1703 – Campaign in Northern Italy
The campaign lasted from March 1703 to January 1704
For the campaign of 1703, Bavaria was the centre of gravity of the French operations, and only campaigns of the methodical and non-committal kind were planned for Italy and the Low Countries. Villeroy and Boufflers commanded the French in the Low Countries, Tallard on the Moselle to hold Margrave Louis of Baden in check at Stollhofen on the Upper Rhine, Villars in Alsace to push through the Black Forest and join hands with the Elector of Bavaria, and Vendôme in Italy.
At the beginning of the year, the Franco-Spanish forces in Italy were in a very good situation. The Imperial army had abandoned the Seraglio, leaving on the left bank of the Po the entire course of the Mincio to Vendôme's Army. On the right bank of the Po, Vendôme was also master of the country of Guastalla and Modena. Even though Brescello was still in the hands of the Imperialists and garrisoned by 600 men, the place was blockaded by 7 bns under the Marquis de Sennectère. A bridge at Guastalla and another at Cremona assured communications between the various parts of the Franco-Spanish forces.
Together with the Prince de Vaudémont, Vendôme commanded a French army of 87 bns and 104 sqns, excluding the Spanish and Savoyard units who had taken their winter-quarters in the Duchy of Milan and in the estates of Victor Amadeus of Savoy. Vendôme's headquarters were at Guastalla and Vaudémont's in Milan.
The Imperial army had a nominal strength of 40,000 men but could field only 25,000 men. It had retired to the right bank of the Po in the marshy country of Mirandola behind the Secchia (a dyke on this river had broken in December), keeping three posts on the left bank in the Duchy of Mantua at Serravalle, Ostiglia and Ponte Molino (unidentified location).
Prince Eugène de Savoie, who commanded the Imperial army in Italy, confided command to FZM Guido Starhemberg and went to Venice to try to persuade the republic to side with the Holy Roman Empire. He then continued his journey to Vienna to try to obtain reinforcements.
For a second year, the Hungarian insurrection compelled Vienna to keep back the reinforcements of which Prince Eugène stood in need.
Situation at the beginning of the year
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of the Imperialist Army of Lombardy in January 1703|
On 1 January
- The corps which had besieged Governolo marched to its winter-quarters, leaving only 4 bns to garrison Governolo while 2 other bns were sent to to Borgoforte.
- Troops (8 bns) recalled by Maréchal Vendôme from their winter-quarters on the Adda and in the area of Soncino arrived at Mantua. Meanwhile, Vendôme personally went from Mantua to Guastalla.
On 3 January
- A force (1,000 men) under M. de Médavi embarked aboard 10 large boats on the Lake Garda. Médavi sailed up to Torbole, planning to put the country to contribution. However, he found the local militia and the peasants in arms and ready to contest his advance in the mountains after his landing. Médavi abandoned his design.
- Starhemberg gave orders to build a bridge over the Lower-Secchia at Quistello. He also erected entrenchments in front of Bondanello and transferred 2 infantry rgts from Revere to these new entrenchments.
On 7 January, Vendôme arrived at his headquarters in Guastalla after inspecting the places of Goito, Castiglione and Castel Goffredo on his way.
On 12 January, Vendôme was informed that the Imperialists had thrown a bridge on the Secchia at Quistello, passed the river and were entrenching at Bondanello. Vendôme detached M. de Vaubecourt with 2 guns, 2,500 foot 500 horse taken from the garrison of Carpi, Modena and Reggio; to attack Bondanello, assisted by another detachment (200 men and 50 horse) arriving from the garrison of Reggiolo.
On 13 January, the two French detachments arrived in front of Bondanello, defended by 250 men supported by a large corps deployed along the right bank of the Secchia. At 4:00 p.m., Vaubecourt launched an attack on Bondanello and made himself master of the entrenchments in 30 minutes, taking 3 officers and 55 men prisoners. The rest of the defenders were killed or drowned. In this action, Vaubecourt lost 7 officers wounded and 60 soldiers killed or wounded. Vendôme decided to occupy this post and instructed Vaubecourt to fortify his positions. Vendôme also sent 2 bns to the Castle of Rolo, 2 bns at Novi and 6 grenadier coys to Reggiolo to support Vaubecourt.
When the fortifications of Bondanello were completed, Vendôme sent Colonel de Barnowal at the head of 4,000 men with 4 artillery pieces to garrison this strong position. Vaubecourt's troops then returned to their winter-quarters. The Imperialists erected entrenchments facing Bondanello on the right bank of the Secchia.
In mid-January, a Imperialist convoy passed the Secchia near Quistello to bring provisions to the garrison of Brescello. It escaped the pursuing French detachments and managed to reach Brescello after an engagement just in front of the fortress where the garrison came to its support.
At the end of January, on the king's request, Vendôme sent back the Gendarmerie (8 sqns) and Fimarcon Dragons (3 sqns) to France where they were destined to the Army of the Rhine. He also sent M. de Barbesières to reconnoitre the passages which could allow to send troops from Northern Italy to Bavaria.
On 1 February, Vendôme received a letter from Versailles asking him to send 2 of his bns back to France where the Maréchal de Montrevel was assembling a force in Languedoc to quench the Camisard insurrection in the Cévennes which was intensifying. Vendôme immediately sent the battalions II./Blésois and II./Dauphiné who were the closest to the frontier. He also informed Versailles that he could not send more troops back to France without compromising his planned offensive, specifying that he could not count on the Spanish forces who were in very bad condition and had not receive the necessary supplies to be ready for a campaign.
On 15 February, Louis XIV asked Vendôme to send 3 additional bns (2 bns of Royal Comtois Infanterie|Royal-Comtois]] and 1 bn of Rouergue) to reinforce Montrevel in the Cévennes.
On 3 March, a French battery of mortars opened against Brescello.
On 9 March, according to Vendôme's instructions, a force (5,000 foot, 1,500 horse) assembled at Suzzara on the right bank of the Po for the planned advance on San Benedetto.
In the night of 9 to 10 March, Vendôme detached M. de Carcado with 12 grenadier coys and 400 horse to support the detachment who would march from Bondanello.
On 10 March in the morning
- Vendôme marched from Suzzara with the rest of his force and encamped at San Benedetto where work on entrenchments immediately started.
- The detachment (3 bns) marching from Bondanello entrenched itself at Bugno Martino to prevent the Imperialists from crossing the Secchia at Quistello.
In the night of 10 to 11 March, M. d'Albergotti marched from Modena with 1,600 foot and 600 horse and advanced towards Rivara, planning to surprise an Imperial dragoon regiment quartered there. However, roads were in so bad condition that Albergotti could nor reach his destination before daybreak. The Imperial dragoons had enough time to retire and 40 men were taken prisoners during the pursuit.
On 11 March
- Vendôme's troops occupied the farmhouses between San Benedetto and Bugno Martino.
- Albergotti reconnoitred the defences of San-Felice sul Panaro and then returned to Modena.
Even though Vendôme planned his initial offensive on the left bank of the Po against Ostiglia, he made such preparations on the right bank so as to convince the Imperialists that his main objective would be the Secchia. His scheme succeeded as the Imperialists worked at their entrenchments along this river, recalling most of their troops from Mirandola and Concordia and replacing them by 3,000 men from Tyrol. They also abandoned San Felice after destroying the entrenchment they had erected there, and started to evacuate Finale leaving only 300 men to defend it.
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of the Imperialist Army of Lombardy in the spring of 1703|
On 24 March, Vendôme moved his bridge of Borgoforte downstream to San Benedetto.
At about this time, recruits coming from France started to arrive at Pavia after disembarking in the Republic of Genoa. For his part, the Prince of Vaudémont estimated that he would not be able to contribute more than 18 Spanish sqns and 7 Spanish bns (5 of approx. 600 men and 2 of 450 men).
On 30 March, the French made an unsuccessful attempt against the Fortress of Brescello. Their mortars, located on an island of the Po first bombarded the place and then the infantry launched an assault which was repulsed by the garrison. In this affair, the French lost some 3,000 men and the Imperialists about 100 men.
On 2 April, Vendôme had a conference with the Prince de Vaudémont at Casalmaggiore to prepare the coming campaign. It was resolved that, excluding the troops garrisoning various places and the corps (4 bns, 5 sqns) blockading Brescello, the field army would consist of French, Spanish and Savoyard units totalling 68 bns and 120 sqns.
Vendôme then reinforced his line of defence along the Secchia so that he could move to the left bank of the Po with the main body of the field army (38 bns, 80 sqns) while leaving only 30 bns and 40 sqns to defend his positions on the right bank. For the same reason, he erected entrenchments at Bastiglia and Bomporto near Modena.
In mid-April, Louis XIV informed Vendôme that he would prefer an offensive on the right bank of the Po from Bastiglia and Bomporto to turn the positions of the Imperialists.
The Duke of Savoy postponed the departure of his troops who were supposed to join Vendôme's Army. They were initially expected on 1 May but would not be available before 25 May.
At the beginning of May, the French troops started to assemble at San Benedetto where an artillery park of 32 French guns and 42 Spanish pieces was constituted.
French offensive on the left bank of the Po
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of the Franco-Spanish armies operating in Northern Italy at the beginning of May 1703|
Vendôme had finally managed to convince the king that an offensive on the left bank of the Po would be the best choice. His main body would comprise 38 bns and 79 sqns. Albergotti received command of the corps (28 bns, 30 sqns) left on the right bank. Furthermore, 21 bns garrisoned various places in the regions of Mantua, Cremona, Modena and Guastalla. Albergotti's Corps was deployed as follows:
- in the area of Bastiglia and Bomporto: 6 bns, 6 sqns
- between Carpi and Bondanello: 3 bns, 7 sqns
- from the mouth of the Secchia to Bondanello: 13 bns, 16 sqns
- in San Benedetto: 6 bns
On 11 May, heavy rain forced Vendôme to postpone his offensive even though his troops had already reached Cesole, Campitello, Castellucchio and San Giacomo on the right bank of the Po.
Heavy rains continued until 17 May, compromising Vendôme's plans and forcing him to consider another alternative. He finally resolved to launch an offensive against Legnano and Carpi on the Adige and then to advance towards Melara on the Po to deprive the Imperialists of all possibility of navigation on this river.
On 19 May, Vendôme's main body passed the Mincio on four bridges of boats near Governolo and encamped at Castel D'Ario. The same day, the Prince de Vaudémont arrived at San Benedetto to take command of the corps left on the right bank, thus replacing Albergotti. Vendôme and Vaudémont redeployed Albergotti's Corps as follows:
- near San Benedetto: 21 bns
- at Fossoli near San Martino: 3 bns and 7 sqns under M. de Goesbriant
- between Bastiglia and Bomporto: 6 bns and 6 sqns under M. d'Albergotti
On 20 May, Vendôme rejoined his main body at Castel D'Ario, passed the Tione and Tartaro and encamped near Nogara in the Republic of Venice.
On 22 May, Vendôme passed the Trionon and encamped at Sanguinetto in front of Ponte Molino. The Venetians opened the gates of Castel D'Ario to the French and Vendôme decided to establish a magazine there. He first secured communications with Mantua, leaving 6 bns and 3 horse coys in Mantua; 2 bns in Goito and 2 bns in Governolo. He also posted 7 sqns at Castel d'Ario under M. d'Estrades, instructing him to establish redoubts on the road to Serravalle. Another fort was erected at the debouche of the marsh coming from Ponte Molino.
On 23 May, part of Vendôme’s troops reached Cerea.
On 24 May, part of Vendôme’s troops reached San Pietro near Legnano. Vendôme detached M. de Carcado (2,000 foot and 400 horse) to defend the fort in front of Ponte Molino. Vendôme sent parties of dragoons and hussars beyond Carpi to reconnoitre the positions of the Imperialists.
On 25 May, the first Savoyard battalions under Lieutenant-General Castellamont, started to arrive at San Benedetto.
On 26 May, an Imperial force (700 dismounted cavalrymen, 300 mounted cavalrymen) under Major-General Vaubonne marched from the camp of Quistello. On his way, Vaubonne was joined by the Deák Hussars arriving from Sermide. Vaubonne passed the Po at Ostiglia. He intended to march upstream along the Adige and to make a junction with the recruits and remounts sent from Tyrol in the region of Trient (present-day Trento).
On 27 May
- In the evening, Vendôme was informed of Vaubonne's departure from the camp of Quistello.
- Vaubonne reached Sermide.
On 28 May
- Vendôme detached the Comte d'Aguilar and M. de Saint-Fremont (23 grenadier coys, 2 infantry brigades, 20 sqns, 8 guns and 39 pontoons) to make themselves master of the passages of the Tartaro. Their vanguard (3 dragoon rgts) reached Zelo at 4:00 p.m., seized the boats sailing on the Tartaro. When the main detachment arrived at Zelo, two bridges were immediately thrown on the Tartaro.
- Vaubonne's detachment had already passed the Tartaro at Trecenta and marched to Verona.
On 29 May
- Vendôme sent additional troops (1 infantry brigade, 3 cavalry rgts) to Aguilar and Saint-Fremont.
- Vendôme remained at Sanguinetto, waiting for a convoy expected on 31 May.
- The Prince of Vaudémont, who had already received 3 Savoyard bns, sent 3 French bns to rejoin Vendôme's Army.
- The Imperialists evacuated Finale Emilia on the right bank of the Po, leaving only 250 cavalrymen (partly dismounted) to defend the place.
On 30 May, Albergotti marched from his camp near Bomporto Emilia with 300 foot and 400 horse towards Finale which he easily captured, taking several cavalrymen prisoners.
On 31 May
- Vendôme received a letter from Louis XIV where the king asked him to detach 20 bns, 10 cavalry sqns and 10 dragoon sqns towards Tyrol to assist the Elector of Bavaria in his offensive on the Danube.
- Albergotti occupied San Felice.
- In the evening, Vaubonne reached Pescantina with his detachment. There, he learned that Andrássy’s Hayduck should have reached Rovereto on 28 May. Vaubonne was authorised to assemble all the Hayduck regiments, the recruits and the 700 remounts arriving in South Tyrol under his command and to direct these reinforcements towards Ostiglia.
