1707 – Conquest of the Kingdom of Naples
The campaign lasted from May to December 1707
The Court in Vienna wished since a long time to conquer the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily. Already during the campaign of 1701, the Habsburgs were considering an intervention in this kingdom. However, Eugène's warning to avoid dividing the Emperor's excessively strained forces, had repeatedly postponed the execution of this plan.
With the decisive victory of the Imperialists at the Battle of Turin, in September 1706, this obstacle disappeared.
On 5 January 1707, Emperor Joseph I wrote Prince Eugène to insist on the preparation of a campaign against Naples, letting Eugène choose the most appropriate moment.
The general situation in the Kingdom of Naples made it more than likely that its conquest would not require any particular effort. The country had enjoyed long years of complete peace, and had utterly neglected its military institutions. Its unreliable military forces barely numbered 3,000 untrained men. The fortresses showed signs of bad neglect, so that only Gaeta could be considered a real obstacle. Furthermore, since the end of 1706, the Bourbon viceroy of Naples, Johann Emanuel Fernandez Pacheco, Duke of Ascalona, could hardly count on any help from Northern Italy; and he could expect even less support from the population.
The Bourbons had never been able to gain a firm foothold in the country. Now that a large part of their most zealous supporters had left for Spain, it became easy for the Habsburg party to cover the whole country with a network of secret connections. The soul of this movement was Cardinal Grimani, Imperial envoy in Rome, a warm supporter of the Habsburgs. The Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Pignatelli and his brother, the Duke of Monteleon, the princes Montesarchio and Caracciolo, General Count Ybarra and others supported Grimani's efforts. When the news spread that Louis XIV had evacuated Northern Italy and offered Naples to the Emperor, even the supporters of Philip V, and even more the population, felt that it was wiser not to expose themselves in favour of a government, who seemed to be abandoning them to their fate. It was only with difficulty that Grimani and his agents were able to hold back the people, especially in the Abruzzi, who were impetuously urging to revolt, and individual attempts at rebellion already showed what was to be expected as soon as an Imperial corps would appear on the Tronto or Garigliano rivers.
In March 1707, Cardinal Grimani informed Prince Eugène through Abbot Giurbia that thousands of armed men would join the Imperial banners, that fortresses and castles would not oppose any resistance and that the population would gladly supply its liberators with provisions. Grimani estimated that Eugène could make himself master of the kingdom with 1,000 horse and occupy it with approx. 4,500 men.
Military preparations for the expedition presented no problems, especially since the recent Convention of Milan which regulated the evacuation of Lombardy and Northern Italy by the Franco-Spanish forces. However, negotiations with the Houses previously allied with the Bourbons, and with Pope Clemens XI required some attention.
For Great Britain and the Dutch Republic, the planned expedition was just taking away much needed forces, which would be put to better use if they accompanied Prince Eugène in his offensive in Provence.
On 17 April, the Emperor ordered Prince Eugène to send a corps of approx. 9,500 men under the command of FZM Wirich Count Daun against Naples.
A few days later, additional instructions followed. The expeditionary forces would march along the Adriatic Coast up to Loreto. The rest of the itinerary would be determined in agreement with Cardinal Grimani, but in any case the march would have to be made with all speed because the road was long and the month of May, with its intolerable heat, was approaching.
At the end of April, after the crushing defeat of the Allies in the Battle of Almansa in Spain, the British and the Dutch renewed their protestations against an expedition in the Kingdom of Naples.
On 4 May, Prince Eugène informed the emperor that the troops destined to the conquest of Naples were on their way towards Finale di Modena (present-day Finale Emilia). The expedition would consist of:
- Commander-in-Chief: FZM Count Daun assisted by Major-General Baron von Wetzel and Major-General von Batté
- Commander of the cavalry: FML Marquis Vaubonne
- Engineers: Spielberg and Montani
- 8 leather pontoons with 4 wagons
- 2 two-horse wagons with bridging equipment
- 1 "bridge-corporal"
- 4 servants for the boats
Infantry (5,880 men)
N.B.: the third battalion of each of these infantry rgts remained in Northern Italy to garrison various fortresses. Furthermore, Heindl and Wallis had not received recruits.
