1713 – Siege of Barcelona
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The siege lasted from 25 July 1713 and 11 September 1714
The siege of Barcelona was the central military operation within the War of the Catalans, the last episode of the War of the Spanish Succession, between 25 July 1713 and 11 September 1714. The defenders of Barcelona were composed of city's militia, the Coronela, the regular Catalan army, troops from the rest of the territories of the Crown of Aragon, and soldiers from other territories that supported Charles III (aka Emperor Charles VI). Initially the siege was conducted by the Duke of Pòpoli more as a blockade rather than a conventional siege. This changed when France, in July 1714 send an army in support of the Spanish and military command passed to the Duke of Berwick. The French support severely tipped the course of the siege, turning it into a conventional assault by means of bombardment, trenches and mines. Though far outnumbered and completely surrounded by Bourbon armies, the Catalan leaders chose resistance to the very last.
The resistance offered by Barcelona and the other territories of the Crown of Aragon took advantage of Philip V of Spain's policy of a harsh and vengeful repression that culminated in the burning of villages and even cities, such as Xàtiva, which had resisted the Bourbon advance, the repeal of laws and jurisdictions, and the imprisonment and execution of many citizens, with the aim of establishing an absolutist state under the laws of the Crown of Castile. The Marquis de Lede, under the orders of the Duke of Pòpuli, and ultimately at the instigation of Philip V himself, carried out an atrocious policy of retaliation, hanging Catalan prisoners of war or sending them to the galleys. The methods of the Bourbons in subjugating Catalonia thus anticipated in cruelty – and sometimes even exceeded – those used by Napoleon's armies a hundred years later. The resistance by the people of Catalonia was no less fierce.
Description of Events
Blockade of Barcelona: The Duke of Pòpoli
On 25 July 1713, the army of Philip V – some 25,000 men (14,000 Spaniards and 11,000 French) commanded by Restaino Cantelmo-Stuart, Duke of Pòpoli, arrived in front of the city of Barcelona, within which many fighters from the other territories of the Crown of Aragon had gathered.
On 29 July, the Duke of Pòpoli sent an emissary to the city demanding its submission under the rule of Philip V, threatening the inhabitants to be treated as rebels should they continue to resist. This was immediately rejected and the city increased the preparations for the inevitable war. Aragonese formed a regiment of cavalry, another of riflemen, two companies of volunteers on foot and one of volunteers on horseback, and the Balearic islands organized several volunteer companies. General Antoni de Villaroel was chosen as commander of the Catalan army, assisted by the Valencian Joan Baptista Basset.
In the first months, the Duke of Pòpoli, lacking the necessary artillery, was unable to maintain an effective siege of the city and only some unsuccessful attacks were carried out. The situation in the Principality became progressively more unstable for the Bourbons due to the uprisings of thousands of people across the country, who fought against the invasion. The Franco-Spanish army was unable to stop the guerrillas of the Plana de Vic and Lluçanès and forced Pòpoli to mobilize troops destined for the siege of the city of Barcelona, which loosened the blockade and allowed important lines of communication between the city and the resistance in the interior of the country. In the maritime sphere, the siege was also ineffective and allowed the arrival of provisions, gunpowder and ammunition from Mallorca and Italy to the city of Barcelona.
Franco-Spanish order of battle on 28 July after a map by Verboom (1713)
- French Ponthieu Infanterie (2 bns) in Reserve
- French Quercy Infanterie (2 bns) in Reserve
- French (Swiss) Castellas Infanterie (3 bns)
- French Normandie Infanterie (3 bns)
- French Artois Infanterie (2 bns)
- French La Marche Infanterie (2 bns)
- French Second de Grenadier (4 sqns) unidentified unit
- French Houdetot Infanterie (1 bn)
- French Royal-Bombardiers (1 bn)
- French La Couronne Infanterie (2 bns)
- ??? Jalleivau (1 bn) unidentified unit
- French Comte de Danois Infanterie (1 bn)
- French? Fusilliers (1 bn) probably the French Fusiliers de Montagnes
- French Auvergne Infanterie (2 bns)
- Spanish Jaen Cavalry (3 sqns)
- Spanish Ordenes Viejo Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Spanish O'Mahony (1 bn) should be dragoons
- ??? Festo (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Spanish Asturias Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish Grimau Dragoons (2 sqns)
- Spanish Acatahan (4 sqns) unidentified unit
- Spanish Salamanca Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish Cordoba Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish Reales Guardias Españolas (2 bns)
- Spanish Osuna Dragoons (2 sqns)
- Spanish Real Asturias Cavalry (3 sqns)
- Spanish Armendariz Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Spanish (Irish) Comesford Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish (Irish) Mac-Auliff Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish (Irish) Castlebar Infantry (2 bns)
- Spanish Truxillo (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Spanish Saboya Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish Castilla (1 bn)
- Spanish Murcia Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish Guadalajara Infantry (1 bn)
- Spanish Reales Guardias Españolas (2 bns) at the headquarters at Las Cortes de Sarria
- Spanish Arduino Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Spanish Fantaguzzi Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Spanish Reales Guardias Valonas (5 bns)
- ??? Vriuc (2 sqns) unidentified unit
- Spanish Rosellon Nuevo Cavalry (3 sqns)
- Spanish Santiago Cavalry (2 sqns) either Santiago Viejo or Santiago Nuevo
- French Royal-Artillerie (1 bn)
- Spanish Milan Cavalry (2 sqns)
- Spanish Reina Cavalry (3 sqns)
- Spanish Marimon Dragoons (2 sqns)
- Spanish Jures (2 sqn) unidentified unit
Between 9 August and 5 October, the Catalan authorities undertook their most serious attempt to use the uprising of the country and to trap Pòpoli's army between two fronts and thus break the siege. After breaking the blockade of the French navy an expedition under the direction of the military deputy Antoni de Berenguer and General of Cavalry Rafael Nebot, with about 400 horses and between 200 and 300 migueletes landed at Arenys de Mar and went into the interior of the country with the aim of raising and reorganizing forces, constantly pursued by 10,000 Bourbon soldiers in different columns, which devastated the villages through which the expedition had passed. Berenguer and Nebot succeeded in recruiting about 5,000 volunteers but it was impossible for them to organise a relief of the city. This force nevertheless consolidated resistance in the interior of the country and reinforced the Fortress of Cardona.
On 5 October, Berenguer and Nebot returned to the village of Alella (about 19 km north-east of Barcelona).where they left the 4,000 men who had followed them, and went back to Barcelona.
On 6 October, Berenguer and Nebot were both imprisoned on the orders of Villaroel for abandoning their troops.
Meanwhile, Bac de Roda, head of volunteers, Antoni Desvalls, Marquis of Poal, member of the Military Arm and General Josep Moragues, governor of Castellciutat continued to resist in the interior.
While these operations were going on, on 2 September, Spanish galleys under Bathasar de Guevara captured two supply ships destined for Barcelona, but soon after two Catalan frigates and four barques attacked the blockading ships, captured two and took 13 tartanes laden with food. A small fleet of armed ships secured a steady supply from Mallorca, Sardinia and Naples to the city.
In the first phase of the siege, Pòpoli had focused on the conquest of the convents and farmhouses around Barcelona with the intention of tightening the blockade. Despite the numerical superiority of the Bourbon troops, this task became more than difficult for Pòpoli due to the effectiveness of the defence and, above all, the Catalan artillery under the command of the Valencian Joan Baptista Basset, which caused a high number of casualties among the Bourbon troops. However on 11 September, the Bourbon forces managed to take the Monastery of Santa Madrona and to establish a battery of mortars.
