1704 – Campaign in Dauphiné, Provence and Savoy
The campaign lasted from October 1703 to December 1704
In the last months of 1703, Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy had openly abandoned his alliance with France and Spain and joined the Allies. A Franco-Spanish army under the command of the Duc de Vendôme then invaded Piedmont while the duke's brother, the “Grand-Prieur de Vendôme” assumed command of the army left behind in Lombardy. At the end of December, an Imperialist corps under the command of FZM Guido Starhemberg had managed to march from Lombardy and to effect a junction with the Savoyard Army in Piedmont. Both armies had then continued operation till late January 1704 before taking their winter-quarters. Meanwhile, another French army had been assembling in Dauphiné and in Provence to invade Savoy proper.
Preparations in 1703
On 18 October 1703, the Maréchal de Tessé set off from Versailles. On 22 October he arrived in Grenoble to take command of the army assembling there. Meanwhile, the Court had ordered to transfer 8 bns and 3 sqns from Languedoc. These troops should be joined by 7 bns and 16 sqns from the Army of Germany; who had been instructed to march as soon as Landau would have been captured; and by 10 bns from Flanders. Altogether, these troops should from an army of 25 bns and 19 sqns. Furthermore, Tessé had been authorised to raise 6 militia bns in Dauphiné to serve with his field army.
Deprived of the largest part of his army, which had been taken prisoners at San Benedetto at the end of September 1703, the Duke of Savoy assembled his militia (12 bns) and his barbets to guard the frontier from the Mediterranean to the Rhône. He also raised 2 cavalry rgts, 1 dragoon rgt. Meanwhile, the Marquis de Salles, a Savoyard general, raised 6 bns in Savoy and he improved the defensive works of Chambéry.
For his part, Tessé had no open line of communication with the army of the Duc de Vendôme operating in Piedmont. Tessé first task was to secure the frontier of Dauphiné against any incursion of the Savoyards. He posted La Fère Infanterie (1 bn) and 1 cavalry coy at Fenestrelle; 800 militiamen in the valleys of Exilles, Oulx and Bardonecchia; 2 coys in the Castle of Queyras; and 7 bns at the head of the Isère River near Barraux. He also raised 3 militia rgts (each of 1,000 men). He also instructed to remove all boats from the Rhône, and initiated work to repair the road from Briançon to Grenoble by Embrun, Gap, Champsaur, Lesdiguières and Vizille.
On 31 October, the first reinforcements arriving from Languedoc reached Grenoble. The Marquis de Salles immediately evacuated Chambéry and retired to Montmélian where he encamped on the left bank of the Isère with 2,000 militiamen and 100 horse.
On 14 November, Tessé joined the corps assembling at Barraux.
On 15 November, Tessé marched from Barraux to Chambéry at the head of 5 bns, 2 dragoon sqns and 6 guns, leaving 2 bns and 1 sqn near Barraux. The Marquis de Salles evacuated the Castle of Marches, the Castle of Apremont and the towers of Chignin. On Tessé's arrival in front of Chambéry, the town capitulated and opened its gates.
In the following days, Annecy, Rumilly and all cantons of Savoy which were not occupied by militia units capitulated too. Leaving a garrison in Montmélian, the Marquis de Salles retired to Feissons, between Conflans and Moutiers, at the entry of the Tarentaise Valley, where he entrenched his corps.
Tessé sent 1 bn and 1 sqn to Aiguebelle with instruction to occupy the Maurienne Valley. He also sent 1 bn to Thonon and 1 bn to Évian on Lake Geneva to cover Annecy and prevent any trade between French Protestants and the Duke of Savoy.
The Marquis de Salles was then reinforced and advanced on Aiguebelle. Tessé soon recalled the bns sent to Thonon and Évian, as well as the bn and the sqn sent to Aiguebelle and posted them at Barraux.
Louis XIV then decided to give command of the Army of Lombardy to Tessé who would be replaced by the Duc de la Feuillade in Savoy.
On 10 December, the Duc de la Feuillade arrived at Chambéry to assume command.
Meanwhile, de Salles had retaken position at Annecy and had come back to Montmélian where he had assembled all the militia of the country. Part of his troops even attacked the Castle of Arvilar but were repulsed.
For his part, Tessé had given orders to assemble the six newly raised militia bns at Chambéry
On 11 December, 2 of the new militia bns arrived at Chambéry.
On 12 December, Tessé left for Milan in Lombardy by Geneva and the Simplon.
By 14 December, the 6 new militia bns were assembled at Chambéry. Meanwhile, the Duc de la Feuillade assembled 11 bns (on average only 300 men per bn) and his dragoon rgt, leaving 1 bn at Pont-Chara to hold the Grésivaudan Valley and sent 2 militia bns under M. de Gévaudan to reinforce the bn already stationed in Upper-Dauphiné.
On 15 December, the Duc de la Feuillade detached M. de Vallière with 5 bns and 2 guns to Annecy with instructions to recapture Thonon, Évian and La Roche. The garrison of Annecy evacuated the town before Vallière's arrival. De Salles retired on Saint-Pierre d'Albigni.
On 18 December, M. de Salles retired to Conflans.
M. de Vallière established garrisons in Annecy, Thonon, La Roche and Evian, and then returned to Chambéry.
In the night of 19 to 20 December, the Duc de la Feuillade detached M. de La Fare to Saint-Pierre d'Albigni and to the nearby Castle of Miolans. He also sent M. de Montremy with 2 militia bns, 2 regular bns and 100 dragoons to capture Aiguebelle.
In the morning of 24 December, informed that some 750 Savoyards were assembled at Epierre on the right bank of the Arc River, Montremy advanced against them and drove them out of their positions. He then established 1 militia bn in La Chambre and returned to Aiguebelle, remaining there with 1 militia bn and sending his 2 regular bns and his 100 dragoons on the Isère.
