1706 – Siege of Turin

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Sieges >> 1706 – Siege of Turin

The siege lasted from May to September 1706

Introduction

In 1706, as in previous years, the Duc de Vendôme commanded the Franco-Spanish army in Italy for the campaign of 1706. His goals were to submit the Duchy of Savoy while preventing an Imperialist army under Prince Eugène de Savoie from making a junction with the Savoyard Army in Piedmont. Vendôme had to divide his forces in two armies: one operating at the source of the Po River; the other, on the banks of Lake Garda. Vendôme was once more seconded by the Duc de La Feuillade, who was charged of operations in Piedmont and of the planned siege of Turin. Meanwhile, Vendôme directly confronted Prince Eugène in Lombardy.

The Duc de La Feuillade asked for 6,000 militia to complete his regiments, but his request was declined by the Court.

During the discussions for the planned siege of Turin, M. de Lapara proposed to make two distinct attacks: one against the hornwork of the city, the other against the citadel. However, M. de Vauban disagreed and proposed to first attack the heights on the right bank of the Po and to seize the entrenchments of the Capuchins. He estimated that the army could make itself master of this location within three weeks and that its occupation would allow to ease the capture of the city. Then, the army could turn its attention on the citadel, a final siege that would require about two months. For such a siege, Vauban asked for an army of 45,000 foot and 10,000 horse. Without such a force, he thought that any plan to besiege Turing should be postponed to the next year and that the army should rather lay siege to Cuneo. The Duc de La Feuillade disagreed with Lapara and Vauban, and insisted on the importance of attacking the citadel directly. He argued that with only 62 bns, he could not undertake two simultaneous attacks. He planned to occupy Moncalieri on the right bank of the Po before attacking the citadel. Vendôme was favourable to the plan of the Duc de La Feuillade.

At the beginning of March 1706, the Court chose the plan of the Duc de La Feuillade for the siege of Turin.

On 1 April, 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.

By 7 May, the Duc de la Feuillade had assembled his army on the Orco and near Susa.

For his part, Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy was at the head of 11,000 foot and 5,000 horse, including the Imperialist Contingent. All these troops were in Turin, Cuneo, in the region of Mondovi and in the region of Asti. Furthermore, he could count on his militia to harass the siege corps while his regular troops would defend his capital. Since the end of the previous campaign, the Duke of Savoy had built many redoubts around Turin and new entrenchments in the suburb on the right bank of the Po and on the Capuchins height.

On 13 May, the Duc de La Feuillade marched to Pianezza and his army reoccupied the positions which it had occupied during the previous year with its right at Lucento and its left at the park of the Venaria along the Po; the infantry in first line; the cavalry, in second.

Description

On 14 May, the Duc de La Feuillade sent the artillery and the pontoons to the camp of M. de Gévaudan and ordered him to throw two bridges over the Dora Riparia, one at Lucento and the other at Pianezza. His corps to work at the construction of lines between the Dora Riparia and the Po. La Feuillade planned to cross the Dora Riparia and get closer to Turin as soon as his lines would be ready, leaving 15 bns in these lines.

On 20 May, the lines between the Dora Riparia and the Po being completed, the Duc de La Feuillade marched to Pianezza where he joined Gévaudan’s Corps. He then crossed the Dora Riparia in two columns and encamped near Grugliasco, his right on the road leading from Turin to Rivoli and his left at Collegno. 10 grenadier coys occupied the chapel of Notre-Dame de Lauze situated in front of the camp. 18 bns and 10 sqns under M. d’Arène had been left behind in the lines. The same day, the Duc de La Feuillade was informed that the Duke of Savoy had retired most of his troops from Asti, leaving only a small garrison of 40 regulars and some militia in the castle.

On 22 May at daybreak, La Feuillade’s Army marched in four columns, advancing directly on Turin. The vanguard, composed of the hussars and 500 horse under the Chevalier de Miane met a few enemy sqns near the height of Camaldules (unidentified location) and forced them to retire into Turin. The grenadiers were posted at the farmstead of Porporata (unidentified location) and in a few other ones.

The Duc de La Feuillade then installed his camp with its left anchored to the bank of the Dora Riparia and its right, to a large hedge bordered by farmsteads, about 100 paces beyond the road leading to Pinerolo, some 300 m, from the Po River. 3 bns and 10 sqns, which had remained in the lines, now crossed the Dora Riparia and joined the main army. The lines were now defended by only 15 bns under M. de Marsilly.

