1708 – Campaign in the Alps

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

The campaign lasted from July to September 1708

Introduction

This is a preliminary version of the article which will be later improved by integrating details
from the work of the Vienna War Archive

With the loss of Susa at the end of the campaign of 1707, the defence of the alpine frontier became more difficult for the French. The Saint-Martin Valley, the Pragelas Valley, Perosa (probably Perosa Argentina), Upper Dauphiné and Savoie were now exposed to invasions.

The Maréchal de Tessé had 80 bns and 60 sqns posted along the frontier. Most of these units were understrength, and Tessé was facing an Allied army of 105 bns and approx. 15,500 horse. Tessé wanted to recapture Susa as soon as possible.

The Allies were deployed as follows:

  • the Savoyard Army was stationed in Piedmont;
  • 10 bns and a detachment of approx. 1,500 German troops occupied Susa and were busy improving the defensive works of the place;
  • the Imperial Army and the contingent of the Holy Roman Empire were stationed in Lombardy; however, their strength were diminished since the departure of the Hessian Contingent for Germany, the departure of 2,000 Imperial troops to reinforce the army of Count Daun in the Kingdom of Naples and the embarkation of 6 Austrian bns and 11 Palatine bns for Catalonia at Finale and Vado on 1 January 1708.

During winter, the Comte de Medavi assumed command in Dauphiné and Savoie, while the Maréchal de Tessé sojourned at the Court in Versailles. He instructed his subordinates to take the following dispositions:

  • M. de Thouy improved the entrenched camp of Bourg-Saint-Maurice at the foot of the Petit Saint-Bernard, as well as the entrenchments of Modane and those blocking access to the Mont-Cenis passes.
  • In Dauphiné. Toralba and Caraccioli entrenched Oulx, Fenestrelle and Exilles, and Muret improved the entrenchments of Perosa and put some regions of Piedmont to contribution.
  • M. Le Guerchois put the Stura Valley to contribution and improved the entrenchments and outposts of Barcelonnette.
  • In Provence and the County of Nice, M. d'Artaignan established outposts on the coast between Marseille and the Var River, and broke all roads used by the Allies on the previous year to invade Provence.

The Duke Victor Amadeus of Savoy raised militia in all his estates. The Imperial generals raised militia in Lombardy and sent some weak regiments back to Germany. These units were replaced by new regiments. Recruits and remounts arrived from Germany. Two cavalry rgts came back from the Kingdom of Naples.

In March, the French received intelligence that the Duke of Savoy planned to lay siege to Exilles and to make a diversion towards Perosa and that the field army of the Allies would consist of only 23 bns

  • 15 German bns of 900 men each, deployed in the Susa Valley between Susa and Turin
  • 6 bns in the Aosta Valley
  • 2 bns covering the line of communication between Cuneo and Saorge

The Guardie of the Duke de Savoy, along with 2 cavalry rgts and 3 dragoon rgts were in the vicinity of Pinerolo, while the main magazines were located in Turin, Susa, Avigliana, Ivrea and Saluzzo. There were now only 10 Imperial infantry rgts and 13 cavalry rgts in Italy, excluding the Prussian Contingent and the corps stationed in the Kingdom of Naples.

The Comte de Medavi was informed that the Duke of Savoy was assembling a train of 25 heavy artillery pieces in Turin which should soon march to Susa. Medavi instructed the troops posted near Oulx and Perosa to be ready to march.

Map

Map of the Duchy of Savoy in 1700 published in Wikimedia Commons by user Raymond Palmer and released in the public domain

Description

Preparations

On 28 March, the Duke of Savoy and Field Marshal Count Starhemberg arrived at Susa and reconnoitred the vicinity of Exilles.

On 22 April, Count Starhemberg embarked at Genoa for Catalonia.

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.

At the end of April, Louis XIV recalled 21 bns and 40 sqns from Dauphiné and Savoie, leaving only 74 bns and 20 sqns in these provinces:

  • 41 bns in Dauphiné
  • 12 bns and 12 sqns in Savoie
  • 21 bns and 8 sqns in Provence and in the County of Nice

On 6 May, M. de Medavi, informed that the Allies were assembling an army at Susa, transferred 10 bns and a few guns from their quarters to take position on the frontier of Dauphiné.

