1712 – Siege of Porto Ercole
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The siege lasted from March to May 1712
At the beginning of 1712, to the exception of Sicily, only Porto Ercole and Porto Longone were still in the hands of the Bourbons in Southern Italy. However, the Allies had decided to make a diversion in Tuscany and to capture these two ports.
At the beginning of January, the troops (5,500 foot and 500 horse) destined to the invasion of Tuscany and to the capture of the ports of Longone and Ercole were still in their winter-quarters between Piombino, Siena and Orvieto.
The efforts of Prince Eugène, Great Britain and the Dutch Republic to provide the necessary warships for the siege of the port of Longone on the island of Elba were unsuccessful. In Naples, the siege artillery was ready for transportation but the ships were not available.
Field Marshal Wirich Philipp Count Daun, Duke of Teano, gave to FML Zum Jungen the order to send Major-General Georg Olivier Count Wallis Baron Carighmain to Naples, to negotiate with the viceroy Cardinal Grimani and Field Marshal prince Hessen-Darmstadt. However, these negotiations ended without success and FML Zum Jungen decided to abandon his design against Longone and to concentrate his efforts on the capture of Porto Ercole.
On 2 March, after a lot of argumentation with the unwilling viceroy in Naples, Count Wallis notified that the loading of the artillery aboard ships had started.
On 3 March, the corps of FML Zum Jungen marched towards Orbetello.
On 13 and 14 March, Zum Jungen's Corps reached Orbetello. This place contributed 7 guns and 4 mortars for the siege of Porto Ercole.
However, Viceroy Cardinal Grimani continued to delay operations and kept the ships transporting the siege artillery at Naples.
The siege of Porto Ercole
Orbetello, the Bay of Ercole and the port of Santo Stefano were in the hands of Imperial troops, while the French occupied the port of Ercole and Fort Ercole, which was located on a mountain above the place. The port was secured by two small forts: Fort Monte Filippo and Fort Stella. The French garrison consisted of 800 men. From them, 500 men and 35 guns occupied Fort Ercole, 200 men and 19 guns were in Fort Filippo and 100 men with 4 guns in Fort Stella.
On 16 March, part of Zum Jungen's troops advanced across the lagoon to the peninsula where they encamped.
On 17 March, Zum Jungen opened the trenches in front of Fort Filippo and Fort Stella and erected a battery (2 guns, 1 mortar). The weather was bad, snow and rain as well as the rocky ground delayed the operations.
On 24 March, the battery finally opened on the forts. The heavy guns were still kept in the harbour of Naples by the viceroy, and the artillery pieces provided by the garrison of Orbetello were insufficient for such a siege.
On 8 April, the ships transporting the siege artillery finally sailed from Naples.
On 16 April, 3 guns opened on Fort Stella, the defenders left and exploded two mines. Imperial troops occupied the fort which was immediately set afire by the French guns on the walls of Fort Ercole.
On 18 April, Imperial troops occupied the the hill of Santo Rocco opposite Fort Filippo.
In the night of 18 to 19 April, part of the ships (3 galleys and some tartanes) transporting the siege artillery reached the port of Santo Stefano. It took a few days to unload the artillery pieces. The rest of the ships were stopped by a storm and would not reach Ercole until 27 September.
On 29 April, the French evacuated the Santa Catarina Redoubt and the Imperial troops immediately occupied it and the nearby windmill.
On 1 May, the new batteries opened fire. Furthermore, two mortar batteries established on the hill of Santo Rocco opened against Fort Filippo. FML Zum Jungen made preparation to storm Fort Filippo.
On 3 May in the morning, the defenders of Fort Filippo capitulated. New batteries were then erected between the Monte d'Osteria and the hill of Santo Rocco.
On 4 May, the garrison of Fort Ercole capitulated and marched out with the "honours of war". The Imperial troops captured 56 guns and 2 mortars, but the walls of all three forts were in very bad conditions.
Some 350 men were sent from Naples to garrison Ercole under the command of Colonel Formentini.
On 9 May, FML Zum Jungen's troops left Ercole. Zum Jungen hoped to arrive at Parma on 1 June at the latest.
Eberswald, H. Edler von: Spanischer Successions-Krieg. Feldzug 1712 II. Serie, V. file, Vienna 1889
Harald Skala for the initial version of this article