against Luzzara. He was opposed by La Marine Infanterie, Anjou Infanterie and Miromesnil Infanterie, supported by a few cavalry regiments.
During the combat, FML Prince Liechtenstein and Count Trautmannsdorf were wounded; the staff officers of Nigrelli Infantry and half of the officers were wounded. Nigrelli Infantry captured a colour but was repulsed.
Estrades Dragons, Dauphin Dragons and Lautrec Dragons all dismounted to fight.
Lieutenant-General at the head of Miromesnil Infanterie led a counter-attack and managed to recapture two French guns on the dyke.
Here too combats lasted till the middle of the night.
Combat to the east of the main dyke
On Eugène's left wing, FZM Count Starhemberg advanced at the head of the 2 remaining bns of Nigrelli Infantry, the grenadiers of the first line, 3 bns of Guido Starhemberg Infantry and 2 bns Liechtenstein Infantry. Meanwhile, the Prince of Vaudémont formed a flank to his left with 2 sqns of Vaudémont Cuirassiers, 3 sqns of Alt-Hessen-Darmstadt Cuirassiers, 6 sqns of Herbeville Dragoons and 6 sqns of Savoyen Dragoons. Finally, a reserve was kept behind the infantry, it consisted of 4 sqns of Vaudémont Cuirassiers and 4 sqns of Corbelli Cuirassiers.
Starhemberg's advance met a very strong opposition. The French infantry posted in trenches and behind hedges fired salvo after salvo on the advancing troops. To the extreme right of the French positions, 3 sqns of Royal-Carabiniers dismounted and poured a devastating fire in the Imperial cavalry trying to turn their flanks.
However, the old and brave FZM Börner, everywhere ahead with his gunners, maintained a devastating grapeshot fire on the Franco-Spanish positions. Nevertheless, French, Irish, Spanish and Savoyard troops held their ground unflinchingly.
Around 9:00 p.m., the Royal-Carabiniers were having more and more difficulties to contain the flanking movement of the Imperial cavalry when Lieutenant-General de Pracontal appeared at the head of Albemarle Infanterie.
Pracontal advanced against the left flank of the Imperialists while the Gendarmerie charged them frontally.
Starhemberg's infantry was driven back and broke. The Prince de Vaudémont was forced to come to their rescue with his 25 sqns. Savoyen Dragoons engaged against the Royal-Carabiniers, who had by then remounted, and Albemarle Infanterie. The Savoyen Dragoons managed to capture two colours belonging to Albemarle Infanterie.
The intervention of Vaudémont's cavalry, allowed Starhemberg to rally his infantry. Starhemberg then launched a second attack against the enemy positions and drove them out of their trenches and covers. The French cavalry recoiled against the Augustine Monastery.
By midnight, the Imperialists had managed to conquer some terrain.
End of the battle
Throughout the battle, the Franco-Spanish units arrived piecemeal on the battlefield and were deployed in a single line of battle with a reserve kept behind at Luzzara.
Even though the Imperialists had managed to conquer some French positions. The results of the battle were inconclusive and both armies remained face to face for several weeks.
The Franco-Spanish force lost 400 men dead, 1,800 wounded. It also lost 6 colours. Furthermore, Lieutenant-General de Créqui, Colonel-Brigadier de Vaudeuil, Colonel de Bragelogne, Colonel de Montandre and Colonel Comte de Revel were killed; and Comte de Sezanne, Duc de Lesdiguieres, Comte de Tessé, Marquis Grancey, Mongon, Monpeyroux and Lignerac were wounded. Dauphin Dragons had suffered so heavy losses that it was barely fit for duty.
The Imperialists lost 59 officers dead, 4 missing and 101 wounded; 732 soldiers dead and 1,804 wounded, a few guns and a colour. The Prince of Commercy, Lieutenant-Colonel Reinhart and Danish Major Weitzmann were killed in action and the Count Trautmannsdorf, Prince Liechtensten, Lieutenant-Colonel Horn, Major von Elsen and Lieutenant-Colonel Kuefstein were wounded.
Both armies worked feverishly through the night to entrench their positions, expecting a new battle on the following day.
The King of Spain despatched a courier to the Prince de Vaudémont to order him to immediately send a reinforcement of 10 bns.
Order of Battle
Franco-Spanish Order of Battle
Summary: 49 bns (only 35 identified yet) and 103 sqns with 30 guns
For the moment, we do not have the precise order of battle of the Franco-Spanish army. However, we found an order of march which, combined with the order of battle of Vendôme's Army in mid-July, allows to reconstitute the probable order of battle.
The army marched in two columns, the right column would form the first line and the left column, the second line. Both columns marched by their left. Based on this we arrive at the following order of battle (units listed from right to left).
