1710-07-27 – Battle of Almenar

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1710-07-27 – Battle of Almenar

Allied victory

Introduction

At the beginning of the campaign of 1710, the Bourbon army, established near Lleida, comprised 58 bns and 66 sqns. Philip V could also count on the troops operating in Extremadura and on the guerillas. He also planned to recruit 7,500 men in the region of Flamenca to defend their own territory. Consequently, Philip V disposed of a greater number of troops than the previous years. These troops were mostly concentrated near Lleida and on the Portuguese border. After some discussions, mainly with his patron Louis XIV of France, Philip appointed the Spanish Francisco del Castillo, Marquis of Villadarias to command his army and Antonio de Amezaga as commander of the cavalry.

For their part the Allies could only field a weak army which had not totally recovered from the losses incurred at the Battle of Almansa, three years before. Archduke Charles was hoping for reinforcements to start the new campaign. He really needed to reinforce his position if he wanted to preserve his conquests in Catalan territory. Accordingly, Emperor Joseph I accepted to transfer a force of 5,000 men from Italy to Spain and the Dutch contributed 1,000 recruits.

Field Marshal Guido, Count Starhemberg commanded the Austrian contingent, while James Stanhope led the British forces and the Marquis Pierre de Belcastel, the Dutch forces.

On July 25, to avoid an attack against his flank, Philip V gave orders to the cavalry and the grenadiers to make a wide detour to cross the Noguera Ribargozana River at Alfarràs, while the main body of his army would set off from Lleida and follow this vanguard.

Map

Battle of Almenar (more precisely Almenara)
 
Courtesy: Dinos Antoniadis
Key to the map:
A Allied Left Flank cavalry (16 bns)
B Allied batteries
C Allied Right Flank Cavalry
D Allied Infantry
E Bourbon Right Flank Cavalry (42 sqns)
F Bourbon Battery
G Guard Battalions
H Bourbon Left Flank Cavalry
I One Infantry Brigade
J The rest of the Bourbon infantry in two columns

The Franco-Spanish army was deployed in two lines (the first with 22 sqns and the second with 20 sqns), while 5 bns deployed between these two lines and the right flank (the closest to the banks of the Noguera River).

Description of Events

Even though the Franco-Spanish were closer to Alfarràs than the Allies, the latter’s cavalry under Stanhope and George Carpenter was the first to reach the bridge at 6:00 a.m. on July 27.

Around noon, Stanhope crossed the Noguera with the cavalry of the Allied left wing. He then decided to take position with 26 sqns on the plateau of Pla del Sas overlooking the road, instead of advancing southward on the road on the right bank of the river, where he would have been exposed to an attack. From his positions on the plateau, it would be much easier to spot the advance of the Bourbon army and to prevent it from reaching Alfarràs, thus allowing the Allied army to cross the Noguera unhindered.

In the morning as his army reached Almenar (more precisely Almenara), Villadarias was taken by surprise when he realised that elements of the Allied army (Stanhope’s vanguard) had already crossed the Noguera River at Alfarràs and taken position on a height near Almenar.

Villadarias did not fully deploy his troops in battle formation. Despite being superior in number, he did not dare to attack the Allied vanguard, and divided his army into two parts: the first, comprising artillery and infantry, advanced to the low ground bordering the Noguera River. The second, comprising the cavalry, was charged to protect the left flank of the marching columns.

King Philip V and Villadarias, who accompanied the infantry columns advancing slowly along the road running at the foot of the plateau, they could not see the Allied army gradually deploying on this height.

Seeing the weak position of the enemy, Stanhope asked Archduke Charles and Starhemberg for permission to attack, but was not authorised to proceed. At that time, the Bourbon had deployed only the troops of the Duc of Sarno while the Allied army had not yet reached Almenar. Therefore any offensive action could have been very risky.

Stanhope then personally rode to meet Archduke Charles and Starhemberg, hoping to obtain permission to attack. The attack was still really risky: the Bourbon forces at Fenollet were far superior in number to the Allied cavalry. From Stanhope’s position on the Pla del Sas, it was not possible to see the bulk of the Franco-Spanish cavalry force assembling on the Pla de Fenollet. Stanhope did not know that he was facing more than 40 sqns.

Fearing that the Franco-Spanish would retire to a stronger position (probably Lleida) during the night, and seeing how it was poorly deployed, Starhemberg, whose troops had now all crossed the Noguera, finally authorised General Stanhope to attack the Bourbon forces. Starhemberg and Archduke Charles also decided to support Stanhope’s charge by establishing a battery (about 14 cannon) on a hill near Almenar overlooking the enemy positions.