As soon as the camp had been established, work began on the line of contravallation from the Dora Riparia to the road leading from Turin to Rivoli.

In the following days, La Feuillade’s Army perfected its line of contravallation, forming a parallel linking several farmsteads located in front of this line, and building depots, one to the right of the camp, the other at Lucento where Beltrambi Infanterie garrisoned the castle.

By 30 May, the lines of contravallation were completed. The army now concentrated its effort on the lines of circumvallation. The Duc de La Feuillade was at the head of 65 bns and 73 sqns.

By 30 May, the 34 sqns (each of 120 men) of the Allied cavalry were encamped at Moncalieri on the opposite bank of the Po River. A bridge of boats, with a bridgehead protected by two strong redoubts guarded by 2 bns, linked their camp to Turin.

On the night of 2 to 3 June, La Feuillade opened the trench before the Citadel of Turin with 10 bns, 5 detached grenadier coys, 800 horse and 3,000 workers under M. de Chamarande, M. de Carcado and M. de Montet. A 2,000 m. long parallel was established at 900 m. from the citadel.

On June 3 at daybreak, the artillery Turin opened against the besiegers.

On the night of 3 to 4 June, La Feuillade opened a second trench before the Citadel of Turin with 10 bns, 5 detached grenadier coys, 800 horse and 1,000 workers. The fire of the defenders continued to be very lively but caused little damage.

On 8 June in the evening, 12 mortars opened on the Citadel of Turin. A new parallel was established at 600 m. of the palisade, with emplacements for 60 twenty-four pdr guns and 12 mortars.

On 14 June in the afternoon, M. d’Estaing and M. de Guerchy set off from the camp before Turin with 15 grenadier coys, the carabiniers and 19 dragoon sqns and crossed the Po River at Chivasso where they encamped. The Duc de La Feuillade had decided to pass to the other bank of the Po and to dislodge the Allied cavalry from Moncalieri.

On the night of 14 to 15 June, Estaing and Guerchy were followed by 11 bns belonging to the army and 2 bns of the garrison of Chivasso.

On 15 June at daybreak, the Duc de la Feuillade left the camp before Turin with 39 sqns to join his troops operating on the opposite bank of the Po. He left 50 bns and 21 sqns under M. de Chamarande to continue the siege of Turin.

On the night of 15 to 16 June, fearing for his positions at the Capuchins now that the Franco-Spanish were operating on the opposite bank of the Po, the Duke of Savoy sent most of his infantry from Turin to these defensive works.

On the night of 18 to 19 June, the Duke of Savoy, who had rejoined his cavalry at Moncalieri with the court and his baggage, marched towards Cherasco. He had left General Thaun in command in Turin with all the infantry and 500 horse.

On 24 June, the Duc de La Feuillade personally returned to Turin. He was very pleased by the progress of the siege. The three saps were only at 60 m. of the palisade of the citadel. The same day, the batteries (a total of 50 cannon and 30 mortars) before Turin opened on the citadel.

On 25 June, La Feuillade added 10 cannon and 4 mortars to his batteries and the fire of the defenders significantly slowed down. M. de Chamarande instructed his miners to dig a mine against the lunette to the right of his attack, and against the hornwork, located to the left.

On 26 June, La Feuillade personally left Turin to rejoin the corps posted before Fossano.

By 30 June, the Franco-Spanish had only 30 artillery pieces which were still operational before Turin, the artillery of the defenders having dismounted a large number of pieces. M. de Chamarande, who commanded the siege corps, decided to diminish the rate of fire of his artillery to preserve his ammunition and to concentrate his efforts at the digging of saps and mines.

On 5 July, the Duc de La Feuillade personally returned from Savigliano to Turin to evaluate the progress of the siege. He was now confident to be master of Turin before the end of August. However, the French Court had received intelligence that Prince Eugène would soon receive important reinforcements (including 9,000 Hessians), that he had been instructed to force the passage of the Adige River at all cost, and that the Maritime Powers were sending approx. 9,000 men aboard their fleet to reinforce the Duke of Savoy. Chamillart, the War Minister wrote to his son-in-law, the Duc de La Feuillade, to stress the importance of the siege of Turin and to ask him to concentrate all his efforts towards this goal.

After the disaster of Ramillies, Louis XIV had decided to recall Vendôme from Italy to assume command in Flanders. The Duc D’Orléans was sent from Versailles to replace him as commander-in-chief in Italy.