On 1 June, despite the king's recent instruction, Vendôme marched towards the Lower-Tartaro to attack Ostiglia. His army marched from Sanguinetto to Castagnaro, leaving 5 bns and 12 sqns at Sanguinetto. Vendôme continued with 300 horse and reached Saint-Fremont's camp at Zelo.
On 2 June, Vendôme's Army reached Zelo where it camped on the left bank of the Tartaro. Meanwhile, d'Aguilar's and Saint-Fremont's troops passed the Tartaro.
|Order of Battle|
|At Ostiglia the Imperialists deployed as follows:
On 3 June
- Vendôme's Army passed the Tartaro and encamped with its right near Zelo and its left at Bentivoglio. A bridge was established at Baruchella on the Canalbianco and ovens at Zelo.
- A force of 5,000 men (18 bns, 1 grenadier coy, 1 dismounted dragoon sqn and 8 cuirassier sqn) began to strengthen their positions at Ostiglia.
On 5 June
- At daybreak, Vendôme marched in four columns from Zelo by Ceneselli and Massa, to Bergantino.
- The Imperialist vanguard (Alt-Hessen-Darmstadt Cuirassiers (2 sqns) and Lothringen Cuirassiers (2 sqns)) retired towards Ostiglia.
On 6 June
- Vendôme's Army marched towards Ostiglia and, after passing Melara, encamped at Corregioli with its right at Madonna della Comuna, its left on the Po and its centre within cannon shot of the enemy. MM. de Saint-Fremont and de Chemerault at the head of 9 grenadier coys made themselves master of a farmhouse close the entrenchments of the Imperialists. Vendôme personally went to this farmhouse from where he could reconnoitre the disposition of the camp of the Imperialists. He saw that their bridge was located 2 km downstream from Ostiglia and was defended by three redoubts, a large ditch and a series of parallel lines extending up to Serravalle. These entrenchments formed a semicircle defended by 5 infantry rgts, 5 mounted rgts and 22 guns.
- Vendôme received intelligence that the main body of the Imperial forces on the right bank of the Po was encamped along the Secchia from Concordia to Quistello; that 1 dragoon rgt, 1 cavalry rgt and 2 infantry rgts were encamped near Mirandola; that 2 dragoon rgts, 1 cavalry rgt and 1 infantry rgt were at Quadrelle; and that the rest of the Imperial forces were encamped at Revere, in a position to support Ostiglia.
- The Imperialists broke the dyke of the Po and the one of the canal between Ponte Molino and Ostiglia.
- In South Tyrol, Vaubonne was now at the head of a force of 4,752 men:
- Andrássy Hayducks (2 bns for a total of 1,536 men)
- Batthyány Hayducks (2 bns for a total of 1,380 men)
- Deák Hussars (836 men)
- Commandeered Horse (1,200 men)
- Vaubonne marched towards Bussolengo, leaving a detachment to guard the Chiusa Veneta and sending strong detachments towards Villafranca and Valeggio.
On 7 June
- Vendôme opened the trench in front of the entrenchments of the Imperialists.
- Vendôme sent M. de Saint-Fremont to Vaudémont's camp at San Benedetto to ask him to make a diversion on Concordia to pin down the Imperial forces posted on the right bank of the Po.
- A French infantry detachment attacked an Imperialist redoubt (16 pieces) near Ponte Molino.
On 8 June, Vendôme advanced his trenches within musket shot of the entrenchments at Ostiglia. In the evening, his batteries started to bombard the fortress.
On the night of 8 to 9 June, Starhemberg opened the locks of the Fossa d’Ostiglia.
On 9 June
- In the morning, Saint-Fremont arrived at San Benedetto with Vendôme's message. The Prince de Vaudémont immediately detached M. de Murcey (500 grenadiers, 500 fusiliers, 800 horse) towards San Felice on the Panaro. Vaudémont also asked to Albergotti to march towards Concordia with as many troops as he could send from his camp at Finale Emilia. Meanwhile, Vaudémont would advance towards the bridge that the Imperialists had established on the Secchia.
- Half of Vendôme's camp was flooded because of the locks that the Imperialists had opened on the previous night. The flood was extending and Vendôme risked to be cornered in his camp.
- Vendôme's Army was forced to retire precipitously to Zelo.
- In the evening, Starhemberg sent out 6 bns from Ostiglia and Revere.
- After a raid on Bergantino, the 2 dragoon coys of Lieutenant-Colonel Baron Battée marched back toward Mirandola.
- G.d.C. Thomas Vaudémont (the son of the Prince de Vaudémont, governor of Milan, who was general in the Imperial army), commanding on the Secchia, was ordered to send reinforcement to Major Uhlefeld.
On 10 June
- In the morning, Vendôme was informed that Vaubonne's detachment, now counting 4,000 men (the troops he had brought with him from Quistello and troops recently arrived from Tyrol), was encamped between Villafranca and Valeggio. Considering that Vaubonne's Corps could be a threat for his positions in the area and his line of communication with Mantua, Vendôme sent M. d'Estaing and M. d'Estrades against it at the head of the troops stationed at Sanguinetto and Castel d'Ario, reinforced with 3 mounted rgts, for a total of 20 sqns and 3 bns
- On the right bank of the Po, Albergotti marched from Finale Emilia to Rivara near San Felice sul Panaro with part of his troops (800 foot, 800 horse) and made a junction with Murcey's detachment at Rivara. However, instead of resuming his march towards Concordia, as ordered by the Prince de Vaudémont, he advanced on Mirandola. Now at the head of 1,600 foot and 2,000 horse, Albergotti reconnoitred a camp of the Imperialists (3 bns and 2 cavalry rgts and 5 guns under Major-General von Uhlefeld) at Quarantoli, 5 km north of Mirandola. Considering the camp too strong to launch an assault, Albergotti retired south-westwards to San Pellegrino Cortile where he spent the night, not suspecting that an Imperialist force was assembling nearby.
- In the afternoon, a force began to assemble between Mirandola and Quarantoli under Vaudémont. Including Uhlefeld’s detachment, this force consisted of 11 bns (Nigrelli Infantry (1 bn), Bagni Infantry (1 bn), Solari Infantry (1 bn), Lothringen Infantry (1 bn), Holstein Plön Infantry (1 bn), Guido Starhemberg Infantry (2 bns), Kriechbaum Infantry (2 bns), Königsegg Infantry (2 bns)), 10 grenadier coys, 1,200 horse and 12 field pieces.
On 11 June
- Vendôme sent back his cavalry and 3 infantry brigades from Zelo across the Tartaro. These troops encamped with their right at Castagnaro and their left at Baruchella. Vendôme left 20 bns and 200 horse under M. de Vaubecourt at the bridgeheads of Zelo.
- At 2:00 a.m. on the right bank of the Po, Albergotti received a letter from the Prince de Vaudémont, informing him of the failure of the expedition against Ostiglia and asking to send back Murcey's detachment and to retire himself to Finale Emilia. Murcey immediately marched towards San Benedetto by San Martino. Albergotti remained to cover Murcey's retreat. At daybreak, Albergotti’s camp was attacked by the Imperialists grenadiers of Vaudémont’s Corps. Soon afterwards other attacks were launched by the Imperialists cuirassiers and infantry. Albergotti managed to draw his forces in order of battle. Albergotti was finally defeated and forced to retire to Finale Emilia, suffering heavy losses (250 men killed or wounded). Murcey, who had turned back when he heard the cannon was attacked too but managed to retire to Bastiglia, losing 15 officers and 72 men killed and 36 men wounded. In this affair, the Franco-Spanish lost a total of 26 officers and 537 soldiers, including 103 prisoners; and the Imperialists, 10 men killed, and 5 officers and 30 men wounded
- After the engagement at San Pellegrino, Vaudémont returned to the Secchia with his own troops.
- Vaubonne, informed that a French force was approaching, advanced against d'Estaing with 200 hussars.
On 12 June
- Vaubonne attacked one of d’Estaing’s piquets at Nogara; he was repulsed losing 30 men. Pursued up to Castelnuovo, Vaubonne's Corps then retired precipitously to the Upper-Adige. During the pursuit, 400 French horse clashed once more with Vaubonne's hussars and with his Hungarian infantry, killing or capturing 100 men. Vaubonne continued his retreat up to Ferrara near Monte Baldo where he took refuge into prepared entrenchments.
- d'Estaing returned to Sanguinetto with part of his troops; d'Estrades to Castel d'Ario; and Bissy, with a few sqns, to Legnano.
On 13 June
- Murcey's cavalry returned to San Martino.
- Albergotti rallied his troops in Finale Emilia. Fearing, an attack by Starhemberg, he razed the earthworks and evacuated Finale Emilia during the evening, despite orders, and retired to Bomporto and Bastiglia.
- In the evening, Captain Marquis Malaspina with 50 men of the Visconti Cuirassiers occupied Finale Emilia where they found a large quantity of flour, grain and hay.
On June 14, imperialists ships arrived at Sermide with provisions.
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of the Imperialist Army of Lombardy on 15 June 1703|
The Prince de Vaudémont convinced Vendôme, who initially considered to stop operations till the end of July, to launch a new offensive on the right bank of the Po.
On 17 June, 4 bns and 14 sqns sent by Vendôme arrived at Vaudémont's main camp at San Benedetto. After this detachment, Vendôme still had 28 bns and 65 sqns with him on the left bank distributed as follows:
- 20 bns and 200 horse under M. de Vaubecourt at Zelo
- 7 bns and 33 sqns at Castagnaro
- 13 sqns under the Marquis de Bissy at Legnano
- 1 bn and 4 sqns under the Comte d'Uzès at Sanguinetto
- 15 sqns under the Comte d'Estaing at Castel d'Ario
For his part, the Prince de Vaudémont had 38 bns and 51 sqns under his command. These Spanish, French and Savoyard (6 bns and 9 sqns) troops were distributed as follows:
- 6 bns and 10 sqns under Albergotti in the entrenchments of Bastiglia and Bomporto
- 3 bns and 8 sqns under M. de Goesbriant at San Marino on the Upper-Secchia
- 29 bns and 33 sqns under the Prince de Vaudémont along the Secchia from Chiaviche downstream from Bondanello to its mouth
By 18 June, most of the Imperial army was entrenched along the Secchia from its mouth to Concordia; another part occupied the canal between Concordia and Mirandola and from there, by the canals of Traghetto and Fossa-Mantuana, extended up to Quadrelle on the Po. The rest of this army was at Revere, Ostiglia and Ponte Molino. For his part Vaubonne had come out of the mountains and encamped at Bussolengo, daily receiving reinforcements from Tyrol.
On 24 June, Vendôme received a letter from Louis XIV, authorising him to flood part of the territories of the Republic of Venice if he was sure that it would isolate the Imperial army and give him a decisive advantage to conclude the war in Italy. Finally, Vendôme preferred to launch an offensive on the right bank of the Po.
On 25 June, Vendôme moved part of his troops closer to the Mincio and San Benedetto: 1 cavalry brigade left Castel d'Ario and marched towards San Benedetto; it was replaced by 1 cavalry brigade from the camp of Castagnaro; 2 infantry brigades were transferred from Zelo to Castagnaro; 2 infantry brigades were transferred from Castagnaro to Legnano; 1 cavalry rgt went to the Upper-Mincio where it was joined by 5 cavalry rgts from the camp of Castel d'Ario. Vendôme also detached M. de Narbonne with 13 sqns to Lake Garda to protect the flank of his offensive and to cover the region of the Mincio against the enterprises of Vaubonne’s Corps.
On 27 June, Vendôme decamped from Castagnaro and marched to Legnano where he arrived at noon. There, Vendôme was informed that Vaubonne's Army at Bussolengo counted only 2,000 horse and 3,000 newly recruited Croatian Hayducks (probably the 2 bns of Mallenich Hayducks). Vendôme immediately detached 20 grenadier coys and 600 foot under MM. de Médavi, de Bouligneux and de Chartogne to attack Vaubonne. They were instructed to march by Cerea and then to march to Pozzo by Bovolone and Villafontana. Four hours after their departure, Vendôme sent the carabiniers and 3 dragoon rgts (Héron Dragons, Languedoc Dragons and Dauphin Dragons) under MM. de Besons, de Bissy and d'Aubeterre by the road of Isola-Porcarizza (unidentified location), Oppeano and Vallese to rendezvous with Médavi at Pozzo. Finally, Vendôme personally took command of 4 cavalry rgts and followed the same road as Besons's detachment. Vendôme also asked d'Estaing, posted at Castel d'Ario to turn Vaubonne's positions. The same day, M. de Vaubecourt, after removing his bridges on the Tartaro, marched to Castagnaro.
On 28 June at daybreak, all French detachments arrived at 8 km from Bussolengo only to learn that Vaubonne had receive intelligence of their movement and retired in an unassailable position between Rivoli and Monte Baldo. The French made only a few hussars prisoners. Vendôme sent back d'Estaing to Castel d'Ario and encamped at Tombetta near Verona.
On 29 June, Vendôme marched back towards the Po and encamped at Isola della Scala.
On 30 June
- Vendôme reached Nogara where he was joined by Vaubecourt's detachment which he had left at Castagnaro.
- Vendôme received information about the rapid progress of the Elector of Bavaria who had made himself master of Kufstein and Rattenberg in Tyrol. The elector pressed him to send reinforcements to complete the conquest of Tyrol, to cut the lines of communication of the Imperialists with Germany and to allow him to invade Austria and Bohemia. Vendôme changed his plans once more and decided to march with 32 bns and 29 sqns on Trentino, leaving the rest of his army under the command of the Prince de Vaudémont. A few hours later, Vendôme received a new letter from Louis XIV where the king reproached him to have procrastinated while he should have launched an offensive on the right bank of the Po. This new letter made Vendôme hesitate and he squarely asked the king to choose between an offensive in Trentino or on the right bank of the Po.
By the end of June, Starhemberg had received a reinforcement of 3 Hayduck rgts which had left Hungary in April.
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of Vendôme's troops destined to the expedition in Tyrol, 1 July 1703|
On 4 July, Vendôme decamped from Nogara, passed the Tartaro and encamped between Ponte Possero and the Tione.