On 27 October, 30 ships carrying some 2,000 men and provisions reached the city.
A few days later, under cover of a sortie by 1,500 men under the command of Villaroel, 700 oxen, 3,000 sheep and 200 wagons with firewood made it into the city. A column under Colonel Armengol Amil even reached the headquarters of the Duke of Populi.
On 7 November, another sortie allowed more food to reach the city.
On 8 November, a big vessel and three barques laden with flour and dried fish arrived from Sardinia.
On 30 November, Saint Andrew's Day, the five magistrates of the Consell de Cent of Barcelona ended their annual mandate and new councillors were elected. Rafael Casanova was elected as the new Chief Councillor of Barcelona, the highest authority of the city. The post bore the rank of colonel of the Coronela, which was the largest unit of the garrison, and that of military head of the city, and he became the soul of the resistance. The new city government changed the defensive strategy carried out until then, pending foreign aid, for an offensive one, in which it would go on the attack and organise an uprising to wear down the supply lines and divert troops, through Antoni Desvalls i de Vergós.
In late 1713 negotiations between Madrid and the British government led to a trade treaty between Great Britain and Spain. Part of the deal was British assistance in the blockade of Barcelona, as the continued support of the Catalans for Charles III was seen as a breach of the treaty of evacuation of foreign powers from Catalonia, which formed part of the Treaty of Utrecht. In consequence, a British squadron under Admiral James Wishart moved into the Mediterranean.
On 26 January 1714, the defenders under the command of Villaroel simultaneously attacked the enemy lines at several points. The lieutenant-colonel of the Rosario Regiment with 200 men and 100 grenadiers under the command of the captains of the regiments of Santa Eulalia, Sant Narcis, Nostra Senyora dels Desemparats and Concepcion attacked the barracks of Mas Guinardo; Colonels Moliner i Rau and Amill with part of their regiments, attacked the Gracia barracks and on their left; the lieutenant-colonel of the Munoz Regiment with 100 fusiliers had orders to attack the Sans barracks; the lieutenant-colonel of the San Vicente Regiment with part of the regiment and some dismounted men from Captain Marcos' company were to attack the Gracia barracks and their right; and Don Antonia Paperoles, colonel of the Ribera del Ebro Fusiliers, was to attack the Clot barracks. The defenders left the city under the cover of night and managed to surprise the besiegers and destroy part of the trenches as well as a lot of equipment. The fight lasted about two hours. The defenders only lost 17 men killed and retreated to the city in good order, covered by the cavalry and the 1st Batallion of the Coronela."
On 30 January, the lines of circumvallation were finally completed.
After the Kingdom of France had signed peace with the Holy Roman Empire, it became progressively more involved in the conquest of the Principality, whose resistance was now officially classified as a rebellion, giving the Bourbons a pretext to kill all the prisoners they took in their raids in the country. The burning of entire villages such as Sallent, looting and indiscriminate killings became daily horrors in many territories of the principality. This situation encouraged thousands of people to join the resistance, but it also meant the arrival of more soldiers and weapons that allowed the Bourbons to expand the maritime and land blockade of the city and to reinforce the garrisons of cities such as Vic, Manresa, Martorell, Mataró, Ripoll, Lleida, Hostalric and Vilafranca.
On 24 February, there was a naval engagement in front of Barcelona. In the fight the Catalan squadron, consisting of the frigates of Don Antonio Martinez, commanded by Juan Bautista Lunell and the frigate of Sebastian Dalmau, commanded by Esteban Magriñá and fourteen smaller vessels, was victorious over the British, who lost two small armed ships, one of eight guns and another of four, as well as thirteen small vessels loaded with all kinds of provisions.
On 4 March, faced with a steady increase of Bourbon reinforcements, the city tried to negotiate for peace, but only under the condition that the old Catalan constitution should be upheld. Philip V, however demanded unconditional surrender and four days later the hostilities commenced.
Completely ignoring Villarroel's defensive strategy – and his firm opposition to fighting in the open field – the councillors of Barcelona approved a plan to attack the Bourbon blockading forces. The radicals wanted to follow the example of the decisive victory of 1641, when the Tercio of Santa Eulàlia of Barcelona completely defeated the Spanish Tercios of the Marquis de los Vélez at the Battle of Montjuïc, during the War of the Reapers (1640-1659). In fact, the councillors of Barcelona followed closely the preparatory protocols of 1640 and appointed the second councillor Salvador Feliu de la Penya to carry the "banner of the undefeated Santa Eulàlia".
On 14 March, the councillors of Barcelona decreed total mobilization, ordering all residents who were not affiliated with the Coronela to form separate companies or join existing companies.
On 22 March, they gathered all the guilds of the City and Rafael Casanova informed them that it had been agreed to make an attack against the Bourbon blockading forces under the protection of the Flag of Santa Eulàlia.
During the month of April the councillors of Barcelona continued with their plan and ordered the volunteers to train in order of battle.
On 22 April, Villarroel finally had to give in to the pressure of the councillors and he authorized joint exercises with the soldiers of his army to prepare the attack against the Bourbon positions: 1,500 professional soldiers were to be part of it, all the cavalry, and the 1,000 men of the Batalló Nou drawn from the Coronela. The rehearsal exercise for the sortie lasted until sunset.
The Radicals' strategy involved holding out until Charles of Austria signed peace with France, which would force the withdrawal of the French troops helping Philip V, who – according to their reasoning – would find it completely impossible to conquer Barcelona without French help. However, the diplomatic pressures of Philip V had made sure that the Treaty of Rastatt of March 7, 1714 did not give any solution to the Catalan cause. Having frustrated the diplomatic strategy of the radicals, a new attempt at a negotiated solution to the conflict was prepared in the court of Madrid, empowering Philip V's prime minister Jean Orry to negotiate the submission of Catalonia in exchange for maintaining the municipal laws. In Barcelona, the news of the signing of the Treaty of Rastatt were initially confusing and the population was made to believe that the treaty had been favourable and that the city would soon be liberated.
Philip V's prime minister expected to find a dejected city ready to negotiate surrender, but when he arrived in Barcelona, he found a euphoric city celebrating its imminent liberation; Chief Councillor Rafael Casanova and the new "Junta dels 24" rejected Jean Orry's proposals, frustrating for the third time an attempt to negotiate the submission of Catalonia to Philip V.
After the Treaty of Rastatt, the strategy advocated by Manuel de Ferrer and Sitges did not apply anymore. Leaping into the void, the Tres Comuns de Catalunya – the council of councillors at the head of the "Junta dels 24" of Barcelona, the deputies of the Generalitat and the members of the military branch – closed ranks having obtained the support of the clergy in their determination to fight "to the last drop of blood". But they also needed to secure the support of the military and, most important of all, that of General Villarroel, who had already warned, when he assumed command, that he would only lead the defence as a professional military and only as long as he had enough troops to hold.
On 16 May, to obtain the cooperation of the militar, the "Junta dels 24" summoned all senior officers of the army to a council of war to vote on the resolution to fight "to the last drop of blood". This vote exhausted the patience of Antonio de Villarroel. He explained to the councillors that he was tired from so many meetings, discussions and conferences, since the military "service did not suit such a great plurality of opinions". He explained to them that he regretted that they had rejected the negotiation offered to them by the Bourbons, and that with regard to the defence of the city to the last extremity, it seemed horrible to him that "Junta dels 24" had previously consulted a "Board of Theologians" rather than the commanding general of the army. And as if that wasn't enough, the fact of summoning his subordinate officers to a council of war was a power that only belonged to the commanding general of the army – himself –, so that his subordinates would not vote for anything, limiting themselves only to obeying what he ordered as supreme military commander appointed by Charles of Austria.