Cavalry (2,222 men)
- Neuburg Cuirassiers
- Caraffa Cuirassiers
- Vaubonne Dragoons
- Batté Dragoons unidentified unit
- Sinzendorf Dragoons
N.B.: some cavalry units had not yet received remounts and, for this reason the cavalry could field only 2,222 mounted men.
Field Artillery under Captain Molek
- Regimental guns (14 pieces)
N.B.: heavy artillery was not taken along because of the difficulty of transport
FZM. Daun was instructed to march to border of the Kingdom of Naples as quickly as possible, and then to confer with Grimani to choose the route to follow, east or west of the Apennine Mountains. In any case, he had to do everything to win the population of Naples to the Habsburgs through strict discipline and friendly concessions. In the event that, contrary to all expectations, the Imperial Corps should find serious resistance, Eugène promised quick assistance. With this in mind, Daun was also instructed to come to an agreement with the Prince Portia in order to be able to get reinforcements of Grenz militias from Trieste, as well as artillery, muskets and ammunition. During its march in Roman territory, the corps would receive provisions on its way and receipts would be issued for any items taken over.
From 11 to 16 May, the troops assigned to this expeditionary corps assembled near San Giovanni in Persiceto.
On 14 May, FZM Daun and General Wetzel joined this corps at San Giovanni in Persiceto. Wetzel had just obtained the permission of the Cardinal of Bologna to march through these Papal estates and the promise to get timely supplies along the way. A commissary was sent to Ravenna and Rome to obtain similar authorisations. To administer the conquered regions, the Court of Vienna had named Count Georg Adam von Martinitz as plenipotentiary with the authority of a viceroy. This nomination happened against the will and knowledge of Archduke Charles and would later give rise to many recriminations.
FZM Daun chose Concordia (Concordia Sulla Secchia) and Mortizzuolo as assembly places for all transports following his corps.
The March to the borders of the Kingdom of Naples
On 18 May, Daun's small army set off from San Giovanni in Persiceto and marched to Bologna.
On 19 May, Daun's Army marched to Castel San Pietro.
On 20 May, Daun's Army marched to Imola.
On 21 May, Daun's Army marched to Faenza, where it rested for one day.
On 22 May, Daun sent Major-General Wetzel to Rome to get some news of the present situation in the Kingdom of Naples and to determine with Grimani whether the army should remain east of the Apennine Mountains and enter Abruzzi, or march by way of San Severino, Spoleto and Rome through the Pontine Marshes towards the Volturno River. Daun himself was in favour of the first alternative, considering that the march would be easier, the country richer and more salubrious, and communications with the Hereditary Lands, easier.
The same day (22 May), Emperor Joseph wrote to Prince Eugène that he considered the expedition against Naples to be even more necessary and that he could not refrain from doing so without great injury to his honour.
On 23 May, Daun's Army marched to Forli.
On 24 May, Daun's Army marched to Cesena.
On 25 May, Daun's Army marched to Savignano.
On 26 May, Daun's Army marched to Rimini, where it rested for one day.
On 28 May, Daun's Army marched to Cattolica.
On 29 May, Daun's Army marched to Pesaro.
On 20 May, Daun's Army marched to Fano.
On 31 May, Daun's Army reached Senigallia.
On 1 June, Wetzel arrived at Daun's camp near Senigallia with the news that Rome advocated the use of the march across the Pontine Marshes. Daun felt compelled to change his route.
On 2 June, Daun's Army marched from Senigallia to Finmesino (unidentified location).
On 3 June, Daun's Army marched to Iesi.
On 4 June, Daun's Army marched to Montecchio (unidentified location).
On 5 June, Daun's Army marched to San Severino.
On 6 June, Daun's Army marched to Castelfiorito (unidentified location).
On 7 June, Daun's Army marched to Colfiorito.
On 8 June, Daun's Army marched to Ponte Santa Lucia.
On 9 June, Daun's Army marched to Foligno and Trevi.
On 10 June, Daun's Army marched to Spoleto, where it rested for a day.
On 12 June, Daun's Army marched to Terni.
On 13 June, Daun's Army marched to Narni.
On 14 June, Daun's Army marched to Otricoli, where it rested for a day.
On 16 June, Daun's Army marched to Monterotondo, to the northeast of Rome.