On 8 may, when Medavi's 10 bns arrived on the frontier, M. de Toralba, who commanded at Oulx, reinforced his outposts, placing 1 bn at the Lambournet (unidentified location) and 1 bn at Ramats.

On 9 May, M. de Toralba and M. de Muret reconnoitred the Pragelas Valley (present-day upper part of the Val Chisone) and the Fenestrelle Pass, which was still buried in snow. Nevertheless, Toralba reinforced the redoubt with 20 grenadiers and posted 100 men in the neighbouring barns to support the redoubt. He also advanced 1 bn to Balboutet, and 3 bns close to the Fenestrelle Pass to support its defenders.

On 14 May

  • French
    • The French generals were informed that 8 Savoyard bns had taken position between Chaumont (present-day Chiomonte) and Susa, and that the Allies were assembling 4,000 men in a camp at Avigliana.
    • The Comte de Medavi personally went to Oulx. He also sent orders to M. de Thouy, who commanded in Savoie, to assemble his troops at Conflans and to take position at Modane in the Maurienne Valley. Medavi also sent 2 dragoon rgts, 1 cavalry rgt and 4 bns to reinforce the 5 bns already posted in the Maurienne Valley.

On 19 May

  • French
    • M. de Thouy went to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to assemble the troops sent by Medavi, which were gradually arriving there.
    • Medavi inspected the defensive works recently erected at Exilles and on the heights of Jalas (unidentified location). He considered that Exilles was the only position which could prevent the Allies from invading the provinces of Dauphiné and Savoie.

On 21 May, M. de Medavi returned to Briançon.

In the night of 21 to 22 May, M. Le Guerchois advanced form the region of Barcelonnette with 500 men to raise contributions in the villages of Pontebernardo, Peillaport (probably Pietraporzio) and Sambuco. He returned with 35 hostages.

On 22 May

  • French
    • Medavi sent 1 bn from Mont-Genèvre to Exilles.
    • 1 artillery bn set off from Briançon with 10 artillery pieces, crossed the mountain at Mont-Genèvre and marched towards Cesanne (present-day Cesana Torinese).

On 23 May in Savoie, 8 bns took position in the entrenchments of Modane, detachments occupied the redoubts of Lans-le-Bourg and Termignon, near the Mont Cenis, and all bridges on the Maurienne were mined. Furthermore, 4 bns, 1 cavalry rgt and 1 dragoon rgt were posted in the Tarentaise Valley. The rest of the dragoons were posted at Aiguebelle and M. de Thouy established his headquarters in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

On 24 May. M. de Medavi left for Grenoble where the Maréchal de Villars was expected on 26 May. When he was informed that Villars had been delayed and would not arrive before the first days of June, Medavi left for Savoie to inspect the defences of this province.

On 31 May

  • French
    • In Savoie, Medavi arrived at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. There, he was informed that the Allies planned to assemble a corps of 30,000 men in the vicinity of Avigliana and Rivoli, another corps of 6,000 men near Pinerolo, and a corps of 4,000 men in the Aosta Valley. These various corps would consist of 20 Savoyard bns, 25 Imperial bns, 11 Prussian bns and 10,000 horse. Medavi slightly rearranged Thouy's positions, leaving 8 bns in the entrenchments of Modane, sending 1 dragoon rgt to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, 1 dragoon rgt to Conflans, 2 bns, 1 dragoon rgt and 1 cavalry rgt to Bourg-Saint-Maurice in the Tarentaise Valley. Finally, 2 bns were sent to the regions of Chablais and Faussigny.
    • In Provence, M. d'Astier began the construction of a redoubt at Rocca-Taillada (unidentified location) to prevent the Allies from using this road to invade Provence as they had done on the previous year.

M. de Muret, informed that the Prince of Württemberg had just arrived at Susa and that the Duke of Savoy should join him there, advanced troops in the Saint-Martin Valley and Pragelas Valley.

On 5 June in Provence, work began on entrenchments along the Var River, particularly at the mouth of the river, at Saint-Laurent, at the Fort de la Baronne and Fort de Saint-Estève, opposite Saint-Isidore.