On 5 July, Vendôme marched to Due-Castelli (Castel Bonafisso and Castel Belforte) where he encamped between the Tione and the Molinella. He also sent 5 cavalry rgts to the Prince de Vaudémont, thus reducing his own army to 29 sqns and 32 bns.
On 6 July, Vendôme personally went to San Benedetto to discuss with the Prince de Vaudémont.
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of Besons' troops destined to the junction with the Bavarian Army, 15 July 1703|
On July 12, Vaubonne left Major-General von Elssen in Avio in the Adige Valley with 4 coys, 200 men of Gschwind Infantry and some 45 men of Kriechbaum Infantry, Furthermore, there were 1 Hayduck bn and a detachment (100 horse and 50 dismounted dragoons) under Major-General Miska to defend the Acqua-Negra Pass and the Monte Baldo. Vaubonne found the posts on the Garda Lake in poor conditions: artillery pieces unloaded; neglected entrenchments at Torbole. He threw 3 coys in Torbole and Nago and erected entrenchments in the harbour of Riva del Garda, charging 1,500 militiamen with the defence of these entrenchments. He also posted 2 coys in Lodrone and several small detachments in neuralgic points.
On 15 July, Vendôme was finally informed of the king's decision who ordered him to detach M. de Besons with 20 bns, 25 sqns, 10 field pieces and 2 24-pdrs to rendezvous with the Elector of Bavaria. Louis XIV also authorised Vendôme to lead the expedition if he so wished and to involve more troops if he wanted. At the same time, Vendôme was informed that Vaubonne had marched from the Upper-Adige and had made a junction with the main Imperial army on the Po, leaving behind only 1 infantry rgt (1,200 men), 1 Croatian rgt (probably the 2 bns of Mallenich Hayducks), and 400 horse. However, 12,000 militiamen had been assembled for the defence of Trentino.
French offensive in South Tyrol
On 19 July,
- Vendôme detached M. de Senneterre to Lake Garda where he made himself master of the boats in the harbour of Desenzano and took position in the castle. Vendôme also sent to Desenzano the crew of one of the French galiots operating on the Po to arm a small boat destined to escort the supply convoys across Lake Garda.
- Medavi's column (10 bns, 7 sqns) marched from the camp of Due-Castelli to Goito.
On 20 July
- Vendôme personally led the other column (22 bns, 22 sqns) from Due-Castelli to San Zeno near Villafranca.
- On the Po, the Imperial commander of Brescello, blockaded since more than one year, asked to capitulate. However, Vaudémont refused his conditions.
On 21 July
- Medavi's column marched to Castiglione delle Stiviere.
- Vendôme's column marched to Castelnuovo del Garda.
On 22 July
- Medavi's column marched to Desenzano, where he effected a junction with Senneterre's detachment (6 sqns).
- Vendôme's column marched northwards to Rivoli where ovens were established.
On July 23, while his troops rested in Rivoli before the march northwards in the mountains, Vendôme was informed that General Vaubonne was back in Trentino with 400 dragoons and 300 Croats; and that General Solari was advancing through Styria with an Imperial corps of 3,000 men (6 bns and some grenadiers) to defend the passages leading to Trient. Vendôme also received a letter informing him of the capture of Innsbruck and of the Carette Pass (present-day Col di Val Bighera) by the Elector of Bavaria.
On 24 July
- Vendôme marched from Rivoli to La Corona (probably Madonna della Corona), leaving his cavalry and 3 bns at San Martino (unidentified location) to secure a line of communication with Bardolina.
- Médavi marched northwards along the west bank of Lake Garda and occupied Salò.
- Vaubonne armed two ships on Garda Lake.
By then, General Vaubonne and Colonel Baron Zumjungen were at the head of 7,870 men on the eastern and western banks of the Garda Lake. More precisely, their force consisted of:
- Regular infantry (3,180 men)
- Cavalry (400 men)
- Vaubonne Dragoons (2 sqns)
- Herbeville Dragoons (1 sqn)
- Deák Hussars (1 sqn)
- Militia (4,290 men)
- Tyroler Landmiliz (4,290 men)
There were also new Volunteers bns in Trient and Rovereto.
On 25 July
- Vendôme sojourned at La Corona but sent detachments to make himself master of the fortified positions of the Imperialists (600 men of Nigrelli Infantry and militia) at Monte Baldo.
- Médavi continued his march along the west bank of Lake Garda towards Riva del Garda, reaching Gargnano where he remained for two days to give his troops some rest.
On 26 July
- At 5:00 a.m., a French detachment (12 grenadier coys and 80 dismounted carabiniers) attacked in three columns the outposts of Monte Baldo defended by peasants. The latter routed without opposing resistance, carrying away with them a few companies of Andrássy Hayducks (about 400 men) forming the first line.
- On the Po, Vaudémont finally received the surrender of Brescello, its garrison (1,400 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Adam Baron de Wendt of Kriechbaum Infantry) became prisoners of war. The Maréchal de Camp Marquis Don Fernando de Toralba, who commanded the blockading corps, captured 24 cannon and 2 mortars and a large quantity of powder and lead
- Vaudémont then redirected to the Secchia the troops previously assigned to the blockade of Brescello, leaving only 2 bns in the place.
- Vaubonne retired to the vicinity of Mori.
On 27 July
- Vendôme transferred his cavalry from San Martino to Monte Baldo.
- Medavi's column arrived at the height of Oldesio on the west bank of Lake Garda. Its progression was very slow due to difficult roads and the resistance of militia.
On 28 July
- Vendôme's column marched from Acqua-Negra through the mountains. His vanguard reached the Scaletta but the rest of the column spent the night on the road. However, 8 grenadier coys were detached to make themselves master of Brentonico.
- On the right bank of the Po, the 3 bns and 4 sqns previously blockading Brescello arrived at San Benedetto. Vaudémont then moved his right closer to the Parmeggiana, transferring Goesbriant's Corps from San Martino to Rolo. Vaudémont also sent 1 bn and 2 sqns to Carpi to maintain communication with Albergotti at Bastiglia and Bomporto. The cavalry corps posted on the Upper-Mincio to secure communication with Vendôme remained there.
- Vaubonne gradually assembled his force near Mori on the left bank of the Adige.
On 29 July
- Vendôme at the head of the grenadiers and 2 infantry brigades marched to Brentonico where he encamped while the rest of his column reached the Scaletta.
- General Solari arrived at Trient with his 6 bns.
On 30 July
- Two additional infantry brigades, the carabiniers and 1 dragoon rgt rejoined Vendôme at Brentonico.
- Vendôme left 2 infantry brigades and 15 sqns on the Scaletta to secure communication with Malcesine on Lake Garda where supplies arrived from Desenzano.
- On the west bank of Lake Garda, Médavi marched by Prabione and Tremosine and reached Monte Notta (unidentified location).
- General Vaubonne was encamped at Mori near Rovereto with an Imperial corps.
On 31 July
- Vendôme attacked the Castle of Nago (defended by 2 coys and 180 peasants) blocking his way to Torbole. He detached M. de Vaubecourt (2 infantry brigades) and de Bissy (19 grenadier coys). Vaubecourt followed the highway, covering his right with detachments in the mountains. He made himself master of the village de Nago despite the fire of 3 guns posted in the rocks between the village and the castle. Meanwhile, Bissy marched by the left. After advancing through woods and rocky terrain, he saw 3 Imperial infantry troops breaking the bridge on the Sarca River which was defended by 2 guns. Bissy redirected his attention on Torbole which had been evacuated and which he easily occupied, capturing 3 guns and lots of provisions.
- Vendôme ordered to one of the infantry brigades left at Scaletta to join his main body at Brentonico.
- On the Upper-Mincio, the French detached 900 horse to observe an Imperial detachment (600 men) who had advanced at Bussolengo.
At the end of July, Starhemberg received a reinforcement of 3 bns.
On the night of July 31 to August 1, Lieutenant-Colonel von Fresen retired from the vicinity of Nago and Penede to Arco, leaving 1 lieutenant, 50 soldiers, 40 artillerymen and 50 peasants to defend the castle.
On 1 August
- Vendôme went to the French camp at Nago and vainly summoned the castle.
- Médavi reached the Val Ledro.
On 2 August
- Artillery (8-pdrs) was brought forward from Brentonico to Nago.
- Vendôme detached 170 men to seize the Castle of Castelbarco (unidentified location) which was defended by only 10 men with 4 guns. The defenders opposed no resistance and were sent back, disarmed, to Rovereto. Vendôme ordered to raze the castle in retaliation to the behaviour of the Count of Castelbarco.
- Vendôme sent 1 dragoon rgt and 100 foot to the village of Mori to have an advance post towards Rovereto and to cover the communications between Nago and Brentonico. At Mori, his troops seized about 1,000 bombs, 1,000 cannonballs and 2 iron guns.
On 3 August
- Medavi's column captured the Castle of Teno (unidentified location). The column then reached Campi while its vanguard, under MM. de Vaudrey and Dillon, occupied Riva del Garda, evacuated by the Imperialists.
In the night of 3 to 4 August, Vendôme's miners tried to breach the walls of the Castle of Nago but they were driven back after two hours.
On 4 August
- In the morning, four 8-pdrs opened on the Castle of Nago but these pieces were not powerful enough to breach the walls. Vendôme asked to send him two 24-pdrs and two mortars from Desenzano by Torbole. Nevertheless, his miners continued their work.
- Medavi's column assembled at Riva del Garda. The bridge on the Sarca was re-established to open communications between Vendôme's and Medavi's columns.
- At 5:00 p.m., the commander of the Castle of Nago asked to capitulate but his conditions were unacceptable and the artillery opened again on the castle. The commander finally surrendered without condition. The garrison counted only 90 regulars and 50 militiamen with 5 guns. During the siege of the Castle of Nago, Vendôme lost only 15 men killed and 30 wounded.
In the first days of August, Starhemberg received some 3,500 horses to remount his cavalry.
Vendôme's successes terrorized the inhabitants and a large number of them deserted the militia. Part of them took refuge in Trient and Rovereto while those who remained in the country submitted to Vendôme. Vendôme's reunited army took position between Malcesine and Riva. Forage was abundant for the cavalry. Vendôme now only had to make himself master of the Castle of Arco to open his way northwards for an eventual junction with the Elector of Bavaria.
However, Louis XIV, more and more certain of the treason of the Duke of Savoy, countermanded Vendôme's offensive in Tyrol and ordered him to rejoin the Prince de Vaudémont in Northern Italy as soon as he would have transferred the requested troops to the Elector of Bavaria. The king also ordered to raze Brescello to make an example for the Italian princes favourable to the Imperialists.
On 6 August
- Vendôme took dispositions for the attack of the Castle of Arco to open a communication with the Elector of Bavaria and send him the requested troops. Accordingly, he sent 1 infantry brigade from the camp of Brentonico to join Medavi's force (8 bns, 7 sqns) at Riva del Garda for the planned attack. Vendôme assembled all his cavalry at Brentonico along with the 2 remaining infantry brigades. The 2 infantry brigades who had conducted the siege of the Castle of Nago remained encamped there. The infantry brigade posted on the Scaletta remained there to secure communication with Malcesine and to cover the rear of the army. Vendôme personally visited the camp of Mori where he decided to dislodge an enemy outpost defended by 200 men at Ravazzone.
- 2,000 Imperial horse arrived at Vaubonne's camp at Rovereto.
On 7 August
- At daybreak, 200 foot, 200 dismounted dragoons, 100 carabiniers, 50 horse and 2 hussar coys attacked Ravazzone and drove the Imperial detachment back to Sacco. In this action, the Imperialists lost 100 men killed and 60 taken prisoners; the French had only 3 men wounded.
- Vendôme went to Riva del Garda where he sent Medavi's Corps (16 bns, 7 sqns. 15 guns (including two 24-pdrs), 2 mortars and 8 swivel guns) to invest the town and castle of Arco.
On 8 August
- Vendôme personally reconnoitred Arco, finding that the castle was, with its three sets of walls, even stronger than anticipated. A first battery of 2 pieces was planted to open against the walls of the town; a second (2 x 24-pdrs and 2 x mortars) was established on the mountain facing the first set of walls of the castle; a third (3 x 8-pdrs) was erected on a higher plateau to fire on the same walls from behind; a fourth (8 swivel guns, 3 x 1-pdrs) still higher to fire on the garrison; and a fifth (2 x 24-pdrs and 3 x 4-pdrs) was located at the foot of the castle to cover the miners. Bringing the 2 mortars on the mountain required 200 men and two full days.
- The garrison of the Castle of Arco consisted of 8 coys of Nigrelli Infantry (totalling only 300 men) and 50 militiamen. The walls were defended with 14 artillery pieces. There were several detachments (a total of some 300 regular and 150 militiamen) in the town itself, the largest being some 150 men from Jung-Starhemberg Infantry.
In the night of 8 to 9 August, the trenches were opened in front of Arco.
On 9 August in the morning, all batteries opened on Arco and soon silenced the Imperial artillery. A partial breach was created in the walls of the town. At 10:00 p.m., 14 grenadier coys under the Maréchaux de Camp Vaudrey and Senneterre stormed the Scharia Gate and penetrated into the town which was soon in their hands. The defenders precipitously retired into the castle.
On 10 August, Vendôme entered into the town of Arco and opened a trench in front of the castle, losing 20 men killed or wounded. The two 24-pdrs previously located in front of the town were brought forward to fire on the castle.
On 11 August, Vendôme personally returned to his camp of Brentonico, leaving Médavi to supervise the siege of the Castle of Arco.
On 14 August
- Médavi sent 3 grenadier coys and 300 foot to clear the neighbouring heights from the peasant and hussars who had taken position there and were firing on his troops. In this action, 30 Imperial hussars were killed.
- Vendôme sent M. de Narbonne with 300 men to the village of Avio where armed peasants harassed foragers and stopped provisions despite the truce of arm that Vendôme had granted them. Narbonne set the village afire and razed the castle.
On 15 August, Vendôme was informed that Vaubonne had evacuated Rovereto and was retiring on Trient. Vendôme then moved his headquarters from Brentonico to Riva del Garda to better support the siege of the Castle of Arco.
