1707 – Siege of Toulon
The siege lasted from 28 July to 22 August 1707
The war had been going on for six years and France was almost on its knees. In Italy, after the disastrous campaign of 1706, France and Spain had managed to keep the Province of Savoie, Susa, Perosa Argentina and the County of Nice. For the coming campaign, Louis XIV wanted to remain on the defensive in the Alps while he would reinforce his armies in Flanders, on the Rhine and in Spain. He confided the command of the Army of the Alps to Maréchal René de Froulay, Comte de Tessé.
Meanwhile the French Court was negotiating with Prince Eugène for the evacuation of the French and Spanish troops from the places of Lombardy and for their return to France. It was estimated that, once these troops would have returned to France, Tessé would be at the head of 60 bns and 45 sqns for the defence of Savoie, Dauphiné, Provence and the County of Nice. The rest of the French and Spanish troops, under the command of the Duc d'Orléans, would be redirected towards Spain and Roussillon.
Now masters of most of Northern Italy, Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy and Prince Eugène decided to proceed to the invasion of Provence and to capture the strategically important port of Toulon. They would be assisted by an Anglo-Dutch fleet under the command of Sir Cloudesley Shovell.
Tessé, uncertain of the objectives of the Allies, was forced to spread the Army of the Alps in Savoie, Dauphiné and Provence.
On 23 June, M. de Grignan, Lieutenant-Governor of Provence ,was informed that a quartermaster of the Duke of Savoy had instructed the inhabitants of the Saint-Martin Valley to repair the road leading to Saint-Martin on the Var River, as well as the road leading from the Tende Pass and Saorgio (present-day Saorge) to Sospello (present-day Sospel), and the road leading from Breglio (present-day Breil-sur-Roya) to Sospello. He immediately instructed M. de Paratte, who commanded at Nice, to take measure to keep his line of retreat open.
At the beginning of July, the Allies entered the County of Nice. Tessé then decided to redirect a large part of the troops stationed in Savoie and Dauphiné towards Toulon.
The Allies then slowly advanced towards Toulon, where the erection of a covert way on the land side had only begun and the establishment of an entrenched camp had barely been outlined.
On July 10, Louis XIV wrote to Tessé to inform him that he considered that the 2 bns, the 2,000 soldiers of the Navy and the militia would be able to hold Toulon by themselves and that Tessé should form an army to fix the enemy and threaten its line of retreat. The king specified that Tessé should evacuate all towns and posts unable to oppose a serious resistance but to hold Antibes with 1,000 men.
On 17 July, the Allied army (30,000 foot, 8,000 horse) concentrated at Fréjus where it would sojourn until 20 July to wait for the artillery and some additional units. Meanwhile the Anglo-Dutch fleet had taken post near the Hyères Islands.
On 22 July, Montsoreau's Division (7 bns) and the 500 dismounted cavalrymen arrived in Toulon.
On 23 July, M. de Goesbriant reached Toulon with a second division (9 bns). The forces defending Toulon, including Sailly's Corps, now numbered 2,000 soldiers of the Navy, 27 bns, 500 dismounted cavalrymen and 7 sqns. There were also some 5,000 sailors destined to serve the batteries. A corps of 4,000 militiamen had also been assembled but it soon dispersed when it became apparent that they would not be paid.
The same day (23 July), Tessé went to Toulon, on his way he reconnoitred a position between Aubagne and Gémenos, where he could assemble his army.
In 1707, Toulon was a fortified city with a modern Vauban earth wall with 7 bastions. The fortifications were well-armed with cannon from disarmed ships of the Toulon Fleet. However, the French estimated that the fortifications on the land side were not strong enough to sustain a siege. Accordingly, in the second half of June, work began to make a covert way on the land side and to establish an entrenched camp on the heights overlooking the city. The Gardes-Côtes coys were deployed along the coast and the militia of Provence were assembled.