M. de Pracontal mentions that. from the infantry, only 25 bns were directly involved in this battle.
|First Line||Second Line|
|Wartigny's Dragoon Brigade (6 sqns)
Unidentified Spanish infantry units' (3 rgts for a total of 3 bns)
Brabant Cavalry (probably 4 sqns)
Normandie Infanterie (3 bns)
Beaujeu's Brigade (8 sqns)
De Chavigny's Infantry Brigade (3 bns)
Rennepont's Cavalry Brigade (6 sqns)
Laroque's Savoyard Infantry Brigade (3 bns)
Royal-Carabiniers (4 sqns)
Galmoy's Infantry Brigade (4 bns)
D'Ourches's Cavalry Brigade (8 sqns)
Montandre's Brigade (3 bns)
Luxembourg's Infantry Brigade (4 bns)
Montpeyroux's Cavalry Brigade (7 sqns)
Artillery (2 brigades)
Converged grenadiers (from all infantry rgts of the second line, probably 21 coys)
Languedoc Dragons (3 sqns)
Estrades Dragons (3 sqns)
|Spanish Senneterre Dragons (3 sqns)
Spanish Monroy Dragoons (2 sqns)
Flandre-Catalan Cavalry (4 sqns)
D'Orgemont's Infantry Brigade (3 bns)
Sully's Cavalry Brigade (6 sqns)
De Guerchy Infantry Brigade (2 bns)
De Choiseul's Cavalry Brigade (8 sqns)
Broglie's Cavalry Brigade
Palavicini's Savoyard Infantry Brigade (3 bns)
Du Bordage's Cavalry Brigade (8 sqns)
Grancey's Infantry Brigade (3 bns)
Vaudeuil's Cavalry Brigade (5 sqns)
Lignerac's Brigade (3 bns)
Duguast's Infantry Brigade (3 bns)
Savoyard Dragoni di Genevois (3 sqns)
Savoyard Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale (3 sqns)
Reserve (4 bns, 8 sqns)
De Ruffey's Cavalry Brigade (8 sqns)
- Dauphin (3 sqns)
- Ruffey (2 sqns)
- Héron Dragons (3 sqns)
De Dreux's Infantry Brigade (4 bns)
Rearguard protecting the train
Missing infantry units
Among the infantry units listed in Vendôme's order of battle of mid-July some do not appear in the order of march for the battle of Luzzara. We list them here as potential candidates for the missing units in the order of march.
De Sexande's Brigade (3 bns)
- Bretagne (1 bn)
- Bourke (1 bn)
- Albemarle (1 bn) it is certain that this regiment was present, since it is specifically mentioned that it supported the Carabiniers
D'Imecourt Brigade (2 bns)
Imperialist Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Prince Eugène de Savoie assisted by Visconti and Bagni
The first line was placed under the command of FZM Count Starhemberg, G.d.C. Count Trautmannsdorf and Prince Vaudémont
The second line was placed under the command of the Prince de Commercy assisted by the Prince von Liechtenstein and Haxthausen
Summary: 32 bns and 76 sqns with 56 guns (mostly regimental pieces) but disease and desertions had reduced the total strength to some 10,955 foot and 8,688 horse for a grand total of 19,643 men.
|Nigrelli Infantry (1 grenadier coy)
Herberstein Infantry (1 grenadier coy)
|Bagni Infantry (1 grenadier coy)|
|Nigrelli Infantry (1 bn and 2 guns)
Herberstein Infantry (3 bns and 6 guns)
|Bagni Infantry (1 bn)|
Kriechbaum Infantry (3 bns and 3 guns)
|Guido Starhemberg Infantry (2 bns and 4 guns)
Herbeville Dragoons (6 sqns)
|Jung-Daun Infantry (2 bns and 2 guns)|
Trautmannsdorf Dragoons (6 sqns)
(*) The exact deployement of the 6 Danish bns is not known. These 6 bns were:
- Prins Georg (1 bn) under K. Gyldenlove
- Dronningens Livregiment (1 bn) under K. Brockdorff
- Prins Christian (1 bn) under L. de Boiset
- Prins Carl (1 bn) under J. Haxthausen
- Sjællandske (1 bn) under J Mohrstein
- Jyske (1 bn) under H. Boyneburg
- Marine Regiment (1 bn) under D. Plessen unknown if present at the battle, it may also have been used to complement the 6 other bns as some sources suggest
The following troops were left behind at Sailetto to guard the camp and the baggage
N.B.: The ranks of all Imperial regiments had been seriously depleted by illness:
- each infantry battalion counted 300 men on average, more precisely each infantry regiment had the following strength:
- Nigrelli: 916 men
- Herberstein: 1078 men
- Rheingraf: 857 men
- Danish infantry: 1,713 men (Vaupell mentions 5,200 men, specifying that the units suffered heavy losses (approx. 50%) in this battle and that the depleted battalions were reorganised in four regiments the following winter)
- Guttenstein: 1,026 men
- Liechtenstein: 615 men
- Guido Starhemberg: 1,190 men
- Bagni: 1,009 men
- Kriechbaum: 800 men
- Gehlen: 933 men
- Jung-Daun: 818 men
- each squadron counted 100 men on average, more precisely each mounted regiment had the following strength:
- Savoyen Dragoons: 687 men
- Herbeville Dragoons: 849 men
- Serényi Dragoons: 732 men
- Vaubonne Dragoons: 634 men
- Trautmannsdorf Dragoons: 7l7 men
- Danish Converged Dragoons: 221 men (Vaupell mentions 1,200 men, specifying that the units suffered heavy losses (approx. 50%) in this battle)
- Taaffe Cuirassiers: 541 men
- Pfalz-Neuburg Cuirassiers: 608 men
- Vaudémont Cuirassiers: 716 men
- Corbelli Cuirassiers: 741 men
- Commercy Cuirassiers: 561 men
- Alt-Hessen-Darmstadt Cuirassiers: 375 men
- Pálffy Cuirassiers: 680 men
- Lothringen Cuirassiers: 626 men
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Pelet and François Eugène de Vault: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 2 pp. 248-249, 731-740
- Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 4, Vienna 1877, pp. 293-310
Schlachtordnung der Kaiserlichen gegen die Franzosen in Italien zwischen Bogoforte und Luzzara am 15. August 1702, in Digital Archiv Marburg
Vaupell, Otto Frederick: Den Danske Haers Historie, Copenhagen 1876, pp. 314ff
Jörg Meier for the precise breakdown of the Danish units