1705 – Siege of Nice

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Sieges >> 1705 – Siege of Nice

The siege lasted from March 1705 to January 1706


At the beginning of 1705, King Louis XIV received intelligence that the Allies planned to send a reinforcement of 8,000 men to Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy. These troops would disembark at Nice and Villefranche and then march to Piedmont. To counter this plan, the king resolved to make himself master of these two coastal cities. A total of 18 bns (including 4 bns belonging to the Navy) and 6 dragoon sqns were allocated to this expedition which was placed under the command of the Duc de La Feuillade. He was assisted by Lieutenant-General de Narbonne, Lieutenant-General de Berrulle, Maréchal de Camp Prince de Robecq, Maréchal de Camp Vicomte de Polignac, Maréchal de Camp Marquis de Vergetot, and M. Filley at the head of the engineers.


Map of the siege of Nice in 1705 – Courtesy: Dinos Antoniadis


First siege

On 4 March, M. de Narbonne passed the Var unopposed at Saint-Laurent at the head of 13 bns. He then sent the Chevalier de Damas at Trinité with 4 bns to hold the road leading from Coni to Nice. He let 4 bns at Carros to secure communication between Saint-Laurent and the sea. He himself advanced to Notre-Dame-de-Simiers with the remaining 5 bns to cut the line of communication between Nice and Piedmont. He encamped on the heights out of range of the guns of Nice.

On 5 March, the Duc de La Feuillade and the dragoons joined his infantry near Nice. He was informed that M. de Senantes, the son of the governor of Nice (Marquis de Carrail), had assembled 600 militiamen and 1 British bn at Sospello.

On 6 March in the morning, La Feuillade advanced towards Villefranche with 3 bns and made himself master of the Capuchin Monastery overlooking the place. Two British frigates who were in the harbour vainly opened a lively fire. La Feuillade then unsuccessfully summoned the governor of Villefranche to surrender.

On the night of 6 to 7 March, La Feuillade charged M. Filley with 2 grenadier coys and 200 fusiliers to attack the gate of Villefranche. The grenadiers broke the door and made themselves master of the town. In this attack, the French lost 1 officer and 3 soldiers killed; and 3 soldiers wounded. They took 70 soldiers prisoners. Meanwhile, M. de Senantes advanced up to Turbie with his force but seeing that the town had been captured, he retired to Sospello, planning to assemble 1,500 militiamen and then to try to relieve Nice.

On 9 March at noon, La Feuillade detached 300 grenadiers and 260 dragoons under the Chevalier de Miane against Sospello. At 9:00 p.m., Miane arrived in front of Sospello and immediately attacked, routing the defenders. In this affair, the Allies lost 60 British soldiers killed and 60 men were taken prisoners. Several others deserted and the rest of the defenders dispersed themselves in the nearby mountains.

On 11 March, La Feuillade personally led 5 grenadier coys which were supported by 200 men of the garrison of Monaco against Turbie. The defenders evacuated Turbie and La Feuillade captured the outpost where he took 10 invalids and 50 peasants prisoners. He left 50 men to defend this outpost.

On 12 March, La Feuillade sent 2 bns and 60 dragoons under M. de Barville to Sospello to submit the country up to Saorge. The same day, 3 bns, which had initially been left behind, joined La Feuillade’s small army at Simiers. However, La Feuillade was still waiting for his siege artillery which at been delayed at Toulon by contrary winds. Seeing, this he took two heavy guns and two mortars from Antibes to begin the siege of Nice.

La Feuillade ordered to erect two batteries on the height of the Capuchin to start the siege of this place.

On the night of 15 to 16 March, La Feuillade opened the trenches in front of Nice, at 1,300 m. from the place, with 1 bn and 3 grenadier coys. The work was pushed within 600 m of the walls.

On 16 March, the defenders of Nice started to fire from the town and from the castle without much success.

On the night of 16 to 17 March, the French pushed their trench within 400 m. of the walls of Nice.

The siege of Nice and Villefranche were delayed by bad weather, the Var overflowing due to heavy rains. With only 2 artillery pieces in battery in front of Nice, the fire of the defenders was much superior and the trenches had to be deepened to cover the besiegers.

On 17 March, four French galleys, commanded by the Chevalier de Roanes, arrived at Antibes with some artillery pieces.

On 21 March, two French warships under the command of the Marquis de Roye arrived at Antibes with the rest of the artillery destined to the sieges of Nice.

On the night of 23 to 24 March, 180 men of the “Queen of England Regiment” (unidentified unit) managed to land and to enter into Nice despite the fact that 4 French galleys under M. Despennes were supposed to patrol the coast. Nevertheless, these galleys captures 35 men of this regiment aboard a small boat.