On 7 June, the Maréchal de Villars arrived at Grenoble where he received a report from the Comte de Medavi of the dispositions already taken in Dauphiné and Savoie. There was a total of 74 bns and 20 bns:

  • 12 bns and 12 sqns in Savoie, guarding all the passes by which the Allies could invade the provinces
  • 38 bns in Dauphiné
  • 3 bns in the Barcelonnette Valley
  • 12 bns and 8 sqns in Provence
  • 7 bns garrisoning Nice, Villefranche and Montalban
  • 2 bns in Monaco

The Maréchal de Villars entrusted M. de Medavi with the defence of the Province of Savoie and sent 8 additional bns to this province.

On 9 June, M. de Medavi wrote to M. de Thouy to confide him the defence of the Tarentaise Valley while he himself would assume command in the Maurienne Valley.

On 12 June, Villars wrote to Louis XIV to inform him of the situation in the Alps and to ask for a reinforcement of 60 sqns and 30 bns.

On 15 June, Villars went to Oulx to reconnoitre the frontier and to hold a council of war with Medavi, Chamarande, Toralba, Montgon, Dillon, Muret, Tessé and Angervilliers.

On 17 June, Louis XIV informed Villars that he could not send him much reinforcement and that he had ordered to form an entrenched camp at Toulon which would be occupied by a small reinforcement of 8 bns sent from Roussillon and Languedoc. Furthermore, he sent 1 dragoon rgt from Languedoc to Provence. Villars was now at the head of 82 bns and 23 sqns.

On 21 June, M. de Medavi left the region of Oulx to assume command in Savoie.

On 22 June, Villars left the region of Oulx to visit the Pragelas Valley, Fenestrelle, Perosa and the Saint-Martin Valley. When Villars visited Perosa, he ordered M. de Muret to retire from this post, leaving only 400 men for its defence, as soon as the Allies would advance from Susa, and to evacuate the Saint-Martin Valley.

On 24 June at Fenestrelle, Villars was informed that the Duke of Savoy was advancing some troops towards Mont-Cenis. He sent orders to Beauvoisis Infanterie (2 bns), posted at Cagnes, to march to Cesanne before 12 July.

On 25 June, Villars asked M. d'Artaignan to send 7 bns and 2 sqns to Entrevaux, Colmars and Sisteron, and to take position at Colmars with the rest of his corps.

On 30 June, 2 French bns marched from Cagne towards Colmars.

On 30 June, 1 French cavalry rgt marched from Fréjus towards Sisteron.

On 4 July, the cavalry rgt arriving from Fréjus reached Sisteron.

On 5 July, the 2 bns arriving from Cagne reached Colmars.

On 6 July, 3 French bns arrived at Entrevaux.

On 7 July, 2 additional bns arrived at Colmars.

By 1 July, Villars already knew that a corps of 12,000 Imperialist troops was marching towards Rivoli, Avigliana and Orbassano in Piedmont, while another corps of 8,000 men was advancing towards Ivrea and 4,000 men were marching from Avigliana towards Bussoleno. Could Daun had reached Turin to take command of these Imperialist troops. He was himself subordinated to the Duke of Savoy. Furthermore a Savoyard corps of 4,000 was encamped at Orbassano, another of 4,000 men in the Aosta Valley and 8,000 men in the vicinity of Susa.

At the beginning of July

  • French
    • In Provence, the garrison of Nice consisted of 2 bns, that of Villefranche of 1 bn; that of Seyne of 1 bn, that of Monaco of 2 bns; that of Antibes of 1 bn, and that of Toulon of 3 bns. Work at entrenchments along the Var River continued and three redoubts were being erected on the coast between Nice and the mouth of the Var.
    • On the frontier, Villars took the following dispositions:
      • M. de Medavi and M. de Thouy with 19 bns and 12 sqns would delay the march of the Allies and then retire to Barraux
      • 12 bns posted at Exilles, Fenestrelle and Briançon
      • 21 bns under Villars's direct command at Oulx in a position to support the provinces of Provence, Dauphiné or Savoie, depending on the offensive movements of the Allies.
      • the militia of the region of Briançon were assembled
      • the artillery was distributed as follows: 14 pieces at Grenoble, 10 pieces at Embrun and 10 pieces in Cesanne.
  • Allies
    • The Allied fleet (40 warships, 77 transports and 5 bombs) was still at Vado, embarking provisions and forage for the troops destined to Catalonia.

On 3 July

  • French
    • In Dauphiné, M. de Guerchois, who commanded in the Barcelonnette Valley, assembled 3 bns at the camp of Tournoux, leaving only 70 men in the Castle of Arche.
    • In Savoie, the 4 bns sent by Villars to reinforce the province arrived at Modane.