By 16 August, the mine dug by the besiegers of the Castle of Arco was only a few meters from the outer walls.
On 17 August at 5:00 a.m., the commander of the Castle of Arco, Lieutenant-Colonel Baron Fresen, and its garrison (500 regulars and more than 140 militiamen) surrendered as prisoners of war. During the siege of Arco, the Imperialists lost 100 men killed or wounded; the French, 100 men killed and 50 wounded. The French found 21 guns and ample ammunition in the castle. The next obstacle was the Pass of Buso di Vela (unidentified location) defended by approx. 550 men. Wrongly informed that the Elector of Bavaria was marching on Bolzano, Vendôme decided to advance up to Buso di Vela. He ordered Médavi (12 bns, 7 sqns) to repair the castles of Arco, Nago, Torbole and Riva del Garda where he intended to leave garrisons. Vendôme planned to march with the rest of his army (18 bns, 22 sqns).
On 19 August, Vendôme received a letter informing him:
- that the Elector of Bavaria had left Innsbruck to chastise peasants who had assembled at Scharnitz on the border between Tyrol and Bavaria and slaughtered Bavarian troops guarding the elector's lines of communication with Villars;
- that a Bavarian detachment sent to Finstermunz Pass had not been able to made its way towards the Brenner;
- that the Elector of Bavaria expected Vendôme to march up to Brixen (present-day Bressanone), mentioning that only one Imperial regiment was deployed between Bolzano and Brixen.
On 20 August, Vendôme detached M. de Senneterre (1 dragoon rgt, 300 foot) to reconnoitre the right bank of the Sarca River. Senneterre marched to Dro where he left an outpost. He continued his march and captured the Castle of Drena where 400 peasants had assembled. The latter fled as he approached Drena.
On 21 August, Vendôme sent M. de Vaudrey (500 men) along the left bank of the Sarca in a very difficult country. Vaudrey reached Sarche, having reinforced his detachment from troops taken from Senneterre's. The bridge of Sarche had been broken by the Imperialists. Meanwhile, M. de Poligny had been detached in the mountains with 150 musketeers and 2 grenadier coys to cover Vaudrey's march. Poligny attacked an outposts defended by 60 Austrian grenadiers and 300 peasants, taking 8 grenadiers and 6 peasants prisoners. Five of the peasants were executed and the last one sent back to inform others of the fate reserved to those who would rebel.
On 22 August, Vendôme sent M. d'Imecourt with 1 infantry brigade from Riva del Garda to Sarche. When he reached his destination, Imecourt marched with a detachment to the Castle of Tobolino (unidentified location) which he occupied as well as the neighbouring village of Ranzo. Vendôme resolved to make this castle his first depot of provisions on his way to Bolzano.
On 23 August, leaving a force at Riva del Garda under the command of MM. de Médavi and de Bissy, Vendôme marched to Sarche with his army. He established his headquarters at Dro where he kept 2 infantry brigades.
On 24 August
- The bridge of Sarche having been re-established, Vendôme sent a detachment to make itself master of the Castle of Madruzzo which had been evacuated by the Imperialists.
- Some 1,200 militiamen had assembled at Molveno under the command of Captain Cazzan. They were joined by some 55 men of the Savoyen Dragoons. Cazzan posted some 700 men on the heights near Molveno and distributed the rest of his force in several detachments in the neighbouring mountains.
On 26 August
- Imecourt with 800 men occupied another abandoned post at Vezzano.
- Other detachments occupied the villages of Terlago, Baselca and Vigolo which had been abandoned by their inhabitants.
On 27 August
- Vendôme personally went to Vezzano to reconnoitre the Pass of Buso de Vela. A skirmish took place between the villages of Baselca and Cadine on the road to Trient. Fearing an ambush, Vendôme returned to Sarche.
- A French detachment unsuccessfully tried to force its way through the mountains at the Piede di Gazza to get access to the Adige Valley but could not dislodge the militia defending the pass.
- A party of some Austrian regulars assisted by 300 peasants, sent from Molveno by Captain Cazzan, attacked the French outpost at Ranzo. The French detachment (160 men under Vaudrey) entrenched in the church but the attackers set fire to the village, forcing the defenders to surrender after losing 22 men killed or wounded. The prisoners were brought back to Molveno.
On 28 August
- Vendôme established himself at Vezzano with 8 grenadier coys, 1,000 musketeers, 1 dragoon rgt and 100 carabiniers.
- Vendôme pushed Imecourt's detachment forward up to Cadine.
- Vendôme also recalled the 2 infantry brigades left at Dro to join the main body at Sarche. He then reconnoitred the camp of the Imperialist army of Vaubonne at Trient which was arranged with 2 bns encamped near the city walls and about 800 horse encamped in a meadow within cannon range from the town.
- Lieutenant-General Vaubecourt at the head of 4,000 men unsuccessfully tried to force his way through the pass of Ravazzone and was driven back with a loss of 150 men.
On 29 August
- Vendôme received a letter from the king, instructing him to wait for some news from the Elector of Bavaria till the end of the month. If by then he had not received any news, Vendôme should returned as rapidly as possible to Lombardy, keeping only a few outposts at the head of Lake Garda. Vendôme immediately wrote to the king to tell him that he would wait till 15 September because, he was not worried of the situation in Lombardy.
- Vendôme sent M. de Chemerault with 100 grenadiers and 50 dragoons to reconnoitre the Pass of Buso di Vela which he found undefended. Chemerault worked to repair the road going through the pass.
On 30 August, Vendôme advanced most of Medavi's Corps, previously posted at Riva del Garda, to Sarche.
On 1 September
- Vendôme advanced from Vezzano to Cadine with 5 bns.
- Imecourt occupied the Pass of Buso di Vela with a few grenadier coys and seized the plateau of Ostrent above Trient, immediately starting to erect two batteries.
The city of Trient was ruled by a Prince-Bishop. It was located on the left bank of the Adige and a wooden bridge resting on stone pillars linked it to the right bank, well covered by a gate. The towers of the old walls were in poor conditions. General Solari, who was responsible for the defence of the city, had established six batteries: a first one in front of the San Lorenzo Gate on a pillar of the bridge; a second in the Galassi Palace near the city; a third in the Gerber street; a fourth in the Saracini Garden; a fifth on an island of the Adige; and a sixth close to Campo Trentino. Breastworks and batteries had also been established at all fords from Matarello to Gardolo. The magnificent garnet, mulberry and fig trees, which surrounded the city, were cut down. The castle, the residence of Prince-Bishop Johann Michael Count von Spaur, had also been put in state of defence, and the nearby monastery occupied with troops. The stone bridge over the brook near La Scala had been blasted off. Barricades had also been erected across the road leading to Bozen and the bridges at Alurn and Neumarkt had been broken down.
On 2 September
- Vendôme summoned the magistrates of Trient to pay a contribution if they did not want the town to be bombarded. As they refused, he sent 6 guns and 2 mortars to the plateau of Ostrent.
- Vendôme received confirmation that the Elector of Bavaria was not considering a junction at Brixen anymore. He then decided to return to Lombardy. Nevertheless, work continued on the batteries on the plateau of Ostrent.
- As garrison in Trient, Solari had a few hundreds horse sent by Vaubonne from Rovereto, more than 2,000 regulars and 2,000 militia. The burghers had also volunteered to defend the place.
- The inhabitants of Ostrent set fire to the convent located on the right bank of the Adige and destroyed the bridge.
- Vaubonne moved his troops in two entrenched camps upstream and downstream from Trient.
On September 3, Vendôme established another battery on the road of La Scala.
On September 4, asked for a contribution of 400,000 Gulden and Solari answered that he had to discuss the matter with the prince-bishop, who had fled to the Flemser Valley when the French arrived. He therefore asked for a delay of five days before giving his answer.
On September 5, the French batteries of the Ostrient opened again on the city.
On 6 September
- The fire of the batteries of Ostrent gradually slowed down.
- Vendôme sent M. de Mercado (600 men) and M. de Senneterre (500 men) to dislodge parties of Imperialists (400 regulars, 1,000 peasants) entrenched around the village of Margon and harassing his line of communication with Riva del Garda. The Imperialists lost 200 men killed or wounded and a large quantity of prisoners. Senneterre set fire to the village of Margon.
On 7 September
- The bombardment of Trient intensified. The Thun Palace, the Jesuit College and several houses suffered damages.
- Vendôme was finally informed that the Elector of Bavaria had retired from Tyrol and was threatened in his own principality.
- In the morning, Vaubonne received a reinforcement of 5 bns and 1 dragoon rgt and sent troops to reoccupy the height of Margon.
In the night of 7 to 8 September, Vendôme detached M, de Dreux (10 grenadier coys, 100 carabiniers, 50 dismounted dragoons) to dislodge the Imperialists from Margon.
On 8 September
- In the morning, Dreux drove back 200 Austrian grenadiers from the height of Margon, killing 15 men and capturing 2 officers and 18 soldiers.
- The vicinity of Trient was plundered and set afire. The vineyards and orchards were cut down and burned.
- In the evening, Vendôme ordered to retire the artillery bombarding Trient from the plateau of Ostrent and to transport it to Vezzano.
On September 9, Vendôme had his artillery and his sick and wounded transported towards Arco through the Cavedine Valley.
On 10 September, provision and sick and wounded were sent ahead towards Riva del Garda.
Vendôme's retreat towards the Po
On 11 September, Vendôme received a letter from the king informing him that the Duke of Savoy had secretly changed allegiance and joined the Grand Alliance and urging him to rejoin the Prince de Vaudémont on the Po.
On 12 September
- After recalling all his outposts, Vendôme decamped from Cadine and marched to Sarche, setting fire to the villages of Cadine, Sauramonte, Terlago, Baselca, Vigolo, Cavedine and to the Castle of Madruzzo to punish the inhabitants to have opposed armed resistance, sparing the villages of Vezzano, Favrese and San-Mazezo where the inhabitants had not been involved in the rebellion.
- Vendôme received a letter from the king reproaching him his delay before retreating from Trentino.
- Bayreuth Dragoons and 1 bn of Hayducks arrived at Trient.
- Heister’s Corps followed the retiring French, marching on mountain footpath parallel to the Cavedine Valley.
On 13 September
- Vendôme's Army marched from Sarche to Riva del Garda. The detachments posted at Brentonico, Scaletta, Nago and Mori maintained their positions.
- Captain Cazzan’s detachment, which was following the retreating French, reached Stenico.
In the night of 13 to 14 September, Vendôme personally embarked aboard a boat who transported him from Riva del Garda to Desenzano. He had previously charged M. de Vaudrey with the command of the vanguard; and M. de Vaubecourt, of the command of the main body.
On 14 September
- In the afternoon, M. de Vaudrey marched from Riva del Garda with the vanguard (12 grenadier coys, 1,000 picked foot and 100 dragoons), reaching Teno.
- The detachments of Brentonico and Mori were expected at Riva del Garda the same day.
- Captain Cazzan’s detachment reached Fiave.
On 15 September
- M. de Vaubecourt marched with the main body from Riva del Garda towards Desenzano by the Val-di-Ledro, Vesio, Gargnano and Salo on the western shore of Lake Garda, leaving 5 bns at the head of the lake. Part of the infantry was transported by boats on the lake. In the evening, Vaubecourt encamped near Campi. Vaudrey reached Val-di-Ledro with the vanguard.
- Vendôme arrived at Vaudémont's camp at San Benedetto in Lombardy.
- Captain Cazzan’s detachment reached Balin.
On 16 September
- Vaudrey sojourned at Vedro (unidentified location).
- In Lombardy, Vendôme received orders from Louis XIV to make prisoners of war all Savoyard units campaigning with his army and to march to Savoy, after leaving enough troops to Vaudémont to defend the Lines of the Secchia.
- Vaudémont personally returned to Milan.
- Zumjungen’s detachment and some militia reached Tiarno.
- Captain Cazzan’s detachment reached Tenno.
On 17 September
- M. de Vaubecourt reached Vedro.
- M. d'Imecourt left Riva del Garda with the rearguard. Meanwhile, 3 bns were transported by boats from Riva del Garda to Gargnano. There were now only 5 bns of the Franco-Spanish army posted at the head of Lake Garda under the command of M. de Médavi who placed them at Riva del Garda, Torbole, Arco, Teno and Nago.
- An Imperial corps of some 6,500 men under Solari and Heister appeared at the head of the bridge of Arco.
On 18 September
- Vaudrey reached Vesio with the vanguard.
- Solari and Heister, who had been reinforced with 4,000 peasants, tried to pass the Sarca River at Bolognano near Arco but were repulsed by Colonel Durepaire of Beauce Infanterie. The Imperialists then marched downstream to the bridge between Torbole and Riva.
On 19 September
- Vaubecourt arrived at Vesio with the main body.
- The first 3 bns arriving from Riva del Garda reached San Benedetto. They encamped at the mouth of the Secchia close to a battalion of Savoyard Guardie. Vendôme also transferred 1 dragoon rgt from Goito to the Parmeggiana where 2 Savoyard dragoon rgts were posted. He also instructed Vaubecourt to hasten march and to urgently send him 6 bns and 9 sqns which he intended to post close to other Savoyard units.
- Solari and Heister, after reconnoitring the French defences near Riva, retired towards Rovereto.
On 20 September
- Vaubecourt's Army reached Prabione.
- There were still 6,000 militiamen assembled in South Tyrol.
- FZM Heister had now assembled a force of some 7,000 regulars in South Tyrol:
- Solari’s 6 infantry bns in Trient and Rovereto
- Molnár Hayducks (2 bns)
- Bayreuth Dragoons
- Commandeered infantry (2,400 men from the regiments posted between the Po and the Secchia)
- Commandeered cavalry (600 men)
On 21 September, Vaudrey marched to Toscolano with the vanguard.
On 22 September, Vaubecourt's Army finally arrived at Toscolano where Vaubecourt received Vendôme's order to send him 6 bns and 9 sqns. He immediately detached them under M. de Chemerault. Vaudrey then assumed command of the rearguard.
