1706-04-19 – Battle of Calcinato
French tactical victory
On 1 April 1706, the Duc de Vendôme, the Prince de Vaudémont and the Duc de La Feuillade held a conference in Milan where they agreed that, from the 25 Spanish bns, 13 bns would guard the place of the Duchy of Milan, 8 bns would join the Army of Lombardy and 4 bns would campaign in Piedmont. The Prince de Vaudémont also promised that the Duchy of Milan would provide 4,000 pioneers and 1,200 wagons and some guns for the siege of Turin. Meanwhile, Vendôme would do his best to drive the Imperialists out of the region of Brescia but would avoid to give battle as long as the siege of Turin had not come to a conclusion.
On 6 April, Vendôme went to Mantua, planning to execute a surprise attack on the Imperialist quarters in the region of Brescia. At Mantua, he learned that the Danis General Count von Reventlau, who commanded in these quarters, had received only 3,000 recruits and 1 rgt (approx. 800 men) with remounts as reinforcements, so that his total forces amounted to only 17,000 men. From these:
- 10,000 foot and 1,000 horse were quartered in the region of Brescia; the infantry in one line, part between Montichiari and Gavardo, part on the shore of Lake Garda up to Gargnano; the infantry forming another line in the plain between Brescia and Gavardo
- 6,000 men in the Polesella Valley and along the left bank of the Adige from Pescantina downstream.
Vendôme sent orders to 58 bns and 65 sqns to come out of their quarters on 17 April for the planned expedition against the Imperialist quarters.
On 18 April, the 58 bns and 65 sqns were assembled in the plain of Castiglione with 14 field artillery pieces.
In the night of 18 to 19 April, Vendôme’s troops set off in two columns from their assembly places (Carpenedolo and Castiglione) at midnight, The right column was led by the Marquis de Bissy; the left column, by the Count de Medavi. These columns advanced towards the canal leading from Canneto to Montichiari.
Description of Events
On April 19 just before daybreak, Vendôme’s columns reached the canal and drove a patrol of 60 horse back behind the almost dry canal. A dragoon was captured. He confirmed that the Imperialists were still in their camp with their right at Montichiari and their left at Calcinato.
The camp of the Imperialists was unassailable, protected as it were by several ditches and canals. Vendôme decided to turn their positions and to reach the bridge to cut their communication with Gavardo and thus to force them to move to new positions.
Vendôme sent 100 foot close to the left of the Imperialists to draw their attention while the main body crossed the canal and prepared several passages on a small waterway to get access to the plain.
The Imperialists, thinking that Vendôme wanted to attack them frontally, sent forwards a large infantry corps which skirmished during more than an hour with the 100 foot posted on their left wing.
As the sun rose, the Imperialists saw that the Franco-Spanish troops were marching towards Ponte San Marco and that Vendôme had sent 200 horse across a stream to seize a height overlooking the village of Calcinato. The Imperialists then quickly sent their cavalry forward to occupy this height before the enemy could do so.
During the race to occupy the height near Calcinato, most of Vendôme’s infantry, along with 2 infantry brigades and the 5 dragoon rgts had time to cross the canal of Montichiari and the passages across the small stream.
Seeing that most of his army had already reached the plain and that most of the Imperialist infantry was posted near Montichiari, several km from Calcinato, Vendôme changed his plan and, instead of marching to Ponte San Marco, decided to attack the height near Calcinato.
Accordingly, Vendôme gave orders to the rest of his troops to cross the small stream, and to his entire army to deploy in order of battle.
Within an hour, most of Vendôme’s Army was deployed in two lines of cavalry and two lines of infantry. Vendôme was still waiting for some troops, which were forming, when he saw 8 Imperialist bns joining the cavalry on the height near Calcinato.
Vendôme immediately launched his attack, fearing that additional Imperialist units could take position on the height. The terrain was quite broken and thrice the attackers had to reform their ranks.