On 4 July

  • French
    • In Savoie, M. de Medavi sent 2 of the 4 bns just arrived at Modane to the Tarentaise Valley, keeping the 2 other bns at his own camp.
    • In the County of Nice, M. de Montgeorges sent 50 dragoons from Nice to Monaco.
    • In Provence, 2 bns of the 8 bns arriving from Roussilon and destined to the entrenched camp of Toulon, reached Aix-en-Provence where they were instructed to redirect their march towards Marseille. The first elements of 6 remaining bns and the dragoon rgt were expected at Aix-en-Provence on 9 July.

On 5 July, the Prince de Monaco marched with 50 dismounted dragoons towards Sospel, which was defended by 150 foot.

By that time, the French generals estimated the forces of the Allies to:

  • 20 bns in the Susa Valley from Avigliana to La Ferrière (unidentified location)
  • 18,000 men at Orbassano
  • an entire corps at the entry of the Aosta Valley
  • an entire corps at Ivrea

These dispositions confirmed Villars in his belief that the Allies were planning an offensive in Savoie or Dauphiné. He ordered M. d'Artaignan to advance to Barcelonnette with the 7 bn he had with him at Entrevaux and Colmars.

On 7 July, Villars received intelligence that the Allied army consisted of 41,900 men, excluding the 6,600 men employed at the blockade of Ferrare, the rgts destined to Catalonia and 11,000 Savoyards employed as garrisons. He sent 2 additional bns to reinforce Medavi's Corps.

On 12 July, M. de Guerchois sent 3 bns from the camp of Tournoux to Saint-Crépin and Guillestre. However, M. d'Artaignan received orders from the king and Villars instructing him to retire from Barcelonnette to Entrevaux with 5 of his 7 bns.

On 14 July, d'Artaignan's detachment began to retire from Barcelonnette, where it was just arriving.

Allied Offensive

On 15 July

  • Allies
    • The corps encamped at Rivoli marched to Bussoleno.
    • The Allied fleet sailed from Vado.

On 16 July

  • Allies
    • The Duke of Savoy arrived at Susa.
    • The Allied fleet was seen sailing westwards off the coast of Monaco.
  • French
    • Villars sent a new reinforcement of 2 bns to M. de Medavi.

On 17 July

  • Allies
    • The Allied fleet appeared off Saint-Tropez.
  • French
    • In Savoie, M. de Medavi was at the head of 23 bns and 12 sqns. His troops were spread thin on a vast frontier, but most passes were occupied. Form this force, he destined 11 bns and 4 sqns for the defence of the Maurienne Valley. His main body was at Modane where he established his headquarters. The Tarentaise Valley was defended by M. de Thouy with 6 bns and 8 sqns in the entrenchments of Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
    • With a large Allied army advancing in the Susa Valley, Villars instructed M. Le Guerchois to evacuate his outposts in the Barcelonnette Valley and to immediately march to Grenoble with the 2 bns encamped at Tournoux. He also ordered M. d'Artaignan to march to Grenoble with the 5 bns that he had in Thorame and Colmars. Finally, Villars instructed M. de Grignan to move 5 bns presently stationed in Provence to Valence.

On 18 July

  • Allies
    • The Allied fleet was seen sailing off the Hyères Islands.
  • French
    • Villars decided to march from Upper Dauphiné towards Savoie with his main body, leaving only 12 bns in Dauphiné under the command of M. de Muret, who had evacuated Perosa.

On 19 July

  • Allies
    • The main army marched to Mont-Cenis.
    • In Dauphiné, the Barbets made a raid, burning a village near Cesanne before retiring.
    • In Savoie, Shulenburg's Corps (5 bns, 600 horse), after making itself master of the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass, entered the plain of Séez opposite the entrenchments of Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
  • French
    • D'Artaignan set off from Thorame and Colmars with 5 bns, expecting to reach Vizille on 27 July. D'Artaignan instructed M. de Montgeorges to reoccupy Seyne with 2 bns, which were marching towards Cagnes.