On 23 September, Vaudrey reached Toscolano with the rearguard. Meanwhile, Vaubecourt's infantry encamped at Maguzzano near Desenzano while his cavalry was directed towards Lonato and Montichiari.
On 24 September, Vaubecourt's infantry encamped at Castiglione delle Stiviere while his cavalry continued its advance towards the Chiese.
On 25 September
- Vaubecourt's infantry marched to Rodigo.
- Heister returned the Tyrolean militia to their home. The defence of the Tyrolean frontier was confided to Colonel Baron Zumjungen and Heister then proceeded to Innsbruck.
After the departure of the French, South Tyrol was in poor conditions. Several villages had been burned down and the walls of the castles of Tenno, Nago and Arco had been destroyed.
On 26 September, Vaubecourt's infantry marched to Montanara in the Seraglio.
On 27 September, Vaubecourt's infantry marched to San Giacomo.
On 28 September, Vaubecourt's infantry passed the Po and entered into the camp of San Benedetto where it was distributed in such a way as to surround Savoyard units.
On 29 September in the morning, Vendôme ordered the army to prepare for a review. He then held a council of war were he informed Count Castellamont and the Savoyard staff of his intention to take their regiments prisoners because of the treason of their sovereign. Savoyard troops deposited arms without opposing any resistance. The 700 horses of the Savoyard cavalry were distributed to the French cavalry and their price reimbursed to each captain. Altogether. 3,004 Savoyards were taken prisoners, including some 900 sick in hospitals. The prisoners were transferred to the left bank of the Po.
On 30 September
- The Savoyard prisoners marched towards Pavia from where they would be transferred to various places in the Duchy of Milan. Vendôme seized this opportunity to build a strong escort of 18 bns and 9 sqns which was in fact destined for the invasion of Savoy. The 21 sqns already stationed at Montichiari would then join them.
- Vendôme also resolved to retire the bns left at the head of Lake Garda. Accordingly, he sent instructions to M. de Médavi to demolish the castles of Torbole and Riva del Garda.
- Excluding Spanish units, Vendôme planned to invade Piedmont with 28 bns and 30 sqns; while another army of 34 bns and 59 sqns would remain on the Secchia under the command of M. de Besons. Finally, 21 sqns would take post at Monzambano between Goito and Peschiera on the Mincio under the command of M. de Langallerie.
|Auvergne (2 bns)
Anjou (2 bns)
|Commissaire Général (3 sqns)|
Ourches (2 sqns)
|Total:28 bns||Total: 29 sqns|
At the end of September, an Anglo-Dutch fleet appeared in front of Livorno, supposedly on its way to the Kingdom of Naples.
By the end of September, the eight companies of Mallenich Hayducks counted only 622 men. Overall the Imperialist army operating in Northern Italy counted 27,372 foot (25,737 Imperialists and 1,635 Danes) and 12,135 horse (11,695 Imperialists and 440 Danes), including cavalrymen who had no horses.
On 3 October, the Duke of Savoy was informed of the capture of his troops at San Benedetto. At this moment, he could hardly raise 8,000 foot and 3,500 horse. At once, he tried to recruit 6,000 Swiss and 4,000 Barbets (opponents to the occupation of Savoy by the French), but the establishment of new units required time. Thus, the duke had to rely on peasants and burghers who voluntarily took up arms to form 12 militia rgts totalling some 10,200 men under General Marquis Parella.
On 4 October, the Duke of Savoy wrote to Starhemberg, urging him to send reinforcements.
On 8 October, the Duke of Savoy once more wrote to Starhemberg, this time asking for at least a reinforcement of some 2,500 horse.
The Franco-Spanish Army invades Piedmont
On 9 October, Vendôme personally left San Benedetto to join at Pavia the troops escorting the Savoyard prisoners. He confided command of the army left on the Secchia to M. de Besons.
On 10 October, French troops (8 bns and 3 dragoon sqns) marched from Gap, Embrun and Briançon under the command of M. de Gevaudan to reinforce Vendôme in Northern Italy.
On 10 and 11 October, Vendôme conferred with the Prince of Vaudémont in Pavia in preparation for the operations in Piedmont. Vaudémont agreed to go to San Benedetto to replace Besons as commander of the army left on the Secchia. Vendôme planned to raise 1,000 militiamen in Monferrato and 1,000 in the mountains of Genoa to secure the road from the sea to Alessandria and Casale Monferrato. He was at the head of an army of 25 bns (22 French bns including the 3 bns that M. de Médavi was bringing back from the head of Lake Garda and Royal-Artillerie; and 3 Spanish Walloon bns) and 30 sqns (20 French sqns and 10 Spanish sqns). He estimated that he would need a reinforcement of 15 bns and 10 sqns for the projected invasion of Piedmont. With such a force, he planned to march directly on Turin and to lay siege to the city at the end of November.
On 14 October, Vendôme's Army marched along the Po from Pavia towards the mouth of the Sesia. M. de Chemerault was sent forward to Casale Monferrato to establish a bridge on the Po and to raise 1,000 militiamen in the region of Monferrato. Vendôme also concluded an agreement with Genoa to obtain 400 mountaineers to cover the communication between Casale and Alessandria.
On 15 October, Vaudémont arrived at San Benedetto to replace Besons as commander of the army left on the Secchia.
On 16 October
- Vendôme's Army arrived on the Sesia. Vendôme personally went to Candia Lomellina near the mouth of the river where he established his headquarters. He also gave orders to establish a bridge on the Sesia at Villata.
- Vendôme received a letter from the king informing him that he should inform the Duke of Savoy that all he wanted was to obtain places for his security and the reduction of the Savoyard Army to the size fixed by the treaty of 1697.
On 18 October
- In the morning, Starhemberg with 10,000 men and 2,000 horse advanced on the Canal of Carpi and in the direction of Reggiolo to cover the departure of Major-General Hannibal Marquis Visconti at the head of a cavalry detachment destined to reinforce the Savoyard Army.
- In the evening, Starhemberg debouched from Quistello and Concordia, driving back the French outposts.
- At 10 p.m., unnoticed by the French Visconti’s detachment of 1,230 horse (1,120 cuirassiers and dragoons and 110 hussars) passed the canals of of Papacino and Cavetto. Visconti was assisted by Colonel Count Roccavione, Colonel Count Baconsel. Lieutenant-Colonel Colonelli, Lieutenant-Colonel Baron Egkh and Adjutant-General Marquis Davia.
- When Vaudémont heard that the Imperialists had passed the Secchia at Quistello, he immediately gave order to his Franco-Spanish army to take arms. He also instructed M. de Saint-Fremont to go personally to the camp of Rolo where 8 sqns were posted under the command of M. de Goesbriant. He then waited to determine if the main effort of the Imperialists would be from Revere or Concordia.
On 19 October
- By daybreak, Visconti had reached the Canal of Carpi where a small bridge was rapidly thrown, allowing his cavalry to pass one after the other. It took the entire morning to pass the canal. With Starhemberg’s diversionary attack still drawing the attention of the French, Visconti was able to continue his march up to Novellara where he allowed his troops to rest.
- In the evening, Visconti’s detachment, having escaped pursuit, reached Bagnolo.
- As soon as Visconti’s detachment had managed to cross the Secchia, Starhemberg’s forces retired on Concordia.
- In the afternoon, Vaudémont was finally informed of the presence of Visconti’s detachment on his right flank. Lieutenant-General Albergotti, who was posted between the Secchia and the Panaro was also informed.
- Vaudémont immediately sent Lieutenant-General Saint-Fremont (2 bns, 8 sqns) against Visconti’s detachment.
- Vendôme was informed that a new corps (15 bns, 19 sqns including the 8 bns and 3 sqns already marching) was being assembled in Dauphiné under the command of the Maréchal de Tessé but that it would arrive in Savoy only around mid-November.
On 20 October
- In the morning on the Secchia, Visconti’s detachment passed the Crostolo at a ford downstream from Reggio. In the evening, Visconti managed to go round Reggio and to reach Castelguelfo outside the range of Vaudémont’s Army.
- Saint-Fremont with his 8 depleted sqns (only 400 horses) was not strong enough to attack Visconti’s detachment. He threw 2 dragoon sqns and a few dismounted cavalrymen into Reggio. Meanwhile, M. d'Albergotti sent 2 bns and 200 dismounted cavalrymen from his camp of Bastiglia to reinforce Reggio.
- Vendôme marched from Candia Lomellina to Casale Monferrato where he received the protestations of a minister of the Duke of Savoy.
In the night of 20 to 21 October, Vaudémont detached M. de Murcey (1,000 horse) to follow the Imperial detachment.
On October 21, Visconti’s detachment reached Pontenure.
On 22 October
- Visconti’s detachment reached Pianello in the Tidone Valley. In the last three day, it had marched some 140 km.
- Vendôme was finally informed of the advance of the Imperial detachment from the Secchia towards Alessandria in Piedmont.
- Tessé arrived in Grenoble to assume command of his army.
In the night of 22 to 23 October, Vendôme detached 18 grenadier coys under M. de Dreux and 1,600 horse under M. d'Esclainvilliers. These troops passed to the right bank of the Po by boat-bridges at Breme and Valenza. They were destined to Alessandria and Asti in Piedmont.
On 23 October
- Vendôme personally went to Alessandria, leaving his main army on the Sesia under the command of M. de Vaubecourt. The same day, only 14 grenadier coys and 800 horse managed to reach Alessandria.
- 6 bns under M. de Bouligneux and a detachment of cavalry marched from Candia, passed the Po at Breme and took position at Acqui to stop any Savoyard troops sent to effect a junction with the approaching Visconti’s detachment.
- Vendôme expected that Visconti would reach the Nura on October 23 and would then take one of the two roads leading to Piedmont through the valleys of the Scrivia or of the Bormida.
- Visconti’s detachment reached Varzi on the Staffora where it was hospitably received by the population.
On 24 October
- Before daybreak, Vendôme sent Dreux with the 14 grenadier coys and 800 horse, who had previously reached Alessandria, towards Serravalle Scrivia. Meanwhile, the trailing 4 grenadier coys and 800 horse reached Alessandria. Vendôme immediately sent 300 horse to reinforce the troops advancing on Serravalle Scrivia, keeping 4 grenadier coys and 500 horse with him at Alessandria. Dillon Infanterie was also posted in Alessandria. At Serravalle, Dreux was incorrectly informed that Visconti had reached the defile but not yet passed it. However, Dreux soon learned from the bandit Carlo Costellini (aka Santa Rosa), against payment, that Visconti’s detachment was still in Varzi. Costellini and his band had already occupied the difficult defile west of San Sebastiano in the Curone Valley, through which the Imperialists had to march.
- Vendôme marched to Serravalle Scrivia with his 4 grenadier coys, Dillon Infanterie and 500 horse.
- Around noon, Visconti's detachment set off from Varzi. In the evening, when Visconti reached the defile west of San Sebastiano, he found that it was already occupied. With darkness approaching, Visconti decided to wait till the following morning to make an attempt.
In the night of October 24 to 25, Vendôme’s troops occupied all passages on the Scrivia, Orba and Bormida. Furthermore, he posted 4,000 men near Ovada and Acqui. Vendôme left Serravalle Scrivia at 9:00 p.m. with his troops and marched to Dernice which he reached at daybreak.
By 25 October
- Vendôme sent Dreux with 14 grenadier coys and 150 horse to the Castle of Dernice, west of San Sebastiano, where they joined a body of Milanese militia.
- Engagement of San Sebastiano Curone
- Early in the morning, Visconti hesitated to attack the troops defending the defile of San Sebastiano. This light and very mobile troops knew the region very well. However, Visconti had no other choice. By 7:30 a.m., he had not yet taken a decision.
- Finally, Visconti launched an attack with his dragoons against Santa Rosa’s troops, driving them back.
- Visconti’s detachment then quickly marched upstream along the Curone.
- Dreux with a vanguard of grenadiers engaged the 3 sqns under the Marquis Davia, forming the rearguard of Visconti near San Sebastiano Curone. M. de Chemerault occupied a height with some grenadiers while Vendôme attacked them. At this moment, French hussars, the first mounted troops to debouche from the defile of Dernice, joined the attack. Two of the Imperial sqns broke while the third was taken prisoners.
- The first Spanish sqns arrived led by the Grand-Prieur de Vendôme and d'Aguilar. However, most of Visconti's detachment had already passed the defile, leaving troops there to delay Vendôme's advance. **Visconti’s detachment then took the direction of Cantalupo and Rocchetta.
- Vendôme paused to wait for the rest of his carabiniers and his cavalry. However, Chemerault on the right; who had been reinforced with 150 horse led by M. de Maulevrier, colonel of Anjou Cavalerie; managed to reach the defile by the mountains and to launch a flank attack on its defenders who retired farther on another height. On their way, the Imperialists had to pass a ravine, losing many men and all their baggage while doing so.
- The Imperialists then deployed in order of battle on the mountaintop. Vendôme's grenadiers and carabiniers; supported by detached squadrons under MM. d'Esclainvilliers, Dourches and Desclos; also deployed in order of battle in front of them. Some grenadiers then attacked the flank of the positions of the Imperialists, forcing them to retire behind a second ravine.
- When the French carabiniers reached the height overlooking that ravine, they saw that the Imperialists were routing. The carabiniers dismounted and crossed the ravine and fired on the fleeing enemies.
- The engagement had lasted from 7:30 a.m. to noon. Vendôme lost 2 men killed and 10 wounded. The Imperialists lost 400 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners. The Imperialists who managed to escape the pursuit (about 800 men) took various roads through the mountains. The largest detachment retired to the Castle of Rochetta near the village of Cantalupo Ligure not far from Serravalle Scrivia, pursued by Vendôme's cavalry. Dillon Infanterie joined the cavalry at Rochetta, took some rest and then resumed the pursuit.
- In the evening, after the engagement of San Sebastiano, Visconti’s detachment rode in the direction of Voltaggio.
Fearing an attack on the Secchia, Vaudémont , whose army was in very poor condition (34 bns, 59 sqns for a total of only 10,000 foot and 2,000 horse fit for duty) recalled Murcey's detachment which was trying to catch up with Visconti's detachment. Vaudémont even recalled 11 sqns from Monzambano. He decided to defend the Lower-Secchia thus virtually opening a way to the Imperialists for a march towards Piedmont.