While his troops rested at Monterotondo from the difficult crossing of the Apennine Mountains, Daun went to Rome, accompanied by Generals Vaubonne and Batté, and by Count Martinitz, who had recently arrived at the headquarters. They were escorted by 2 cuirassier coys. Their arrival in Rome aroused no small excitement.
The French and Spanish ambassadors, Cardinal de La Trémouille and Duke von Aceda, succeeded in persuading the Pope to enlist soldiers and, for lack of guards, to have eight of the twelve gates of the Eternal City walled up until recruitment would be complete.
On 19 June, the Pope received Daun and his generals in a solemn audience.
On 20 June, Daun's Army resumed its march towards the Kingdom of Naples, setting off from Monterotondo and marching to Tivoli.
On 21 June, Daun's Army marched to Palestrina.
On 22 June, Daun's Army marched to Valmontone, where it rested for a day.
On 24 June, Daun's Army marched to Anagni.
On 25 June, Daun's Army marched to Frosinone.
On 26 June, Daun's Army marched to Ceprano, on the border of the Kingdom of Naples.
During the march of the Imperial corps from Northern Italy to the border of the kingdom, the Duke of Ascalona had mustered everything to make up for the previous neglects and to improve the defences of the kingdom. By issuing new taxes and monetizing his rich silverware, he procured the necessary funds to raise fresh regiments, whose ranks he supplemented with 800 released convicts. Furthermore, 1,500 men were recalled from the Spanish places in Tuscany, and the feudal lords were encouraged to mobilise their serfs. However, his attempt to get 2,000 men from Sicily and 8,000 men from Toulon failed completely, since unrest also threatened in Sicily, and France needed its troops to protect its own territory.
Overall the Neapolitan Army numbered 8,000 foot and 3,000 horse, but the military value of these troops varied greatly. The most prominent followers of Philip V were entrusted with commands without regard for their capacities: Nicolo Pignatelli Duke of Bisaccia was appointed commander-in-chief; Tomaso d'Acquino Prince of Castiglione, commander of the cavalry; Count S. Esteban de Gormaz, commander of the infantry; the old General Orazio Copoloa, commander of the artillery; the Prince of Avellino, commander of the militia; and the Duke of Atri, the important office of a general- vicar of Abruzzi.
The Neapolitan commanders decided to make a stand in the vicinity of Sora and troops set off for Volturno and Garigliano.
As Daun's vanguard reached Garigliano, the Prince of Castiglione had taken position in the vicinity of San Germano with 4 rgts, approx. 1,500 horse and a few thousands militia, while the Duke of Atri was posted in the Abruzzi with 600 horse and militia, trying to quench an uprising organised by a certain Scarpaleggia. The viceroy held a few hundred guards in readiness in Naples to come to the support of threatened areas. The rest of the Neapolitan troops formed the garrisons of Naples, Capua and Gaeta. The defensive works of the fortresses of Capua and Gaeta as well as Pescara, were being strengthened. However, a large part of the population made absolutely no secret of its sympathy for the House of Habsburg. The mayor of Naples, Lucas Puoto, declared to the viceroy that the city was by no means disposed to risk the property of its citizens in a useless defence.
When the viceroy of Naples heard of the Franco-Spanish victory at Almansa in Spain, he hoped that an amphibious relief force would be sent to Naples.
The Invasion of the Kingdom of Naples
On 28 June, Daun's Army crossed the Liri River at Ceprano and entered the Kingdom of Naples, reaching Aquino.
On 29 June, Daun's Army marched to San Germano while the Neapolitan troops, without opposing any resistance, retreated to the Volturno River and the militia began to disperse.
On 30 June in the evening, Daun sent the FML Marquis de Vaubonne with 300 horse and all hussars towards Teano to get provisions and get some news of Capua.
On 1 July at noon, Vaubonne's detachment reached Torricella, to the southeast of Teano. From there, Vaubonne sent his hussars under Captain Király towards Capua. On their way, they drove back a party of 40 Neapolitan horse. However, as they reached Capua, they were received with artillery fire. Vaubonne, who had followed with the rest of the detachment, was preparing to retire to Teano when he received the news that Prince Castiglione had recently taken position on this side of the Volturno River, near Boscarello (unidentified location), with 4 cavalry regiments.