La Feuillade was forced to recall the 2 bns occupying Sospello to reinforce the siege corps. He replaced them with 200 men from the garrison of Monaco. He also sent 1 dragoon rgt back to Fréjus because provisions were scarce in the County of Nice. He kept only 200 mounted dragoons at Escarna, to support his outpost at Sospello, and 200 dismounted dragoons at his camp of Simiers.

On 25 March, M. Filley, who was supervising the siege of Villefranche, made an unsuccessful attack against an isolated redoubt.

On 26 March, Filley summoned the garrison (1 sergeant, 1 gunner and 10 men) of the redoubt which surrendered at 10:00 p.m. Filley immediately threw 1 sergeant and 10 grenadiers into the redoubt. However, the citadel opened such a devastating fire on the redoubt that Filley was forced to retire its small garrison.

On 30 March at 9:00 a.m., the French batteries (16 guns and 4 large mortars) in front of Villefranche opened on the citadel.

On 31 March, 2 guns and 6 mortars were added in the batteries in front of Villefranche. By the end of the day the defensive works of Villefranche facing the French trenches were ruined.

La Feuillade personally joined the siege corps in front of Villefranche and took dispositions for the attack of the covert way.

On the night of March 31 to April 1, La Feuillade detached the Chevalier de Damas with 400 men to cut communication between Villefranche and Montalban and to attract the attention of the defenders. The French batteries finally silenced the artillery of Villefranche and the miners were able to make significant progress.

On 1 April at daybreak, the French artillery resumed its bombardment. At 3:00 p.m., La Feuillade made himself master of the covert way of Villefranche. In this affair, the French lost 2 officers and 50 men killed or wounded. La Feuillade then summoned the governor of the place, M. de Crèvecoeur, who surrendered.

On 2 April, the French occupied a gate and the lower part of the fortress of Villefranche.

On 3 April, the garrison of Villefranche (150 men out of an initial force of 280 men) came out of the place.

After the capture of Villefranche the French established batteries to batter and bombard the forts of Sant-Ospitio and Montalban. The fort of Sant-Ospitio soon capitulated with the honours of war.

On 6 April, the garrison of Sant-Ospitio retired towards Saorge. The French captured 24 artillery pieces in this fort.

On 7 April, the fort of Montalban capitulated with the honours of war. The same day, a battery of 5 artillery pieces, established along the Paglion, opened on the fortifications of Nice and breached the left bastion. The artillery initially used against Villefranche was transported to Nice and a battery of 6 pieces on a height overlooking the city and another of 5 guns and 7 mortars on the right bank of the Paglion.

On 8 April, the garrison of Montalban retired towards Saorge. The French captured 8 guns and 7 mortars in this fort.

On 10 April in the morning, the defenders of Nice retired to the citadel. At 2:00 p.m., the city opened its gates to the French. In this siege, the French had lost 250 men killed or wounded.

Louis XIV informed the Duc de La Feuillade that he did wish to pursue the siege of the citadel which should simply be blockaded. The citadel had 76 artillery pieces and a garrison of 800 men. La Feuillade left 10 bns and 1 dragoon sqn under the Marquis d’Usson to occupy Nice and to maintain the blockade of the citadel.

D’Usson threw 1,000 men into the city. They pierced houses to make an entrenchment against the citadel from the sea to the Paglion. All streets were barricaded to contain the garrison.

On 19 April, the governor of the citadel, M. de Carrail, signed a suspension of arms with the Marquis d’Usson for a duration of six months.

D’Usson received instructions to mine the Fortress of Villefranche and the fortifications of Nice so that he could demolish them if necessary.

D’Usson established himself at Nice with 5 bns while 3 bns occupied Villefranche; 1 bn, Sospello and 1 bn, Monaco. Entrenchments were also erected at the towers of Barilviel and Boze to prevent any landing.

A detachment of some 100 men managed to reinforce the garrison of the citadel of Nice after landing near the Secours Gate.

D’Usson recalled 1 bn from Villefranche and 200 dragoons from Provence to Nice. He later detached M. de Tournon with 200 dragoons and 900 foot to raise contribution in the County of Nice before returning to Nice.

On 18 August, d’Usson retired from Nice to Villefranche, after destroying the fortifications of the place, and sent 5 bns and all dragoons to Provence as ordered by Versailles. The French feared for this province because an Allied fleet had just entered the Mediterranean.