By 23 July, the new covert way has almost been completed, including galleries under the angles. However, there were no ravelins nor outworks. Ramparts were dominated on all sides by the heights overlooking the city. They were equipped with 125 artillery pieces and 22 mortars. Furthermore, there were 60 pieces on the walls of the dock. The Comte de Langeron, who commanded the Navy, had run two ships carrying 40 cannon aground some 95 m. from the bastions to defend this area where there were no covert way. The place was well supplied in ammunition and had provisions for two months.
Work had begun to establish two entrenched camps on the heights overlooking the city: the camp on the Sainte-Catherine Height was almost completed, while work on the camp on the Sainte-Anne Height had barely begun. The camp of Sainte-Catherine was dominated by the Croix-Faron mountain on its left, a height easily accessible to the besiegers. The camp of Sainte-Anne was better located and covered the Saint-Antoine Defile on the road leading to Marseille. Accordingly, Tessé ordered to complete the camp of Sainte-Anne as soon as possible and detached M. de Nizas to the Saint-Antoine Defile with 1,000 men.
Provence and Toulon were under the command of Lieutenant-General Count François Adhémar de Grignan. The old lion was 78 years old. His obstinacy, and his exact knowledge of his province, men and places, played an important role in the defence of the province and of the port of Toulon. In his capacity as head of the province, he dared to oppose the direct orders of the minister, reflecting the king's wishes, to impose himself when the time came, albeit lower in military rank, on the Maréchal de Tessé. To prevent reinforcements from contacting the enemy prematurely, he had organized their route through the difficult dolomite massifs of Méounes, Valbelle, the Grand Cap, and the Siou Blanc. He was also able to get the village communities to prepare water, food, fodder and guides, and thus allow the timely arrival of relief troops.
Bishop Monseigneur Chalucet struggled to bring in supplies for the siege. Buildings were razed (the beautiful Convent of the Minimes), streets were depaved," to avoid shards of stones projected by the clash of cannonballs and bombs.
Description of events
The Resistance – 26 July-31 July
On 25 July, the third division (13 bns) arriving from Dauphiné, reached Toulon. Tessé was now at the head of 40 weak bns. He allocated 36 bns (only 12,000 men) to the entrenched camps and various outposts. These 36 bns encamped in two lines with their right at a salient angle of the covert way and their left on the Sainte-Anne Height. The 4 other bns, 2 bns of the Navy, some Gardes-Côtes militia and Caylus' dragons (only 1 mounted sqn and the rest dismounted, their horses being sent away to Arles) were assigned to the defence of the city. Thus encirclement of the city was avoided, the French reinforcements blocking the passages to Ollioules, Sanary, Beausset, Aubagne. More reinforcements were still expected.
M. de Saint-Pater continued to command in Toulon, the covert way was confided to M. de Cadrieu. M. de Goesbriant and M. Dillon, assisted by M. de Montsoreau, M. de Carraccioli and the Comte de Villars, were charged of the entrenched camps. Brigadier Le Guerchois was charged to guard the crest of the mountain.
On 26 July in the morning, after a pause to regroup in the depression of the Maures around Pignans, the Allied army appeared in front of Toulon and encamped with its right at La Valette and its left anchored on the woods of Fort Sainte-Marguerite. Allied hussars reconnoitred the entrenchments. Shortly afterwards, 200 Allied foot climbed the plateau located in front of the Sainte-Catherine Height and forced two detachments to abandon their outposts. However, M. Dillon did not leave them enough time to establish themselves, marching against them and driving them back.
Meanwhile 300 Allied grenadiers assaulted Le Guerchois' detachment (2 grenadier coys and 40 fusiliers) at the Croix-Faron on two sides. Le Guerchois resisted the first attack but seeing Allied reinforcements on their way and realising that his line of communication was threatened, he retired to the camp of Sainte-Catherine. From the Croix-Faron, the Allies could observe all activities in Toulon. The Duke of Savoy and Prince Eugène went there to reconnoitre the entrenched camp. Seeing the French entrenchments full of cannon and defenders, the Duke of Savoy confided to Prince Eugène: "It is the hand of this old Grignan!"