On 26 December, the Duc de la Feuillade joined the troops assembled at Saint-Pierre d'Albigni.
On 27 December, the Duc de la Feuillade marched on Conflans at the head of these troops, leaving 250 men of the Montanègre militia bn to guard Saint-Pierre d'Albigni. M. de Salles evacuated Conflans and retired into the entrenchments of Fessons.
On 28 December, the Duc de la Feuillade sojourned at Conflans, waiting for a bread convoy arriving from Annecy under the escort of the Monferrat militia bn and a detachment of 200 men of the garrison of La Roche.
On 29 December, the Duc de la Feuillade sent 300 dismounted dragoons of II. Languedoc Dragons, 5 grenadier coys (each of 50 men), 50 men of the II./Bourbon Infanterie, 100 men of the Montanègre militia Battalion, 100 men of the Montferrat Militia Battalion, I./Rouergue Infanterie (250 men) and II./Beaujolais Infanterie (300 men) to turned de Salles' positions. Meanwhile, he sent M. de Chantelou, lieutenant of artillery, with 6 guns and approx. 1,200 men to make a diversion against the entrenchments of Fessons. De la Feuillade reached Beaufort around 5:00 p.m. He advanced further to the village of Arèche with his grenadiers and dragoons.
In the night of 29 to 30 December, de la Feuillade's main body marched from Beaufort and joined him at Arèche. At 3:00 a.m., all his troops started to climb the Cormet Pass.
On 30 December, Chantelou feigned an attack on Fessons. De la Feuillade sent him 5 coys of Brissac Cavalerie and instructed II./Sansay Infanterie and the Susa Militia Regiment to climb the Colombe pass two hours before daybreak, to reach the mountain top around noon and thus create an additional diversion. Meanwhile, Conflans was occupied by 200 men. De la Feuillade finally reached Ayme with his grenadiers and dragoons at 3:30 p.m., only to learn that de Salles had precipitously retired from Fessons during the previous night. In fact, de Salles had already crossed the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass with his cavalry, the Ivrea Provincial Militia and the so called Camisards and had reached Saint-Maurice.
On 31 December, the Duc de la Feuillade, now master of the entire province of Savoy, retired on Moutiers. The first reinforcements arriving from Germany effected a junction with his little army.
The campaign of 1704 in Northern Italy will be covered in three distinct articles;
- the present article, describing the operations in Dauphiné, Provence and Savoy
- the article 1704 – Campaign in Piedmont
- the article 1704 – Campaign in Lombardy
First operations of 1704
On 1 January, informed that the Ivrea Provincial Militia and the Camisards had not yet crossed the Petit Saint-Bernard, M. de Vallière marched on Saint-Maurice with grenadiers and dragoons.
On 2 January, Vallière reached the bridge of Scez where a few Savoyard troops were entrenched. However, these troops took flight.
On 3 January, de la Feuillade sent 10 militia coys and 2 coys of Hautefort Dragons (just arrived from Germany) to dislodge 400 Savoyard militiamen posted at Pont-Amafrei. These troops occupied Termignon and Lanslebourg.
On 4 January, having secured the passes of Mont Cenis and Saint-Bernard, the Duc de la Feuillade returned to Conflans. He then ceded command in the Province of Savoy to M. de Vallière who was charged to blockade Montmélian, still occupied by a garrison of 1,000 men.
On 7 January, the Duc de la Feuillade returned to Grenoble.
Troops gradually arriving from Germany and from Flanders were redirected to Upper-Dauphiné to reinforce M. de Gévaudan; and to the Maurienne and Tarentaise valleys.
For his part, the Duke of Savoy had sent a Swiss battalion to the Aosta Valley to reinforce the Ivrea Provincial Militia and the Camisards
Vallière, who was now at the head of an army of 25 bns, 19 sqns and 6 militia bns, reacted by sending 2 additional bns to his outposts at Saint-Maurice and Scez.
On 16 January, an Imperialist corps (14,000 men) under FZM Guido Starhemberg managed to effect a junction with the Savoyard Army at Alba on the Tanaro after a long march from Lombardy.
This manoeuvre totally changed the strategic situation in Northern Italy. The Duke of Savoy was now able to take his winter-quarters between the Po, the Sesia and the Dora Baltea; and this cover his places located on the left bank of the Po. The Duc de Vendôme had to weaken the Army of Lombardy to maintain his superiority in Piedmont. He took his winter-quarters with 56 bns and 71 sqns in the regions of Monferrato, Asti, Alessandria, Novara and the Lumeline. The Duc de Vendôme then sent the rest of his forces back to Lombardy where the Maréchal de Tessé was facing an Imperialist army under the command of Count Trautmansdorf.
Louis XIV recalled Tessé from Lombardy to command in Savoy and Dauphiné, giving command of the Army of Lombardy to the Grand Prieur Vendôme. The Duc de la Feuillade remained in Dauphiné to second Tessé and was charged to lead as soon as possible reinforcements destined to the Duc de Vendôme. But when Louis XIV received intelligence about the plan of the Maritime Powers (Great Britain and the Dutch Republic) for a landing in the region of Nice, he immediately resolved to make himself master of the region of Nice to prevent such a landing. The Duc de la Feuillade received new orders to this effect. Meanwhile the Duc de Vendôme would lay siege to Vercelli as a diversion. Tessé would remain in Savoy and Dauphiné with 10 bns, 6 militia bns and 6 dragoon sqns. De la Feuillade's Corps army consisted of 18 bns and 13 sqns.
On 10 February, de la Feuillade's first troops marched towards Nice. He left 2 bns and 1 sqn at Scez; 3 dragoon sqns and 1 bn in the Maurienne Valley; 1 bn in Thonon; and 1 bn in Evian. The militia of Dauphiné and 1 dragoon sqn continued the blockade of Montmélian. Another dragoon sqn and 2 free coys were left in Chambéry; 7 free coys in Barraux. Furthermore 6 regular bns were left in Dauphiné.