M. de Carrail immediately sent troops from the citadel to the city and started to repair the fortifications.

Second siege

Louis XIV then instructed the Duke of Berwick to resume the siege of Nice at the end of October. He was placed at the head of 17 bns and 2 dragoon rgts with 50 24-pdr siege guns and 12 mortars. Furthermore, the Chevalier de Bellefontaine was charged to transport this artillery from Toulon to Nice under the escort of 4 warships and a few frigates and to then blockade the place from the sea.

On 22 October, the Duke of Berwick went from Montpellier to Toulon where he learned that the suspension of arms had been renewed at Nice. He immediately informed the belligerents that the king would not consent to this renewal.

M. de Tournon penetrated into the city with 300 men and drove the defenders back to the citadel.

On 25 October, the Duke of Berwick advanced to the Var with 9 bns and 2 dragoon sqns.

On 26 October, the Chevalier de Bellefontaine sailed from Toulon with part of the artillery and ammunition under the escort of 4 warships and 4 galleys but contrary winds forced him to stop in the islands of Hyères where he waited for the rest of the convoy.

On 28 October, the Duke of Berwick went to Antibes to take dispositions for his entry in the County of Nice. The same day, the Savoyards threw reinforcements into Nice, bringing the garrison to 3 bns and 3 Camisard coys for a total of 1,400 men.

On 30 October, the suspension of arms agreed in April came to an end.

On 31 October, the Duke of Berwick passed the Var and encamped in front of Nice with his 7 bns and 2 dragoon sqns. M. de Paratte brought 4 additional bns from Villefranche. Berwick posted troops to cut all land communications with Nice.

Heavy rains broke the bridges on the Var, cutting all communication between Berwick’s Army and Provence. Furthermore, contrary winds still prevented the naval convoy from leaving the islands of Hyères.

During this time, Berwick reconnoitred the defences of Nice and decided to make his attack against the city from the Paglion. He also decided to attack without waiting for the naval convoy. He ordered to transfer 6 guns and 2 mortars from Villefranche to Nice.

On the night of 4 to 5 November, Berwick made himself master of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Convent located on the edge of the Paglion and sent 500 men under M. de Froulay to occupy it.

On 9 November, the 6 guns sent from Villefranche were landed near the Barilviel Tower and work started at a battery near the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Convent upstream from the Paglion bridge and at a mortar battery downstream from the same bridge. The same day, some ships of the convoys arrived at Villefranche.

On 10 November, the rest of the French convoy reached Villefranche.

On 14 November in the morning, the batteries of the Paglion being ready, Berwick summoned the governor of Nice to surrender. The latter agreed to evacuate the city and take refuge in the citadel. M” de Tournon entered into Nice with 400 men and 2 grenadier coys. Entrenchments were immediately erected to protect these troops against any sortie from the citadel.

After reconnoitring the citadel, Berwick considered three different attacks: one from the city, another from the towers and a last one from Montalban. He finally decided for an attack from Montalban.

On 16 November, Berwick ordered to erect a battery of 20 guns and 7 mortars on the height of Saint-Charles to enfilade the citadel and the castle.

On 17 November, the French started to work on other batteries on a height overlooking Montalban, to breach the castle and and citadel. Some 2,000 peasants were requisitioned to repair the roads. Berwick transferred 120 men from the bn garrisoning Monaco and 150 men from the detachment posted at Sospello to Villefranche and Sant-Ospitio. Furthermore, the 4 bns, which had been blocked on the other side of the Var when the bridges were destroyed, finally passed the river and joined the siege corps.

Expecting that the Allies would try to relieve the defenders of Nice, the Duke of Berwick had redoubts erected at Trinité, on the road leading to Aspremont and along the Var and the Paglion near Saint-Pons. He also asked to be reinforced with 3 galley bns which were in Marseille and with 1 artillery bn currently stationed in Dauphiné. However, the king sent only a few detachments of artillery and 1 marine bn with additional guns and mortars.

On 2 December, after much delays caused by the fire of the artillery of the defenders and by heavy rains, the batteries of Saint-Charles were finally ready.

On 7 December, the batteries of Montalban were completed.

On the night of December 7 to 8, the French made a lodgement in front of the castle of Nice to the left of the batteries, on the banks of the Limpia, opposite the Secours Gate. This lodgement was manned by 3 grenadier coys and 200 men. Furthermore, 1 grenadier coy was posted to the right of the batteries in front of the Peyronlière Gate and 2 grenadier coys posted in Nice were instructed to oppose any sortie by the defenders.

On December 8 at 11:00 a.m., all French batteries (a total of 80 guns and 13 mortars) opened on the castle and the citadel of Nice. The same day, mines were made against the parapet and 4 artillery pieces of the defenders were dismounted. More than 100 men deserted from the castle and citadel. On this day, the French lost 20 men, including M. de Filley.