M. de Saint-Pater continued to command in Toulon, the covert way was confided to M. de Cadrieu. M. de Goesbriant and M. Dillon, assisted by M. de Montsoreau, M. de Carraccioli and the Comte de Villars, were charged of the entrenched camps. Brigadier Le Guerchois was charged to guard the crest of the mountain. With his left flank threatened, M. de Goesbriant rearranged his positions, closer to Toulon. Work on new entrenchments started immediately, while the entrenchments of the Sainte-Catherine camp were improved.
On 26 July, the 500 dismounted cavalrymen previously posted in Toulon left for Marseille.
The same day (26 July), the Maréchal de Tessé returned to Aix-en-Provence to take measures for the defence of Marseille, the Durance River and the Province of Languedoc. He also asked the Court for a reinforcement of 20 bns in addition to the 12 bns already on the march to join his army.
On 28 July, the Allies entrenched themselves while waiting for the arrival of additional artillery, which should be unloaded from their fleet. This fleet had been delayed in the Hyères Islands by a strong westerly wind. They also sent back part of their cavalry to Solliès to ease its subsistence.
On 29 July at daybreak, a battery of 4 artillery pieces established on a plateau commanding the Sainte-Catherine Height, opened on the French troops (1,200 men under the Brigadier Comte de Tessé) posted there. Shortly afterwards, the Allies launched an assault with 3,000 men, but they were driven back. At this moment, M. Le Guerchois arrived with 800 men to relieve Tessé's detachment. Both detachments remained on the height. M. De Goesbriant then sent a reinforcement of 6 grenadier coys and 6 cannon.
On 30 July in the morning, the Allies (now 6,000 men) advanced within musket range of the French detachments defending the Sainte-Catherine Height and the Bastion of Artigues. After a first salvo, 2 grenadier coys of Sanzay Infanterie posted on the left broke and fled, and M. de Polastron was unable to rally them. Panic spread rapidly and M. Le Guerchois was forced to retire on the camp of Sainte-Anne, leaving only an outpost in the Sainte-Catherine Chapel. Upon leaving, Le Guerchois set fire to his powder and nailed 2 of his cannon, the 4 others were captured by the Allies. M. de Goesbriant put Le Guerchois under arrest for his conduct, but he was freed two days later. The Allies had seized the Bastion of Artigues; on their third attack.
The Allies established batteries on the Sainte-Catherine Height and completed the entrenchment begun by the French. The Allies established other batteries on the height of La Malgue from where they could fire on Fort Saint-Louis and Fort Sainte-Marguerite, and on the harbour which contained 55 vessels.
Master of Sainte-Catherine, the Duke of Savoy, instead of attacking the camp of Sainte-Anne, decided to turn it by leaving troops north of the Croix-Faron, to reach the Revest and Dardennes and uncork through the defile of Saint-Antoine. He sent an infantry detachment and 1,000 horse to Dardennes, north of Toulon, near the Saint-Antoine Defile, which was occupied by 3 bns and 4 grenadier coys under M. de Nizas. Prince Eugène was left at the head of his Germans, but he found himself in front of a well-fortified line held by 3,000 men. He dared no longer to continue his advance. The generalissimo changed all his plans and decided to settle firmly in Sainte-Catherine before attempting anything.
On 31 July in the evening, M. de Goesbriant reinforced M. de Nizas with 4 additional bns. Goesbriant, who had been informed that 12 Allied vessels were anchored near Le Brusc, feared a landing in these quarters and detached M. de Barville there with 4 grenadier coys and 50 dragoons.
Goesbriant then asked to the Maréchal de Tessé to send some bns to reinforce M. de Nizas at the Saint-Antoine Defile and to move from Aix to Beausset, closer to Toulon, with the rest of his own corps. Tessé replied that the expected reinforcements had not yet reached his camp near Aubagne. Nevertheless, he sent a few detachments of the garrison of Marseille to replace Goesbriant's troops in the area of Le Brusc and to occupy posts and castles. Goesbriant was thus able to recall M. de Barville.
The Scuttling of the Fleet – 1-2 August
By 1 August, the entrenchments of the French camp of Sainte-Anne were not yet completed.