Faced with Villarroel's opposition, the "Junta dels 24" requested the mediation of Joan Francesc de Verneda, so that he could assert his role as Charles of Austria's commissioner in Barcelona; he managed to convince Villarroel to attend the council of war, although the latter warned that he would not vote, "nor should I vote, since I have already obeyed His Majesty's orders in this part".
On 17 May, the Duke of Pòpoli made himself master of the Capuchin Convent, after suffering heavy losses (about 500 men against 71 lost by the defenders).
On 19 May at 7:00 a.m., the council of war finally took place in the hall of the Council of 100. Once the military officers had gathered, the council of councillors handed them the proposal that established "the solid principle that defence must be effective and unalterable to the last drop of blood in all the inhabitants of this place."
Now master of the Capuchin Convent, the Duke of Pòpoli was finally able to advance the trenches. With the arrival of French siege guns, he was also able to initiate a systematic bombardment of the city. It is known that some bombs reached the sea, which shows that the mortars had an angle of fire that covered the city from end to end. The objective was not the defensive works of the city but the houses and citizens of Barcelona. However, although the city suffered serious damage and entire neighbourhoods were completely ruined, the population was able to take refuge on the beach of Sant Bertran, at the foot of Montjuïc; and in the Arenal, in what is now Barceloneta. Thus, the population was saved from the great bombardment by taking refuge outside the city. Faced with this situation, Pòpoli asked Admiral Jean Baptiste du Casse, who commanded the fleet of the naval blockade, to bombard those beaches from the sea in order to force the population to re-enter the city. Du Casse replied that in his entire military career he had not found himself in a similar situation and that he would not commit such a brutality without an explicit order from the king.
6 July 1714: Arrival of the Duke of Berwick
On 6 July 1714, the Duke of Berwick arrived at Barcelona to replace the Duke of Pòpoli at the head of the Franco-Spanish army. More French reinforcements arrived with him, emphasising the determination of Louis XIV to conquer the Principality of Catalonia for the benefit of his grandson Philip. It is estimated that at that time the total number of Bourbon forces around the city was about 39,000 men. French troops now formed the main part of these forces, among them there were veteran officers and colonels, expert engineers and many nobles who had fought on the Rhine and in Italy against the Austrians and/or in the Low Countries against Great Britain and the Dutch Republic. In addition, to control the popular uprisings in the interior of the country, Berwick increased occupation troops to 47,000. In total, the Bourbon army reached the extraordinary figure of 86,000 troops in a country that did not reach half a million inhabitants. The Franco-Spanish troops thus fielded an average of one soldier per Catalan family.
By July 1714, the French infantry under Berwick in July 1714 consisted of (as per: Quincy, p. 352f and Heller, p. 147f): Note: not all of these units were part of the siege corps
- Normandie (3 bns)
- Vieille Marine (3 bns)
- Auvergne (2 bns)
- Anjou (2 bns)
- La Reine (3 bns)
- Orléans (2 bns)
- La Couronne (2 bns)
- Artois (2 bns)
- Royal-Artillerie (1 bn)
- Médoc (2 bns)
- Provence (2 bns)
- Royal-Bombardiers (1 bn)
- La Marche (2 bns)
- Quercy (2 bns)
- Isle de France (2 bn)
- Bassigny (2 bns)
- Ponthieu (2 bns)
- Beauvoisis (2 bns)
- Swiss Castellas Infanterie (3 bns)
- Irish Bourke (1 bn)
- Desgrigny (2 bns) unidentified unit
- Blaisois (2 bns)
- Gâtinais (2 bns)
- Albigeois (2 bns)
- Irish Lee (1 bn)
- Labadie (1 bn)
- Des Vasieres (1 bn)
- Masselin (1 bn)
- Vallouze (1 bn)
- Sanzay (1 bn)
- Swiss Courten (1 bn)
- Houdetot (1 bn)
- Swiss Reding (1 bn)
- Noé (1 bn)
- La Baume (1 bn) supposedly disbanded in March 1714
- Belaffaire (1 bn)
- Tatlegrau (1 bn) unidentified unit
- Comte de Danois (1 bn)
- Fusiliers de Montagnes (5 bns)
On 9 July, the blockading naval squadron under du Casse dispersed a convoy of 50 ships heading for Barcelona, capturing about 20 of them. Only three ships braved the Bourbon fleet and made into the harbor.
12-13 July 1714: The First Parallel
Berwick completely rejected the strategy that the Duke of Pópoli had previously followed regarding the Castle of Montjuïc and turned his attention to the other side of the city in front of the Levant Wall and decided to focus the efforts of the assault on the north-eastern side of the city. According to the Dutch engineer Joris Prosper Van Verboom, who had stayed for a while in Barcelona and studied the state of the fortifications from within, this was the best place to attack due to the poor condition of the walls, the shallowness of the moat, the ease of digging where the marshy terrain facilitated excavation and the large interval between the Santa Clara Bastion and the Portal Nou Bastion.
In the night of 12 to 13 July, Berwick began the digging of the first parallel with 2,500 sappers. The next morning the trench was almost finished.
On 13 July, General Antoni de Villarroel ordered a sortie to attack and delay the Bourbon advance. The attack on the first parallel was carried out at noon by about 4,000 men and 500 horsemen under the command of Josep Anton Martíand, but though initially successful, this sortie caused far more casualties than expected among the Catalan troops without delaying the progress of the French engineers.
Soon after the sortie the digging of the second parallel was begun.
On 16 July, the second parallel was completed. Excavation work and the accuracy of the Catalan artillery in the hands of General Basset caused significant casualties among the Bourbons. However, Berwick placed a great number of batteries, mortars and heavy cannon in the second parallel that bombarded the wall and the bastions of Santa Clara, Levante and Portal Nou. Important breaches soon opened up in the bastions and, above all, in the long wall that linked the bastions of Santa Clara and Portal Nou: the so-called "royal breach".
Finally, the third and last parallel was opened, a few meters from the wall, and it was used by the Bourbon sappers to begin the excavation of tunnels in order to install mines at the foot of the bastions and walls. Meanwhile, Villarroel had ordered the construction of a makeshift wall inside the city that would serve to reinforce the outer walls in the event of an assault.
Battle of the Santa Clara Bastion
On 12 August, Berwick finally decided to storm the city, having suffered some 2,200 casualties in the work of expanding, consolidating and excavating the trenches. Thus began the Battle of the Santa Clara Bastion that lasted from August 13 to 14, and ended favourably for the Catalans, who after a hard struggle and many casualties repelled the enemy.
The Santa Clara Bastion was a pentagonal-shaped defensive work to the east of the city, between the bastions of Portal Nou to the north and the Levante to the south; where the Portal de Sant Daniel used to be. It must be taken into account that the bastions of the city of Barcelona were part of the expansion and modernisation of the defensive system of the city that took place in the mid-sixteenth century where, basically, the bastions were created and ditches (similar to medieval moats) were excavated between the wall and the open field of the Barcelona plain. The purpose of these bastions was to avoid blind spots when defending the wall.
The Santa Clara Bastion had been subjected to intense artillery attacks by Bourbon troops. The control of the bastion was key to being able to storm the city through the so-called "royal breach", located between the Santa Clara Bastion and the Portal Nou, without suffering significant casualties. The bastion had already suffered serious damage, as had the Sant Joan Tower, once suitable for placing artillery, which was completely destroyed. Different points of the bastion had breaches accessible to the assailants. However, the defenders had built barricades inside the bastion and a small house in the centre of the bastion could also serve for defence.
