1708 – Siege of Tortosa

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Sieges >> 1708 – Siege of Tortosa

The siege lasted from 9 June to 15 July 1708

Introduction

By 1707, Philip V, the Bourbon king of Spain, had already lost the Spanish Netherlands, the Duchy of Milan and the Kingdom of Naples. However, in Spain, he had received Castilian reinforcements and French troops commanded by the Duke of Berwick, forcing the Allies to evacuate Madrid and to take refuge in the Kingdom of Valencia. The reorganized Franco-Spanish forces had advanced on Barcelona from Lleida and from Girona, following the coast. The Allied army had retreated, harassed by the Franco-Spanish army. On 25 April, the Allies had finally decided to make a stand and had been defeated in the Battle of Almansa.

In 1708, the army of the Duke of Berwick advanced through the Kingdom of Valencia and the army of Philippe d’Orléans, through the Kingdom of Aragon. They made a junction at Candasnos and then advanced with 40,000 men towards the Principality of Catalonia, conquering Lleida, Balaguer, Morella, Ulldecona. Philippe d’Orléans then decided to besiege the citadel of Ares del Maestrat and the city of Tortosa.

Map

Map of the siege of Tortosa in 1708 – Copyright: Dinos Antoniadis

The fortifications of Tortosa were in a very good state, having been visited in 1707 by Stanhope, and repaired and strengthened according to his directions.

Description of Events

The city of Tortosa was defended by 4,000 men of tried discipline and courage, including the Catalan Tortosa Infantry. The defenders were led by Ignasi Minguella, the first solicitor of the city, and Lieutenant-Colonel Francesc Montagut.

On 9 June, Philippe d’Orléans invested Tortosa with an army of 28,000 men.

On 20 June, the Franco-Spanish opened the trenches.

By 25 June, the Franco-Spanish batteries had already completely destroyed the Carmelite Monastery.

On 11 July, the Franco-Spanish troops of Philippe d’Orléans forced their way into the city and the commander of the place capitulated with military honours and had to surrender the citadel Ares del Maestrat.

On 15 July, as the garrison came out of Tortosa, the victors plundered it luggage and forced about 1,000 men to join the Franco/Spanish army. As a result, Efferen Infantry lost 313 men; Bentheim Infantry, 170; and Barbo Infantry, 228.

Outcome

During this siege, the Franco-Spanish lost 2,400 men killed; and the Allies, 538 men killed and wounded.

With the capture of Ares del Maestrat, the Franco-Spanish completed the conquest of the Kingdom of Valencia and the citadel was razed immediately after its evacuation.

In December 1708, the Austrian troops of Field Marshal Guido Starhemberg vainly tried to recapture Tortosa, which constituted an ideal base for the Franco-Spanish to proceed to the conquest of the Principality of Catalonia.

Forces involved

Allies

Commander-in-Chief: General Jones, assisted by Ignacio Minguella and Francisco Montagut

Summary: 5,180 men (5,140 foot and 40 horse)

Under Major-General Johann Wilhelm Baron Efferen

  • Palatine Efferen Infantry
  • Palatine Barbo Infantry
  • Palatine Bentheim-Tecklenburg Infantry
  • Dutch unidentified units (3 bns)
  • British unidentified units (3 bns)
  • Catalan Tortosa Infantry

Franco-Spanish

Commander-in-Chief: Philippe d’Orléans and Don Antonio Villaroel

Summary: 28,000 men

Some infantry units are known:

...and a few cavalry units:

References

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

La Marfanta - Tortosa recordarà el setge de la Guerra de Successió amb diferents actes

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

Wikipedia

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

N.B.: the Franco-Spanish order of battle is derived from the sections Service during the War of the regimental histories.

Acknowledgements

Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article.