On 17 February 1704, the Grand-Prieur de Vendôme went to Modena. Meanwhile, Tessé set off from Milan to go to Grenoble where he would join M. de la Feuillade. Finally, the Maréchal de Montrevel continued to assume command of the troops fighting the Camisards in the Cévennes.
On 24 February, the Maréchal de Tessé arrived in Grenoble to assume command in Dauphiné and Savoy.
On 28 February, Louis XIV sent a letter to Tessé to inform him that he considered the conquest of the County of Nice would be the best way to deprive the Duke of Savoy of any reinforcement. However, the king authorised Tessé to undertake the siege of Susa if he judged it to be more advantageous.
Tessé finally opted for the conquest of the County of Nice despite Vendôme's insistence to maintain the initial design and to lay siege to Susa. Tessé charged the Duc de la Feuillade to prepare the invasion of the County of Nice. However, while preparations were underway, Louis XIV postponed the operation, considering that Vendôme would not be ready to make a diversion before the month of May. Until then, the king instructed Tessé and Vendôme to make demonstrations against the County of Nice, the town of Susa and the Province of Piedmont.
Taking advantage of these delays, the Duke of Savoy ordered M. de Blagnac to assemble a corps of 2,000 (foot and dragoons) at Susa.
In the night of 27 to 28 March, Blagnac attacked Chaumont, forcing the battalion defending this post to evacuate it with a loss of 100 men killed, wounded or captured. Blagnac then plundered the town and put it to contribution.
On 28 March, Blagnac passed the Mont Cenis and entered into the Maurienne Valley.
In the night of 28 to 29 March, Blagnac attacked Lauslebourg, capturing three dragoon coys cantoned in the town and 100 dismounted dragoons who guarded the bridge on the Arc River.
On March 30, Blagnac drove 3 dragoon coys out of Termignon and then marched on Termant, forcing the rest of this dragoon regiment to retire to Saint-André and pursuing it up to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
The French feared that Blagnac would be only the vanguard of a more important corps. Indeed, in Savoy, the French had only 5 regular bns with 2 dragoon rgts and the militia, who had been used as recruits for the Army of Piedmont, had been reduced to only 400 men. Similarly, the French had only 6 bns in Dauphiné. Tessé was sick and the Duc de la Feuillade had to take dispositions against Blagnac's incursion.
In the first days of April, the Duc de la Feuillade asked to M. de Vallière to recall the 2 bns previously posted at Thonon and Évian where they were replaced by 2 free coys; to raise the blockade of Montmélian; to advance to Aiguebelle; to leave 1 bn and 2 free coys in Chambéry; and to leave 1 bn and 1 dragoon sqn at Scez to guard the head of the Tarentaise Valley. De la Feuillade also ordered 2 bns to march from Upper Dauphiné to Savoy and replaced them by 3 bns transferred from Provence. Meanwhile, to protect Lower Dauphiné, he put all the peasants of the Grésivaudan Valley under arms.
According to orders, M. de Vallière assembled 3 bns, 5 dragoon sqns and 400 militiamen at Aiguebelle and marched upstream along the Arc River.
On 6 April, Vallière arrived at Pont-Amafrei. He planned to drive Blagnac out of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. However, he was informed that another Savoyard detachment had passed the Petit Saint-Bernard and entered into the Tarentaise Valley. Vallière decided to retire to Aiguebelle. Fearing for the troops assembled at Scez, he instructed them to retire to Conflans.
This new incursion induced the Duc de la Feuillade to recall 4 additional bns and 1 dragoon rgt from Provence.
On 10 April, Vallière's and Sanzay's detachments arrived at Barraux after having evacuated Aiguebelle and Conflans.
On 11 April, the Duc de la Feuillade marched with 5 bns and 2 dragoon rgts from Grenoble to Barraux where his corps effected a junction with Vallière's and Sanzay's detachments. To protect Chambéry and the Grésivaudan Valley, de la Feuillade deployed 2 bns at the Castle of Marches under the command of M. de Vallière; 1 bn and a detachment of 130 men at the Monastery of Notre-Dame de Mean; the militia in Chambéry; 2 free coys in the Castle of Chambéry; and 3 bns at Pont-Chara. Entrenchments were made at Pont-Chara and two redoubts were built near the ferry in the harbour of Gâche. His 2 dragoon rgts remained near Barraux and at Chaparillan. The same day, the two Savoyard detachments (a total of 7 bns and 600 dragoons) effected a junction at Montmélian.
On 14 April, the Duc de la Feuillade removed 1 bn previously stationed in Chambéry.
On 15 April, the Savoyard Corps marched on Chambéry. M. de la Feuillade had just enough time to throw 1 dragoon rgt into the town. He then assembled the rest of his corps but finally decided to abandon Chambéry (defended by 2 free coys, 1 dragoon rgt and some militia) to its fate. He also recalled the detachments posted at the Castle of Marches and at Notre-Dame de Mean, and encamped with the rest of his troops at Pont-Chara, sending 2 bns to the left bank of the Isère River. When the Savoyards arrived in front of Chambéry, they summoned M. de Prade, commanding the place. De Prade refused to surrender and the Savoyards attacked the place with light guns and their grenadiers. But the defenders forced them to retire.
In the morning of 16 April, the Duc de la Feuillade was informed by deserters that the Savoyards had abandoned their design against Chambéry and retired towards Montmélian. However, they left garrisons in the Castle of Marches, in the Castle of Apremont and at Notre-Dame de Mean. Furthermore, 100 Savoyard militiamen advanced up to the Chartreuse, thus cutting the main communication between Grenoble and Chambéry.