On 9 December, the French batteries started to breach the new bastion: the large tower inside the bastion, the redoubt, the curtain wall and another redoubt near the Secours Gate were heavily damaged. The French artillery also silenced the artillery of the defenders. When the defenders evacuated the redoubt near the Secours Gate, Berwick posted grenadiers in it.

On the night of 11 to 12 December, 1 bn opened the trench in front of the castle.

Berwick received intelligence that the Duke of Savoy, after establishing his winter-quarters, had detached a strong force to relieve Nice. Versailles, informed of this scheme, decided to detach 30 grenadier coys from the Army of Germany to reinforce the Duke of Berwick.

On 14 December, the French established a parallel along the ramp of the castle, from the citadel to the sea.

Once more, heavy rains seriously delayed the work of the besiegers. It became impossible to cross the Var and the Paglion. However, the French batteries continued to cause serious damages.

On 16 December, the French artillery breached the citadel and severely damaged the new bastion.

On the night of 17 to 18 December, mining was pushed forward in two directions: one towards the covert way and the bastion; the other under the ravelin opposite Montalban. Meanwhile the left of the trench reached the sea near the Secours Gate. Since the beginning of the siege, the French had lost only 27 men killed and 114 wounded.

During the following days, the French erected new batteries to batter the great curtain wall, the left flank and the curtain wall of the Secours Gate more effectively.

On 25 December, the new French batteries opened. The defenders blew out the caponier located in front of the great curtain wall. The same day, a cannonball set fire to a magazine containing bombs and grenades. The magazine blew out killing or wounding 50 defenders.

The Duke of Berwick was informed that the Duke of Savoy had personally joined his troops at Saorge and that 2,000 militia from Oneglia, Tanaro and Mondovi were assembling. Berwick threw troops into the Castle of Aspremont and in the Castle of Eza, assembled his dragoon rgt and called for 1,200 men from the militia of Provence to enter into the County of Nice to reinforce his various posts. He also asked the 30 grenadiers coy coming from Germany to hasten their march. He also erected an entrenchment near the sea and manned it with some 250 men.

On 1 January 1706 at 7:00 p.m., Berwick launched an attack against the breach of the citadel with 3 grenadier coys supported by 3 additional grenadier coys and 100 dragoons. The defenders, who did not expect this attack, had only 50 men in the citadel. The defenders were driven back to the castle and the French occupied the citadel and started to work on a lodgement.

On the night of January 1 to 2, the defenders made a lively musketry fire and charged their guns with cartridges. The French lost 8 officers wounded, 10 grenadiers killed and 40 wounded.

On 2 January, the rain forced Berwick to postpone his attack on the castle.

Between 2 and 6 January, the 30 grenadiers coys coming from Germany gradually arrived at Antibes.

On 4 January, the defenders asked to capitulate.

On 5 January, the defenders capitulated with the honours of war and 1 French bn occupied the Secours Gate.

On 6 January, the garrison, reduced to only 900 men, marched out of Nice and retired towards Saorge. Since the beginning of the siege it had lost some 700 men due to combat or desertion. During the siege the French had lost 100 men killed and 350 wounded.

In the castle, the French captured 100 guns.

On 9 January, Berwick was informed that 3,000 foot under the command of Count Thaun and 3,500 militia had reached Saorge and Dolce-Aqua where they had effected a junction with the garrison of Nice.

On 11 January, Berwick sent all grenadier coys belonging to his siege corps and 6 bns under M. de Grimaldi to Sospello to prevent any attempt against this place.

On 12 January, Grimaldi advanced to Escarena where he was informed that Thaun had retired towards Piedmont. Berwick then sent the marine bn and his dragoon rgt back to Provence and redirected the recently arrived 30 grenadier coys to Aix-en-Provence.

At Saorge, M. de Carrail, fearing for this fortress and for Breglio and Dolce-Aqua, recalled 2 Savoyard infantry rgts and 400 dismounted dragoons who had already reach the Tende Pass.

Berwick then put the County of Nice to contribution, reinforced his post at Sospello and Trinité and increased the garrison of the Castle of Aspremont.

Louis XIV gave orders to raze the fortifications of Nice as well as the citadel and the castle.

On 17 January, part of Berwick’s Army repassed the Var to take up winter-quarters in Dauphiné and Provence.

On 18 January, Berwick quitted Nice and personally went to Antibes from where he traveled to Montpellier. He had charged M. de Paratte to command at Nice and to supervise the demolition of the fortifications.


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

  • Pelet and François Eugène de Vault: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 5 pp. 111, 114-126, 218-238