1711 – Siege of Cardona
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The siege lasted from November to December 1711
At the death of Emperor Joseph I, in September 1711, Archduke Charles, who was campaigning in Spain, returned to Vienna where he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in October of the same year. Before leaving Spain, he had confided the Allied army to FM Guido Count Starhemberg.
At that time, the Allied army had taken position in a fortified camp near Prato del Rey where it was attacked by a numerically superior French army. The French commander, the Duc de Vendôme unsuccessfully tried for two months to break through Starhemberg's entrenchments.
Vendôme then decided to pin Starhemberg's forces at Prato del Rey while part of his own army would capture the towns of Solsona and Cardona.
In the morning of 7 November 1711, after a brief defence, the little garrison of Solsona evacuated the town and took refuge in Cardona.
Cardona was surrounded by mighty walls. The castle above the town was defended by 3 concentric walls. Glacis with mines reinforced the defences. To the south of Cardona, the road to Calaf was protected by an entrenchment with two towers.
In September, Starhemberg had considerably reinforced the garrison of Cardona which now consisted of 4 infantry bns and 6 grenadier coys. The commander of Cardona was Major-General Christian Friedrich Count Eckh (sometime written also Egg or Egkh) und Hungersbach.
On 12 November, Lieutenant-General Comte Muret at the head of 8,000 men surrounded Cardona. They immediately opened the trenches against the southern entrenchments and the two towers.
By 17 November, a battery of 3 guns had been established and its fire destroyed the two towers.
On 18 November in the morning, the French attacked the entrenchments whose defenders fled into town without opposing any resistance. French soldiers closely pursued them and managed to enter into Cardona. Count Eckh was forced to retreat behind the walls of the castle. The town itself, its inhabitants having fled, was occupied by the French. The same day, Muret started work on four new batteries facing the south side of the castle.
After a few days, the French artillery had created a considerable breach in the walls of the castle. However, each night, the defenders managed to close this breach.
The French had neglected to block one of the road leading to Cardona.
On 22 November, Colonel Count Gehlen, using the unguarded road, reached the Castle of Cardona with 150 grenadiers. Gehlen later returned to report to Count Starhemberg about the situation inside the castle.
On 25 November, the French closed the aforementioned road with a redoubt occupied by 4 bns and 2 grenadier coys.
Siege work progressed very slowly due to the rocky nature of the terrain.
On 30 November, the French launched an assault through a breach created by a mine but were driven back.
Cardona occupied a very important strategic location, preventing the two Franco-Spanish armies campaigning in Spain to effect a junction. Therefore, Starhemberg tried to support the garrison of Cardona as much as he could.
On 8 December, the British Admiral Jennings arrived in Spain from Italy at the head of 1,536 men with artillery, ammunition and food to reinforce Starhemberg's Army. FML Baron Battée and Major-General Count Lacheraine received orders to occupy La Coromina and to assist the besieged garrison of Cardona. Battée had 1,500 foot, 500 dragoons (without horses), 200 horse and 100 Migueletes (light troops from the Pyrenees Mountains).
On 10 December, Battée encamped with his troops at the bridge crossing the Cardene River.
In the night of 10 to 11 December, Battée crossed the bridge, reached La Coromina and attacked in four columns, while General Don Raphael Nebot attacked the redoubt with 400 men. Nebot occupied the redoubt, but the attacks on La Coromina failed because the garrison was supported by La Couronne Infanterie and Trujillo Infantry (unidentified unit). Other French troops advanced to Malagarriga and drove back the Migueletes. Battée retreated fighting to the bridge and returned to his old camp. His corps had suffered heavy losses, the lieutenant-colonel of Carl Joseph Lothringen Infantry and Major Jörger were wounded.
On 11 December, Colonel Stanhope reinforced Battée with 2 bns and 2 grenadier coys.
On 17 December, Stanhope sent another 400 grenadiers to reinforce Battée, who was now at the head of 2,900 foot, 400 dismounted dragoons, 700 horse and around 700 Migueletes, for a total of approx. 4,300 men.
On 18 December, Quatermaster-General Peroni, Colonel Gehlen and Colonel Rohr reconnoitred suitable points of attack to relieve Cardona. The same day, Colonel Otto Ferdinand Count Traun handed over to Battée Starhemberg's order to relieve Cardona.