The Duc de la Feuillade sent 2 bns, 700 armed peasants and 4 guns to reinforce the garrison of Chambéry. He then retired his dragoons from the place and posted them at Chaparillan, supported by 2 bns posted on the heights overlooking the village. He also left 3 bns and 100 peasants at Pont-Cbara. Finally, he sent 800 gardes bourgeoises de Grenoble under the command of the Chevalier de Miane to protect the communications between Chambéry and Echelles.
Meanwhile, the Maréchal de Tessé recalled 4 bns and 1 dragoon rgt from Provence to Dauphiné. They were expected in Dauphiné around 25 April. The Court also sent orders to Provence to send 2 additional bns and 1 dragoon rgt to Dauphiné.
On 20 April, the Savoyards advanced downstream along the Isère and appeared in front of Chaparillan, vainly trying to lure the garrison into an ambush. They then retired to Montmélian.
In the night of 22 to 23 April, the Savoyard Corps retired from Montmélian towards the Tarentaise, leaving only 1,000 men under the command of the Count of Santena in this place.
On 23 April, when the Duc de la Feuillade was informed of the retreat of the Savoyards, he sent a detachment to follow them. He also ordered M. de Vallière to march with all his troops.
On 24 April, the Duc de la Feuillade left for Grenoble where he intended to prepare the expedition against the County of Nice. The same day, Vallière set off from Chambéry.
On 25 April, Vallière reached Aiguebelle where he assembled 10 bns (including the 3 first bns arriving from Provence) and 2 dragoon rgts.
On 28 April, the Savoyard Corps repassed the Petit Saint -Bernard and returned into the Aosta Valley. Vallière then distributed his troops in various locations: 2 bns and 1 dragoon rgt in the Maurienne Valley; and 2 bns and 1 sqn in the Tarentaise Valley. He also re-established the blockade of Montmélian with the remaining 6 bns. He then retired to Chambéry with 1 sqn, sending another sqn to Thonon and Evian, and a free coy to Annecy. The French were once more master of all the Province of Savoy, to the exception of Montmélian.
Meanwhile, King Louis XIV came to the conclusion that it would be dangerous to divert troops from Dauphiné and Savoy for the planned conquest of the County of Nice and decided to give priority to the siege of Susa. He sent orders to Tessé to take disposition for this siege, instructing him to recall all troops stationed in Provence to the exception of 6 bns and 1 dragoon rgt which would remain in this province to secure it.
The French lay siege to Susa
The Maréchal de Tessé being sick, he asked for the authorisation to leave the army, confiding it to the Duc de la Feuillade. The latter then assumed command of the army (29 regular bns, 3 militia bns, 5 dragoon rgts) stationed in Savoy, Dauphiné and Provence. He immediately prepared for the siege of Susa, reserving 20 bns and 4 dragoon rgts to this endeavour, leaving 5 regular bns, 3 militia bns and 1 dragoon rgt in Savoy under the command of M. de Vallière; and 4 bns in Provence under the command of M. de Grignan. For the protection of Upper Dauphiné, he armed 2,000 peasants. The troops destined to the siege of Susa were ordered to concentrate at Briançon for 26 May while the artillery depot was placed in Exilles. The artillery itself amounted to 20 guns and 6 mortars. A large number of peasants was put to work on the road leading from Briançon to Exilles. M. de Gévaudan was charged to protect the convoys with the 6 bns placed under his command in Upper Dauphiné.
On 9 May, de la Feuillade was informed that the Duc de Vendôme had passed the Po at Casal with his army on 6 May, to march upstream along the left bank of this river up to Verrua; and that the Duke of Savoy, after assembling his own army on the Stura, had retired as Vendôme advanced, taking a very strong position at Crescentino on 7 May, between the Po and the Dora Baltea.
De la Feuillade then sped up his preparations but he was delayed by raids of the Barbets (opponents to the occupation of Savoy by the French) who forced him to interrupt convoys from Briançon to Fenestrelle, and from Fenestrelle to Exilles. Meanwhile, M. de Grignan had postponed the departure of French troops stationed in Provence. De la Feuillade himself also delayed the departure of French troops stationed in Savoy and used them to build entrenchments at Conflans. He also sent 4 heavy guns to M. de Marcilly, charged of the blockade of Montmélian, where work on the redoubts surrounding Montmélian also continued.
On 20 May, de la Feuillade finally decided that he could recall the troops stationed in Savoy.
On 22 May, 5 bns and 1 dragoon rgt marched from Savoy towards Briançon where de la Feuillade was concentrating his army for the siege of Susa. Only 6 bns (including 3 militia bns) were left for the blockade of Montmélian, and 2 bns and 1 dragoon rgt in the region of Conflans. Furthermore, 1 dragoon sqn was sent to Thonon and Evian to put the peasants of the region to contribution.
De la Feuillade was then informed that Villars had had a conference with Cavalier, the chief of the rebels of Languedoc where the latter promised to deposit arms. The French Court then instructed de la Feuillade to pursue his design against Susa and decided to charge Villars with the expedition against the County of Nice with 18 bns and 2 dragoon rgts. However, troubles in Languedoc persisted and Villars' forces could not be redirected against Nice.
The French Court also instructed Vendôme to lay siege to Vercelli instead of Verrua and gave order to de la Feuillade to lay siege to Susa.
On 24 May, the Duc de la Feuillade detached M. de Masselin (4 bns) to Jaillon and M. de Berulle (4 bns) to the pass of Fenestrelle. Susa was defended by 3 bns and 1 coy of Protestant infantry for a total of 1,400 men under the command of M. de Bernardi.
On 26 May, de la Feuillade went from Grenoble to Briançon. On his arrival there, he learned that the Savoyards had launched another raid in the Tarentaise Valley and sent back 2 bns and 1 dragoon rgt to Savoy. He also instructed M. de Vallière to raise the blockade of Montmélian if ever the Savoyards showed up with a superior force.