Assault of 12 August
Berwick's objectives were to make himself master of the Santa Clara Bastion and the Portal Nou Bastion and then penetrating the "royal breach". The Bourbon assault on 12 August concentrated on these two bastions. The Bourbons also used mines that they had installed under these bastions through underground tunnels. The assault lasted all day and soon turned into a bloodbath for the Bourbons. Although they came to control the two bastions for some time, the situation became unsustainable for the assailants and they eventually withdrew. In this sanguinary combat, the Catalans lost 78 men killed and 118 wounded, including commander Jordi de la Bastida who was mortally wounded; and the Franco-Spanish lost 900 men killed. The Company of Law Students (Estudiants de lleis, 8th company of the 1st batallion of the Coronela), enraged by the death of their captain, Professor Marià Bassons, undertook a bloody bayonet charge, causing carnage among the attackers in the Santa Clara Bastion.
The failed Bourbon assault on 12 August dealt a severe blow to Berwick, who decided to launch another attack 24 hours later while taking advantage of the night. The objective was the same: to capture the two bastions to facilitate penetration through the great breach. This time Berwick arranged everything for a long-running assault. The Bourbon vanguard consisted of approximately 1,500 men under Brigadier Sauneboeuf, who would be supported by mortars located in the rear of the assault. The defence of the Santa Clara Bastion was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Pere de Padilla, whom Antoni de Villarroel had appointed to replace Jordi de la Bastida. The defenders of the bastion numbered 170 men, mostly members of the Coronela, more precisely of the companies of Fusters (carpenters) and Escudellers (dishware makers); the 2nd and 5th companies of the 6th battalion.
Assault of 13 August
On 13 August at 10:00 p.m., the second assault on the Santa Clara Bastion began. Berwick feigned a general attack to confuse the defenders. The first fighting took place at the foot of the breach, where the French sappers had to clear the pile of rubble and make way for the rest of the Bourbon troops towards the interior of the bastion. They had to deal with a shower of bullets from the company of Fusters, which at first prevented the clearing of the breach by the sappers. The company of Escudellers and the Regiment of the Diputación for their part fired on the Bourbon troops in the moat, under the bastion, despite the darkness of the night. Finally after suffering heavy casualties, especially among the sappers, the Bourbon troops reached the first barricade and engaged in hand-to-hand combat. After nearly two hours of desperate fighting, the Bourbons seized the first two lines of barricades, conquering the front of the bastion. The Company of Fusters had been practically exterminated.
The survivors of the first fight, together with reinforcements, began to build another barricade touching the foot of the medieval wall and taking advantage of the inner moat. This facilitated the fire of the musketeers of the Escudellers and the Regiment de la Diputació, who, from the entrance to the bastion, fired at the Bourbon troops who were only half protected by the barricades. However, the Bourbons continued the attack with the intention of not giving the Catalans time to reorganise. The first attempt was to conquer the narrow passage that overlooked the Portal de Sant Daniel, protected by a barricade very close to another gap. There they were repulsed by a shower of bullets. Finally, and after repeatedly trying, the Bourbons occupied the hut in the center of the bastion. The French sappers expanded the barricades to better cover the advance of the troops.
After just over two hours of fighting, FML Antoni de Villarroel ordered the reinforcement of the Santa Clara Bastion to prevent a breakthrough. Berwick's feint of a general attack had delayed the defenders, as they protected places that were not threatened. Gradually, more troops joined the defenders, among them the regiments Immaculada Concepció and Nostra Senyora del Roser plus the Grenadiers of Santa Eulàlia. The entrance to the bastion was also reinforced with an entire battalion of the Coronela (about 700 men).
The next combat took place north of the new barricade, very close to the other barricade, mentioned above, which protected the passage to the Portal de Sant Daniel. Although this section was initially lost, the Catalan counterattack recovered it after a very hard fight where both sides suffered heavy casualties. This small success cancelled out all progress previously made by the Bourbons, who were now facing another failure like that of the previous day. It was at this point that mortars were installed to counteract those of the Bourbons. The Catalans began a new counterattack that managed to cross the enemy barricades, but was ultimately unsuccessful due to the number of casualties and the little progress it achieved. Francis of Castellví mentions in his chronicle that the counterattack was reckless on the part of the officers, who acted under direct orders from Villaroel.
The Catalans launched another counterattack, under Colonel Saavedra, through the moat from the Levante Bastion and Portal Nou. However, the trenches and barricades that the Bourbons had installed at the foot of the breach foiled this attack. With the failure of their two first counterattacks, Antoni de Villarroel and Rafael Casanova decided to postpone any additional counterattack until daybreak. Therefore, the barricades were ordered to be strengthened.
Counterattack of 14 August
During the continuous attacks and counterattacks, on 14 August at 4:00 a.m., an accident took place in the Catalan barricades that could have proved fatal. Sacks of hand grenades and a stack of gunpowder were ignited by musket fire. The explosion killed nearly 70 Catalans and panic spread in the trench, causing the defenders to flee. Some Bourbon soldiers, shocked by the great explosion, also fled, which prevented them to take advantage of the opportunity. When order on both sides was restored the fighting continued. Pere de Padilla was wounded and was replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel Antoni Díezand. On the Bourbon side, Sauneboeuf fell. Villarroel gave new instructions for the organisation of the barricades and the reinforcement of the defences and also relieved the exhausted companies that had fought all night, with fresh troops. The companies of Notaris Públics (public notaries) and Sabaters (shoemakers), the 1st and 2nd companies of the 3rd battalion, and the remnants of the decimated company of the Law Students entered the fray. Despite the night attacks, the Bourbon had only managed to make themselves masters of half of the bastion.
On 14 August in the morning, the Catalans made preparations for a counterattack on the barricades controlled by the Bourbons. Fresh troops were deployed and musketeers were hidden among the ruins of the old San Juan Tower. A simultaneous attack was organised across the moat, at the foot of the bastion, with about 500 men of the Coronela and a reserve of 300 men.
Around noon, the Bourbon renewed their assault. Five battalions of the Reales Guardias Españolas and Reales Guardias Valonas took part in this new attack. Almost simultaneously, the Catalans launched their counterattack to drive the Bourbons out of the bastion. Canister shots from the guns, fire from the musketeers located in the San Juan Tower and mortars caused significant casualties among the Franco-Spanish troops. The new barricade built by the Bourbon sappers, which went from north to south to protect the centre of the bastion on the flank, was the subject of the counterattack, which proved fruitful due to the significant casualties that artillery fire and canister shot had caused. The barricade was penetrated and a major hand-to-hand combat began for the control of that area. At the same time, the frontal barricade was also attacked. The conquest of the flank barricade was a success due to Bourbon casualties and because Bourbon officers focused on protecting the front barricade. Then began a pincer attack by the two Catalan forces against the central barricade, from the tip of the bastion, to support the counterattack through the moat. Eventually the gap in the bastion was blocked by defensive fire and the assaulting troops who remained in the bastion exterminated.