In the night of 25 to 26 October, Visconti reached Voltaggio where he learned that Acqui and Ovada were strongly occupied by the Franco-Spanish, blocking his way towards Nizza. Saint-Rémy suggested to march by Campofreddo (unidentified location, maybe Campo Ligure) and Sassello towards Spigna and then to move around the Franco-Spanish positions at Ovada and Acqui and then reach Nizza.
On 26 October
- M. de Bouligneux, posted at Acqui with 6 bns, extended his positions from Acqui to Savone to prevent the entry of the defeated Imperialists into Piedmont.
- Vendôme returned to Serravalle Scrivia with his troops, intending to give them a few days rest before proceeding to the invasion of Piedmont.
- Visconti, who had resumed his march, from Voltaggio, soon realised that Bouligneux was blocking the way. He then returned to Voltaggio where he arrived around noon. Only one road remained open to him through the Bocchetta Pass to the Polcevera Valley and Genoa. Accordingly, after resting his detachment for three hours, he set off from Voltaggio in the direction of Campomorone, reaching the village in the evening.
On 27 October,
- In the morning, Vendôme was informed that the Imperialists had marched southwards from Voltaggio to Campomorone. He then detached MM. d'Aytone, de Dreux and d'Aubeterre with 16 grenadier coys and all cavalry units he had in Serravalle Scrivia who were able to march to cut their retreat by the territory of Genoa.
- Soon detachments under MM. d'Aguilar, d'Esclainvilliers, d'Ourches and Dillon joined the previous detachments by various routes while 300 Spanish horse were sent to reinforce M. de Bouligneux at Acqui.
- Visconti's detachment marched from Campomorone to San Pier d'Arena (present-day Sampierdarena) in the suburbs of Genoa. However, the Republic of Genoa denied passage towards Savona to Visconti’s detachment and refused to give it protection and provisions.
Around 11:00 p.m. in the night of 27 to 28 October, Visconti’s detachment set off from San Pier d'Arena, rode eastwards under the walls of Genoa, and marched the whole night.
On the morning of October 28, Visconti’s detachment reached San Martino d’Albaro where it briefly rested before resuming its march up to Recco where it finally rested for five days. On their way, many cavalrymen of the detachment had had to sell their horse in exchange for provisions.
On 30 October in the morning, M. d'Aytone reached San Pier d'Arena. He found a shorter road to Bisagno, practicable only by infantry, and sent forward M. de Dreux with his 16 grenadier coys. However, when Dreux reached Bisagno, he learned that the Imperialists were already on the march towards Recco along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. Dreux then returned to San Pier d'Arena and d'Aytone then marched back to Voltaggio.
On 31 October
- The Franco-Spanish detachments previously sent in pursuit of the Imperialists returned to Serravalle Scrivia.
- At Grenoble, Tessé had already assembled 7 bns and 1 dragoon rgt.
In the last days of October, Starhemberg received orders from Vienna, instructing him to send the Danish Contingent to effect a junction with the army assembling in Tyrol to campaign against Bavaria. Upon the arrival of the Danes, Gschwind Infantry, which was already posted in Tyrol, would advance against Kufstein. Meanwhile, Zumjungen Infantry, which had just been brought back to a strength of more than 1,000 men with recruits, would guard the passes of South Tyrol together with the 2 bns of Mallenich Hayducks.
On 1 November, Vendôme received a letter from Louis XIV asking him to postpone his advance on Turin until he had received new recruits from France and Tessé had assembled a new army (25 bns, 19 sqns) in Dauphiné. Accordingly, Vendôme marched from Serravalle Scrivia to Alessandria and sent orders to all of his troops to assemble there. He also started to make dispositions to take his winter-quarters in the region of Asti and to assemble 50 cannon and 8 mortars for the planned siege of Turin.
On 2 November
- An infantry regiment of Bouligneux's brigade under M. Desmarets marched back from Carcare to rejoin the brigade at Acqui. Bouligneux sent M. de Las Torres to meet him with 200 grenadiers and 60 hussars. Meanwhile, some 2,000 Savoyard militiamen had assembled at Mondovi and marched to Cairo Montenotte to intercept Desmarets's regiment. MM. de Las Torres and Desmarets attacked them and opened their way to Acqui.
- Dreux's detachment arrived at Alessandria.
- The Duke of Savoy wrote to FZM Starhemberg, asking him to send a reinforcement of 6,000 men.
At about that time, Vendôme was informed that Victor Amadeus of Savoy had marched to Asti with 4 bns, 1 cavalry rgt and 2 dragoon rgts to ease the arrival of Visconti's Corps in Piedmont; that this corps had advanced to Canetti (more probably Canelli); and that upon the news of the defeat of Visconti at San Sebastiano it had retired towards Turin.
On 3 November, Visconti’s detachment marched from Recco to Rapallo.
On 4 November, Bouligneux's and Las Torres's detachments arrived at Alessandria.
On 5 November
- Vaubecourt arrived at Alessandria with the troops previously left at Candia Lomellina.
- Vendôme detached the Comte d'Estaing (Commissaire-Général Cavalerie, Tron Cavalerie, Spanish Molfète Cavalry, Spanish Val de Fuentes Cavalry, Spanish Figueras Cavalry, Spanish Bonnesan Infantry (2 bns) and Spanish Gy Infantry (1 bn)) at Mortara and Novara to cover Milan. The bridge previously established at Villata on the Sesia was moved to Breme on the Po.
- Visconti’s detachment marched from Rapallo to Chiavari.
On 6 November, Vendôme with all the troops assembled at Alessandria and with 4 guns marched upstream along the Tanaro towards Asti.
On 7 November
- In the morning, Vendôme arrived in front of Asti. As he approached the garrison retired to Villanova d'Asti. He then threw 3 bns and 200 horse into the town, keeping 22 bns, 23 sqns, a number of field pieces and 4 siege pieces with him. He had re-established communication with France.
- Vaudémont detached M. de Langallerie with 600 foot and 400 horse from his camp on the Secchia to intercept the remnants of Visconti's Corps. Langallerie passed the Apennine Mountains and reached Sarzana on the Magra River. A second corps under M. de Cerberet occupied the mountain passes between Lucca and Bologna; a third under M. d'Autrey took post behind Vaudémont's camp at San Benedetto. In fact, Visconti's Imperial Corps had marched from Recco by Chiavari, where it had sojourned a few days.
- Visconti’s detachment marched from Chiavari to Sestri (present-day Sestri Levante).
On 8 November, the Duke of Savoy wrote once more to FZM Starhemberg, this time asking for a reinforcement of 10,000 men.
On 9 November
- A convoy of bread reached Vendôme's Army.
- Visconti’s detachment marched from Sestri to Bracco.
On 10 November
- Vendôme marched to Villanova d'Asti which opposed no resistance.
- On the Secchia, Vaudémont and Besons were informed that Imperial infantry was barracking along the river and that the Imperial cavalry had been cantoned on the Po. They resolved to keep their troops in their present positions instead of sending them into winter-quarters.
- Visconti’s detachment marched back to Chiavari.
At about this time, The Prince of Vaudémont received a letter from Louis XIV reproaching him to have let Visconti's Corps march through his positions and enjoining him to take dispositions to prevent any further reinforcement from reaching Piedmont.
On 11 November, Vendôme was informed that a Savoyard dragoon rgt (400 men) under General Parella was posted at Riva di Chieri. In the evening, Vendôme set off from Villanova d'Asti with 3,000 foot and 900 horse.
On 12 November before daybreak, Vendôme arrived near Riva di Chieri and stormed the village which was defended by 100 dragoons. However, the rest of the regiment, encamped between two streams, managed to escape but was pursued up to Chieri where it took refuge. Since Chieri was a fortified town guarded by 4 bns and 1 cavalry rgt, Vendôme decided to retire to Villanova d'Asti.
On 14 November, considering that Villanova d'Asti was not a strong position, Vendôme moved his camp to the mountains between the Po and Asti, establishing it at Castelnuovo.
On 15 November, MM. Dillon and de Marignan were detached from Castelnuovo with 4 bns: 2 bns entrenching at the Castle of Montafia and 2 bns, at the Castle of Passerano.
Savoyard peasants and militia uselessly tried to harass Vendôme's positions.
On 16 November
- A Savoyard envoy informed Visconti that two ships had been despatched from Oneglia towards Chiavari.
- On the Secchia, Starhemberg held a council of war at Revere where it was determine to march towards Piedmont to effect a junction with the Savoyard Army.
On 17 November, Visconti put his 230 dismounted cavalrymen and his wounded under Major Misko on the two ships supplied by the Duke of Savoy which sailed for Vado (present-day Vado Ligure).
On the night of 17 to 18 November, Visconti set off from Chiavari with the remaining 560 horse and marched back to Rapallo towards Genoa, hoping to elude Franco-Spanish patrols and to finally enter into Piedmont.
|Order of Battle|
|State of the Franco-Spanish cavalry of Vaudémont's Corps on 29 October 1703|
On 18 November
- On the Secchia, a large Imperial corps (about 3,000 foot, 1,000 horse, 4 guns) under General Vaubonne passed the river on the bridge of Concordia.
- Visconti’s detachment went around Genoa, marching westwards, and reached Voltri in the evening.
- In Piedmont, Vendôme was informed of Visconti's renewed attempt.
- On the Secchia, Vaudémont had 34 bns totalling only 10,000 men fit for duty and 75 sqns with only 3,000 horses fit for duty. He sent a corps (28 grenadier coys, 6 bns, 800 horse and 4 guns) under M. de Saint-Fremont to reinforce M. de Goesbriant, encamped at Rolo, hoping to delay the Imperialists.
On the night of 18 to 19 November, Visconti’s detachment marched from Voltri to Varazze where it rested for four hours..
On 19 November
- In Piedmont, Vendôme sent a detachment (10 grenadier coys, 300 fusiliers, 300 horse) under M. de Bouligneux towards Acqui and Cairo Montenotte to intercept Visconti, This detachment was closely followed by another (1,000 regulars and militia) under M. de Sartirane.
- On the Secchia, Saint-Fremont advanced southwards to Fossoli, passed a canal and discovered the Imperial corps posted with its right at Lama (unidentified location) and its left at Cortile. Furthermore, 6 sqns were deployed in front of its centre.
- Around 10:00 p.m., Visconti’s detachment reached Cà di Bona (present-day Cadibona) where it effected a junction with Misko’s detachment which had been transported by ships up to Albissola.
- A Savoyard force of a few bn under Santeria was waiting for Visconti at Cairo Montenotte.
In the night of 19 to 20 November
- On the Secchia, Saint-Fremont passed the Canal of Carpi and re-established the bridges over the Papacina Canal.
- A peasant guided Visconti’s detachment through paths, allowing it to avoid Bouligneux’s force and safely reached Cairo Montenotte.
On 20 November
- In Piedmont, Bouligneux and Sartirane reached Cairo Montenotte to learn that Visconti was ahead of them and had by then reached Turin.
- At 7:00 a.m. on the Secchia, Goesbriant and Broglie passed the Papacina Canal and advanced against the positions of the Imperialists at Lama and Cortile. However, Vaubonne retired precipitously to Concordia behind the Secchia.
- At 3:00 a.m., Visconti’s detachment reached the road of Cairo Montenotte and resumed its march up to Millesimo. Visconti had finally managed to bring some 800 cavalrymen (only 560 still mounted) to reinforce the Savoyard Army.
On 21 November on the Secchia, Saint-Fremont rejoined Vaudémont's main body.
On November 22, Visconti’s detachment marched from Millesimo to Ceva.
From 22 to 25 November on the Secchia, Vaudémont barracked part of his infantry (32 bns) along the Lower-Secchia, supporting it with 32 sqns. He threw 4 bns and 9 sqns under M. de Bissy into Carpi. He sent an additional cavalry rgt to reinforce the garrison of Modena under Lieutenant-General Saint-Fremont, thus increasing it to 7 bns and 12 sqns. He left 5 bns and 6 sqns in the entrenchments of Bastiglia and Bomporto between the Upper-Secchia and Panaro. M. de Senneterre entered into Reggio with 7 sqns previously posted between the Tassone and Crostolo. With these new dispositions, there were 12 bns and 25 sqns under M. de Saint-Fremont in the area of Modena and Reggio. Another 3 bns and 5 sqns were left at Novi and Rolo under M. de Goesbriant. Vaudémont's bridge on the Po was moved upstream from San Giacomo to San Benedetto. To protect communication with the Mincio, 1 cavalry rgt was posted at Coreggioli (probably Corregio Micheli) near Governolo. The Marquis de Praslin remained in Mantua with 6 bns and 3 sqns; M. d'Uzès at Goito with 8 sqns and 4 sqns were posted along the Mincio.
On 24 November
- In Piedmont, Vendôme marched from Castelnuovo to Cocconato. On his way, he dislodged 2 Savoyard militia rgts from Marmorito.
- Visconti’s detachment marched from Ceva to Carrù.
- FZM Starhemberg sent Major-General Count Wirich Daun to Turin to establish a plan for the march of a larger Austrian relief force from Lombardy to Piedmont.
On 25 November, Visconti’s detachment marched to Cherasco.
On 26 November
- On the Secchia, the Prince of Vaudémont left San Benedetto for Milan confiding command of his army (37 bns and 59 sqns totalling only 19,000 men) to M. de Besons.
- Visconti’s detachment marched to Carignano where it took up its quarters. It still consisted of 800 men and 550 horses.
On 28 November in Piedmont, Vendôme marched from Cocconato to Chiusano d'Asti. Several detachments were made to occupy neighbouring castles and M. de Vaubecourt took position at Montechiaro d'Asti.