On 28 May, Judging that Dauphiné was sufficiently secured by the 9 bns, the 3 dragoon rgts and the 3 militia bns; and Provence well covered with the 4 bns left behind; de la Feuillade marched from Briançon to Oulx. The same day, the Savoyards attacked Chaumont but were driven back to Susa.
On 29 May, de la Feuillade marched to Chaumont. Once his army established in its camp, he sent several detachments towards Susa. They first drove the Savoyards out of their advanced posts and then occupied the heights overlooking the entrenchments of La Brunetta where the enemy had a 3 bns under the command of the Count de Blagnac.
In the last days of May, according to his instructions, Vendôme invested Vercelli.
On 30 May, de la Feuillade sent M. de Berulle from the Heights of Fenestrelle with 4 bns to pass the Fenêtre at Meana and to make himself master of the Catinat redoubt which had been repaired by the enemy.
On 31 May, de la Feuillade deployed his little army in front of Susa with his right at Meana, above the pass of La Fenêtre, and his left anchored of the Dora River. However, he had not enough troops to completely invest the place who could still receive assistance from Turin or from the Savoyard Army. The town of Susa could not oppose any serious resistance but the citadel was located on a steep rock and surrounded by a dry ditch. Due to the very rocky ground, it was almost impossible to build earthworks to besiege the citadel. Two French 24-pdr guns soon opened against the town.
On 1 June, the town of Susa opened its gates while the 50 men previously posted inside its walls took refuge in the entrenchments of La Brunetta after destroying the bridge. The Duc de la Feuillade immediately made preparations to make himself master of La Brunetta on the same day. Around 9:00 p.m., 15 grenadier coys and 400 dragoons supported by 8 bns took their dispositions for the attack. Guns were planted on the heights to prevent the Savoyards from forming. Meanwhile, M. de Paysac occupied Mount Pantero with 2 bns and 100 dragoons. Everything was ready for the assault when the Duc de la Feuillade saw a force of approx. 750 dragoons arriving from Brusolo. From this troop, 300 dismounted dragoons reinforced the troops posted at La Brunetta. De la Feuillade held a council of war where it was decided to postpone the attack.
On 2 June, 4 Allied bns entered into the citadel of Susa and the Allied dragoons encamped near La Brunetta were reinforced with 800 horse. Overall, the Allies had 7 bns (2 bns of Schulembourg Infantry, 1 bn of Aosta Infantry, 1 bn of Piemonte Infantry, 1 bn of Monferrato Infantry, 1 bn of Reding Infantry and 1 bn of Savoia Infantry), 1,400 mounted men, 1 Swiss coy and 1 Protestant coy. For his part, de la Feuillade posted 1 bn at the pass of Fenêtre and 1 bn in Novalesa. He wrote to the court to ask for a reinforcement of 6 bns from Languedoc. De la Feuillade also recalled M. de Vallière with the 2 bns and the dragoon rgt which he had previously sent to Savoy.
At that time, M. de Lapara, an engineer sent by the Court to supervise the siege, arrived at the French camp in front of Susa. He immediately concentrated the artillery on the heights and started to erect batteries.
In the night of 3 to 4 June, a parallel was established under the protection of the artillery.
In the night of 4 to 5 June, the French extended their parallel on their left.
In the morning of 5 June, the French grenadiers attacked a lodgement, closely followed by 4 coys. They easily made themselves master of this lodgement and continued their assault, capturing a redoubt where they took M. de Schulembourg, the lieutenant-colonel of Monferrato Infantry and 3 officers prisoners. However, they could not maintain their position and were forced to evacuate the redoubt. In this action, the French lost 20 grenadiers killed or wounded (including the captain of the grenadiers of Tournaisis Infanterie, seriously wounded and taken prisoner). De la Feuillade and Blagnac then agreed for a two hours suspension of arms to recover their wounded and their prisoners.
On June 6, the Allies evacuated their positions at La Brunetta. De la Feuillade estimated that the 2 bns of Schulembourg Infantry then totalled less than 300 men. The French works now concentrated against the Catinat Redoubt, the only outwork still in the hands of the Allies.
De la Feuillade was then informed that some 650 Waldensians had marched across the Upper Pragelas to attack the town of Oulx. He immediately detached 1 bn and 200 dragoons to rescue this town but they arrived too late: Oulx had already been plundered and the Waldensians had taken refuge in the mountains.
In the morning of 7 June, the French artillery opened against the Catinat Redoubt. The 50 defenders soon surrendered as prisoners of war. All batteries were then turned against the Citadel of Susa.
On 11 June, 12 guns and 6 mortars opened against the citadel.
On 12 June at 4:00 a.m., M. Bernardi, the commander of the Citadel of Susa asked to capitulate. His garrison (only 200 men) received the honours of war. In this siege, the French lost some 60 men.
On 13 June, the garrison of Susa marched to Avigliana where it joined the troops who had previously evacuated La Brunetta (7 bns and of some 1,500 horse and dragoons) and who were under the command of M. de Castellamont. For his part, the Duc de la Feuillade proposed to the Court to effect a junction with Vendôme with 20 bns and 6 dragoon rgts to ease the capture of Vercelli and Ivrea.
De la Feuillade's diversion in Piedmont
The French then considered several objectives for the small army of the Duc de la Feuillade. The latter finally opted for a diversion against Perosa in Piedmont. In preparation for this expedition, he assigned 360 foot and 2 free coys to Susa; placed 1 bn at the Pass of Fenêtre; 1 bn at the Pass of Renaudière. Furthermore, three redoubts were built to cover Susa. He also sent back 2 bns to Provence to reinforce M. de Grignan who could previously count on only 4 bns. M. de Vallière returned to Savoy where only 4 regular bns and 3 militia bns remained for the blockade of Montmélian and the protection of the region.