Berwick adopts a New Approach
The Battle of the Santa Clara Bastion had lasted about 16 hours and was, due its length, the number of casualties in proportion to the troops engaged and its cruelty, more bitterly contested than many field battles that had taken place during the War of the Spanish Succession. The casualty ratio was slightly higher on the Catalan side than on the Bourbon side due, above all, to the failed night-time counterattacks. After the battle, Berwick had to confess to the failure of his strategy with the loss of 10.8% of the total number of his troops since he had assumed command. A few days after the defeat Berwick sent a letter to Louis XIV reporting what had happened:
- «Your Majesty will see, as far as I am honored to tell you, that the enemies defend themselves as desperate, perhaps better than regular troops would; so that this work becomes serious and long, since it is not advisable to risk again an action of some importance before putting ourselves in a state of attacking the breaches of the place, since this could kill our troops and we would lose the best. We will move forward, as wisely as possible.»
The anger of the Franco-Spanish officers was great due to the two defeats in a row. Berwick ignored the requests that came to him to try again and decided to change his strategy and wear down the Catalan defences even more. A longer siege was planned, instead of the quick and forceful assault that had failed.
On the Catalan side, the casualties were also severe. A second attempted assault had been rejected and morale was high, but the numbers were worrying. Later, attempts would be made to break the land blockade in order to bring into the city troops from the interior of the country, including the partisans of Rafael Nebot and volunteers, but these attempts failed. The severe casualties of the battle of the Santa Clara Bastion were decisive in the final outcome of the siege.
The Duke of Berwick decided to extend the bombardment of the walls for a few more weeks to widen the gaps and not expose his troops to the carnage of the two failed assaults. The effective maritime blockade and the Marquis of Poal's failure to break the siege, placed Barcelona at the limit of its possibilities. Gunpowder reserves were meagre and food was scarce to the point where people died of starvation in the streets.
On 3 September, considering the desperate situation in the place, the Duke of Berwick proposed to open negotiations for the capitulation of Barcelona. The Chief Minister of Barcelona, Rafael Casanova presented a state of the situation to the assembly, announcing that the gunpowder reserve was still enough to sustain two or three days of combat, and trying to convince the 30 members of the Three Commons of the convenience of negotiating a twelve-day armistice. This proposal was rjected by the majority of the members of the assembly and, through Colonel Gregorio de Saavedra, the following text was sent to the besiegers:
- «The Three Commons have met, and having considered the proposition made by an Officer of the Enemies they answer that: they do not want to hear, nor accept any proposal from the Enemy.»
- — Josep Bellver Balaguer
Following this decision of the Three Commons, FML Villarroel resigned as general commander of the army and requested his evacuation from the city; the councillors announced to him that the next convoy from Mallorca was expected on the afternoon of 11 September.
General Assault of 11 September
State of Defences
By September 11, the defenders of Barcelona had prepared three lines of defence, with Montjuïc Castle being the last point of resistance.
First line of Catalan defence
After months of bombardment, the walls and bastions facing the Besòs River had several breaches and were seriously damaged. The attacks of mid-August had driven the Catalans out of the covertway and the gorge had become no man's land. The Catalan defences, and their state are described from the Portal Nou Bastion to the beach:
- In the Portal Nou Bastion, the Bourbon had made a breach in the front of the bastion (24 meters). The defenders built two parapets and a moat on the platform, and installed 5 guns on the wall and a battery of mortars near the embankment. In the curtain wall between the Portal Nou Bastion and Sant Pere Bastion, the defenders had erected three barricades, indicating that the defenders already anticipated that the Bourbon attack could hardly be contained to the Portal Nou Bastion.
- In the curtain wall between the Santa Clara Bastion and the Portal Nou Bastion, there was a 140 meters wide breach, the so-called "royal breach" and another breach (40 meters) near Sant Daniel. The defenders dug a mine under the "royal breach" and filled it with explosives. However, on the day of the assault, these mines did not explode because they had been damaged by the rains of the previous days.
- The Santa Clara Bastion had been badly damaged during combats in August and was accessible through a breach on its north face (16 meters). The defenders built two lines with beams and dug a moat.
- In the curtain of the wall between the Llevant Bastion and the Santa Clara Bastion there were two breaches of about 25 meters each: that of the Carnalatge and that of the mills.
- The north face of the Levante Bastion was damaged (25 meters) and could be accessed from the gorge. The defenders built two parapets and a moat.
- Along the coast the Santa Eulàlia Redoubt had been practically destroyed. This outwork was connected by a trench to the Llevant Bastion.
Second line of Catalan defence
Behind the wall, between the Portal Nou Bastion and the Santa Clara Bastion, the defenders had erected "La Travessera", a second wall with two small redoubts that was to act as a point of withdrawal for the defenders and contain the advance of the Bourbons if they managed to successfully enter the breaches. 22 iron guns were placed on the Travessera, as well as other small pieces of artillery. The defenders had also erected the "Travessera Petita" in the rear of the Llevante Bastion and the gaps in the Carnalatge and the Mills. The Travessera at the time of the assault did not represent a serious obstacle for the Bourbons, largely because it was incomplete. Although the convents of Santa Clara were not fortified, Sant Pere de les Puelles and Sant Agustí became important strongholds on the day of the assault and heavy fighting took place there. Between the wall and the sea, and taking advantage of the final stretch of the Rec Comtal, the defenders had erected a barricade with boats from the port.
Third line of Catalan defence
The third line was formed by the old wall of La Rambla, the different gates were reinforced with artillery pieces.
Catalan Order of Battle
Commander-in-Chief: The Mare de Déu de la Mercè (Our Lady of the Mercy), one of the two patron saints of the city since 9 September 9, symbolic both of the religious momentum the resistance had acquired and of the desperate situation. The general of the day and accidental head of defence at the time of the assault was General Bellver. Antoni de Villarroel rejoined his post at the start of the assault.
Summary: 6,295 men, including about 4,500 from the Coronela de Barcelona
- Fit for service: 3,877 men
- Sick or wounded: 2,418 mentioned
N. B.: Sanpere considers it exaggerated to number more than 150 horse fit for combat.
The defenders placed 1,150 men in the most compromised areas, supported by 850 men in nearby positions. In total 2,000 men, part of the other 1,800 men covered the rest of the perimeter of the city and the Montjuic Castle or were kept in reserve.
- Left Wing
- Sant Pere Bastion: Company of taverners (6th company of the 6th battalion) under Colonel Josep Ortiz
- Portal Nou Bastion: 2 companies of the Coronela, the 5th company of the 3rd battalion (flassaders et al.) and the 2nd company of the 5th battalion (ferrers and calderes).under Colonel Gregori de Saavedra. General Basset reinforced the bastion with five guns and a battery of mortars. In theory the bastion could have relied on the support of units quartered in the San Francisco Church, but on the day of the assault all these troops had been distributed along the line of defence. The remnants of the Nostra Senyora del Roser Infantry were deployed in support of the bastion.
- "Royal Breach": the breach was too wide and exposed to fortify it, it was only defended by the company of officers under Colonel of the reserve Balthazar Martin.
- Sant Daniel's breach: defended by Captain Antoni de Berardo and his company (Gerrers, Ollers, Matalassers and Perxers, the 4th company of the 5th battalion of the Coronela). Berardo also had 25 riflemen and 20 dismounted rifles.
- Travessera: it formed the second line of defence of the sector and was defended by 7 companies of the fifth battalion of the Coronela, 80 dismounted men from the Sant Jordi Cavalry, 40 riflemen, the survivors of the volunteer company of Jaume Mestres, the remains of the Immaculada Concepció Infantry and elements of the Santa Eulàlia Infantry, all under Colonel Paul de Thoar.
- Right Wing
- Santa Clara Bastion: 3 companies of the Coronela (the Freners, Teixidors de Lli and Corders de Cànem aka the 1st company of the 6th battalion and the 4th and 5th company of the 4th battalion); 70 regular soldiers and a squadron of the flying battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Antoni Díez d'Aux. It is estimated that the total number of troops was around 300 men supported by 6 guns.