As the attackers came within half pistol range, the Imperialists opened fire. The Franco-Spanish troops did not fire a shot and charged at the point of the bayonet, driving back all the infantry and part of the cavalry. The Colonel Général Cavalry Brigade (Colonel Général, Saint-Germain-Beaupré, Cappy) which had no infantry in front of it ascended the height through rough terrain and drove back all the right of the Imperialist cavalry. Vendôme considered that it was the most beautiful cavalry charge he had ever seen.
Throughout the combat the dragoons under des Roseaux and du Héron supported the charging infantry.
M. de Medavi, who commanded the right of the first line, sent the Limousin Brigade against the left flank of the Imperialists.
Vendôme sent M. de Murcey and M. de Broglie with a few sqns of his second line to turn the left of the Imperialists. They were counterattacked by 500 Imperialist horse and thrown into disorder. Vendôme had to send a few additional sqns and the Perche Brigade to re-establish the situation.
As the 500 Imperialist horse advanced against the Perche Brigade, Vendôme sent his cavalry against them. They were driven back to Ponte San Marco with heavy losses.
The Imperialists were still holding Calcinato. The bridge, well protected by entrenchments, allowed the rest of the Imperialist army, arriving from Montichiari, to cross the Chiese River and to retire towards Rezzato.
Vendôme sent M. d’Albergotti at the head of all his cavalry and several bns to cross the Chiese at Ponte San Marco to catch up with the retiring Imperialist Army. Vendôme also ordered the Baron d’Estrich to advance with the Grancey Brigade and make himself master of part of Calcinato. Grancey Infanterie (2 bns) rapidly captured many farmsteads and soon afterwards the whole village and the castle.
The Vendôme Brigade had crossed the Chiese at Ponte San Marco before the Baron d’Estrich had seized the bridge of Calcinato and had captured a few farmsteads on the opposite bank.
The Vendôme Brigade suddenly found itself enveloped by the retiring Imperialist army. It managed with great difficulty to retire, losing 1 captain and 50 troopers who were taken prisoners but soon freed by the troops of d’Albergotti, de Murcey and de Broglie.
Now master of the bridge of Calcinato, Vendôme sent the rest of his troops across the Chiese.
D’Albergotti pursued the Imperialists up to Rezzato.
The French captured many prisoners, a large quantity of baggage, more than 1,000 horses, 4 colours, 12 standards and 6 cannon.
The French lost 500 men. M. du Héron was mortally wounded, the Marquis de Saint-Germain-Beaupré was wounded at the head, Saint-André was severely wounded, M. de Belabre was lightly wounded.
The Imperialists lost 2,846 men killed, taken prisoners or missing, of these 632 were from the Imperial army and 1,997 from the Prussian contingent. One third of their army was not engaged and they did not get enough time to use their artillery.
Order of Battle
Franco-Spanish Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: Louis Joseph Duc de Vendôme
Summary: 58 bns and 65 sqns for a total of 18,000 foot and 5,000 horse
We have not yet found a complete order of battle for the French forces.
Units mentioned in the relation:
- Vérac Cavalerie or Vérac Dragons
- Colonel Général Cavalerie
- Saint-Germain-Beaupré Cavalerie
- Cappy Cavalerie
- Limousin Brigade
- Perche Infantry Brigade
- Grancey Infantry Brigade
- Grancey Infanterie ( 2 bns)
- Vendôme Brigade
To do: detailed order of battle of the Franco-Spanish forces
Imperialist Order of Battle
Commander-in-chief: General Count von Reventlau
Summary: 3,000 horse and 11,000 foot.
To do: detailed order of battle of the Imperialist forces
Units definitely present and named for the battle:
- Prussian Markgraf Christian Ludwig Infantry
- Prussian Markgraf Philipp Infantry
- Austrian Harrach Infantry
- Austrian Herberstein Infantry
see our article 1706 – Campaign in Lombardy – Imperialist OOB Lombardy January for the list of all Imperialist units operating in Lombardy at the beginnimg of the year
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. 6, 1845 pp. 142-152
- Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: [ https://books.google.com/books?id=DaEhAQAAIAAJ Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen – Vol. 8 (1706)], p. 114, 117
Wikipedia – Battle of Calcinato
Jörg Meier for the order of battle of the Imperialist army