Around 6:30 p.m., Stanhope, who was posted on the Pal del Sas launched the charge with the cavalry of the left wing formed in two lines (a first of 22 sqns and a second of 20 sqns) with 2 bns between these lines. It advanced at a slow trot to maintain a minimum cohesion of its lines.

When they detected this movement, the advanced elements of the Franco-Spanish cavalry retreated on the main body of the cavalry deployed in two lines on the Pla de Fenollet since several hours.

The Bourbon infantry was too distant to support its cavalry, which was nevertheless superior in number to Stanhope’s cavalry.

The Bourbon cavalry was unprepared because their commanders considered that Stanhope’s small cavalry corps would not dare to attack and that it was only a feint. Furthermore, the sun was setting and the Allied positions could be seen very clearly.

Stanhope momentarily halted to extend his first line with 6 sqns from the second and, as he got within 200 m. of the enemy, he ordered to charge. His sqns changed from slow trot to fast trot while trying to keep a tight formation.

Around 7:00 p.m., Stanhope’s cavalry crashed into the ranks of the Franco-Spanish cavalry. Amézaga, the commander of the Bourbon cavalry, fought in t the first line. Stanhope’s cavalry drove back the first line but soon Amézaga sent forward the 20 sqns of his second line. Nevertheless, the left wing of the Franco-Spanish cavalry began to waver and then gave way, while the right wing was gradually gaining ground against the British cavalry.

A last charge finally broke the Bourbon cavalry, which routed, leaving to their fate the infantry posted at Almenar and the bulk of the army formed in columns behind the Pla de Fenollet.

During this cavalry combat, the Austrians simultaneously attacked the Bourbon right wing infantry, inflicting heavy losses to the Reales Guardias Españolas. The colonels Marquis de Gironella and Don Juan de Figueroa died there. Philip V risked his life, as was customary for him, and had to be rescued by the Reales Guardias de Corps, who protected his retreat to Lleida, where he arrived the next day.

The Allies pursued the Bourbon cavalry. Pursuers and pursued then crashed into the ranks of the Bourbon infantry, throwing it in utter disorder and sending it in an uncontrolled rout towards Lleida. The Duc of Sarno died fighting as he tried to rally his troops.

The night saved the Bourbon army from total annihilation.

Outcome

In this battle, the Allies lost 400 men, including the Earl of Rochford, who was killed as his regiment broke through the Spanish lines.

The Franco-Spanish lost 1,000 men killed and 3,000 taken prisoners. Among them was General Engineer Prospero de Verboom, who was seriously wounded and taken prisoner to Barcelona, where he would remain a prisoner until 1712 and would take advantage of the prison time to outline his proposal for the creation of the Royal Corps of Engineers.

Tactically, the battle was of little relevance. King Philip V took refuge in Lleida where he removed the Marquis de Villadarias from command, replacing him by the Marquis de Bay, who arrived on August 15 from Extremadura.

Order of Battle

Allied Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Field Marshal Guido, Count Starhemberg seconded by General Stanhope

Summary: 37 bns and 43 sqns for a total of 24,000 men

First Line Second Line
Right Wing
Lieutenant-General Atalaya
  • Major-General Galves’ Cavalry Brigade
    • British King’s Dragoons (2 sqns) unidentified unit, probably the 1st Royal Dragoons
    • Austrian Jörger zu Tollet Dragoons (3 sqns)
  • Major-General Hamilton’s Brigade
    • Spanish Moras Cuirassier Regiment (2 sqns)
    • ??? Miranda Cavalry Regiment (3 sqns) unidentified unit, probably a Portuguese regiment
    • ??? O’Kelly Cavalry Regiment (3 sqns) unidentified unit
Lieutenant-General Wetzel
  • Major-General Gondrecourt’s Brigade
    • Austrian Jörger zu Tollet Dragoons (3 sqns)
    • Spanish Cordua Cuirassiers (2 sqns) unidentified unit
    • ??? Acuna Cuirassiers (3 sqns) unidentified unit, probably the Portuguese da Cunha Cavalry
    • ??? Sottomajor Cavalry (3 sqns) unidentified unit
  • Major-General Luccini
Centre
Centre right under Lieutenant-General Puebla
  • Major-General Eckh’s Brigade
  • Major-General Ahumada’s Brigade
    • Austrian Reventlau Infantry (3 bns)
    • Austrian Gschwind Infantry (3 bns)
    • ??? Albuquerque Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit, probably a Portuguese regiment
    • Neapolitan Luccini Infantry (1 bn)
    • Catalonian Ahumada Infantry (1 bn)