On 20 July

  • Allies
    • In Savoie, Allied troops (2,000 men) reached Lans-le-Bourg, Termignon and Bramans. As instructed the French troops defending these outposts retired. Lieutenant-Colonel de Launay of Chesnelaye Infanterie, who commanded at Termignon, retired with 300 men and 1 grenadier coy to the Vanoise Pass. During their retreat, the French blew up the bridges on the Arc River.
    • The Duke of Savoy reached Mont-Cenis with the main body of his army (36 bns, all the dismounted dragoons, 8 dismounted cavalrymen from each of his cavalry coys, and approx. 750 Barbets).
    • The Duke of Savoy sent forward all his grenadiers and 3,000 men to Termignon.
  • French
    • In Savoie, 1 bn of Durfort-Boissière Infanterie was cut off by Imperial hussars as it was retiring from Villar-Roger. Lieutenant-Colonel de Bussière of Bretagne Infanterie came to the rescue and drove back the hussars. M. de Thouy concentrated his detachment (6 bns, 2 dragoon rgts) at Bourg-Saint-Maurice.
    • In Dauphiné, as Villars was preparing to leave his camp at Oulx for Savoie, he was informed by M. de Medavi that Shulenburg's Corps had attacked the Petit Saint-Bernard Pass. Villars asked M. de Medavi to retire from Modane with his troops to Barraux, and to instruct M. de Thouy to do the same.

On 21 July, the rest of the Allied army followed and encamped along the Arc River from Lans-le-Bourg to Bramans. The bridges were repaired.

On 22 July

  • Allies
    • At 8:00 p.m., an Allied detachment (3,000 men) encamped in the ravine of Avrieux, while the rest of the Allied army encamped between Aussois and Sardières.
  • French
    • Villars marched from Oulx towards Barraux, where he intended to make a junction with Medavi's and Thouy's forces. He asked M. de Grignan to send him from Provence all the troops he could spare.

In the night of 22 to 23 July

  • Allies
    • An Allied detachment reached Pralognan (Pralognan-la-Vanoise).
  • French
    • M. de Medavi began his retreat in three columns to Saint-André (unidentified location) on his way to Moûtiers and Conflans, where he intended to make a junction with Thouy's detachment. The bridges of Modane and Saint-André were cut.

On 23 July

  • Allies
    • An Allied detachment attacked one of Thouy's outposts at Glacières (unidentified location) but was driven back.
  • French
    • At noon, Medavi's Corps reached Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne. After giving some rest to his troops, Medavi resumed his retreat and marched to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

On 24 July

  • French
    • Medavi retired to Épierre.
    • M. de Thouy retired from Bourg-Saint-Maurice by way of the Cormet Pass to Beaufort.

On 25 July

  • French
    • Medavi's Corps reached Aiguebelle.
    • Thouy's detachment reached Conflans, where he made a junction with the detachments previously posted in various outposts on his left wing.
    • M. de Grigan sent 3 bns and 3 sqns to join M. d'Artaignan; and 4 bns and 5 sqns to Gap, to wait there for Villars's orders. After these detachments, Grignan had only 12 bns and 3 sqns to defend the Province of Provence and 3 bns and 2 sqns in the County of Nice. He interrupted the works to entrench the banks of the Var River and sent the ammunition and artillery pieces, initially destined for these entrenchments, to Antibes.

On 26 July

  • Allies
    • Schulenburg's Corps reached Moûtiers.
    • The vanguard of the Duke of Savoy reached Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.
  • French
    • Thouy's detachment reached Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny.
    • The Maréchal de Villars personally arrived at Barraux. The leading elements of the troops that he had brought with him from Dauphiné had already reached the place. Villars ordered Medavi to remain at Aiguebelle, and M. de Thouy to remain at Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny, and to hold their positions to the last extremities. Villars put all the militias of Upper Dauphiné under arms.

On 27 July, Villars reconnoitred the region around Barraux up to Montmélian and the Bourget Lake.

From 27 to 30 July, the rest of Villars's Corps gradually reached Barraux. Villars planned to assemble an army of 50 bns.

On 28 July

  • Allies
    • The Savoyard militia with several Barbets made a diversionary attack in the Saint-Martin Valley.
  • French
    • M. d'Artaignan arrived at Vizille with the 5 bns which he had brought from Provence, closely followed by 3 other bns. Villars detached 2 of these bns to Mondelant (unidentified location) to guard the line of communication between Briançon and Grenoble.

By 29 July, the whole Allied army, including the corps which had penetrated into the Tarentaise Valley, was assembled at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne.