The defenders then decided to deliberately deprive the first French port of the Levant from the very reason of its existence: its squadrons and their crews. After having landed the artillery, the sailors disembarked and formed eight infantry bns. Some coastal batteries, such as Cape Cépet, deemed indefensible, were dismantled and their guns thrown into the sea. Admiral Langeron, and more or less willingly, the Intendant of Vauvré decided to scuttle all ships of the line.
On 1 August, the scuttling of the 23 ships of the line (1st and 2nd rates) began. It continued through the following day. Those who were later refloated proved to be unusable. Only the Saint-Philippe (90) under Langeron stayed afloat, while the Tonnant (90) was stranded and transformed into a floating battery.
In the night of 1 to 2 August, the Allies made themselves master of the Sainte-Catherine Chapel, where they immediately began work to erect batteries which would be aimed on the camp of Sainte-Anne. They also occupied the height of La Malgue and erected batteries aimed at the great roadstead of Toulon.
The French seize the Initiative – 3-14 August
On 3 August in the evening, M. de Goesbriant detached 9 grenadier coys supported by 6 picquets under Lieutenant-Colonel Desvoyaux of Forez Infanterie. They attacked a farmstead and the Sainte-Catherine Chapel, killing most of the labourers and driving back a detachment of 200 men. They then destroyed part of the entrenchments.
On 4 August, the Allies started to work at three new batteries near Sainte-Catherine, in the plain and at La Malgue and at a mortar battery. Furthermore, 120 artillery pieces and 17 mortars were unloaded at Hyères.
The same day (4 August), Louis XIV wrote to Tessé to inform him that he was assembling a reinforcement of 23 bns and 9 dragoon sqns but that these forces could only reach Toulon gradually between 31 August and 20 September.
On 5 August, the French began to palisade the camp of Sainte-Anne. The bastions of the La Valette Gate were also entrenched and new mines established.
On 5 August in the evening, Prince Eugène perfected his lines under the fire of the defenders. He repaired his entrenchments in front of the Sainte-Catherine Chapel and 12,000 men worked at a line of entrenchments from this chapel to the heights of La Malgue, near the sea. This line ran by way of the Pont de l'Égoutier parallel to the two bastions of the Saint-Lazare Gate. It was strengthened by 4 batteries, one near Sainte-Catherine, two in the centre, aimed at the bastions of the Saint-Lazare Gate and at the small roadstead where the Tonnant and Saint-Philippe had been grounded, and a fourth battery facing Fort Saint-Louis and the great roadstead. Two batteries of mortars were also established. The reduction of Fort Saint-Louis was very important, because Admiral Shovell refused to approach the coast until the Allies would be master this fort.
On 6 August, the Maréchal de Tessé personally went from Aix-en-Provence to Toulon where he found the entrenched camp completed. Tessé decided to send M. de Médavy-Grancey to the plain of Brignolles and Saint-Maximin with a few bns and all the cavalry.
By 7 August, the Allies had completed all their batteries and their line of fortification which extended from Sainte-Catherine to the canal near the Egoutier River. They had one battery (4 pieces) near the Sainte-Catherine Chapel, four batteries (two of guns, two of mortars) in front of the Saint-Bernard and Minimes bastions, two batteries (one of guns and one of mortars) on the height of La Malgue directed against the harbour, and 1 battery (3 x 24-pdrs) directed against Fort Saint-Louis.
On 6 August, the Duke of Savoy ordered to make a formal siege of the city of Toulon.
On 7 August, the Allied battery directed against Fort Saint-Louis opened, while the batteries of La Malgue fired on the Tonnant, who had been intentionally grounded. The fire of this ship continued to hampered the work of the Allied labourers.
By 8 August, Tessé had assembled 17 bns, 33 sqns and 2 dragoon rgts at the camp of Aubagne, ready to intervene at Toulon.
On 8 August, the Allies directed 15 artillery pieces against the Tonnant who was damaged, but repaired during the following night.
On 10 August, cannonballs began to fall on many quarters of the city. The Saint-Philippe took position closer to the Tonnant and the two ships opened against the batteries of La Malgue. By 2:00 p.m., they had silenced these batteries. The Allies immediately started to erect new batteries.