- Curtain of the wall between the Levante Bastion and the Santa Clara Bastion: 300 men under Colonel Davila, distributed as follows:
- Carnade breach: blanquers (4th company of the 6th battalion), 20 riflemen, 30 soldiers and a squadron of the flying battalion.
- Mill breach: the company de velers (7th company of the 4th battalion), 50 riflemen, 30 regular soldiers, 25 dismounted and one flying battalion squadron
- Bastion of Levante: defended by 4 companies of the Coronela: Estudiants de Medicina, Filosofia i Teologia (9th company of the 5th battalion); that of Candelers de Cera i Pintors and the Argenters (1st and 2nd company of the 4th battalion); and that of Fusters (2nd company of the 6th battalion ); in total about 200 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Juan Antonio Mexicon
- Santa Eulàlia Redoubt: defended by 30 riflemen and the farmers' companies of Sant Martí and Sàrria, for a total of about 100 men under Lieutenant-Colone Esteve de Llerena. The redoubt had 4 small field guns.
- Boat barricade: 30 cavalrymen.
Franco-Spanish Order of Battle
Commander-in-Chief: Duke of Berwick
Summary: approx. 19,000 men.
Berwick planned to surround the defenders and force them to surrender. To do this, he intended to hit hard the centre of the defences, forcing the Catalans to concentrate most their forces in this sector, while his wings would open the gates of the wall to the cavalry and to the Chateaufourt's column. Once the cavalry had entered the place they would have to occupy the Rambla and close the trap. In this way the bulk of the defenders would be surrounded by the French infantry, which would occupy the front and the sea wall, while the cavalry would occupy the Rambla and the Spanish infantry, the wall facing Collserola.
- Right Wing and Centre under Lieutenant-General Dillon (20 bns, 20 grenadier coys, 500 sappers, 15 gunners and 10 miners for a total of approx. 12,900 men)
- Right wing under Mariscal del Castillo and Brigadier Puerto (7 Spanish bns, 200 sappers for a total of approx. 4,300 men)
Note: these battalions were accompanied by their respective grenadier companies. Their target was the 24 meters wide front breach in the Portal Nou Bastion which constituted Berwick's initial objective in the centre and right sectors of the defenders
- Castilla (1 bn)
- Murcia (1 bn)
- Saboya (1 bn)
- Asturias (1 bn)
- Reales Guardias Valonas (1 bn)
- Reales Guardias Españolas (2 bns)
- Centre under the personal command of Lieutenant-General Dillon (13 bns and 300 sappers for a total of approx. 8,600 men)
- Against the "Royal Breach" under Maréchal de Guerchois and Brigadier Reves (7 French bns and 3 grenadier coys)
- Provence (2 bns)
- Anjou (2 bns)
- La Couronne Infanterie (2 bns)
- I./Bassigny (1 bn)
- Grenadiers (3 coys from Quercy, Sanzay and Blaisois)
- Against the breaches of Sant Daniel (40 meters) and of the of Santa Clara Bastion (16 meters) under Brigadier Balincourt (2 bns)
- Artois (2 bns)
- Against the Carnalage Gap (24 meters) under Maréchal Lecheraine and Brigadier Alba (4 bns and 2 grenadier coys)
- Auvergne (2 bns)
- Normandie (1 bn)
- La Reine (1 bn)
- Grenadiers (2 coys from Beauvoisis)
- Against the "Royal Breach" under Maréchal de Guerchois and Brigadier Reves (7 French bns and 3 grenadier coys)
- Right wing under Mariscal del Castillo and Brigadier Puerto (7 Spanish bns, 200 sappers for a total of approx. 4,300 men)
- Left Wing under Lieutenant-General de Silly (10 bns, 10 grenadier coys, 600 dragoons and 300 sappers for a total of approx. 6,500 men)
- Against the Mill gap (26 meters) under Colonel Reed (8 bns)
- Vieille Marine (3 bns)
- Castellas (3 bns)
- Ponthieu (2 bns)
- Against the breach in the Levante Bastion (25 meters) under Brigadier Courty (3 bns, 2 grenadier coys and 100 dragoons)
- Médoc (2 bns)
- Quercy (1 bn)
- Grenadiers (2 coys from Talleyrand and Gouderol?)
- Against the Santa Eulalia Redoubt under Colonel Chateaufort (400 dismounted dragoons and 200 horse
- Against the Mill gap (26 meters) under Colonel Reed (8 bns)
- Reserve under the Duke of Berwick
- First Reserve (9 bns, 14 grenadier coys and 300 sappers for a total of approx. 6,700 men)
- Second Reserve (8 bns for a total of approx. 4,000 men)
The Bourbon Assault
On 11 September at 4:30 a.m., the Army of the Two Crowns launched the final assault on Barcelona. The signal to start the assault was three salvos of all the artillery pieces of the besiegers. The Bourbon troops advanced simultaneously along the front that stretched between the Portal Nou Bastion and the Santa Eulàlia Redoubt. The only point where they did not launch an assault was the "Royal Breach", for fear of the mines of the defenders. Simultaneously, numerous Bourbon units, especially cavalry, attacked along the entire defensive perimeter of Barcelona to create a diversion and to force the defenders to disperse their forces.
On the Catalan Left Wing
The Spanish troops of the Mariscal del Castillo failed to conquer the Portal Nou Bastion, despite having assaulted it four times. The cannons located in the throat of the bastion, the battery of mortars on the embankment and the fire of the Sant Pere Bastion caused carnage among the assailants. Berwick reinforced del Castillo's attack with the entire first reserve (11 bns and 8 grenadier coys), and ordered the second reserve to prepare. Some 11,000 men stormed the bastion, but still failed to evict the Catalans from the first barricade.
When they realised that the mines in the "Royal Breach" were not operational, the French entered the city at this point. General Bellver managed to drive the troops advancing coming from the "Royal Breach" back into the Portal Nou Street and barricades were erected to defend the area of Sant Agustí. The Bourbons failed to occupy this stronghold until the French advanced through the "Royal Breach" and attacked the defenders from the rear, forcing them to evacuate the stronghold.
The junction of the French troops, coming from the "Royal Breach", and the Spanish ones, advancing on the Portal Nou Bastion, forced the defenders to abandon the Portal Nou Bastion. Many of the defenders of the Portal Nou Bastion assembled on the barricades of the curtain wall. The besieged defended the barricades of the wall's embankment against 10,000 Bourbons, lost the first and second barricades, but managed to stop the Franco-Spanish advance in the third barricade with the help of the taverners' company. Bellver also ordered 70 of his men to occupy the Sant Pere de les Puelles Convent. The general sent another column, less numerous commanded by Sergeant-Major Joan Sebastià Soro, to reinforce the San Pedro Bastion, but the column failed to reach it before the Bourbons occupied it. The company of Taverners cleared its way at the point of the bayonet and met with the remains of the forces that had garrisoned the Portal Nou Bastion. Soro's troops joined those of the bastions in an attempt to stop the avalanche of assailant soldiers.
Bellver sent a third force, a few dozen men, to occupy the houses on St. Peter's Street and to harass the enemy's advance on the embankment from the rooftops. The company of Fadrins Sastre (7th company of the 6th battalion), posted in the Jonqueres Bastion, joined the fight over the wall. Soro and General Bellver's son turned two cannons in the curtain wall of Jonqueres and opened fire, loaded with canister; sniper fire from the flank and canister fire forced the Bourbons to stop and retreat.