On 29 November in Piedmont, Vendôme transferred the main body of his army to Montechiaro d'Asti where he established his headquarters, throwing 5 bns and 8 sqns into the town.
|Order of Battle|
|Quarters of the Franco-Spanish armies stationed in Piedmont on 30 November 1703|
On 30 November in Piedmont, Bouligneux marched from Montechiaro d'Asti with his detachment and took position between the Tanaro and the Belbo from Asti to Canetti. Franco-Spanish troops in this region amounted to 22 bns and 20 sqns while MM. de Colmenero and d'Estaing had 3 bns and 10 sqns around Novara. The same day, Duc de Vendôme received a letter from Louis XIV ordering him to confide command in Piedmont to the Grand-Prieur de Vendôme and to personally go to San Benedetto to assume command of the Army of the Secchia.
By December 3, FZM Starhemberg had decided that it was better to risk everything to reach Piedmont than to wait on the Secchia with his starving army.
On 4 December, the Duc de Vendôme personally set of from Asti and went to Milan to confer with the Prince de Vaudémont. M. de Chamillart was sent to Lyon to receive recruits and remounts arriving from France. Many of the Savoyard soldiers taken prisoners were sent by boats from San Pier d'Arena to France
On 5 December in Piedmont, the Duke of Savoy appeared near Alba with 6 regular bns, 6 militia bns, 6 sqns (1 cavalry rgt and 1 dragoon regiment), the remnants of Visconti's detachment and 6 guns. He sent an advanced party to Neire (probably Neive) near Castigliole (Castagnole delle Lanze or Costigliole d'Asti) where 2 French bns were posted.
On 6 December in Piedmont, the Grand-Prieur de Vendôme instructed M. de Vaubecourt to join him with 5 bns and the cavalry of the right to attack the Duke of Savoy. However, the latter retired on Chieri with his grenadiers. The Grand-Prieur sent Vaubecourt's troops back to their quarters.
On 8 December
- The French confiscated the estates of the Duke of Modena who had openly aligned with the Habsburg.
- Count Daun arrived at Ostiglia and reported to FZM Starhemberg about the planned march by Parma and Tortona towards Nizza della Paglia where Starhemberg would effect a junction with the Savoyard army.
Vendôme transferred 12 bns from the Lower-Secchia to the Mincio and to the Canal of Carpi. While he was taking these dispositions, Vendôme was informed that Louis XIV destined Tessé to command on the Secchia and that Lieutenant-General de la Feuillade would then replace Tessé in Savoy. Upon Tessé's arrival, Vendôme would return to Piedmont to assume command of his army.
On 11 December, the Duc de Vendôme set off from Milan and went to Pavia.
On 12 December
- Saint Fremont was informed that the Imperialists were preparing to pass the Secchia at Concordia. In the evening, he marched and rapidly effected a junction with Besons's Corps. The Imperialists abandoned their project.
- Vendôme sailed on the Po from Pavia towards San Benedetto but fog and contrary winds delayed him.
On 17 December, Vendôme finally arrived at San Benedetto.
Vendôme asked the king to retain command on the Secchia while Tessé would assume command in Piedmont and Louis XIV accepted his request.
The Imperialist army joins the Duke of Savoy in Piedmont
|Order of Battle|
|Order of battle of the Imperial army at the end of December 1703|
|Order of battle of the Savoyard army at the end of December 1703|
By 23 December, Vendôme was sure that the Imperialists planned to pass the Secchia at Concordia. He immediately recalled the 12 bns that he had sent to the Mincio.
On 25 December
- At 4:00 a.m., G.d.C. Prince Vaudémont set off with 4 grenadier coys and 4 dragoon sqns. This vanguard passed the Secchia at Concordia and advanced southwards along the canal in the direction of Cortile to cover the crossing of the main body of Starhemberg’s Army, forcing the French outposts to retire.
- The cavalry of the main body then forded the Secchia while the infantry passed the river on a quickly built gangway. The artillery and the train followed, escorted by the Hayduck bns. Major-General Count Solari led the rearguard. The sodden dirt roads tremendously delayed the movement. The short day and the dense fog soon compelled to stop the advance, after a French coy which had occupied the Palazzo di Lama had been driven out.
- The army encamped for the night between Lama and Cortile but train arrived only at the end of the night.
- In the morning, Vendôme detached M. de Vaudrey (800 foot and 200 horse) to pass the Secchia at the ford between Gardella (unidentified location) and Bondanello downstream from Concordia and to reconnoitre the positions of the Imperialists. Vaudrey was wounded while passing the ford and replaced by M. de Maulevrier who confirmed that the main Imperial army was passing the Secchia.
- Vendôme marched to Carpi where he would rendezvous with Saint-Fremont's Corps, arriving there in the evening.
- During the night Vendôme was informed that the Imperialists had marched southwards in the direction of Modena and were encamped between Lama and Cortile.
On 26 December
- Starhemberg sent reconnaissance parties along the canal while his troops erected entrenchments and batteries to induce Vendôme to think that he intended to remain in these positions.
- In the morning, Vendôme marched from Carpi with 6,000 men and 6 guns to effect a junction with Saint-Fremont at Soliera. The latter was already there with 1,200 foot and a few horse taken from Modena, Bastiglia and Bomporto. Saint-Fremont's vanguard had captured the Castle of Soliera. Vendôme passed the Lama near Carpi and marched with 20 grenadier coys followed by the rest of his force. A thick fog hid the positions of the Imperialists who were marching nearby in two columns. Vendôme, unable to effect the projected junction, instructed Saint-Fremont to send most of his troops to Rubiera and to return to Modena with 2 grenadier coys and 1 cavalry rgt. Both armies stopped and remained in order of battle for the rest of the day.
In the night of 26 to 27 December, Saint-Fremont returned to Modena and sent most of his troops to Rubiera as instructed.
On 27 December
- In the afternoon, the Hayduck infantry and the hussars advanced upstream along the canal, followed by the whole army in four columns marching by its left in the direction of Campogalliano.
- Vendôme followed the Imperialists, marching by his right.
- Engagement of Campogalliano
- Starhemberg vanguard (200 cuirassiers and dragoons under Lieutenant-Colonel Werther) reached the bridge of Campogalliano before its French opponents.
- 2 French grenadier coys had taken position in the Castle of Campogalliano and opened fire on the Imperialist vanguard. Soon, a few French bns joined the grenadiers. But the Imperialist vanguard was also reinforced by Colonel Ahrensberg with the Alt-Hessen-Darmstadt Cuirassiers
- When Vendôme realised that he was facing a large corps, he repassed the Papacina Canal and marched towards Carpi, considering his force too weak to oppose Starhemberg’s little army.
- In the evening, the Imperialist vanguard secured a bridge on the Tressinaro.
On 28 December
- The Imperialists encamped with their right at Campogalliano and their left at San Martino in Rio. They had entirely evacuated the Secchia where the French occupied Quistello. However, they had left a corps under General Trautmannsdorf (4 infantry rgts, 2 cavalry rgts) to guard Mirandola, Revere and Ostiglia.
- Trautmannsdorf evacuated the entrenchments of Quistello.
- In the morning, Vendôme arrived at Carpi where the 6 bns returning from the Mincio joined him. He was now at the head of approx. 8,000 men.
- Vendôme doubted that the Imperialists intended to march towards Piedmont but nevertheless informed the Prince de Vaudémont in Milan and the Grand-Prieur in Alessandria that they should rapidly send troops to occupy Stradella which was the only possible way to reach Piedmont between the Apennines Mountains and the Po. He himself planned to attack Starhemberg's Army.
On the night of 28 to 29 December, the Imperialist train reached a camp near the bridge of Rodano (unidentified location), east of Reggio.
On 29 December
- Starhemberg passed the Crostolo. The small French garrison in Reggio did not oppose a very strong resistance; and the Imperialists reached Cella on the Macera Canal where they encamped.
- At daybreak, Vendôme set off from Carpi and marched to the mill of Rotta near Coreggio. He had left 15 bns, 2 cavalry rgts and 1 dragoon rgt on the Secchia and the Mincio.
On 30 December
- At 1:00 a.m., Starhemberg’s Army set off from Cella and passed the Enza on an unbroken bridge at Ponte Enza.
- The vanguard rushed to the Parma to throw a gangway across the river.
- The army crossed the river in plain sight of the inhabitants of Parma and encamped a few km to the south-west of the city.
- In the evening, Starhemberg detached Captain Gregory with 100 horse to reconnoitre the French positions in the direction of Brescello and Guastalla.
- Vendôme marched to Reggio where he was wrongly informed that Starhemberg (8 infantry rgts, 6 cavalry rgts, 2 dragoon rgts and 1 hussar rgt) had passed the Crostolo and was marching to Ponte Enza.
On 31 December
- At daybreak, Starhemberg’s Army marched from the neighbourhood of Parma to San Donino (unidentified location) where it bivouacked.
- At daybreak, Vendôme followed the road taken by Starhemberg, hoping to catch up with his rearguard. Nevertheless, Vendôme was not yet convinced that Starhemberg was marching towards Piedmont and he uselessly diverted troops to prepare entrenchments from Reggio to the mountains to impede an eventual return of Starhemberg towards the Secchia. When Vendôme finally realised that Starhemberg had already passed the Enza, he marched to Parma where he encamped.
On 1 January 1704
- Starhemberg’s Army marched to Pontenure.
- At daybreak, Vendôme marched by the highway leading to Piacenza, preceding his army with his grenadiers with a cavalry vanguard under M. de Lautrec.
- The Prince de Vaudémont sent 2 Spanish bns and the militia of Alessandria and Monferrato under M. de Sartirane towards Stradella.
- The Grand Prieur sent M. d'Estaing from Novara with 3 bns and 13 sqns towards Stradella.
On 2 January
- Starhemberg’s Army passed the Trebbia.
- In the afternoon, Thomas de Vaudémont arrived at Broni to cover Stradella.
- In the evening Starhemberg's Army encamped at Castel San Giovanni.
- Sartirane reached Stradella but he posted most of his 2 bns and militia at Tortona, keeping only 200 men at Stradella.
- In the evening, Caylus Dragoons, belonging to d'Estaing's detachment, passed the Po near Pavia and advanced up to Campospinoso, only 6 km from Stradella.
On the night of 2 to 3 January, Starhemberg detached Colonel Ahrensberg from San Giovanni with 300 dragoons and the Ebergényi Hussars to reconnoitre the fortified defile of Stradella. The castle itself was defended by 600 men of the Tercio de Lombardia and of the Tercio de Saboya. Most of the reinforcements promised by the Prince de Vaudémont and the Grand Prieur had not yet reached Stradella.
On 3 January
- Before daybreak, as d'Estaing passed the Po with his detachment, he was informed that the Imperialists were already master of Broni. He abandoned his design against Stradella, repassed the Po and marched to San Nazzaro (present-day Sannazzaro de' Burgondi).
- Engagement of the Rocca near Stradella
- Early in the morning, Ahrensberg’s vanguard drove back two Spanish outposts, capturing 30 prisoners.
- Starhemberg then ordered G.d.C. Thomas Vaudémont to break through the entrenchments and to make himself master of the castle of Stradella with 1,200 foot, 3 dragoon rgts and a few regimental pieces.
- Starhemberg's main body followed, a few hours behind the vanguard. Major-General Solari was left behind with Guido Starhemberg Infantry, Savoyen Dragoons and Deák Hussars to form the rearguard and to protect the train left at San Giovanni.
- Vaudémont’s Corps reached the vicinity of the Rocca near Stradella and vainly summoned the Comte de Sartirane to surrender. Colonel Max Count Starhemberg then occupied the neighbouring heights with 4 grenadier coys, 600 commandeered and 4 regimental pieces; and opened fire on the wall.
- After one hour of bombardment, the garrison of withdrew into the Rocca Tower. The Imperialists immediately advanced and bombarded this tower from which the Spaniards kept a lively fire. In this action, Lieutenant-Colonel Baron Kornfeil of the Liechtenstein Infantry, 1 grenadier, 5 musketeers and 1 carpenter were killed.
- A few hours later, when Solari advanced to join the main force, he had to burn or destroy 30 baggage wagons to make room for the wagons of the artillery and provisions in the narrow street of San Giovanni.
- As night was approaching, the Imperialists were very close to the Rocca Tower.
- Around midnight, Sartirane surrendered.
- During this combat, the heads of Starhemberg’s main body had reached Broni.
On 4 January
- Major-General Marquis de Vaubonne was left behind to defend the entrenchments of Stradella with 3 dragoon rgts.
- In the afternoon, Starhemberg’s Army reached Voghera.
- Second engagement of Stradella
- Around noon, Vendôme's cavalry vanguard (500 horse under M. de Lautrec) came to contact with the Imperialists dragoons left in the entrenchments of Stradella. The fire of the defenders stopped the French vanguards which then waited for the main body.
- At 1:00 p.m., Vendôme with the head of his army arrived in front of the entrenchments of Stradella, now in the hands of Starhemberg and defended by dismounted dragoons supported by 10 sqns.
- After reconnoitring the positions, Vendôme launched an attack at two different places with 32 grenadier coys.
- Facing such overwhelming forces, Vaubonne soon decided to retire towards Voghera to rejoin Starhemberg’s main body. The French rapidly made themselves master of the entrenchments. As per Vendôme's report, the Imperialists lost about 500 men and 500 men were taken prisoners. However, the Imperialists mention the loss of only 6 men...
- The French followed up and caught up with Solari’s rearguard which was escorting the train, capturing 300 carts, 400 pairs of oxen and 100,000 forage rations.
- Vendôme's Army then encamped at Stradella.
On 5 January
- In the morning, Starhemberg's vanguard reached Castelnuovo Scrivia, where it found that the bridge on the Scrivia had been carried away by the current after the recent downpours.
- Starhemberg's Army marched from Voghera to the Scrivia. The army was in bad condition with much illness among the troops and horses, exhausted by the constant marches. Most of the army spent the night in morasses on the right bank of the Scrivia.
- In the morning, Vendôme's Army set off from Stradella and marched to Voghera.
On 6 January
- Starhemberg's Army passed the Scrivia at Castelnuovo, downstream from Tortona, under pouring rain, marched through Sale; and from there turned southwards and reached San Giuliano on the road leading from Tortona to Alessandria.
- Vendôme continued to closely follow Starhemberg's rearguard, taking about 1,000 men prisoners and capturing several carts.
On 7 January
- Starhemberg's exhausted army marched under a heavy rain on bad roads and reached Bosco Marengo with difficulty, on its way to the stream Orba.