On the same day (1 July), the main body of Daun's Army marched from San Germano to Mignano.
On 2 July in the morning, people from Capua came to Vaubonne's camp to report that, as soon as the Imperial hussars had appeared before Capua, the Neapolitan cavalry had precipitously retired towards Naples, and that part of the garrison had scattered and the rest had taken refuge in the castle. Vaubonne then sent his cavalry to make itself master of the city. However, on his way Vaubonne learned that the 4 Neapolitan cavalry rgts had been ordered by the viceroy to return to Capua. Vaubonne accelerated his advance, crossed the Volturno River and entered Capua by the Romana Gate, which had been left open. He advanced to the main square under the fire of the garrison in the castle. Castiglione's 4 Neapolitan rgts, which had by then reached Capua, retired precipitously in the direction of Naples. In this affair, the Imperials lost Lieutenant-Colonel La Vigne and Captain Marquis Crivelli, both from Caraffa Cuirassiers, and 13 men killed. As soon as he had learned of the situation at Capua, FZM Daun had sent 2 cavalry rgts under Major-General Count Caraffa to support Vaubonne's detachment and had followed soon afterwards with the rest of his cavalry and some grenadiers.
On the same day (2 July), the main body of Daun's Army marched from Mignano to Pietravairano.
On 3 July at noon, Daun arrived at Capua. He summoned the commander of the castle, the Marquis Feria, to surrender. On his initial refusal, Daun established a battery of field pieces and began cannonading the walls of the castle. Soon, Feria agreed to capitulate under condition of free withdrawal for the garrison (now only 300 men), provided that it would not serve against the Imperials and their allies for the rest of the campaign.
On the same day (3 July), the main body of Daun's Army marched from Pietravairano to Calvi.
On 4 July, Daun took possession of the Citadel of Capua. The same day, the main body of his army reached Capua. The place could now be used as a base for future operations. To protect his line of communication, Daun detached Colonel Count Wallis, with some Neapolitan militias who had recently joined him, to Sora and Isola, where a hospital was established. Lieutenant-Colonel von Neuforge from Wetzel Infantry remained in Capua with 300 foot and 60 horse.
In Naples, once the news of the fall of Capua was known, the Duke of Ascalona vainly tried to harangue the population, but nobody wanted to fight.
On 6 July in the morning, the viceroy of Naples and his family with a few loyal followers embarked and sailed for Gaeta escorted by 4 galleys and 7 tartanes. The flotilla was still under way when Captain Pepefume deserted with 2 galleys and returned to Naples to deliver their cargo, which mostly consisted of ammunition stores, to the Imperials.
On the same day (6 July), Daun's Army marched from Capua to Aversa. On his way, Daun learned of the situation in Naples and detached Major-General Batté with 600 horse towards Naples to secure the city against any enterprise of the Bourbon garrison still occupying the three castles. Daun himself found Naples' trustees in Aversa, with whom he concluded the transfer of allegiance of the city in a very short time. In the name of Archduke Charles, the so-called Charles III of Spain, Daun granted all demands concerning the preservation of the old privileges, the distribution of certain sacerdotal benefits, and the protection of local trade.
On 7 July, FZM Count Daun and Count Martinitz at the head of the Imperial forces made a triumphal entry into Naples. The aged Prince Montesarchio, an old servant of the house of Austria, gave them the keys to the capital at the head of a splendid deputation.
In the following days, Count Martinitz was proclaimed as the new viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Castiglione had marched from Capua to Naples with his cavalry regiments, which suffered from constant desertion, and as the Imperial troops continued their eastwards advance, he planned to make a junction with the corps of the Duke of Atri and to continue the war in the Abruzzi on his own initiative. However, in the vicinity of San Anastasio, Castiglione found the road blocked by a barricade and a ditch defended by armed populace. He redirected his march towards Avellino but found the defile of Monteforte occupied by 2,000 peasants under Prince Marino Caraccioli, while the Imperial General Caraffa with 4,000 dismounted cavalrymen was following him. Castiglione then tried to reach Salerno or Vietri, where he intended to embark aboard ships, but when both attempts failed, he surrendered with his cavalry rgts as prisoners of war.