On 18 June, de la Feuillade marched at the head of 18 bns and 5 dragoon rgts. He divided his army in four corps:
- Lapara's Corps (6 bns, 2 x 8-pdrs) assembled at Sestrières to capture the Pass of Croix and the Castle of Mirabouc in the Angrogne Valley controlled by the Barbets
- Gévaudan's Corps (3 bns) assembled at Oulx to capture the Pass of Modoret and to enter into the Angrogne Valley
- Canillac's Corps (3 bns) marched to Bussoleno on the Dora to enter into the Saint-Martin Valley
- De la Feuillade's Corps (6 bns, 5 dragoon rgts) marched to Bussoleno on the Dora
On 19 June, de la Feuillade sent orders to his corps commanders to be ready to march on 24 June.
In the night of 24 to 25 June, de la Feuillade detached 300 grenadiers and 200 dragoons to storm the entrenchments surrounding Perosa.
In the morning of 25 June, de la Feuillade sent M. de Canillac's Corps to encamp at Meana. In the evening, he followed Canillac with his own corps and effected a junction with Canillac's Corps at Meana.
On 26 June, Canillac's Corps advanced to the Pass of Fenêtre. The same day, the Barbets were driven out of their entrenchments at Perosa which were immediately occupied by French troops.
On 27 June, de la Feuillade's Corps reached Perosa to the exception of a small detachment of 150 men left at Susa. He posted 1 bn at the passes of Rossa and Baissa to prevent an attack launched from Avigliana. Meanwhile, Lapara reached the Pass of Croix; Gévaudan, the Prà del Torno and Canillac at Mount Clapier.
The Barbets of the Saint-Martin Valley made their submission to the king while those to the San Germano Valley promised to sign a treaty on 29 June.
On 29 June, a drummer sent by the Duc de la Feuillade to the Barbets of the San Germano Valley was fired upon. De la Feuillade was informed that the Savoyard cavalry posted at Avigliana had marched to Motta near Pinerolo to support the Barbets. He detached 1 bn, 2 grenadier coys and 200 dragoons under M. de Praille to attack the height on which the Barbets had assembled. Just before noon, de Praille attacked them. They sustained his assaults fro two hours but abandoned their position when they saw Canillac's Corps arriving. They took refuge in the Angrogne Valley. Canillac sent troops to pursue them and to set all villages of the valley afire. With the rest of his corps, Canillac occupied the Pass of Lazara and the Pass Julien.
On 30 June, de la Feuillade reconnoitred the camp of Rochecotel (unidentified location). The inhabitants of Pinerolo offered him to take arms (3,000 men) as soon as he would approach their town. The Barbets of the Saint-Pierre Valley were ready to collaborate too. They even eased the arrival of 8,000 rations of bread for de la Feuillade's Army contributed by the inhabitants of Pinerolo. Before marching to Rochecotel, de la Feuillade decided to wait for news of Lapara's and Gévaudan's corps. Indeed, Lapara was experiencing great difficulties to bring his guns in front of the Castle of Mirabouc and the inhabitants of the Angrogne Valley and of the Lucerne Valley were determined to defend themselves to the last extremity. De la Feuillade detached the Chevalier de Miane with 1 grenadier coy and 400 dismounted dragoons to make themselves master of the Pass of Vajaire, occupied by the Barbets, to get access to the Angrogne Valley.
Meanwhile, the same day (30 June) at noon, the Chevalier de Miane reached the Pass of Vajaire. He immediately attacked the Barbets (some 200 Waldensians) under M. de Saint-Hippolyte defending the pass. After some initial successes, his forces were driven back to the first outposts taken. At 2:00 p.m., a force of some 1,300 men (Parelle's regular troops, Barbets and Waldensians). Miane's troops repulsed several attacks. At nightfall, Parelle retired. In this affair, Miane lost 1 officer wounded and 40 men killed or wounded while the Savoyards lost 4 captains killed and 150 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners.
On 1 July, de la Feuillade was informed that M. de Parelle, a Savoyard general, was marching from the Motta with an infantry corps and a cavalry detachment to support the Barbets defending the Angrogne and Lucerne valleys. De la Feuillade sent instructions to Gévaudan to effect a junction as soon as possible and to Lapara to take refuge in Mirabouc if ever he had managed to capture the castle or to retire to the Pass of Croix. Meanwhile, the Chevalier de Miane effected a junction with Gévaudan's Corps and, according to de la Feuillade's instructions, retired to the Pass of Lazara and then to Perosa. For his part, Lapara retired towards the passes of Julien and Lazara.
On 4 July, Lapara's Corps reached the Pass of Lazara while II./Brie Infanterie was left at the Pass of Julien. De la Feuillade then abandoned his design against the valleys occupied by the Barbets and turned his attention towards Piedmont, planning to put the plain up to Turin to contribution and to effect a junction with the Duc de Vendôme.
On 5 July, the Duc de la Feuillade sent some infantry and 5 dragoon rgts towards Pinerolo. They encamped at San Pietro (probably San Pietro Val Lemina) near Rochecotel. The Savoyard cavalry, encamped at Motta under the command of the Count de Martini, retired to Buriasco on the road to Turin.
The Duke of Savoy had three detachments observing the movements of de la Feuillade's Corps:
- at Avigliano (5 bns, 300 horse)
- in the Lucerne Valley (2 bns, 200 dragoons)
- at Buriasco (1,000 horse)
On 9 July, part of Lapara's Corps arrived at Perosa. De la Feuillade ordered to entrench this town so that it could be occupied during winter. He posted 3 bns at the Pass of Lazara, 1 bn at the Pass of Julien and the rest of his force at the passes of Bez and Coq.
On the night of 10 to 11 July, de la Feuillade marched upon Buriasco with 600 grenadiers, 1,200 fusiliers and 1,200 dragoons.