- Vendôme reached the Scrivia in the morning. Having lost contact with Starhemberg's rearguard and not daring to pursue it in the plains of the country of Alessandria, he brought his army to Tortona.
- Vendôme’s cavalry vanguard under Lautrec followed the Imperialists from Castelnuovo to San Giuliano, taking some prisoners.
- The Grand-Prieur personally went from the area of Asti to Alessandria and sent detachments from his left to Acqui to reinforce d'Estaing who was deployed along the Bormida from Borgoratto to Cassine.
On 8 January
- Starhemberg gave a rest day to his army at Bosco Marengo and sent Colonel von Martini with 300 dragoons across the Orba to reconnoitre in the direction of the Bormida di Spigno.
- Vendôme was informed that the Imperialists planned to march towards the Monferrato. He detached d'Estaing to take position behind the Bormida to prevent Starhemberg from throwing bridges on this river. He also detached M. de Bissy (3 bns, 1 cavalry rgt, 1 dragoon rgt and the militia of Alessandria) to Alessandria.
- Vendôme then marched with his army along the left bank of the Scrivia in the direction of Novi. He encamped at Serravalle Scrivia, about 8 km to the south-east of Novi.
On the night of 8 to 9 January, rain finally ceased but the Orba was still swollen and it was impossible to establish a temporary bridge. The foot soldiers rode pillion to pass the river. Finally, as the level of the river dropped steadily, it was possible for the artillery and train to pass the river.
On 9 January, Starhemberg's Army arrived at Castellazzo on the Bormida but found the passage defended by a large Franco-Spanish force (6,000 foot, 2,000 horse). Nevertheless, he had bridging material brought forward as if he intended to force the passage of the river.
On the night of 9 to 10 January, Starhemberg detached Colonel Kriechbaum with 8 grenadier coys and the Savoyen Dragoons to locate and prepare a passage upstream across the Bormida.
On 10 January
- In the morning, while Starhemberg fixed the French at Castellazzo, Kriechbaum was able to improvise a bridge across the Bormida near Cassine.
- In the morning, Starhemberg then suddenly moved upstream along the right bank of the Bormida to Castelnuovo Bormida to pass the river.
- The Grand-Prieur, estimating that the passage of the Bormida could not be defended in these quarters and fearing that the Savoyard army would advance, retired to Alessandria with his infantry and sent his cavalry to reinforce Vendôme, leaving only 800 horse and 400 foot on the Bormida under d'Estaing.
- In the morning, the Duc de Vendôme was informed that Starhemberg was marching towards Castelnuovo Bormida. He immediately decamped from Serravalle Scrivia and marched to Francavilla where his first line encamped; his second line was established at Pasturana; and his vanguard and 500 horse reached Capriata.
In the night of 10 to 11 January
- Vendôme threw a bridge on the Orba but water was so high due to thawing that the bridge was swept along by the current.
- Vendôme’s cavalry vanguard reached Capriata.
On 11 January
- Early in the morning, Starhemberg’s Army began to cross the Bormida; the cavalry and artillery fording the river and the infantry using the improvised bridge. A battalion of Kriechbaum Infantry led by its lieutenant-colonel marched at the head of the infantry. The first coys of the battalion had barely began to pass the river when the bridge collapsed, hurling 40 men into the raging waters.
- It took four costly hours to re-establish a bridge on the Bormida.
- By 2:00 p.m., most rgts along with a large part of the train and 12 artillery pieces had crossed the Bormida.
- At 10:00 a.m., Vendôme managed to re-establish his bridge on the Orba and detached M. de Desessart with 200 horse to check if Starhemberg was still as Castelnuovo Bormida. Meanwhile, his grenadiers passed the Orba immediately followed by his infantry.
- Desessart informed Vendôme that most of the Imperial army had already passed the Bormida and that only 20 troops of cavalry with many carts and the infantry were still at Castelnuovo. Vendôme hastily marched to Castelnuovo with his cavalry and 1,500 grenadiers.
- Engagement of Bormida
- Around 2:00 p.m., when Vendôme finally arrived at Castelnuovo, he found the Imperial army deployed in order of battle on the opposite bank of the Bormida with 6 bns,1,000 cavalrymen and 8 artillery pieces under Major-General Count Solari still on the right bank to cover the ford during the passage of some 200 carts. Vendôme sent his grenadiers through a sunken road towards Castelnuovo.
- Solari sent his 6 bns forward to defend the outskirts of the village and support the cavalry that the French had driven back. He also established his 8 pieces to defend the village; 4 bns took position behind the walls and in the gardens while 2 bns (Solari Infantry and Rheingraf Infantry) occupied the Rocca di Castelnuovo to cover the bridge.
- During this time, M. d'Albergotti was making disposition to launch an attack on Starhemberg's positions, confiding the right to M. de Murcey and the left to M. de Goesbriant. Vendôme sent forward M. de Saint-Fremont with the cavalry to attack the Imperial cavalry covering the ford. Before Saint-Fremont could engage them, this cavalry precipitously retired across the river, abandoning the carts. **D'Albergotti then gave the signal for the general assault. His grenadiers advanced without firing a shot and entered into the village of Castelnuovo under the fire of the Imperial infantry. In this engagement, the Imperialists lost some 900 men (3 captains, 4 lieutenants and more than 150 men killed; 400 men wounded; and 6 officers and 300 men taken prisoners or missing). Vendôme also captured seven colours (including a colour of the Tercio de Lombardia which had been previously captured by the Imperialists). FML Prince of Lichtenstein was wounded and Major-General Solari killed. For their part, the French lost 40 officers and 150 grenadiers and dragoons. MM. de Goesbriant, de Saint-Pater and de Morangies were wounded. To the exception of the grenadiers, Vendôme's infantry did not take part in this affair, still being on its way.
- The Imperialists managed to break the bridge after their retreat.
- Both armies spent the night facing each other across the Bormida.
On 12 January
- Early on the morning, Starhemberg marched by Strevi in the direction of Acqui which was defended by M. Desclos with 400 foot and 200 horse. On his way, Starhemberg summoned Desclos but when the latter refused to surrender, Starhemberg decided to continue his advance, ignoring the place.
- In the evening, Starhemberg’s Army reached the village of Terzo on the Bormida where the Marquis Barella was waiting for it with some Savoyard troops.
- Since the Imperialists had destroyed their bridge at Castelnuovo Bormida, Vendôme marched with 300 dragoons to the ford of Rivalta which he found unpassable. Vendôme then resolved to abandon the pursuit and to march to Castelspina to effect a junction with the army of the Grand-Prieur.
- Vendôme's Army reached Castelspina the same day. His vanguard pushed up to Castellazzo where the bridge of boats previously established at Alessandria was moved.
- M. de Bissy (3 bns, 1 cavalry rgt, 1 dragoon rgt) was instructed to march from Alessandria and to rejoin the Grand-Prieur's Army.
- Informed that the situation on the Secchia was critical, Trautmannsdorf having laid siege to Bastiglia and Bomporto, Vendôme sent M. de Saint-Fremont with 10 bns and 14 sqns to relieve these fortified camps.
On 13 January
- Starhemberg’s Army marched to Canelli on the Belbo. The army was still encamping when Starhemberg was informed that the Duke of Savoy was at Nizza Monferrato about 10 km from his camp. Starhemberg immediately rode to meet the duke.
In the night of 13 to 14 January, Vendôme's bridge was finally completed at Castellazzo.
On 14 January, Starhemberg's Army (approx. 12,000 men excluding sick and wounded) effected a junction with the Savoyard army at Nizza Monferrato.
On 15 January
- Starhemberg reached Neive and Castagnole where he encamped.
- In the morning, Vendôme's Army passed the Bormida at Castellazzo and marched to Bergamasco where it passed the Belbo, reaching Corticella (unidentified location). Vendôme personally went to Asti. Informed that the Imperialists were still at Nizza Monferrato, he sent M. de Bouligneux (9 bns) forward to make himself master of the Castle of Costigliole d'Asti and thus cut their way to Alba.
On 16 January
- In the morning, Starhemberg passed the Tanaro at Alba and Govone where the Duke of Savoy had already prepared a bridge which was removed as soon as the passage had been completed.
- At daybreak, Vendôme detached M. de Vaubecourt (8 bns, 5 sqns) to Isola d'Asti to support Bouligneux who was already master of the Castle of Costigliole. Bouligneux also seized the Castle of Calosso with the carabiniers and 2 Spanish cavalry rgts.
- Vendôme realised that he was too late to intercept the Allies and encamped his army near Isola d'Asti with his headquarters at Costigliole.
On 17 January, Vendôme sent M. de Vaubecourt with his troops back to the region of Monferrato and Mantua to retake their winter-quarters. D'Estaing returned to the region of Novara.
|Order of Battle|
|Winter-quarters of the Franco-Spanish Army of Piedmont on 18 January 1704|
On 18 January, all of Vendôme's troops set off from Costigliole to return to their winter-quarters and Vendôme established his own quarters at Asti. Further reinforcements were sent to Saint-Fremont on the Secchia to recapture Bastiglia and Bomporto which had finally fallen into the hands of the Imperialists. After all these manoeuvres, the Army of Piedmont still counted 56 bns and 71 sqns deployed as follows:
- 37 French bns and 40 French sqns from Asti to Verrua
- 10 bns and 13 sqns around Casale
- 9 bns and 18 sqns on the Sesia and around Novara
On 19 January, the Duke of Savoy and Starhemberg encamped at Cocconato with their armies.
On 20 January
- The Duke of Savoy advanced to the Castle of Moransengo at the head of the Valley of Stura while Starhemberg encamped at Cocconato.
- The Duc de Vendôme and the Grand-Prieur de Vendôme conferred together and decided to send troops towards Cocconato.
- M. de Vaubecourt advanced to Rinco and Scandeluzza with 3 bns, 3 grenadier coys and 2 cavalry rgts to observe the Allies, anchoring his left on Montiglio and the Piova occupied by 8 bns and placing his right to maintain communication with Odalengo, Gabiano and Moncestino, occupied by M. de Guerchy with 8 bns.
- The Duc de Vendôme posted 1,200 men on the height of Villadeati controlling the road of Pontestura. A few hours later, 4 bns arriving from Moncalvo reinforced Vendôme's position at Villadeati; 4 other bns retired from the Piovo and took post at Cunico.
On 21 January
- The Duke of Savoy sojourned at Moransengo and the Imperialists at Cocconato while additional troops joined them. The Allies (18,000 foot, 7,000 horse) remained in this area until 24 January, to allow the exhausted Imperial troops to rest.
- Vendôme sent 4 bns from the garrison of Asti and 300 men from the Irish rgts between Villadeati and Rinco. Furthermore, 6 cavalry or dragoon rgts (each of approx. 200 men) encamped near Villadeati.
On 22 January, the two armies were facing each other, separated by the Valley of the Stura: the Allies with their right at Cocconato and their left at Moransengo; Vendôme with his right at Villadeati and his left at Montechiaro d'Asti.
During the following days, the Duke of Savoy sent his militia on Montafia to make a diversion without result.
On 24 January, the Duke of Savoy sent his baggage and cavalry to Verrua where they passed the Po.
In the night of 24 to 25 January, the Duke of Savoy sent his infantry and the Imperial infantry to Verrua where they crossed the Po unmolested. The Allies then encamped at Crescentino, on the left bank of the river.
On 25 January in the morning, Vendôme realised that the Allies had retreated from their previous positions and passed the Po.
On 26 January, Vendôme moved his quarters between the Po and the Tanaro and placed 12 bns and 20 sqns within reach of Casale and Valenza, ready to cross the Po on the bridges of these two towns. He also moved his headquarters to Casale. D'Estaing remained in his former positions.
The Imperial artillery took up its quarters in Desana and the headquarters were established at Trino. The Bagosy Hayducken (2 bns) and the Ebergényi Hussars (2 sqns) defended the fortified place of Villanova. Regal Infantry (2 bns) remained in Verrua as garrison. The Savoyard encamped near Crescentino. Thus, their troops were concentrated between the Po, the Sesia and the Dora-Baltea to the exception of the 4 bns left on the right bank of the Po near Verrua. They also established advanced posts near Casale and entrenched themselves in the village of Villanova Monferrato, throwing large corps into Verrua and Vercelli. The Duke of Savoy then personally returned to Turin and Starhemberg followed him a few days later.
On 27 January
- 5 bns and 8 sqns sent by Vendôme arrived at Mortara to reinforce d'Estaing from where the latter sent them to Cerane and Trecate. D'Estaing was now at the head of 14 French bns, 36 French sqns and the Spanish Caylus Dragoons, Brabant Cavalry, Flandre Cavalry, Trivulce Cavalry, Val de Fuentes Cavalry, Molfette Cavalry and Figuieres Cavalry. For his part, Vendôme still had 39 bns and 28 sqns on the right bank of the Po.
- The rest of the French troops (27 bns, 29 sqns) were in Lombardy under M. de Saint-Fremont.
The Duc de Vendôme and the Prince de Vaudémont now planned to establish a line of defence on the Sesia from Romagnano to the mouth of the river.
On 28 January, M. de Saint-Fremont arrived at Reggio where he assembled his army. Saint-Fremont soon stormed Bastiglia and Bomporto, each defended by approx. 500 men; and made himself master of Quistello, forcing the Imperialists to retire to Mirandola. Meanwhile, M. de Praslin launched a diversion on Ostiglia from Mantua.
Trautmannsdorf (7 infantry rgts, 2 Hayduck rgts, 4 cavalry or dragoon rgts for a total of 6,750 foot and 1,850 horse) evacuated Finale and his other outposts between the Secchia and the Panaro and quartered his troops in Mirandola, Revere and Ostiglia and the surrounding locations.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Vault, François Eugène de: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV
- Vol. 2 pp. 280-281
- Vol. 3 pp. 147-361, 816-821, 848, 858-859
- Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1
- Vol. 5, Vienna 1878, pp. 138-285
- Vol. 6, Vienna 1879, pp. 211, 217
- Spanish Succession, War of the, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (c1910-1922), Vol. 25, p. 601