On 8 July, the Duc d’Orléans arrived at the camp near Turin where he was received by the Duc de La Feuillade. He was not satisfied by the progress of the siege.

On July 9, M. de Chamarande reconnoitred the height of the “Capuchins” but soon realised that an attack would meet very strong resistance. The Duc d’Orléans decided to resume the mining activities which he confided to M. de Vallière who had accompanied him from France.

On 10 July, the Duc d’Orléans sent the Duc de La Feuillade to Saluzzo with orders to pursue the Allied corps of the Duke of Savoy, and then to send back part of his forces to Turin to assist the siege corps.

On 11 July, after giving instructions to M. de Chamarande, the Duc d’Orléans left the camp before Turin for Milan, to assume command of the Army of Lombardy which was facing the Imperialist army of Prince Eugène.

On the night of 12 to 13 July, M. de Chamarande made himself master of the lunette to the right of his main attack.

On 13 July, the corps of the Duc de La Feuillade marched from Cavour to Pinerolo where it was joined by 10 grenadier coys belonging to the siege corps. La Feuillade intended to march against the Duke of Savoy who was posted near Rubiana at the entry of the Lucerna Valley. However, he was informed that some 1,350 inhabitants of the valley had taken arms and joined the Duke of Savoy who had dismounted all his cavalry and sent their horses in remote mountains. La Feuillade considered that the type of outpost warfare, which he would have to fight, would not produce any tangible results and would be risky. He finally decided to abandon the pursuit and to return to Turin where he would concentrate his efforts on the siege.

On 16 July, as he arrived at Volta, Vendôme wrote to the Duc de La Feuillade to ask for a reinforcement of 6 bns and 28 sqns. However, La Feuillade sent only 20 sqns.

On 17 July, the Duc de La Feuillade arrived at Turin with most of the infantry of his corps. He had sent his cavalry back to Moncalieri and Chieri.

On 18 July, the 30 sqns destined to reinforce Vendôme’s Army set off from Chieri and Moncalieri under the command of M. d’Aubeterre.

On the night of 21 to 22 July, the besiegers made themselves masters of three lunettes on two bastions and of a halfmoon of the Citadel of Turin. However, the defenders had so many mines that progress was very slow.

Around 22 July, the Duc d’Orléans sent orders to the Duc de La Feuillade to be in readiness to march to Stradella with 20 bns and join d’Aubeterre’s 30 sqns which had been ordered to take position there. He also instructed the Prince de Vaudémont to work actively at the entrenchments of Stradella.

On 25 July, the Duc de La Feuillade went to the camp of the Duc d’Orléans near San Martino to explain that it was impossible for him to spare 20 bns to occupy Stradella while continuing the siege of Turin. The Duc d’Orléans was also informed by M. de Colmenero that the Versa River which was usually making Stradella such a strong position was almost entirely dry. Colmenero suggested to occupy Ciatello instead of Stradella to stop the advance of the Imperialists. La Feuillade proposed to send 50 sqns instead of 20 bns to assist the Duc d’Orléans and the latter finally accepted his proposal.

On 30 July, 50 sqns belonging to the army of the Duc de La Feuillade set off from Chieri and Moncalieri to reinforce the army of the Duc d’Orléans, leaving only 26 sqns under the Comte d’Estaing at Moncalieri to cover the siege of Turin.

On 3 August, the Duc de La Feuillade completed the investment of Turin, sending 20 bns to occupy the heights neighbouring the Capuchins and throwing a bridge across the Po to establish communication between this corps and the siege corps. The entrenchments of the camp of Chieri were also completed but the siege progressed slowly and the artillery of the defenders had gradually established its superiority.

On 5 August, the Duc de La Feuillade stormed the covert way of the Citadel of Turin. He asked for a reinforcement of 4 bns and the Duc d’Orléans sent him 5 bns.

On 15 August, the Duc de La Feuillade informed the Duc d’Orléans that he intended to make a stand at Chieri against the army of Prince Eugène. He asked him to send back 39 sqns of his own cavalry along with the 6 dragoon rgts dragoons and 4 bns serving in Lombardy. The Duc d’Orléans immediately sent orders to M. d’Aubeterre to set off from Cremona and Pavia with his 39 sqns and to join the Duc de La Feuillade at Chieri. He also prepared to send 5 bns instead of the 4 which had been requested.

On 23 August, the Duc d’Orléans interrupted the march of d’Aubeterre’s cavalry corps which had reached Valenza. The same day, he personally went to Valenza where he received a letter from the Duc de La Feuillade, asking for more reinforcements. He immediately sent all the sqns belonging to the Army of Piedmont which were at Valenza, with the exception of 2 brigades which he kept at Valenza.

