1708 – Campaign in Spain

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Campaigns >> 1708 – Campaign in Spain

The campaign lasted from May to December 1707

Introduction

For the campaign of 1708, Philip V, who had consolidated his situation in Spain during the previous campaign, decided to put the wealthy Spanish clergy to contribution to raise money for his operations. His request just escalated the conflict between the Pope and him. Already in 1707, Philip V reproached the Pope to have authorised an Imperial army to march through the Papal States for the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples.

For the coming campaign, Philip V and Louis XIV planned to secure their conquests in the Province of Valencia with the capture of Tortosa. Once masters of this important place they could turn their attention to Catalonia.

Early in 1708, the Earl of Galway had withdrawn from Catalonia to Lisbon, and the command in Catalonia had been given at Marlborough's instance to Field-Marshal von Starhemberg, an Imperial officer of much experience and deservedly high reputation.

Map

Map of Spain and Portugal circa 1700 published in Wikimedia Commons by user Rebel Redcoat and released in the public domain

Description

Preparations

On 25 January 1708. an Allied fleet of 66 ships arrived at Barcelona from Vado in Italy after a stormy journey. It was transporting a corps under Major-General von Coppé and Count Efferen. This corps consisted of:

On 22 April, Count Starhemberg embarked at Genoa for Catalonia to assume command of the Allied forces in Spain. Starhemberg, however, could do little with but 10,000 men against the Bourbon's army of twice his strength, so by Marlborough's advice the troops were used to second the operations of the Mediterranean squadron.

At the end of April, Louis XIV decided that the Duc de Bourgogne would command in Flanders; Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria, on the Rhine; the Maréchal de Villars, in Dauphiné, Savoie, Provence and in the County of Nice; the Duc d'Orléans, in Spain; and the Duc de Noailles, in Roussillon. The Maréchal de Berwick was recalled from Spain to assist the Elector of Bavaria.

In Spain, the Duc d'Orléans was assisted by the Comte de Besons. The latter had an important disagreement with the Spanish General Conde de Aguilar, who served with him in Lérida.

The failed attempt of the French against Scotland delayed the march on Tortosa, but in mid-May, the Franco-Spanish armies finally set off from Lérida.

Operations

On 7 May, the Marquis de Bay defeated an Anglo-Portuguese army at Campo Maior on the Portuguese border, near Badajoz.

In mid-May, the Duc d'Orléans set off with a Franco-Spanish army to lay siege to Tortosa. The march to Tortosa was much delayed by the transport of provisions and artillery through a mountainous and almost pathless country.

On 8 June in South America, a British squadron under Admiral Wager, destroyed a convoy of 17 Spanish galleons off Carthagena. This convoy was very richly laden, and anxiously expected to finance the war.

On 9 June, a Franco-Spanish army (approx. 30,000 men) under the Duc d'Orléans invested Tortosa from the north, while d'Asfeld, coming from Valencia, completed its circumvallation on the southern bank of the Ebro.

On 12 June, the Siege to Tortosa began.

Starhemberg and Stanhope approached with all the forces they could muster, first to Valls and then to Ruidoms, but were too weak to afford any effectual relief.

On 15 July, the troops of the Duc d'Orléans managed to enter Tortosa. The defenders were allowed to retire to Barcelona, but more than half of them enlisted with the Spaniards.

With the fall of Tortosa, Philip V had completed the conquest of the Kingdom of Valencia. The Castle of Ares was razed to the ground.

On 21 July, the remnants of the garrison of Tortosa joined Starhemberg's Army near Riudoms.

At the end of July, fearing that the Allies could cross the Rhône, the French Court decided to recall 15 sqns from Spain, 10 sqns from the Rhine and 12 sqns from Roussillon, Languedoc and Guyenne to reinforce Villars on the Rhône River.

The Duc d'Orléans, having first garrisoned Tortosa, fell back to Lérida, in order to form his intended junction with the army of the Duc de Noailles. However, the best troops of that commander had meanwhile been recalled from Roussillon, to assist in repelling an apprehended invasion of Dauphiné by the Duke of Savoy. Furthermore, the 5,000 Imperial soldiers, so long expected from Italy, had at length arrived at Barcelona.

On 9 August, the Palatine cavalry (949 men) led by Major-General von Frankenberg reached the camp of the main army at Cevera. The Palatine Contingent in Dutch pay operating in Spain now totalled 2,118 foot and 1,029 horse. The two armies were now facing each other at a distance of only 4 hours.

On 16 September, the Duc d'Orléans left Agramunt and retired along the Segre River.

On 23 September, Prince Heinrich von Hessen with 3,000 foot and 800 horse (most of them Palatine) marched to Artesa de Segre and Camilos. Enemy posts were encountered everywhere.

The Prince of Hessen then tried to raid the Castle of Conca, which was garrisoned by Berwick Infanterie and 30 Marimon Dragoons. At daybreak, the castle was to be stormed from two sides, with Battalion Schönberg and 60 horse attacking from the rear, but the attempt failed.

On 24 October, Baron von Isselbach arrived at Barcelona, to assume command of all Palatine troops (now only 2,755 foot and 1,067 horse).

By the end of October, most of the Palatine infantry rgts took up their winter-quarters: Efferen, Battalion Schönberg and La Marck (formerly Barbo) in Castello Ampuras and Figueras; Lescheraine, Coppé (formerly Rehbinder) and Bentheim in Gerona, and the cavalry in the neighbourhood of the Fortress of Gerona.

On November 17, after the surrender of Dénia, d'Asfeld garrisoned the town with 2 rgts and moved on to besiege Alicante, the last remaining Allied stronghold in Valencia.

An unsuccessful counter-attack by Starhemberg on Tortosa had no influence on d'Asfeld's operations and on 28 and 29 November, d'Asfeld sent Don Pedro Ronquillo and several Spanish rgts to attack Alicante.

On 30 November, d'Asfeld himself appeared before Alicante, which was barely provided with ammunition and with bread for only fourteen days.

D'Asfeld then undertook the Siege of Alicante, which would last until 20 April 1709, when the Allied garrison capitulated.

In December, Starhemberg and Stanhope were enabled, while occupying a strong position at Cervera, to keep the enemy in check, and compel them, after several weeks of skilful but desultory manœuvres, to withdraw into winter-quarters.

References

Arre Caballo – Campañas en 1.708

Bezzel, O.: Geschichte des Kurpfälzischen Heeres, Bayrisches Kriegsarchiv, IV. File, part 1 and 2, Munich 1925, pp. 289-326

Mahon, Lord: History of the War of the Succession in Spain, London: John Murray, 1836, pp. 249-252

Acknowledgement

Jörg Meier for additional information on the siege of Alicante

Harald Skala for the translation and integration of Bezzel's work