On the morning of 11 July, when de la Feuillade reached Buriasco, the Allied cavalry had already retired between Vigone and Cercenasco and he returned to Perosa. Meanwhile, the Barbets and the Waldensians attacked II./Brie Infanterie at the Pass of Julien. They were repulsed but the French lost 1 officer killed and 6 men wounded.
De la Feuillade was then informed that the Grand Prieur de Vendôme had managed to drive the Imperialists out of Lombardy and was on the verge of sending 12 bns and 15 sqns to the Duc de Vendôme in Piedmont. De la Feuillade asked to the Duc de Vendôme to send him 10 sqns that would allow him to ravage the plain of Piedmont. Meanwhile, he sent detachments into the plain of Piedmont to put it to contribution. One of these detachments (some infantry and 400 dragoons) under the Commandeur de Forsac captured the Castle of Osasco, defended by 150 men.
On 19 July, the Duc de la Feuillade visited the outposts on the various passes.
On 20 July, de la Feuillade sent 13 grenadier coys and 1 bn to entrench themselves in Santa Brigida near Pinerolo.
On 21 July, de la Feuillade marched from Perosa with the rest of his infantry and effected a junction with his dragoons at San Pietro. He had left 2 bns in Perosa.
On 23 July, de la Feuillade advanced with 400 grenadiers and 600 dragoons up to Bricherasio and put the villages of Cavor, Villafranca, Bibiana and Bagnolo to contribution. The same day, the Savoyard General de Castellamont decamped from Avigliana and retired beyond Rivoli. His retreat opened the entire Valley of Susa to the French.
On 24 July, de la Feuillade visited the Castle of Osasco. He then went to Pinerolo and Santa Brigida.
At about this time, de la Feuillade was informed of the surrender of Vercelli to the troops of the Duc de Vendôme. De la Feuillade sent M. de Paysac to the Duc de Vendôme to ask for his plan for the junction of their two armies. Meanwhile, he assembled provisions at Susa for the march of 8 bns and 3 dragoon rgts.
Vendôme confirmed the capture of Vercelli but also mentioned that the siege of Verrua was impossible because the Duke of Savoy had assembled his army at Crescentino and that he had decided to lay siege to Ivrea. Vendôme considered that the junction could presently be only effected on the Dora and judged it to be almost impossible. He also informed de la Feuillade that he could not send him the 10 sqns which he had requested.
On 31 July, 600 Savoyard foot along with 600 Barbets and Waldensians under the command of M. de Parelle attacked the entrenchments of Prailly at the Pass of Julien but were forced to retire after losing 60 men killed and 120 wounded. The entrenchments were defended by 2 French bns and by 4 coys of Barbets from the Saint-Martin Valley.
On 6 August, M. de Paysac arrived at the camp of San Pietro after his meeting with the Duc de Vendôme who asked to prepare the junction on the Dora for the 25 August.
On 7 August, Vendôme wrote to de la Feuillade from Vercelli, informing him that he had abandoned his project of junction on the Dora and inviting him to resume his diversion from Pinerolo.
On 14 August, de la Feuillade confirmed that he had cancelled the planned march to the Dora to effect a junction.
On 18 August, de la Feuillade marched with a few bns to San Germano where he arrived without meeting any resistance. He let 3 bns in this town with instructions to entrench themselves.
On 19 August, a Savoyard corps under M. de Parelle attacked the 3 French bns entrenched in San Germano but it was repulsed, losing 50 men killed or wounded.
On 21 August, de la Feuillade made a forage in the plain towards Frossasco covered by 400 foot and 400 dragoons.
De la Feuillade's operations inn the Aosta Valley
At about this time, the Duc de la Feuillade received a letter from the Duc de Vendôme, enjoining him to enter in the Aosta Valley with the troops destined to spend the winter in Piedmont. De la Feuillade answered that it was impossible for him to do such an expedition.
On 26 August, de la Feuillade sent 250 dragoons into Pinerolo where he had established a magazine. He also sent 2 sqns to Susa and the rest of his dragoons to Villar.
However, the disastrous defeat of a Franco-Bavarian army at Blenheim on 13 August had left the Imperialists free to sent reinforcements to the Duke of Savoy. The Court asked to de la Feuillade to prevent the arrival of any reinforcements through Switzerland by occupying the Aosta Valley. Furthermore, de la Feuillade was informed that the Savoyard were assembling all the militias of the plain of Piedmont for an attack on San Germano.
On 30 August, de la Feuillade evacuated Pinerolo, Santa Brigida and the abbey and camp of San Pietro and retired to Villar. The 3 bns posted at San Germano and those posted in the Saint-Martin Valley remained in their positions. He also sent his dragoons to Savoy, to the exception of 300 dismounted dragoons and 1sqn which he kept with him; and 2 dragoon sqns posted at Susa.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Savoy sent supports to the Barbets who ceased their negotiations with the French. The militia of Piedmont were reinforced with 3 regular bns and 7 guns.
On 1 September, the Savoyards marched on San Germano and the 3 French bns evacuated the town before their arrival.
On 2 September, de la Feuillade retired to Perosa (probably Perosa Argentina), closely followed by the Allies. He barely had time to send a detachment to burn the village of Pramollo and all the fodder assembled there. Meanwhile, the Barbets of the Saint-Martin Valley remained loyal to France.
On 9 September, de la Feuillade received new instructions from Versailles enjoining him to penetrate into the Aosta Valley with 8 bns and 2 dragoon rgts.
On 11 September, de la Feuillade sent 4 bns to Savoy by the road of Grenoble. A detachment (the grenadiers of the 4 bns and 300 dismounted dragoons) under M. de Paysac took a shorter route by Cesana, the Roue Pass, Modane, Termignon and Tignes; to reach Scez at the foot of the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass. These troops were followed by 3 other bns; and M. de Vallière was instructed to send 2 bns from the blockade of Montmélian to Moutiers. M. de Gévaudan was left at Perosa with 10 bns. Furthermore, 300 peasants from the valleys of Pragelas, Oulx, Cesana and Bardonèche were sent to the support of the Barbets of the Saint-Martin Valley; Susa was defended by only 1 bn and 1 dragoon rgt.