On 26 August in the evening before Turin, the Duc de La Feuillade launched his troops against the halfmoon and the two counterguards, capturing them quite easily. However he was unable to hold his position.

On 27 August, the Chevalier de Luxembourg arrived before Turin with a reinforcement of 5 bns.

On 28 August, the Duc d’Orléans and the Maréchal de Marsin personally went to Turin where they inspected the trenches. The found the siege corps in poor conditions. They both considered that the engineers supervising the siege works were incompetent and that there was a lack of good artillery commanders. On average each battalion counted only 200 men. A battery of 9 artillery pieces which had been established on the covert way had been reduced to only 2 pieces. Orléans ordered to place 2 additional pieces in that battery.

On 29 August, Prince Eugène’s Army crossed the Tanaro River at Isola d’Asti, between Alba and Asti. The heads of his columns made a junction with the forces of the Duke of Savoy at his camp at Motta (more probably Montà) near Carmagnola.

On 30 August, the Duc d’Orléans wrote to Louis XIV to inform him of the situation before Turin. He had deployed 30 bns in the mountains near Turin; started work to improve the entrenchments between the Dora Riparia and the Po. The army had enough provisions until 9 September. In the evening, 22 grenadier coys belonging to the Army of Lombardy arrived before Turin.

On 31 August at 2:00 p.m., the Franco-Spanish launched another attack against the halfmoon and the two counter-guards. Once more the attack succeeded but the troops were unable to hold their new positions. The Duc d’Orléans sent orders to his infantry at Chivasso and his cavalry at Settimo to join him before Turin.

On 1 September, the Duc d’Orléans held a council of war with M. de Chamarande, the Duc de La Feuillade, M. d’Albergotti, M. de Saint-Fremont, Lord Galmoy, the Comte de Vibray, d’Arène, d'Estaing and de Murcey. Most generals thought that it would be better to wait for the enemy well entrenched in the lines of circumvallation but M. d’Albergotti was of the opinion that most of the cavalry and 40 bns could be sent out to observe the Allied army. These advice were forwarded to the Court at Versailles for the final decision.

The same day (1 September), the armies of the Duke of Savoy and of Prince Eugène effected a junction at Villastellone on the right bank of the Po, between Carmagnola and Moncalieri. The duke and Prince Eugène reconnoitred the French positions from the heights of Chieri and considered them as unassailable. They sent some regulars with approx. 8,500 militia under the Count de Santena to take positions in these parts. They established two bridges on the Po, opposite Carignano.

On 4 September, the Allied army crossed the Po at Carignano and encamped at Beinasco on the Sangone. The Duc d’Orléans proposed to march against them, but all his generals disagreed.

On 5 September, the Allied army marched up to the Dora Riparia, encamping with its left opposite Pianezza and its right extending to the highway leading from Turin to Rivoli. The Duc d’Orléans proposed to attack the Allies with all the forces assembled around Turin. Again, his generals disagreed.

On 6 September, the Allies crossed the Dora Riparia and established their left on the Stura River and their right at Pianezza. The Duke of Savoy and Prince Eugène, after reconnoitring the French positions, had carefully chosen the weakest part of the circumvallation where there were few entrenchments. The headquarters were established at Venaria on the Stura.

The same day, (6 September), the French commanders sent workers to erect entrenchments between the Dora Riparia and the Stura. The Duc d’Orléans wanted to recall 30 bns, which under M. d’Albergotti were posted in the mountains, but the Maréchal de Marsin disagreed, saying that the duke did not have the authority to raise the siege of Turin. Therefore, only 17 bns were deployed in a single line between the two rivers with 65 sqns to support them. The rest of the army was disseminated along the lines between the Dora Riparia and the Po, or employed to guard the trenches and the bridges.

On 7 September at daybreak, the Allies advanced into the plain between the Dora Riparia and the Stura in several columns and deployed in order of battle in front of the incomplete French line. In the ensuing Battle of Turin, they totally defeated the Franco-Spanish army, forcing it to raise the siege of the citadel and to retire towards Pinerolo.

The Franco-Spanish army of the Duc de La Feuillade then continued its retreat towards the French border.

References

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. 137-142, 159-160, 167-173, 181-184, 189-190, 201-203, 206-207, 209, 227-228, 238-241, 247, 258-269, 274-279