1710-12-10 – Combat of Villaviciosa

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Battles and Encounters >> 1710-12-10 – Combat of Villaviciosa

Franco-Spanish decisive victory

Introduction

When Field-Marshal Starhemberg was informed of the attack on the British column at Brihuega, he marched with his troops to come to the relief of Stanhope's column, unaware that the latter had already capitulated.

The next morning (December 10), the Franco-Spanish army was waiting on the plain of Villaviciosa. Compared to the Austrian general's 14,000 troops, the Duc de Vendôme deployed about 20,000 men (including King Philip and other troops who had joined the duke that morning. The armies deployed in two lines on parallel ridges.

Map

Combat of Villaviciosa
 
Courtesy: Dinos Antoniadis
Key to the map:
A: Headquarters of Charles III (Archduke Charles)
B: Starhemberg
C: Villaroel
D: Frankenberg
E: Aguilar
F: Conte de las Torres
G: Valdecañas
H: Bracamonte
I: Headquarters of Philip V

Description of Events

The engagement began in the early afternoon. It started by an artillery duel between the two armies which had an equal number of artillery pieces (23), each deployed in three batteries. Both armies suffered significant losses from the cannonade.

King Philip V, who was accompanying the cavalry of the Franco-Spanish right wing, then gave orders to the Marquis of Valdecañas to hurl his squadrons against the left wing of the Allies, which comprised German infantry and Catalan and Portuguese cavalry, all of them under von Frankenberg.

The German infantry tried to protect the Catalan and Portuguese squadrons, but eventually gave in, and the left wing of the Allied army was soon shattered. The Bourbons took the Allied batteries, destroyed the units that came in reinforcement and began the pursuit, leaving no possibility for the Allied cavalry to rally and return to support the centre.

An eyewitness to the battle shows us the rawness of the fighting. The gunner Rafael de Silby, who commanded an artillery brigade in the centre of the Bourbon line, has left us the following testimony:
"...after four hours of gunfire, while the infantry was falling back, charged by the enemies, we waited for them (without sustaining our battery), and at close range gave against their battalions a barrage of grapeshots so apt that, horrified with the ravage, they desperately threw themselves back on their second line, and V.M.'s troops were able to reform..."
The Marquis de Canales wanted to reward this gunner with the charge of commissioner-general for this action, but Silby declined the award preferring to retain command of his company.

The infantry of Archduke Charles then advanced towards the Franco-Spanish centre. Hard pressed by the Allied centre and in the absence of cavalry support, the Bourbon infantry was pushed back.

The Marquis de Toy then tried to prevent a breakthrough in the centre, which would separate the Bourbon army in two isolated parts. While doing so he was nearly captured by Portuguese soldiers.

As the Bourbon infantry tried to resist to the thrust of the Allies in the centre, the Duc de Vendôme was considering the battle as lost.

As Vendôme’s centre was gradually ceding terrain, the Count of Aguilar, posted on the left wing, launched his squadrons against the right wing of the Allies, which was commanded by Field-Marshal Starhemberg in person, and consisted of the grenadiers and horsemen of the best regiments of the Allied army. However, Aguilar’s charge was unstoppable, and the Allies were unable to contain the Bourbon squadrons. The Archduke's right wing was saved from disaster by a flank maneuver by the Allied centre, under Villarroel, who came to Starhemberg's aid and saved the situation.

Field-Marshal Starhemberg managed to rally and reorganise his forces, and eventually repulsed Aguilar’s cavalry and pursued them. He took the Bourbon artillery pieces on their left flank and launched himself into the Bourbon center. The fight became intense. The Reales Guardias Valonas and Saboya Infantry received a harsh punishment from the enemy fire. Lieutenant-General Armendáriz, was wounded in the head and chest by shrapnel. Maréchal de camp Ronquillo, Brigadier Rodrigo Correa and Colonel Félix Miramón were killed.

As the Bourbon centre continued to yield, the left wing began to recede and there were no signs of the cavalry of the right wing, engaged in the pursuit of the enemy. It was beginning to darken. At this moment, the Count of Aguilar lashed out with his cavalry and dragoons against the right wing of the Archduke. The German and Portuguese cavalry, under the command of the Count de las Torres, initially resisted the charge. Finally, Aguilar’s squadrons broke the two lines of the enemy right.