On 11 July, the captured cavalrymen of Castiglione's 4 rgts (only 476 men with 381 horses) arrived at Naples. The same day, the garrison of the Castle of Castelnuovo (550 men) in Naples under General von Borda capitulated under condition of free withdrawal to Gaeta. Borda himself entered the Imperial service and retained his command at the castle.
On 12 July, the garrisons (62 officers, 575 men) of the Castle of San Elmo and the Castle del Ovo, both in Naples, surrendered as prisoners of war.
In the following days, Ischia, Baja and Brindisi surrendered to Daun's forces. In these places the Imperials found 170 heavy artillery pieces. With such an artillery, Daun could now consider to lay siege to Gaeta. However, he first had to make himself master of the Abruzzi. On the eastern slopes of the Apennines, the Vicar-General Duke of Atri stood at the head of 600 horse and a few hundred foot.
On 13 July, Daun sent the FML Marquis de Vaubonne with 3 cavalry rgts towards Avellino to prevent Atri's force from crossing to the western side of the Apennines. Brigadier Bellet, one of Atri's sub-commanders, was at that time in the mountains by Lake Fucino, fighting against volunteers recruited by the partisans Cagaccioli and Scarpaleggia and the Imperial detachment of Colonel Count Wallis, which had been left behind in the region.
On 14 July, since Daun did not expect success from a unilateral land attack against the Fortress of Gaeta, he sent a request to Vienna requesting the assistance of some Anglo-Dutch ships. Meanwhile, he began to assemble a small flotilla, which contained only a few small imperial vessels, while the rest was made up of 13 tartanes.
In mid-July, to cut off the garrison of Gaeta from the land side, Daun sent Lieutenant-Colonel von Seydlitz to Mola with 300 dragoons.
Wallis had been instructed to protect the line of communication with Northern Italy and, for this purpose in particular, to hold the border district near Ceprano. With the help of the volunteers, Wallis gradually cleared the whole area around Isola, Sora and Balsorano of Bellet's bands, and repeatedly made successful advances against Aquila and Chieti, thereby increasingly pushing the vicar-general's detachments back towards Pescara.
By mid-August, FZM Count Daun had consolidated his control of the region of Naples and considered that he could now submit the districts beyond the Apennines and wrest Pescara from the enemy. For this purpose, he sent General Baron Wetzel with 1,500 horse to Aquila in the Aterno Valley. He also ordered Colonel Count Wallis to advance on Pescara and make himself master of the place.
Pescara, located on both banks of the river of the same name, which flows into the Adriatic Sea not far from there and was called Aterno in its upper course, had a bastioned but poorly preserved fortification and no covert way. At the mouth of the river there was a small, slightly entrenched island and at the same level on the right bank of the Pescara was the half-completed Rampina Redoubt. It was linked to the main fortifications of Pescara. The terrain in the immediate vicinity of Pescara was flat throughout, which meant that the attackers only had limited natural cover and could not establish a battery on an overlooking hill.
Atri had earlier retreated to Pescara, and Bellet, after trying in vain to escape through the Terra di Lavoro towards Gaeta, had followed the duke thither. As the Imperial troops approached, these two commanders were at the head of 4 dragoon coys, 3 foot coys and a few hundred irregulars. This small force was sufficient to hold the place, given its small size. However, the population was consistently pro-Austrian and caused the greatest difficulties for the military authorities
On 18 August, Wallis appeared in front of Pescara with part of his corps, which consisted mainly of militias and established his headquarters in the village of Spollore, west of Pescara. He threw a bridge above the town and distributed the infantry in the numerous farmsteads on both banks, while the cavalry, under Wetzel and Neapolitan nobles, encamped on the right bank of the Pescara River, a few hundred paces above the bridge. The bridge was later protected by earthworks. Wallis vainly summoned Atri to surrender. Wallis then ordered to send 4 heavy cannon from Aquila and Civitella del Tronto for the siege of Pescara. While he awaited the arrival of these cannon and of additional detachments still on the way, he had fascines, gabions and sandbags made in the meadows on both sides of the river and made all the preparations for the siege.
