1709-08-01 – Engagement of Montañara

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1709-08-01 – Engagement of Montañara

Franco-Spanish victory

Introduction

By the end of July 1709, the Spanish-Bourbon Maréchal de camp Pons de Mendoza was encamped near Tolba with Milan Cavalry, San Severino Cavalry and Marimon Dragoons. On 31 July, he received reports that an enemy column had been discovered on the left bank of the Noguera-Riobagorzana, between Puente de Montañana and Mont-Rebei. This was a "flying column" under the Portuguese Brigadier Paulo Caetano de Albuquerque, consisting of four regiments of infantry and two companies of mounted volunteers. Pons requested reinforcements from the Count de Aguilar, who sent him Clairfontaine Infanterie and Dillon Infanterie. The Franco-Spanish force set out that same night, crossed the river.

Description of Events

On 1 August at dawn, after reconnoitring the field, Mendoza attacked Albuquerque's force.

To avoid being cut off by the enemy, who was far superior in cavalry, Albuquerque was forced to retire north-eastwards in the direction of Tremp and the mountains. The march to safety took more than two hours over a plain with little cover. Albuquerque sent Soares de Bulhão Infantry ahead to the heights of Castisent el Viejo to cover the retreat, while the bns of Schober Infantry, Alcantarilla Infantry and Albuquerque Infantry slowly retired, probably forced to move in square, constantly harassed by the enemy who engaged them in a murderous fight.

Outcome

Though the numbers vary depending on the sources, casualties on the Allied side were high, Heller (1842) notes at least 400, while La Gazette de Lyon reported 400 men killed and 300 taken prisoner. D. Pedro Serrano in a letter to the Court from 5 August speaks of 216 with 20 officers captured. The bn of Alcantarilla Infantry suffered the most, losing a sergeant-major and many officers. The Soares de Bulhão Infantry lost the captain of the grenadiers and a large part of that company and a company of Albuquerque Infantry was down to 14 men at the end of the engagement. The bn of Schober Infantry seems to have fared best, at least the performance of Schober is positively mentioned in Allied reports, but overall the outcome was close to a disaster.

Mendoza returned victorious to Tolba with the prisoners, all the baggage and supplies from the enemy camp and six flags, which he sent to Madrid with Colonel San Severino.

At the end of August, Field Marshal Starhemberg recovered Balaguer through a coup. However, the Duc de Noailles invaded the north of Catalonia from Roussillon and threatened the Plana de Vich, forcing Starhemberg to go to its defence. Despite the success at Montañana the Franco-Spanish campaign in the area around the Conca de Tremp was closed without any gain as the Count de Aguilar and Besons did not get along and were more preoccupied with obstructing each other than the enemy. Mendoza had to send back Milan Cavalry and found himself without infantry to guard the borders, but soon received the somewhat unexpected honour to arrange for the defence of the Segre and Cinca with the Reales Guardias Españolas and Reales Guardias Valonas.

Order of Battle

Allied Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Brigadier Paulo Caetano de Alburquerque

Cavalry

  • Don Luis Bravo Volunteer Cavalry (1 coy)
  • Don Juan de Coranova Volunteer Cavalry (1 coy)

Infantry

  • Spanish (Habsburg German) Schober Infantry
  • Spanish (Habsburg) Alcantarilla Infantry
  • Portuguese Albuquerque Infantry
  • Portuguese Soares de Bulhão Infantry

N.B.: Heller (1842) speaks of five Portuguese bns, but this is evidently wrong. Sanchez Martin (2014) is mistaken when identifying Albuquerque and Soares de Bulhão as cavalry.

Franco-Spanish Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Maréchal de camp Miguel Pons de Mendoza

Cavalry

Infantry

N. B.: according to Rechberger, the Franco-Spanish had five cavalry and three infantry regiments, but this may be wrong.

References

Heller [von Hellwald, Friedrich Jakob]: Der Feldzug 1709 in Spanien und Portugal, In: Östreichische Militärische Zeitschrift, 1842 Heft 10, p. 66

Rechberger, Josef: Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen von Savoyen, XI Band, Feldzug 1709, Wien 1886, pp. 209-214

Sanchez Martin, Juan: Miguel Pons de Mendoza 'El resucitado'. Un joven teniente general en la Guerra de Sucesión Espanola, in: Revista de Historia Militar 2014, II extraordinario de 2014, pp. 87-148

Acknowledgements

Jörg Meier for the initial version of this article