The same day, Tessé's Corps moved closer to Toulon and encamped with its right and its headquarters at the Castle of Missiessy and its left towards Saint-Antoine, facing the city and the camp of Sainte-Anne. Furthermore, 2 dragoon rgts were posted at Beausset to secure the line of communication. They were joined there by the dragoon rgt previously posted in Toulon. Baggage were sent to Ollioules. For his part, according to Tessé's orders, M. de Médavy-Grancey marched from Aubagne with 6 bns, most of the cavalry and 2 dragoon rgts and encamped near Trets, on his way to Brignolles.
The Allies retired the corps previously posted at Dardennes, leaving only a detachment in the castle. They also recalled the detachments posted at Revest and Saint-Antoine, which were immediately occupied by Tessé's troops.
The Maréchal de Tessé gave orders to re-establish the entrenchments of Sainte-Elme and the batteries of Cap Cepet.. He sent 2 bns and some guns to cover the labourers. He also ordered that, every night, each of the bns that would be on duty in front of the Camp of Sainte-Anne would detach 10 men to go and raise the alarm to the besiegers.
At that time, the Allied fleet had 15 vessels anchored near Cap Cepet; 9 in the roadstead of Le Brusc; 1 near Sainte-Marguerite and the rest at the Hyères Islands.
By 12 August in the morning the dungeon of Fort Saint-Louis was a heap of ruins and the commander had no artillery pieces fit for service.
In the night of 12 to 13 August, the Maréchal de Tessé sent 1 grenadier coy and some equipment by boat to defend the breach at Fort Saint-Louis.
On 13 August in the morning, most of the Anglo-Dutch fleet appeared in front of the roadstead of Toulon.
The same day (13 August), Tessé was informed that the Duke of Savoy had detached 4,000 horse and 2,000 feet to march against Médavy-Grancey's Corps in the vicinity of Saint-Maximin. He then decided to launch an assault against the Allied positions on the Croix-Faron mountain and the Sainte-Catherine Height. M. Dillon's Corps (14 grenadier coys and 7 bns) would attack the Croix-Faron. Once master of this mountain, he would attack the rear of the Allied positions on the Sainte-Catherine Height. M. de Goesbriant's Corps (25 grenadier coys and 18 bns) would march in three columns and attack Sainte-Catherine frontally. A diversionary attack would also be launched against the height of La Malgue with troops transported from the harbour and landed at the "Grosse Tour." The attack was initially planned for 14 August at daybreak but it had to be postponed to 15 August.
By 14 August, Fort Saint-Louis still held, although it was unable to interdict the approach of the harbour.
On 14 August, Allied batteries opened on the city and the old harbour. Meanwhile, 41 sail remained posted in front of the roadstead.
In the night of 14 to 15 August, the various French contingents set off to reach their assigned positions for the planned assaults.
The Combat of the Croix-Faron – 15 August
On 15 August at daybreak, M. Dillon, assisted by the Comte de Villars, with 7 bns, 12 grenadier coys and 100 dismounted dragoons (under M. Le Guerchois) reached the Croix-Faron, after an eight-hours march on difficult paths. A small Allied detachment (only 400 men) defended the mountain. It offered a weak resistance and then broke and fled. Dillon fired three rockets to signal that he was now master of the Croix-Faron mountain.
M. de Goesbriant then sent his three columns forward against the Sainte-Catherine Height. The Comte de Tessé, who commanded the left column, attacked the highest plateau and defeated the 4 Allied bns encamped there. M. de Montsoreau and M. de Broglie at the head of the centre column made themselves master of Fort Sainte-Catherine, which was defended by 400 men. M. de Carraccioli and M. Destouches with the right column stormed the Sainte-Catherine Chapel, which was defended by 400 men. The right column then swept across the line of entrenchments down to the Egoutier bridge.