On 30 July

  • Allies
    • In Dauphiné, at 8:00 a.m., an Allied detachment (3,000 men) attacked the Col de la Roue defended by the 350 men of the single battalion of Gâtinais Infanterie. The defenders were forced to retire to Oulx. M. de Muret immediately counter-attacked. He was 2 km from Bardonnèche (present-day Bardonecchia) when he saw the Allied detachment. He sent 50 men to occupy the heights overlooking the bridge of Damme while the rest of his detachment was breaking this bridge. His detachment then recrossed the river at a ford. Gâtinais Infanterie was isolated but managed to escape while 4 coys of Bresse Infanterie remained engaged. The Allies captured several of them and only a few retired to Exilles. The Allies then marched to seize the bridge of Oulx, but Muret had enough time to burn the bridge before their arrival.
  • French
    • Villars sent 3 bns and 4 sqns to Seyssel under M. de Prade to defend the passage of the Rhône River in conjunction with the militia of Viennois.
    • M. de Dillon began the construction of an entrenchment in the suburb of La Guillotière in Lyons. He also reviewed the militia of the city (8,000 men).
    • M. de Medavi decamped from Aiguebelle and retired to Rubaud and Malataverne (unidentified location) after transferring his magazines and breaking the bridges.

On 31 July

  • French
    • The troops posted in the region of Oulx concentrated at Mont-Genèvre.
    • M. d'Artaignan set off from Vizille and marched to Bourg-d'Oysans with Soissonnais Infanterie (2 bns). He sent orders to the 5 other bns, which should reach Vizille in the evening, to follow him. When d'Artaignan was informed of the events at the Col de la Roue near Oulx, he resumed his march from Bourg-d'Oysans to Mondelant. He also sent orders to the troops arriving at Gap from Provence to advance to Embrun.

Fearing that the Allies could cross the Rhône, the French Court finally 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.

On 1 August

  • French
    • In Savoie, the Maréchal de Villars was informed of the events at the Col de la Roue and Oulx in Dauphiné.
    • In Dauphiné, M. de Muret retired to Briançon and sent 1 bn to reinforce Tournaisis Infanterie (2 bns) at the Galibier Pass. Muret had 8 bns under the wall of Briançon and 1 bn in the place; 1 bn at Mont-Dauphin, 500 men in Exilles, 600 men in Fenestrelle and 500 men at Perosa. The latter posts were isolated from his main corps and their commanders had been ordered to resist to the last extremity.
    • D'Artaignan marched to Monestier with Soissonnais Infanterie and order his 5 other bns to force march to join him.

On 2 August

  • Allies
    • In Dauphiné, an Allied corps (15 bns with some cavalry and hussars) encamped at La Vachette, only 2 km from Briançon. Another corps of a similar size crossed the Col de La Roue on its way to La Vachette.
  • French
    • In Savoie, Villars decided to advance towards Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, hoping that this would force the Allies to retire some of their troops from the vicinities of Oulx and Mont-Genèvre in Dauphiné. He also recalled the 3 bns and 4 sqns which had previously been sent to Seyssel according to his orders.

On 3 August

  • French
    • Better informed of the events in the region of Briançon, Villars was worried for Dauphiné.
    • In Savoie, M. de Medavi decamped from Rubaud and advanced to Aiguebelle.

On 4 August

  • Allies
    • In Dauphiné, the Duke of Savoy, who had reached the camp of La Vachette with 3,000 grenadiers, all his dragoons and 8 artillery pieces, detached 1,200 grenadiers to attack two outposts belonging to d'Artaignan's Corps: Buffère and Cristanne. The outpost of Buffère, defended by the Lieutenant-Colonel Chevalier de Sors of Vexin Infanterie, resisted. Meanwhile Hessy Infanterie (2 bns) arrived at Monestier. The outpost of Cristanne resisted too.
  • French
    • In Savoie, Medavi marched to Épierre where he made a junction with Thouy's Corps.

On 5 August

  • Allies
    • In Dauphiné in the evening, the Allied troops encamped at La Vachette decamped and marched upstream along the Prez Valley, after setting fire to the houses of Mont-Genèvre.
  • French
    • In Savoie, Medavi's, Thouy's and Villars's corps made a junction at Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, where there were no Allied units any more.
    • In the evening, Villars detached M. de Maulevrier with 4 bns to march by way of the Galibier Pass and join d'Artaignan's Corps at Monestier.