With the reinforcements of Colonel Sebastià de Dalmau i Oller and Lieutenant Colonel Eudald Mas i Duran, the defenders counterattacked, occupied the Sant Pere Bastion and advanced towards the of Portal Nou Bastion, but could not maintain their gains and the Bourbons attacked the Jonqueres Bastion once more.
The shooters on Carrer Sant Pere Més Alt managed to blow up the powder in the Sant Pere Bastion, and the defenders seized this opportunity to counterattack and reached Sant Pere, but they were forced to retire. The fighting at Sant Pere Convent was intense and the defenders managed to hold their positions thanks to the arrival of reinforcements under Colonel Madrenas. In the Sant Augustine Convent, Colonel Thoar held only part of the convent, but managed to maintain the line in this sector.
In the Catalan Centre
The fall of the Carnalage gap made it difficult to defend the Santa Clara Bastion and the defenders had to retreat. French units attacking the Sant Daniel gap took advantage of the pressure on the bastion to break through the defences and penetrate into the city. Berwick decided not to attack the great breach out of fear of the Catalan mines. Balincourt, coming from the Sant Daniel Gap, occupied the end of the Travessera. Colonel Thoar's men, who had to defend themselves from fire from the embankment of the wall and on their right flank, retreated to the street heads of El Born and the Sant Agustí Convent. Balincourt's forces deployed to the right and linked up with the units sent to the great breach.
At this point the Bourbons realised that the gunpowder in the "Royal Breach" mine had been affected by the rains of the previous day and Berwick decided to send his troops through the gap. Bourbon troops continued to press on Thoar and deployed in front of the Portal Nou Bastion. Grenadier units advanced along Portal Nou Street to quickly occupy the City Hall.
General Bellverr reacted and decided to counter enemy movements in the Portal Nou area. Two dangers threatened the defenders, on the one hand the advance through the Portal Nou Street and on the other, the attack against the rear of the Portal Nou Bastion. Bellver sent a column of 150 men to Portal Nou Street, the column managed to drive the grenadiers back, and took cover at the end of the Travessera and from this point supported the men defending the bastion, who made their way out at the point of the bayonet.
Once the column reached its objective, it retreated orderly and fought the enemy along the Portal Nou Street. During this time General Bellver consolidated and fortified his positions in the neighbourhood of Sant Pere and El Born, and when the Bourbon vanguards reached the Catalan lines they were repulsed.
On the Catalan Right Wing
Chateaufourt, with his dismounted dragoons and cavalry, attacked the Santa Eulalia Redoubt. After resisting for a quarter of an hour, the defenders retreated orderly to the Levante Bastion. Chateaufourt then attacked the boat barricade, but was repulsed, and was ordered to leave a garrison in the redoubt and join the attack against the Mill gap.
Cilly had decided to concentrate all efforts on the mill gap. In addition to Chateaufort, Lecheraine's units were added in support of Cany. The defenders gave in at the third assault and retreated in order to the orchard behind the walls.
The Bourbons entered the city en masse, Chateaufort advanced along the embankment of the sea wall, while other forces attacked the flank of the Carnalage gap. In the Carnalage gap the French battalions suffered heavy casualties, largely due to flanking fire from the Santa Clara Bastion, and were repulsed four times. They had to wait for reinforcements to continue their attack. The defenders of the Carnalage gap retreated to the Santa Clara Convent, where they maintained a stiff resistance. The Santa Clara Bastion and Levante Bastion endured the Bourbon onslaught until the fall of the Mill Gap and the Carnalage. Lieutenant-Colonel Wahrelst with part of the Sant Narcissus Infantry, Muñoz Infantry and the remnants of the company of Law Students tried to prevent the Bourbons from surrounding their defenders, but failed to do so and was killed on the spot. The defenders of the bastions were defeated and had to make their way at the point of the bayonet, most of the defenders of the Santa Clara Bastion took refuge in the convent of the same name, while many of the defenders of the Levante Bastion were killed.
The survivors of the gaps and the bastion retreated towards the Carnalage building. The defenders were unable to hold the Travessara, in front of Chateaufort's column, which was advancing along the embankment of the wall. However, Chateaufort's column had to retire from the wall, under the fire of the artillery of Migdia Bastion, and the musketry from the houses and heads of the streets of La Ribera.
The Bourbons took refuge in the building of the Barracks where the artillery of the Migdia Bastion continued to cause them heavy casualties. The Marquis of Vilana reinforced the sector with the Catalan reserves posted in the shipyards and with civilian elements, supporting the action of the Ribera d'Ebre Infantry. The reserves under Villana numbered only 60 men and of these he assigned 30 to reinforce the defence of the Migdia Bastion. Shortly afterwards, Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Bordes arrived with the "Companyia de la Quietud". Villana assumed command of the sector and organized the defence, with the 300 survivors of the Levante Bastion and Santa Clara Bastion, who managed to reach his lines. On the Santa Clara side, the company of Public Notaries attacked the monastery and was practically exterminated. During the defence of the convent, Villana sent a few dozen troops to defend of the Pla d'en Llull. The attack by the Notaries bought the defenders valuable time and allowed Villaroel, who had rejoined the fight when he heard the artillery, to concentrate troops in the Pla d'en Llull and prepare for a counterattack under the flag of Santa Eulàlia.
The Counterattack of the Catalans
By 7:00 a.m., the defenders had contained the Bourbon assault, and despite having lost control of the wall between Sant Pere and the Levante Bastion, they still occupied a strong position. The morale of the fighters was so high that not only did they twice reject the summons of the assailants, but the high command of the defenders, aware that each minute the assailants were consolidating their positions, they decided to counterattack before it was too late.
Redoubling his efforts and recalling troops from the less threatened positions, Villaroel ordered a general counterattack. Loads of gunpowder were brought from Montjuïc and food and drinks were distributed among the combatants, who had just disembarked from the last convoy arriving from Mallorca. The resolution of the defenders was so high that the gates of La Rambla were armed in anticipation of the occupation by the enemy of the Gothic, El Born, Sant Pere and La Ribera neighbourhoods.
Catalan Left Wing
The hardest fighting took place on the Catalan left wing. The soldiers of the Coronela de Barcelona, along with nobles and civilians, all grouped around the Flag of Santa Eulàlia, carried by the Chief Minister in person with the assistance of the Count of Placencia and Josep de Pinós, launched an attack against the embankment of the wall from the Jonqueres Bastion towards that of Sant Pere. From the 6th "Our Lady of the Mercy" battalion of the Coronela, the companies of Mercers and Tenders de Tela (3rd company); Potters (5th company); Taverners (6th company); Espadrillers (8th company); and Blanquers (4th company); took part in this attack, being assigned to the guard of the bastions of Sant Pere, Jonqueres, Tallers and del Rei. Squadrons of the 3rd "Santa Eulàlia" battalion, posted at the portals of Angel, Sant Antoni and Santa Madrona, also participated in the counterattack.
The counterattack forced the Bourbons to retire inside the Sant Pere Bastion and they had to send a large reinforcement to defend the Jonqueres Bastion. Thirty horsemen of the Regiment de la Fé covered the flank of Casanova's advance through the orchards at the foot of the wall. The flag and its retinue had to retreat to the Sant Pere Bastion, which was occupied. They then launched another charge against the Portal Nou Bastion. The fighting around the bastion was fierce and only the great numerical superiority of the Bourbons prevented its capture. In this attack the Chief Counselor was wounded and had to be evacuated.