Laindet de la Londe recounts the events of the night of 15 August:
- “It was 15 August, in the middle of the night, in the pouring rain; for the first time the artillery was mute. Suddenly a great movement took place in Sainte-Anne. The first hour of the morning rang at the clock tower and the regular and timed step of the soldiers sounded on the ground; fourteen thousand men, troops of all arms joined by bourgeois, workers, peasants who came to the defence of their homes, left the camp together. The maréchal advanced on three columns to the foot of the heights of Sainte-Catherine. A fourth column, under the orders of Lieutenant-General Dillon, had left earlier, with six pieces of cannon carried on the back of mules, for the ridge of Faron Mountain; he was ordered, if he could at the Cross of the Faron, to make a signal on which the maréchal would begin the attack. On the other hand, Brigadier Cadrieux had embarked at midnight with six companies and six pickets of the garrison, to go and make a reconnaissance on the height of the Malgue in order to persuade the enemies that they were mad setting their batteries at this easily accessible location. By daybreak, Dillon had neutralized the Faron redoubt and announced it to the maréchal with three flying rockets. Immediately, the three columns moved at once and the battle began.“
After bayonet attacks, the Allied troops, unable to hold on, dispersed in disarray; in vain, the generalissimo presented himself, in vain, his lieutenants sought to stop the fugitives and bring them back into battle; the princes were forced to withdraw, after seeing their entrenchments razed, their batteries destroyed, their gabions burned, their fascines, their planks and their platforms. By 3:00 p.m., the combat was all over.
The diversionary attack, led by M. de Cadrieu had reached its objective by drawing the attention of most of the Allied forces.
During these attacks, the Brigadier de Barville, assisted by M. de Nizas, marched against the Castle of Dardennes, which was still in the hand of an Allied detachment (100 foot, 200 horse). He stormed the castle and captured 40 men. They drove the Germans out of the Revest heights.
The Allies, who had no more entrenchments, no more batteries on the heights above the place, no more parallels, retired to their camp behind the Égoutier, Tessé ordered his troops to retire from the Croix-Faron and from the Sainte-Catherine Height, considering these positions as indefensible.
In this affair, the Allies lost 1,800 men killed, wounded or taken prisoners. The Prince of Sachsen-Gotha had been killed in action; the Prince of Hesse and the Prince of Württemberg, wounded; and 2 colonels were taken prisoners. The Anglo-Dutch fleet had sailed but had not been able to approach the harbor until then because of the existence of the forts.
De Saint-Pater had advised the officers who commanded these forts to hold on to the last extremity and to abandon their posts only when there was a considerable breach, “which they were to do only after they had broken their guns and mortars, thrown them into the sea and blew up the powders.”
The Bombardment of Toulon – 16-21 August
At no time, was the lines of communication with the western part of the province cut. Reinforcements and food could arrive freely, there was no shortage of water or bread; only wood was scarce, the heights of the Croix-Faron were no longer accessible to the Allies. The couriers with Aix-en-Provence and Versailles circulated smoothly. Tessé, Langeron, Vauvré and the indefatigable Grignan multiplied the comings and goings to Marseille, Aix, and Aubagne. The corps of Médavy-Grancey was still posted near Brignolles, in preparation for the predictable pursuit of the retreating enemy. Grignan and Tessé had made at least three round trips each. Finally, the lieutenant-governor brought in three coys of miners to consolidate the northwest walls of the place. They arrived in Aix, exhausted by a force march. Grignan commandeered carts and had them transported to Toulon. His proclamations multiplied the calls to the inhabitants for active resistance; the nobles and the bourgeoisie took the lead of the militias, as in the Estérel.
In the night of 15 to 16 August, the Allies established 2 mortars on the height of La Malgue. They also attacked Fort Sainte-Marguerite.
On 16 August in the evening, the 2 mortars established on the height of La Malgue began the bombardment of the city.
The same day (16 August) in the evening, the garrison of Fort of Sainte-Marguerite (150 men) surrendered, after ten days of resistance, lacking water and ammunition. After the capture of the fort, the Allies proposed an exchange of prisoners.
After the capture of the fort, the Allied fleet was finally able to sail and 7 Allied ships were able to approach, following the coast, and disembark what was left of the siege crews. The Duke of Savoy asked for mortars in quantity. He set them up behind the Égoutier and began the bombardment of the city on the ground, waiting for the admiral to send the galiots to the Saint-Louis Cove to bombard it by sea.