On 6 August in the morning, Villars detached the Chevalier de Croy with 6 bns and 3 dragoon sqns to follow Maulevrier's detachment and reinforce d'Artaignan.

On 7 August, Villars marched from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Valloire with 19 bns, on his way towards Briançon.

On 8 August

  • French
    • Villars made a junction with Maulevrier's detachment and reached Briançon. The rest of the 30 bns which he was bringing from Savoie crossed the Galibier Pass and, until 10 August, gradually reached Briançon.
    • 5 sqns set off from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to join Villars. M. de Medavi was left in Savoie with 12 bns and 7 sqns to make a diversion in the direction of Mont-Cenis and Exilles.
    • Medavi sent M. de La Fare with a detachment (1,000 men) to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne to re-establish the bridges and roads leading to Modane. He also detached 1 bn to occupy Conflans.

The Allies capture Perosa, Exilles and Fenestrelle

On 9 August

  • Allies
    • The Allies had evacuated the Col de la Roue and the Bardonnèche Valley and were now encamped near Cesanne between Saint-Sicaire (present-day Sansicario) and Saint-Marc (present-day San Marco).
    • The Duke of Savoy invested Exilles.
  • French
    • Villars pushed 16 bns forward between Briançon and Mont-Genèvre.
    • In Savoie, M. de Medavi was still occupying Conflans with 1 bn and 1 sqn. He advanced to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, replacing a detachment which took position at Saint-André.

On 10 August

  • Allies
    • Perosa surrendered to the Allies.
  • French
    • Informed that the Allies had evacuated the Col de La Roue, Medavi sent the detachment posted at Saint-André under M. de Nisas to Modane to occupy this mountain pass.
    • The last troops of Villars's Army joined him at Briançon. He then assembled his army at Mont-Genèvre.

On 11 August

  • Allies
    • The Duke of Savoy was now blocking all passes leading to Exilles.
  • French
    • Villars stormed Cesanne, forcing the Allies to retire towards Exilles.
    • Medavi advanced to Saint-André.

On 12 August, M. de La Boulaye, who commanded at Exilles, a place well supplied and defended by 500 men, surrendered the place to the Allies without opposing any resistance. De La Boulaye would later be exchanged, court-martialed and condemned to perpetuity.

On 13 August, Villars's Army marched to Oulx. On his arrival, Villars learned that Exilles was now in the hands of the Allies.

In the night of 13 to 14 August, the main body of the Allies crossed the Fenestre Pass and advanced in the direction of Fenestrelle.

On 15 August, Villars's Corps marched along the ridge of the mountains to the Argueil Pass, leaving a detachment under M. de Thouy at Oulx.

On 16 August

  • Allies
    • The Allies attacked the Aiguille Redoubt at Fenestrelle but were driven back.
  • French
    • Villars marched to Puy-en-Pragelas with his army. He then sent a detachment (1,000 grenadiers, supported by 3 brigades) to occupy the heights behind Fenestrelle. This detachment engaged an Allied detachment but was forced to retire.

On 17 August

  • Allies
    • The Allies opened the trench in front of Fenestrelle.
  • French
    • Villars reconnoitred the positions of the Allies around Exilles and renounced to relieve the place.

On 19 August, Villars sent M. Le Guerchois to the Barcelonnette Valley.

On 20 August

  • French
    • Villars detached M. de Chamarande with 6 bns to occupy Mont-Genèvre and M. de Caraccioli with 5 bns and 1 dragoon rgt to the Sestrières Pass, thus protecting his line of communication with Briançon.
    • Villars sent 2 bns to join M. Le Guerchois in the Barcelonnette Valley.
    • By staying at Puy-en-Pragelas, Villars was consuming forage, depriving the Allies from it.

On 21 August

  • Allies
    • The Duke of Savoy had not yet been able to make himself master of any outworks at Fenestrelle.
  • French
    • M. de Medavi decamped from Bramans and took position at Mont-Cenis.
    • Medavi detached M. de Grancey with 1,000 grenadiers and selected men and 50 dragoons to raise contributions in the Lanzo Valley.

On 22 August, Medavi reconnoitred the height of Arpon with 50 foot and 200 dragoons. The height was occupied by a Savoyard bn. Medavi stormed and razed their entrenchments. Medavi also sent M. de Mauroy to the Tarentaise Valley to take command of the 12 cavalry sqns sent as reinforcements from Languedoc and Guyenne. He planned to enter the Aosta Valley with some 1,100 dragoons to raise contributions.