In the centre of the line, Colonel Thoar had been left with about 300 men, once General Bellver had allocated most of his forces to the left wing of the counterattack, to perform the manoeuvre ordered by Villaroel. Colonel Thoar charged and managed to recover the Sant Augustine Convent. The Bourbons withdrew to the Travessera where they managed to resist and organise a counterattack that recovered part of the Sant Agustí Convent.
Catalan Right Wing
Chateaufort's men were the most advanced Bourbon force in this part of the city, occupying the barracks and "Les Cavalleries", but were isolated from the rest of the attackers. Chateaufort's column, decimated by the artillery fire from the Migdia Bastion, could not maintain its position and, under pressure from the Marquis of Villana, had to retreat to the Levante Bastion. According to the marshal's plan, Villana's advance was to run parallel to that of Villarroel's forces on his left flank.
Villarroel assembled a detachment of cavalry and charged the French troops in Pla d'en Llull. The Bourbons, well entrenched, fired a volley, wounding Villarroel in the leg, he was removed from the line. The attempt to recover the square of Pla d'en Llull and the Santa Clara Convent failed. Villarroel's counterattack was supported by dismounted men from the Sant Jordi's Cavalry and members of the Sant Miguel Dragoons.
The Counterattack of the Bourbons
At 8:30 a.m., once the defenders had exhausted much of their forces and resources, the Bourbons seized the initiative again. Although the besiegers could still bring in fresh troops they began to show signs of exhaustion. The morale of the Bourbon camp was also affected by the harsh resistance and the sight of columns of wounded and piles of corpses, as their reserve marched to the front.
Catalan Left Wing
In this sector the fighting was very harsh, especially around the Sant Pere Convent. The Catalan troops were commanded by Captain Magi Baixeres, of the Ciutat de Barcelona Infantry, who died during the fighting. Among the forces that attacked the convent were element of the Santa Eulàlia Infantry. The control of this imposing convent gave command to the wall in this sector and was the keystone of the Catalan positions north of the Ribera neighbourhood. Eleven times the building changed hands before the defenders partially demolished it and entrenched themselves in the ruins.
In this sector, unlike what was happening on both flanks, Colonel Thoar managed to push the French back to the great breach.
Catalan Right Wing
The French managed to drive the defenders out of the small Travessera and of the buildings of the Fishmonger's and the Carnalage, but they could not overcome the barricade of the Pla de Palau.
The Call to Parliament
Around 2:00 p.m., the front stabilized. This allowed to evaluate the current situation. Antoni de Villarroel proposed two alternative outcomes: to start a double attack for the recovery of the Portal Nou Bastion and Llevante Bastion or the capitulation. Finally, most of the members of the Government, meeting at the Sant Antoni Bastion, decided to open negotiations with the Duke of Berwick.
Negotiations with the Duke of Berwick lasted until 12 September, because Philip V wanted nothing else than unconditional surrender. However, the Catalan authorities refused to accept any kind of unconditional surrender, and Berwick endorsed the following document:
- "Although those in Barcelona have waited too long to implore the clemency of the King, H. E. the Maréchal Duke of Berwick nevertheless wants to have the goodness not to use the last rigour of war against them. And, since he wants to preserve instead of destroying the subjects of S. M. C., he has judged on the purpose of granting by grace the life of all the inhabitants, and to other people who are in Barcelona. As well as preventing the city from being handed over to pillage, and that everyone can live in their own home as before, without being disturbed by reason of what they have now done against the King. As for the regular troops found in the place, they will be retracted at their discretion, in accordance with the customs of war, and, as occurs in similar cases, life will be granted to them. They will all retire tomorrow morning, at daybreak, into the Rambla, and then they will notify the Marquis of Guerchy, who will send guards to all the gates of La Rambla to prevent any soldier of the army from entering. He will also put guards in churches and convents. Today, at six o'clock in the afternoon, they will deliver Montjuïc, and the troops that will enter it will put guards in the places that will be requested, in order to preserve to the inhabitants the property they may have on Montjuïc, and they will immediately return the fortress. The arms of the regular troops, and of the other troops of the city, will be placed in the Palace to be sent to the officer whom M. de Guerchy will send from him. They will give a status of all the warehouses and all the horses of the cavalry. They will send an order to the commander of Cardona to hand over the castle."
Only in this way, on 13 September 1714, and rejecting an unconditional surrender, did the Catalan authorities agree that the Bourbon troops could enter Barcelona. Although the city was not looted, the agreements to respect the life and freedom of the defenders of Barcelona were not respected.
Assessment of the Siege
It is difficult to estimate the number of deaths, especially for the Bourbon army, due to the contradictions in the documents of the time. Historians estimate that the total number of Catalan casualties is around 6,850 people and the Bourbons close to 15,000(*) between 25 July 1713 and 11 September 1714. It is also known that during the siege some 30,000 bombs fell on Barcelona, completely destroying a third of the city and badly damaging another third.
After the capitulation, the Bourbon authorities, with Juan Francisco de Betteas as new governor, imprisoned 25 senior army officers who had defended Barcelona. FML Antoni de Villarroel was imprisoned for 11 years and General Basset would spend the rest of his life in prison. Very soon the demolition works of part of the city began for the construction of the citadel, once located in the current Ciutadella Park where the Parliament of Catalonia is located. The Citadel was a fortification destined not to the protection of the city but to its surveillance and control, something unprecedented throughout Europe.
Mallorca and the Pitiusas Islands fell a year later (on 11 July1715). All these territories were annexed to Castile, so that for them it had become a War of Occupation. Only Menorca, under the non-assimilating occupation of the British, would retain a certain degree of national freedom for a century.
In June 1707, the New Plant Decrees referring to the Valencian Country and Aragon were published and in 1716 those of Catalonia and Mallorca were published, which legally put an end to the political independence of the Crown of Aragon, prohibiting the use of Catalan and establishing a uniform institutional system in all Hispanic domains. With the Bourbon victory, in 1714 iron censorship was imposed and the press, without freedom, practically ceased to exist.
11 September became the National Day of Catalonia, which commemorates the fall of Barcelona in 1714. This also recalls the consequent abolition of Catalan civil institutions and liberties.
- (*) The "Deplorable History of the Catalans" speaks of 20,000 dead on the side of the attackers, not an improbable figure given that the Allies lost about 16,000 men during the considerably shorter siege of Lille (12 August – 10 December 1708).
This article combines information mostly translated from various articles of the Catalan Edition of Wikipedia dealing with the siege of Barcelona, namely:
- Setge de Barcelona (1713-1714)
- Batalla del Convent dels Caputxins
- Atac a la primera paral·lela
- Batalla del Baluard de Santa Clara
- Batalla de l'11 de setembre
- Antoni de Villarroel i Peláez
- Map of the Siege of Barcelona
Wordpress – Map of the Siege of Barcelona in 1713 and 1714
Anon. (Baker, J), The Deplorable History of the Catalans, London 1714
Cassinello Pérez, Andrés: El sitio de Barcelona: Septiembre 1714, in: Revista de Historia Militar, II extraordinario de 2014, pp. 13-38
Bruguera, Mateo: Historia del memorable sitio y bloqueo de Barcelona, Barcelona 1871
Heller [von Hellwald, Friedrich Jakob]: Der Feldzug der Jahre 1713 und 1714 in Katalonien, in Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift, 1845 Heft 5, pp.128-169
Machalicky, Ottokar: Der spanische Successions-Krieg. Feldzug 1713. Wien 1892, pp. 384–393.
Quincy, Charles Sevin de: Histoire Militaire Du Règne De Louis Le Grand, Vol. VII, pp. 337-378
Jörg Meier for the initial version of this article