On 17 August, the Allies established 2 additional mortars on the height of La Malgue. Their artillery also opened a lively fire on the harbour and on the Tonnant and Saint-Phlippe but without notable success.
Fort Saint-Louis, constantly beaten by 6 heavy artillery pieces, was just a heap of ruins. Nevertheless, M. Daillon, who commanded there, had managed to repair breaches each night with fascines and sandbags. Seeing this, the Maréchal de Tessé gave orders to establish entrenchments and batteries on the height of the "Grosse Tour" to replaced this fort. He sent 3 bns which encamped on the Saint-Elme beach. He also instructed M. Daillon to abandon the fort and to retire to the "Grosse Tour" after nailing his guns and blowing up his powder magazine.
In the night of 17 to 18 August, M. de Daillon evacuated Fort Saint-Louis but neglected to nail 2 artillery pieces which were left in the dungeon. Furthermore, the Allies managed to prevent the explosion of the powder magazine. However, a bomb fired from the "Grosse Tour" blew up what remained of the fort, killing some 100 Allied soldiers.
Allied landing attempts at Cap Cepet and the Frères Battery were also driven back.
On 19 August, strong northwesterly winds prevented the Allied galiots from doubling Cape Brun.
The same day (19 August), Allied deserters mentioned that the Duke of Savoy and Prince Eugène were taking measure to re-embark their artillery and to prepare their retreat. Nevertheless, the Allies continued to bombard and to cannonade the city of Toulon with 6 mortars and with all the batteries established on the height of La Malgue.
On 21 August, the fire of the Allied artillery began to slow down. The Allies carried away the heavy artillery, the sick and the wounded, leaving some pieces in the lines on the countryside, in order to fire on Toulon to distract the defenders, thus preventing them from noticing the withdrawal of the army.
Around noon, 5 galiots, each armed with 2 mortars, managed to sail close to Fort Saint-Louis and bombarded the city and the vessels in the harbour. The French moved cannon to their new entrenchments at the "Grosse Tour," under the command of Captain Court de Bruyères. One galiot was put out of service and four retired shortly afterwards.
La Londe describes the bombing of Toulon as follows:
- “The bombardment, begun on the 17th, did not stop until the 21st. That day, at eleven o'clock in the morning, six British galiots came to anchor at the foot of Fort Saint-Louis and began bombarding the port and the city. At the same time, fifty-two ships formed a crescent line from the Cépet to the Castle of Sainte-Marguerite and beat at once the entire entrance to the harbour. It was a horrible thing to see and hear that this continuous fire, this din of every moment, this incessant rain of cannonballs and bombs and yet the population showed no sign of discouragement.”
In the night of 21 to 22 August, the Allied galiots once more moved close to the coast and resumed the bombardment until 3:00 a.m., when they rejoined the fleet. Meanwhile, the Duke of Savoy and Prince Eugène decamped and retreated. Similarly, the fleet sailed towards the Hyères Islands.
This bombardment was the last effort of the Allies. Their army, weakened by disease and desertion, was reluctant to continue the siege and it was now known that there was a considerable reinforcement led by Maréchal Berwick.
Toulon, Provence and the Kingdom of France all owed the lieutenant governor for the king, Count François Adhémar de Grignan. Without his obstinacy, his exact knowledge of his province, men and places, Provence would probably have been lost entirely.
The siege of Toulon was up. About 200 houses had been damaged by cannonballs and at least 600 by bombs.
The siege was raised when it appeared clear that the city would not fall speedily and, instead, could resist until the arrival of overwhelming French forces. During the siege, the Anglo-Dutch fleet played a key role in supporting the siege, providing cannon, supplies and medical care.
The Toulon fleet was obliterated. No doubt its vessels were in poor condition, but their scuttling put them permanently out of use. In 1708, only 7 or 8 small vessels would remain afloat in Toulon. The French naval power would not recover until the second half of the century. This is probably the major consequence of the siege. Louis XIV decided to reallocate money spent on the fleet to strengthen his land forces in Spain. After Toulon the British naval control of the Western Mediterranean was confirmed, while the diversion of resources prevented the Bourbons from taking full advantage of their victory at Almansa.