On 22 August, after having waited in vain for the arrival of a naval squadron, Daun had 3,000 men, including 5 grenadier coys, embarking in Naples on tartanes. They were transported to Mola under the protection of an Imperial cutter. From there, they marched towards Gaeta.
On 23 August, the small Imperial flotilla forced the enemy vessels to retire to Mola. This was necessary to allow the besiegers to open the trench in front of Gaeta.
On 24 August, Daun set off from Naples to join the siege corps before Gaeta, entrusting command of the troops left in the capital to Colonel Baron Heindl.
On the same day (24 August), the Imperial troops undertook the Siege of Gaeta.
In the night of 1 to 2 September, at Pescara the trench of the western attack was opened against the bastions of Sant Antonio and San Rocco, without significant casualties, and a few days later the first parallel was completed.
Immediately afterwards at Pescara, Wallis had a battery (4 guns) built about 170 m opposite the curtain wall, on the right wing of this battery a redoubt was erected and opened against the San Rocco Bastion. The artillery of the defenders answered with a lively fire but could not cause serious damage to the well entrenched artillery pieces of the besiegers. After a short time, the defenders found themselves in a precarious situation when the population, upset by the shelling, turned to open hostilities.
Wallis managed to take possession of three ships along the coast near Pescara, to man them with 80 men each and to storm the small island at the mouth of the Pescara from the sea. The defenders then asked to capitulate. Wallis needed Daun's approval before granting the requested free withdrawal to Gaeta, and hostilities were suspended pending that decision,.
When Daun answered that these conditions could not be accepted, hostilities immediately resumed.
On 14 September, Atri once more proposed to capitulate under condition that the garrison would freely withdraw to Pozzuoli where it would embark for Marseille. Wallis accepted these conditions. However, news arrived from Spain about the fate of Xàtiva after its surrender to the Bourbons, Archduke Charles asked to retain the garrison of Pescara as prisoners of war. Only the Duke of Atri was authorised to leave. This agreement had been concluded without Daun's knowledge.
On 15 September, Count Martinitz was recalled to Vienna and FZM Daun became the interim viceroy of the Kingdom of Naples.
Immediately after the fall of Pescara, Daun drew part of the troops from the Abruzzi to the west coast of the Adriatic, to reinforce the siege corps before the Fortress of Gaeta, whither General Baron Wetzel had been sent somewhat earlier.
On 30 September, Daun stormed Gaeta and captured its garrison.
There were now only a few places still resisting to the Imperial army. Orbetello, located 60 km to the northwest of Civitavecchia, was the most important of these places.
On 24 November, Daun had General Wetzel and 500 men transported aboard ships to Orbetello. These ships were delayed by bad weather and had to take refuge in Baja, Gaeta and Civitavecchia on their way.
On 20 December, the ships transporting Wetzel's detachment finally reached San Stefano, the harbour of Orbetello. The small garrison of the harbour (15 men) immediately surrendered.
On 21 December, the garrison of Orbetello (250 men) surrendered to Wetzel. From the garrison, 33 Spanish officers obtained free withdrawal while the rest willingly joined the Imperial service.
The Principality of Piombine also submitted to the Habsburgs. Only the commanders of Port' Ercole, San Filippo and Porto Longone refused to surrender. Port' Ercole and the associated Fort San Filippo, at a short distance from Orbetello, were well fortified and had a comparatively strong garrison. Furthermore, Tursis had withdrawn to the vicinity after the fall of Gaeta and his flotilla made any approach towards Port' Ercole impossible. Wetzel and his small detachment was quite powerless in front of such an opposition. Porto Longone on the island of Elba found in its position the best protection against the Imperialists, who lacked any naval means. However, since the possession of these small, insignificant places was completely secondary and could never have the slightest influence on the general situation in the Kingdom of Naples, Wetzel did not try to take control of them.
In the last days of December, Wetzel confided command to Colonel Count Wallis in Orbetello and returned to Naples. Military operations then came to a halt once Major-General Batté had dispersed bands in the Abruzzi.
Besides Port< Ercole and Porto Longone, only Sicily was still in the hand of the Bourbons in Southern Italy.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:
- Abtheilung für Kriegsgeschichte des k. k. Kriegs-Archives: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, Series 1, Vol. 9, Vienna 1883, pp. 175-202