On 23 August, Villars sent 3 additional bns to defend the Barcelonnette Valley.

On 26 August

  • Allies
    • The Allies were now masters of all the redoubts around Fenestrelle.
  • French
    • Villars sent 2 additional bns to defend the Barcelonnette Valley, when he heard that Allied troops were marching in the direction of this valley.

On 27 August

  • Allies
    • The Allies managed with great difficulties to bring some artillery pieces in front of Fenestrelle.
  • French
    • Villars sent orders to the commander of Fenestrelle to assemble all powder reserves and all the artillery pieces (loaded) and to blow them up 24 hours before the final assault, in order to ruin the castle and make it unusable, and then to evacuate the place.

On 29 August, Villars reconnoitred a road by which he hoped to come to the assistance of the garrison of Fenestrelle, when it would evacuate the place.

On 29 and 30 August, the Allied artillery bombarded the provision magazine and the hall of arms of Fenestrelle, reducing them to ashes.

By 31 August

  • French
    • In the morning, as a wide practicable breach had been created in the fortifications of Fenestrelle. The garrison mutinied and forced M. de Barrière, who had not yet received Villars's orders to blow up the place, to surrender as prisoner of war.
    • In Savoie, M. de Mauroy retired Conflans with his detachment and encamped at Séez.

Last Operations

On 1 September

  • French
    • In Savoie, Mauroy marched from the camp of Séez with 800 dragoons and 200 foot to raise contributions in the Aosta Valley, reaching La Thuile, which he found abandoned. He then continued his advance up to Morgex.
    • Villars decamped from Puy-en-Pragelas with his army and encamped at Cesanne. He decided to dismantle the fortifications of Cesanne on the side facing France to make the place useless to the Allies.
    • Villars sent M. de Cadrieu with 4 bns to reinforce the Queiras Castle, which was guarded by only 50 men. He also sent M. de Thouy to the Tarentaise Valley with 6 bns. Finally, he posted 1 dragoon rgt and 1 cavalry rgt at Embrun.

On 2 September

  • French
    • Villars sent the dragoon rgt and the cavalry rgt posted at Embrun to Seyne and sent 3 bns to Embrun. He placed these forces under the command of M. d'Artaignan.
    • In Savoie, M. de Thouy arrived at Medavi's camp near Termignon with his 6 bns.

On 3 September, Medavi retired to Saint-André and, from his 7 sqns, he sent 3 sqns to Dauphiné and 4 sqns to the Tarentaise Valley to join the 12 sqns already posted there under M. de Mauroy.

On 4 September, M. de Mauroy returned to his camp at Séez after his unsuccessful raid in the Aosta Valley.

On 5 September, Villars's Army retired from Cesanne to La Vachette, near Briançon.

By 9 September, Villars's troops were deployed so that they covered all passages and could support each other. There were now 18 bns and 16 sqns in Savoie, mainly in the Maurienne and Tarentaise valleys. There were also 13 bns and 3 sqns in Provence, and 3 bns in the County of Nice. The main army, encamped at La Vachette near Briançon, numbered 19 bns and 8 sqns. Overall, Villars was at the head of 82 bns and 35 sqns.

On 9 September, Villars received orders from Louis XIV, instructing him to send 1 cavalry rgt and 1 dragoon rgt to Alsace as soon as he could. However, Villars made representations and managed to retain these units.

On 17 September, the Duke of Savoy marched from Saluzzo with part of the troops which were still posted in the vicinities of Fenestrelle and Exilles, leaving 18 bns to support these two places.

At the beginning of October, the French troops began to take their winter-quarters.

On 18 October, the Maréchal de Villars personally returned to Grenoble.

On 6 November, Villars left Grenoble for Versailles, where he arrived on 15 November.

In November, the Duke of Savoy sent his army to its winter-quarters: Count Daun returned to the Duchy of Milan with the German troops; the Savoyard infantry remained in the region of Monferrato; 15 bns and 15 sqns were destined to guard the valleys.

References

Pelet and François Eugène de Vault: Mémoires militaires relatifs à la Succession d'Espagne sous Louis XIV, Vol. 8, 1848, pp. 169-286