On 20 December at 5:00 p.m., according to his orders, Battée marched from his camp near the bridge of Malagarriga towards Cardona. When he got at the Navell farm, some 30 minutes from Cardona, Battée stopped for the night and prepared his troops for the attack.
On 21 December at 5:00 a.m., General Nebot launched an attack on the redoubt of La Coromina at the head of 450 men of Gschwind Infantry. Colonel Spee advanced with 200 horse to the bridge of Sant Joan. It was very foggy. Colonel Stanhope and Gheulen attacked both wings of the French positions while Lieutenat-Colonel Ulrich stopped nearby with the supply convoy. Lieutenant-Colonel Schönberg attacked the French camp to his front with 400 foot. He managed to drive back La Couronne Infanterie (2 bns) and Trujillo Infantry (2 bns) from the heights, inflicting them heavy losses. When Battée saw that the combat was turning to his advantage, he sent Ulrich's convoy forward to supply Cardona with provisions. Major-General Baron Eckh made a sortie with the garrison and repulsed some of the enemies. Colonel Don Pedro Montaner from the Deputacion Infantry was killed during this sortie.
At 11:00 a.m. Lieutenant-General Muret launched a counter-attack with 12 grenadier coys, 4 bns and the rest of La Couronne Infanterie and Trujillo Infantry against the heights occupied by Stanhope's troops. After an initial success, the attackers were pushed back by Imperial grenadiers and 400 men of Gschwind Infantry. In this affair, the Franco-Spanish lost 400 men. The Allies lost Colonel Stanhope, who was mortally wounded and died soon afterwards. Ulrich's convoy had been unable to reach Cardona and the relief attempt was postponed to the next day.
Both forces spent the night in their positions. During the night, Battée erected some entrenchments to be prepared to fight back the attack that he expected.
On 22 December at 9:00 a.m., Battée received reinforcements. Indeed, Eckh had sent him a captain of Buol Infantry. The captain gave him Eckh's message, informing him that Cardona could not hold more than two days due of lack of water. Starhemberg wanted to relieve Cardona at all cost even if that meant that he would have to involve his entire army. Battée asked Colonel Traun to stay with him to see whether it would be possible to reach the river and get drinking water from there.
Around noon, Battée launched two attacks against the French positions while the garrison of the castle simultaneously made a sortie. Furthermore, a detachment of 400 men led again by Lieutenant-Colonel Ulrich advanced towards the castle with provisions. Taking additional precautions, Lieutenant-Colonel Schönberg had posted 4 grenadier detachments (each of 50 men) on the heights of Coros. The grenadiers attacked at the right moment and drove the French out of their "small camp". The grenadiers and Migueletes occupied the camp. The garrison made a sortie to receive the convoy. The action was successful.
With the Castle of Cardona resupplied, Lieutenant-General Muret decided to abandon the siege of Cardona. His troops rallied outside the city at night, the guns were destroyed, part of the carriages burned down. Muret wrote a letter to Count Eckh asking him to take care of the wounded French soldiers who were left behind near Cardona. Only a few Allied horse followed the retreating French.
During the combats which took place on 21 and 22 December, the French lost of of their artillery train and a lot of ammunition; 700 men were killed or wounded including 20 officers from La Couronne Infanterie; General Melun and Colonel Saint-Martin were also killed. The Allies, beside Colonel Stanhope, lost 3 officers and 300 men killed or wounded.
The siege of Cardona had lasted for 42 days.
The French lost nearly 2,500 men, 22 guns, 4 mortars and a large quantity of ammunition and other material.
The Allies lost around 300 men.
The commander, Major-General Count Eckh, died on 23 December only one day after the relief of Cardona. After his death, Colonel Traun was appointed Inhaber (proprietor) of the former Eckh Infantry.
General-Adjutant Colonel Count Traun, brought the news of the Allied victory to the wife of Emperor Charles VI who acted as regent in Barcelona.
Anecdotically, Charles VI was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Frankfurt am Main on the day of the relief of Cardona.
Frhr. Mühlwerth-Gärtner: Spanischer Successions-Krieg. Feldzug 1711, II. Serie, IV. file, Vienna 1887
Thürheim, A. v.: Feldmarschall Otto Ferdinand Graf von Abensperg und Traun, Vienna 1877
Harald Skala for the initial version of this article