Centre left under Lieutenant-General Belcastel

  • Major-General Wade’s Brigade
    • British George Wade's Foot (1 bn)
    • ??? Bourque Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • ??? Dielek Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • ??? Bowies Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • British Combined Battalion of Foot Guards (1 bn)
Lieutenant-General Willis
  • Lepeel’s Brigade
    • ??? La Marcq Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • Dutch Verpoorten Infantry (1 bn)
    • ??? Dormer Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • ??? Richards Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • ??? Gore Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • ??? Munden Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
    • British Thomas Harrison’s Foot (1 bn)
Right Wing
Lieutenant-General Stanhope
  • Major-General Frankenburg’s Brigade
    • Palatine Frankenburg Cavalry (2 sqns)
    • Dutch Drymborn Cavalry (2 sqns)
    • Dutch Mattha Dragoons (2 sqns)
    • British Harvey's Horse (2 sqns)
    • ??? Nassau Cavalry (2 sqns) unidentified unit
    • British Queen Anne’s Dragoons (2 sqns) unidentified unit, several candidates
Lieutenant-General Carpenter
  • Major-General Pepper’s Brigade
    • Palatine Frankenburg Cavalry (2 sqns)
    • ??? Spee Cavalry (2 sqns) unidentified unit
    • Dutch Schlippenbach Dragoons (2 sqns)
    • ??? Rochefort Cavalry (2 sqns) unidentified unit
    • ??? Pepper Cavalry (2 sqns) unidentified unit

Cavalry Reserve under Almeyda

  • ??? Castro Cavalry (2 sqns) unidentified unit
  • ??? Almeida Cavalry (2 sqns) unidentified unit

Artillery: at least 14 cannon

Franco-Spanish (Bourbon) Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Captain-General Francisco de Villadarias

Summary: 58 bns and 66 sqns for a total of approx. 22,000 men

N.B.: our order of battle is based on the Franco-Spanish order of battle in June 1710.

First Line Second Line
Right Wing
Captain-General Villadarias seconded by Lieutenant-General Amezaga and Maréchal de Camp Espinola

Lanzarotte’s Brigade (14 sqns)

Lieutenant-General Mahony seconded by Maréchal de Camp Ronquillo

Montiogny’s Brigade (14 sqns)

Centre
Lieutenant-General Berbrune seconded by Maréchal de Camp Louvigny commanding the Centre right

Unnamed Brigade (8 bns)

Salis’ Brigade (4 bns)

Ibanez’s Brigade (3 bns)

  • Spanish Brabante Infantry (1 bn)
  • Spanish Luxemburgo Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Spanish Geldern Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit

Tilly’s Brigade (4 bns)

  • Spanish Caro Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Spanish Tilly Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Spanish Lannoy Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Spanish Fusiliers d'Espagne (1 bn) unidentified unit

Lieutenant-General Lauer seconded by Maréchal de Camp Pozoblanco commanding the Centre left

Ruppelmonde’s Brigade (6 bns)

  • Walloon Wesel Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Walloon Ruppelmonde Infantry (1 bn)
  • Walloon Canabodius Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Walloon Nassau Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Walloon Benisval Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Walloon Caro Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit

Ribar’s Brigade (5 bns)

  • unidentified Walloon rgts (5 bns)
Lieutenant-General Sello seconded by Maréchal de Camp Idiaquez

Torreclusa’s Brigade (6 bns)

Santacruz’s Brigade (4 bns)

  • Spanish [[Tercio Nuevo de la Armada del Mar Océano|Armada Infantry (1 bn)
  • Spanish Trujillo Infantry (2 bns) unidentified unit
  • Spanish Cadiz Infantry (1 bn)

Ossorno’s Brigade (4 bns)

  • Spanish Medina-Sidonia Infantry (2 bns) unidentified unit
  • Spanish Silva Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit
  • Spanish Triaua Infantry (1 bn) unidentified unit

Armendariz’s Brigade (7 bns)

Left Wing
Captain-General Conde Tilly seconded by Lieutenant-General Duc d’Auria and Maréchal de Camp Conde Caraffa

Rufo’s Brigade (6 sqns)

Crevecoeur’s Brigade (10 sqns)

Lieutenant-General Comte Merode seconded by Maréchal de Camp Herselles

Cordova’s Brigade (14 sqns)

Artillery: 21 guns

References

Ajutament d’Almenar – La batalla d'Almenar (1710)

García, Germán Segura: Guerra de Sucesión Española: El Combate de Alamenar (1710) in Aetas Rationis

Historia Militar de España – Guerra de Sucesión Española (1702 – 1714) – Batalla de Almanara (27 de julio de 1710)

Rubio, Xavier: La Batalla d'Almenar (1710) a les fonts in Cercle Català d'Història

Weapons and Warfrare – Almenar 1710 'including Stanhope’s account

Wikipedia

Acknowledgements

Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article