Tercio viejo del mar océano de infanteria napolitana

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Hierarchical Path: War of the Spanish Succession (Main Page) >> Armies >> Spanish Army (Bourbon) >> Tercio viejo del mar océano de infanteria napolitana

Origin and History

The unit was raised on 1 September 1572 as the Tercio viejo de la armada del mar océano de infanteria napolitana (old tercio of Neapolitan infantry of the navy). On 8 September, it embarked aboard the fleet to protect Malta against an imminent Turkish attack. To do so, it operated at Corfu and in Morea (Peloponnese Peninsula) against Navarino before retreating to Messina in front of superior Turkish forces. In 1574, the tercio took part in the conquest of Bizerte, in present-day Tunisia, and operated against the Kerkennah Islands.

In 1601, the tercio took part in an ill fated expedition against the African coasts. The Spanish fleet was dispersed by a tempest and had to return to Italy. In 1606, the tercio served in a campaign in Albania against the Turks. On 4 August, it sailed from Naples. On 7 August, it disembarked near Durazzo (present-day Durrës) which was captured and sacked. In 1608, the tercio took part in the capture of Larache in Morocco. In 1609, it was part of the Spanish troops who conquered the Island of Majorca. In 1612, it took part in a new expedition against the Kerkennah Islands. In 1614, part of the tercio was involved in the capture of Oneglia while another one took part in the naval battle against the Turks near Malta. In 1616, the tercio took part in naval operations against the Turks.

In 1625, the tercio sailed for South America where it took part in the expedition against the Dutch who had previously captured the establishment of San Salvador in Brasil. On 2 April, the tercio disembarked in front of San Salvador, repulsed a Dutch attack against the Convent of San Benito, opened the trenches and captured the town on 1 May. It then returned to Spain and arrived at Málaga on 24 October. In 1626, the tercio was transferred from Málaga to Cádiz.

In 1638, the tercio defended the town of San Salvador in Brasil against the enterprises of a Dutch expedition who laid siege to the place on 16 March. On 18 May, the Dutch launched an assault on the San Antonio Gate and the Spanish defenders would have yielded to greater numbers without the intervention of the tercio. The Dutch were driven back and lifted the siege on 26 May.

On 14 June 1646, the tercio was aboard the Spanish fleet who fought the naval battle of Orbetello against the French. In June 1647, it relieved Lerida besieged by a French force. It was then transferred to Minorca to submit the town of Mahon who had rebelled. On 5 October, the tercio disembarked near the town and encircled it with siege works. On 6 April 1648, Mahon was finally stormed. In 1651, during the siege of Barcelona, the tercio patrolled the coast and secured the lines of communications of the Spanish army. In 1660, it took part in operations at the mouth of the Tagus River.

On 16 October 1668, the tercio was reorganised in 8 companies of 90 men each. On 13 July 1669, it incorporated the Neapolitan tercio of Don Pablo Gualtieri. It now consisted of 10 companies of 100 men each.

In 1675, the tercio took part in the defence of Barcelona against a French army. It then sailed to Cádiz.

In 1685, the tercio first sailed to Portolongone on the Island of Elba. It then sailed to Naples and finally sailed back to Cádiz. In 1688, it reinforced the garrison of Melilla. In 1689, it relieved the city of Larache threatened by Arab forces. However, the latter laid siege to Larache which finally had to surrender. The Spanish troops became prisoners of war. In 1691, the prisoners were brought to Algiers and freed. The tercio was then brought back to Spain. In 1692, the Navy wanted to disband the tercio but the protests of Don Juan Bautista Visconti who commanded the unit finally reverted the decision.

In 1694, the tercio was back to Africa where it defended Ceuta against a large Moroccan army who besieged it. In 1697, the tercio was transferred from Ceuta to Barcelona which was threatened by the French army of the Maréchal de Vendôme. On 10 August, the Spanish force defending Barcelona capitulated and the tercio sailed for Málaga. In 1699, the tercio received a few hundreds Italian recruits to replenish its ranks.

On 28 February 1705, during the reign of Philip V the first Bourbon king of Spain, the tercio ceased to be associated to the Navy and became an integral part of the army.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, the unit was under the command of:

  • from at least 1692: Don Juan Bautista Visconti
  • from 1703: Don Blas Dragonetti
  • from 28 October 1709: Don Andrés Aflitto

In 1718, the regiment was renamed “Regimiento Voluntarios de Galicia”.

Service during the War

In 1705, the tercio was transferred to the army and reorganised as a regiment. It then served in Spain where it joined the Army of the Extremadura.

On 15 December 1706, the regiment took part in the capture of Alcantara.

A decree of 28 February 1707 abridged the name of the unit to “Regimiento de Nápoles”.

In 1709, the tercio took part in the Spring campaign. On 7 May, it was at the victorious Battle of Gudiña. On 9 July, a second battalion was added to the regiment.

In 1710, the tercio served in Extremadura.

In August 1713, the tercio was ordered to march from Villanueva de la Serena, where it was cantoned, to Aragon. It then joined the Army of Catalonia and garrisoned Tortosa.

In 1715, the regiment was transferred from Tortosa to Barcelona where its second battalion was disbanded.


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Uniforms of officers differed from those of privates and NCOs by the finer material used. Their waistcoat, saddle cloth and housings were edged with a wide golden braid.

In the infantry, officers wore a silver or gold gorget and a spontoon.

The regulation of 30 December 1704 specified the distinctive of each military rank:

  • colonel: a baton with a gold knob
  • lieutenant-colonel: a baton with a silver knob
  • sargento mayor: a baton with a silver topped knob
  • captain: baton as worn under the reign of the Habsburg
  • lieutenant: baton as worn under the reign of the Habsburg
  • sub-lieutenant: baton with a horn band and a silver ring


The regulation of 30 December 1704 specified the distinctive of each military rank:

  • sergeant : baton without knob and halberd
  • mariscal de logis (quartermaster): small white woolen epaulette
  • brigadier: swagger stick
  • corporal of squadron: swagger stick
  • second corporal of squadron (rank suppressed in 1706): swagger stick


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This article is mostly made of abridged and adapted excerpts from the following books which are now in the public domain:

  • Clonard, Conde de, Historia Orgánica de las Armas de Infantería y Caballería, vol. VIII, Madrid, 1851-62, pp. 151-167