Around the same time, the Marquis of Valdecañas reappeared on the battle field at the head of the cavalry of the Bourbon right wing, and broke the lines of the allied left. Lieutenant General-Mahony and Maréchal de camp Amezaga charged frontally with their squadrons of the right wing, landing a final blow to the Allied army.

Field-Marshal Starhemberg launched three cavalry counter-charges against Mahony’s and Amézaga's attack. During the melee, Maréchal de camp Amézaga was wounded in the face. The fighting continued after sunset. At last, Starhemberg's forces took refuge in a neighbouring forest to save themselves from the enemy cavalry. The Allied army then began retreating under the cover of darkness.

Philip V and Vendôme after winning the battle
Painting by Jean Alaux
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The battle had been decided by the squadrons of the Marquis of Valdecañas and the Count of Aguilar, who far outnumbered the enemy cavalry.

Outcome

The Franco-Spanish lost about 2,500 men dead or wounded and the Allies had 3,000 men dead or wounded.

Even though Archduke Charles claimed victory, it soon became evident, considering the death toll, the loss of most of his artillery and the fact that the Franco-Spanish had remained masters of the battle field, that he had suffered a defeat.

Despite the tactical tie, the battle was a success for Vendôme, as the Archduke's army, although he managed to continue his withdrawal in an orderly manner, was further weakened and harassed at every turn by the irregulars and the Franco-Spanish cavalry. By the time they arrived in Barcelona on 6 January 1711, it had been reduced to some 6,000 or 7,000 men, and the city was practically the only Spanish enclave to recognize the authority of Archduke Charles.

As Torcy, the French foreign secretary, noted, the battle of Villaviciosa “placed the Crown on the head of the Catholic King”.

Order of Battle

Allied Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Field-Marshal Guido von Starhemberg

Summary: 27 bns (approx. 9,000 men) and 29 sqns (approx. 3,000 men), with 23 artillery pieces

The following regiments formed part of the Imperialist army

N.B.: The whole Allied left wing under Stanhope had already been destroyed in the Combat of Brihuega one day before

Franco-Spanish (Bourbon) Order of Battle

Commander-in-chief: Louis Joseph, Duc de Vendôme

Summary: 30 bns and 73 sqns for a total of approx. 20,000 men with 23 artillery pieces

First Line Second Line
Right Wing
Marquis of Valdecañas, assisted by Lieutenant-General Armendariz, Maréchal de camp Ronquillo and Brigadier Melchor of Portugal Comte de Mérode (subordinated to the Marquis de Valdecañas) assisted by Maréchal de Camp Tomás Idiáquez and Brigadier Pozoblanco
Centre
Count de la Torres assisted by Captain-General Marquis de Toy, Lieutenant-General Marquis de la Ber, Maréchal de camp Count Harcelles and Brigadiers Rufo, Charni, Rivadex, Rupelmonde, Bourbon and Terri Lieutenant-General Pedro de Zúñiga assisted by Maréchal de Camp Grafton, and Brigadiers Correa, Pertoni, Hercel, Pedroche, Estrada and Duke of Petroameno
Left Wing
Count de Aguilar, assisted by Lieutenant-General Mahony, Maréchaux de camp Comte de Montemar and Joseph of Amézaga, and Brigadier Crevecoeur Lieutenant-General Navamorquende (subordinated to the Count de Aguilar), assisted by Mar/chal de camp Cardenas and Brigadier Carvajal

Artillery under Captain-General of Artillery, Marquis de Canales

  • 23 pieces in two lines

References

Historia Militar de España – Guerra de Sucesión Española (1702 – 1714) – Batalla de Villaviciosa (10 de diciembre de 1710)

Casado, Herera: La batalla de Brihuega en su 275 aniversario

Rona, L.: Geschichte des K.u.K. Infanterie-Regimentes Adolf Grossherzog von Luxemburg, Herzog zu Nassau Nr. 15, Prague 1901

StudyLib – La Batalla de Villaviciosa en 1710

Wikipedia

Acknowledgements

Dinos Antoniadis for the initial version of this article