The failure of Prince Eugène and Duke of Savoy to take Toulon cost 13,000 casualties, mostly from disease. Marlborough considered it a serious strategic defeat. It ended hopes of attacking France through its vulnerable southern border, and forced the Allies into a war of attrition on their strongly held northern frontier.
Prince Eugène and Victor Amadeus recrossed the Alps in early September and expelled the remaining French garrisons in Northwest Piedmont, but Villefranche and the County of Savoy would remain in French hands until 1714.
Immediately after the siege, the British squadron returned to England; on 22 October, navigational errors caused the loss of 4 ships and 2,000 men, including Shovell.
The Maréchal de Tessé had made little haste to pursue the Allies in their retreat, and he was accused of idleness. The king did not excuse him for this. In 1708 he would be replaced at the head of the Army of the Alps by Villars, to whom the Maréchal Berwick would succeed in 1709.
Order of Battle
Allied Order of Battle
Summary: 54 bns and 56 sqns for a total of approx. 32,500 men
- Infantry (18 bns)
- Guido Starhemberg Infantry (2 bns)
- Herberstein Infantry (2 bns)
- Bagni Infantry (2 bns)
- Württemberg-Stuttgart Infantry (2 bns)
- Jung-Starhemberg Infantry (2 bns) aka Maximilian Starhemberg
- Königsegg Infantry (2 bns)
- Harrach Infantry (2 bns)
- zum Jungen Infantry (2 bns)
- unidentified hayduck unit (1 bn)
- Wolfenbüttel Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Cavalry (31 sqns)
- Infantry (9 bns)
- Cavalry (5 sqns)
- Dragoni di Sua Altezza Reale (5 sqns)
- Infantry (11 bns)
- Markgraf Philipp Infantry (2 bns)
- Markgraf Albrecht Infantry (1 bn)
- Prince Christian Infantry (2 bns) unidentified unit
- Anhalt Infantry (2 bns)
- Schlabrendorff Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit, maybe Lattorf
- Kanitz Infantry (2 bns)
- Corneaud Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Infantry (9 bns)
- Cavalry (14 sqns)
- Erbprinz Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Carabiniers (2 sqns) aka Spiegel
- Saxuerzenvel (2 sqns) unidentified unit, probably the Leib-Regiment
- Boyneburg Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Erbprinz Friedrich Dragoons (3 sqns)
- Auerochs Dragoons (3 sqns)
Palatine units in Dutch pay
- Infantry (5 bns)
- Hobach Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Rehbinder Infantry (1 bn)
- Barbau Infantry (1 bn)
- Bonheim Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit, probably Bentheim-Tecklenburg
- Effern Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Cavalry (4 sqns)
- Schellart Cavalry (1 sqn)
- Frankenburg Cavalry (1 sqn)
- Wieser Cavalry (1 sqn)
- Stolzenberg Cavalry (1 sqn)
- Infantry (2 bns)
- Prince Wilhelm Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Prince Friedrich Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Prince Wilhelm Cavalry (1 sqn) unidentified unit
- Gravendorf Cavalry (1 sqns) unidentified unit
Commander-in-Chief: Admiral Cloudesley Shovell
Summary: more than 52 vessels
To do: detailed OoB
French Order of Battle
Commander-in-Chief: Maréchal René de Froulay, Comte de Tessé, assisted by the lieutenant-governor of Toulon, Comte François d'Adhémar de Grignan, who organized and coordinated the defence of the city.
Summary: 30 regular bns, 8 bns (disembarked ship crews), militia, inhabitants, and villagers.
To do: detailed OoB
Summary: 46 ships of the line with 29 frigates, fireships and other vessels.
|Téméraire (60) unidentified ship|
From the 46 ships of the line, 44 were scuttled in the harbour of Toulon. Only the Tonnant (90), transformed in a floating battery by stranding and the Saint-Philippe (90), capably manoeuvered by Admiral Langeron, played a useful role during the operations.
This article incorporates texts from the following books which are now in the public domain:Pelet and *Vault, François Eugène de: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 7, 1848, pp. 102-155
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Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article