On 14 September, de la Feuillade went to Grenoble to make his last preparations. He decided to reinforce his little corps with 3 militia bns (about 600 men) who were at the blockade of Montmélian, replacing them with dismounted dragoons and armed peasants.
On 20 September, a Savoyard corps under the command of M. de Parelle captured a French detachment (75 men) near Perosa.
On 22 September, de la Feuillade set off from Grenoble.
On 23 September, Paysac's detachment finally reached Scez.
On 24 September, de la Feuillade arrived at Scez where he was informed that the post of La Thuile was occupied by 300 peasants.
On 25 September, de la Feuillade marched from Scez at the head of 10 grenadier coys and 80 picked dragoons. They reached the Chapel of the Petit Saint-Bernard where they surprised an outpost of the Allies, taking 5 prisoners. The same day, 7 bns of his corps finally reached Scez where they were ordered to join him at La Thuile the following day.
On 26 September, de la Feuillade marched on La Thuile. At 11:00 a.m., he arrived at the village of Ponturan (probably Pont Serrand) and launched an attack against the troops guarding the bridge who fired a salvo and took flight, after setting fire to three neighbouring villages. De la Feuillade immediately despatched a detachment to La Thuile to prevent the Savoyard from setting fire to the village. The Savoyards (300 men of Reding Infantry, 60 camisards and 2,000 peasants of the Aosta Valley under the command of M. de Saint-Remy) took refuge in three nearby entrenchments. In the evening, de la Feuillade's 7 bns finally arrived near La Thuile.
On 27 September at daybreak, de la Feuillade attacked the entrenchments of the Savoyards. The left column consisted of all the grenadiers and dragoons under the command of M. de Sanzay, while de la Feuillade led the right column consisting of the 7 bns. The first entrenchment was stormed and the Savoyards, closely pursued, did not dare to make a stand in the two other entrenchments. While retiring, they set nine buildings afire but six of them were saved. In this action, the Savoyards lost about 20 men killed and 28 taken prisoners. The famous Cavalier, chief of the Camisards of the Cévennes, was present at this action with men who had followed him from Lausanne. The same day, 2 additional regular bns and the militia joined de la Feuillade's Corps. The Duc de la Feuillade then informed the inhabitants of the Aosta Valley to deposit their arms in the arsenal of Aosta and to return home. He also sent messengers to the Duc de Vendôme to inform him of his arrival in the Aosta Valley.
On 2 October, without official information from Vendôme but having heard rumours that he had made himself master of Ivrea and was marching on the Castle of Bard (probably Albard) to effect a junction, de la Feuillade marched with part of his corps to Châtillon.
On 3 October, de la Feuillade marched to Verrès where he was informed that M. de Mauroy was already preparing for the attack on Castle of Bard at the head of a detachment of Vendôme's Army.
On 5 October, de la Feuillade and Vendôme met in front of the Castle of Bard.
On the night of 6 to 7 October, the village of Bard was stormed.
On 7 October, the garrison (1 bn and militia) of the Castle of Bard surrendered as prisoners of war. With the capture of this castle, the French had cut communication between Savoy, and Switzerland and Germany. This line of communication was so important that Vendôme left 5 of de la Feuillade's 9 bns with 1 dragoon rgt. Another bn was posted between Bard and Ivrea and only 3 of de la Feuillade's bns were incorporated in Vendôme's Army. The militia were incorporated in various regiments. The Duc de Vendôme then rejoined his army who was marching on Verrua. Meanwhile, the Duc de la Feuillade returned to Aosta, leaving command of the troops posted in the Aosta Valley to M. de Carcado.
Last operations of 1704
The Duc de la Feuillade personally took the road of the Tarentaise and, by 12 October, he was back in Grenoble where he was informed that the Duke of Savoy was making all efforts to detach the inhabitants of the Saint-Martin Valley from France. De la Feuillade had now only 14 bns and 4 very weak dragoon rgts to defend a territory extending from Montmélian to the Saint-Martin Valley. He asked for a reinforcement of 4 bns from Provence or Languedoc for the blockade of where he had only 3 bns. The Maréchal de Villars had just quenched the last troubles in Languedoc and planned to embark with 5 bns at Toulon for Lombardy. The king decided to redirect these 5 bns to Dauphiné as requested by de la Feuillade.
Meanwhile, the Duc de la Feuillade had been informed that the Marquis de Miremont planned to assemble troops in Switzerland to establish a communication with Piedmont. He then used the 5 new bns to reinforce the blockade of Montmélian and the outposts in the valleys. Thus 8 bns were at the blockade of Montmélian; 9 bns in Perosa and the Saint-Martin Valley;1 bn in Susa; and 1 bn in the Queyras Valley. The 4 dragoon rgts took quarters in Savoy, Chablais, Tarentaise and Maurienne.
In the last days of December, the Duc de la Feuillade went personally to the blockade of Montmélian. Noting that the village of Francin, 3 km to the east of Montmélian, was giving opportunity to the garrison to harass the besiegers, he ordered to set this village afire. He even ordered to M. de Vallière to burn the lower town of Montmélian that the enemy was trying to protect with a new wall.
At the end of December, the French attacked the lower town of Montmélian and the garrison (40 men) retired and joined the garrison of the castle. De la Feuillade then proposed to bombard the Castle of Montmélian but did not receive the authorisation of Versailles. The Duc de la Feuillade then left for Versailles to discuss the plan of the next campaign, leaving command to M. de Gévaudan in Dauphiné and to M. de Vallière in Savoy.
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. 3 pp. 361-369
- Vol. 4 pp. 75-186
- Spanish Succession, War of the, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (c1910-1922), Vol. 25, p. 601