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War of the Spanish Succession

1701 to 1714

France and Spain — versus — Britain, Holland, Holy Roman Empire


Introduction : 


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 The taking of Gibraltar

The war of the Spanish Succession, fought from 1701 to 1714 was the largest scale European War since the Thirty Years War, fought fifty years earlier. While the Thirty Years War, which occurred near the beginning of the reign of Louis the XIV tended to expand French power in Europe at the expense of the Hapsburg Empire, the War of the Spanish Succession, had the opposite effect, curtailing French power, and partially reviving the fortunes of the Austrian Hapsburgs.

The issue at stake in the War of the Spanish Succession was one that had been apparent to all of Europe several decades. Charles II was the last in the line of Hapsburg kings of Spain, and it was known from his youth, that he was too sickly and weak to produce an heir. The heir apparent was his cousin, the son of Louis XVI, who was in a position to inherit both the French and Spanish Empires under a single crown. This outcome was unacceptable, not only to the Austrian Hapsburgs, but to virtually all the rest of Europe. Yet the French were already extremely influential in the Spanish court, and could not be dislodged without force. The British and Dutch had been fighting the French for the previous decade in the 'League of Augsburg', and were happy to make an alliance with the Austrian Hapsburgs to resume hostilities.

After eleven years of fighting all over western Europe, the grandson of Louis XIV was not displaced from the Spanish throne, but the cause of the Austrians had not actually been lost. The war had greatly weakened France, and cost her significant alliances and territories. Conceding the Spanish throne to a Bourbon heir, under conditions that the Spanish empire could never be united with that of the French was far more palatable to all concerned, that allowing a Bourbon king to reign in Spain under circumstances where Louis XIV could dictate terms and continue his wars of aggression. The war of the Spanish Succession succeeded in restoring a 'balance of power' to Europe, although not on the conditions originally sought.

The war was fought on several fronts. In the opening years, Austria succeeded in driving France out of Italy, while Britain and Holland fought the French in the low countries. The first critically important battle of the war was at Blenheim in 1704. In that battle, Britain and Austria joined forces to defeat the French in Bavaria. This essentially destroyed the French-Bavarian alliance, which the French were using to push further into German territory. From that time, most of the fighting in the north was in the region of the Rhine Valley, from Belgium to Strasbourg, and France was on the defensive instead of the offensive. There was also a front in Spain and a naval war. Britain dropped out of the war in 1712 and Austria made peace with France a year later.


Austrian Campaign in Italy : 1701-1706


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 Prince Eugene of Savoy in battle

The most important General of the War of Spanish Succession was Prince Eugene of Savoy. He was born a member of the French aristocracy but left as a young man to serve Austria in its war against the Ottoman Empire. There he distinguished himself and from the beginning of the war of the Spanish Succession, led a series of successful campaigns against France. His first campaign was in Italy, where between 1701 and 1706, he drove France entirely out of Italy, and claimed northern Italy for Austria. He attempted to get a foothold in southern France by attacking the seaport of Toulon in conjunction with the British, but that effort failed.



Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Chiari
Imperials defeat French
Fought September 1, 1701, between the Imperialists, about 28,000 strong, under Prince Eugene, and the French and Spaniards under the Duke of Savoy. The Prince occupied the small town of Chiari, where he was attacked by the allies, who, after two hours' hard fighting, were repulsed with a loss of nearly 3,000. Owing to the strength of their position, the Imperialists lost 117 only.
Battle of Carpi
Imperials defeat French
Fought July 1701, between the Imperialists under Prince Eugene, and the French army in Lombardy, under Marshal Catinat. The French were signally defeated, and, in consequence, Catinat was recalled from the command.
Siege of Cremona
Imperials defeat French
This city, held by a French garrison, was surprised by the Imperialists under Prince Eugene, February 1, 1702, The town was entered without the alarm being given, and many important officers, including Marshal Villeroy, were made prisoners. A portion of the garrison, however, still held out in the citadel, and made Eugene's tenure of the town precarious, and finally, on the approach of a relieving force under the Prince de Vaudemont, he was forced to withdraw his troops. The garrison lost 1,000 killed.
Battle of Santa Vittoria
French defeat Imperialists
Fought July 26, 1702, when 4 regiments of Prince Eugene's army, under General Visconti, were attacked by 15,000 French and Spaniards, under the Duc de Vendome. The Imperialists were forced to abandon their camp and retire with the loss of their baggage, but lost only 500 men, while their qualified success cost the allies nearly 2,000 killed and wounded.
Battle of Luzzara
Imperials defeat French
Fought August 15, 1702, between the French, 35,000 strong, under the Duc d'Anjou, and 25,000 Imperialists, under Prince Eugene. The Prince attacked the French in their entrenchments in front of Luzzara, and after a stubborn resistance, drove them out with a loss of about 4,000 men. The Imperialists lost 27,000 killed and wounded.
Battle of Cassano
Imperials defeat French
Fought August 16, 1705, between the French under the Duc de Vendome, with 35 battalions and 45 squadrons, and the Imperialists under Prince Eugene. The Prince, with greatly inferior numbers, attacked the French in a strong position, which he succeeded in carrying as the night fell. The Imperialists lost about 4,000; the French about 5,000.
Siege of Turin
Imperials defeat French
This place, held by an Imperialist garrison, 10,000 strong, under the Duke of Savoy, was besieged by a French army of 68 battalions and 80 squadrons, with artillery and engineers, under the Duc de la Feuillade, May 26, 1706. On June 17 the Duke of Savoy left the city to orgainse a relief force, Count Daun taking the command. The garrison held out stoutly till September 7, when the approach of a large relieving force under Prince Eugene compelled the French to raise the siege. About 5,000 of the garrison perished either in action or by disease. In the action which preceded the retirement of the French, the Imperialists lost 1,500,the French 2,000 killed and wounded and 6,000 prisoners.
Battle of Castiglione
French defeat Imperialists
Fought September 8, 1706, between the Imperialists under the Prince of Hesse, and the French under General de Medavi. The Prince was besieging Castiglione, when he was attacked by the French, and totally defeated, with a loss of 8,000 killed, wounded, and missing.
Siege of Toulon
Drawn Battle (British vs.French)
An attack was made upon the fortress by a combined Dutch and British fleet, under Sir Cloudesley Shovel, July 17, 1707. The allies failed to gain a footing in the town, but 8 French ships lying in the harbour and 130 houses were destroyed by fire.



Commander
Short Biography
Prince Eugene of Savoy One of the Greatest generals of the Hapsburg Empire. Led HRE during the War of Spanish Succession.
Duke of Savoy Duke of Sardinia who sided in the War of the Spanish Succession, first with France, then with Austria.
Marshall Villeroy French Marshall during the War of the Spanish Succession.


Allied Campain in Bavaria : 1702-1704


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 Battle of Blenheim

The electorate of Bavaria was an important ally of France. One of the first goals of the imperial alliance was to prevent France and Bavaria from joining forces and marching on Vienna. To this end, they sent an army into Bavaria. In 1704 the Duke of Marlborough, who had been campaigning in Belgium, and Prince Eugene, who had been campaigning in Italy joined forces and at Blenheim, and delivered the French and Bavarians a crushing defeat. As a result, Bavaria dropped out of the war.



Battle / Outcome
Description
Siege of Landau
Imperials defeat French
This fortress, held by a French garrison under M. de Melac, was besieged by the Imperialists, under Prince Louis of Baden, June 19, 1702. The garrison made a gallant defense, but was forced to surrender, September 10. The Comte de Soissons, elder brother of Prince Eugene, fell during the siege.
Battle of Speyer
French defeat Imperialists
Fought November 15, 1703, between the French, under Marshal Tallard, and the Imperialists, under the Prince of Hesse, each side being about 20,000 strong. After a severe engagement, the Imperialists were overpowered by the French cavalry, and totally defeated with a loss of 6,000 killed, wounded and missing. Among the prisoners was the Prince of Hesse.
Battle of Donauworth
Allies defeat French-Bavarians
Fought July 2, 1704, between the British and Imperialists under the Duke of Marlborough, and the French and Bavarians under Marshal Tallard. The Duke attacked the enemy's entrenched position at Schellenberg, in front of Donauworth, and drove them out, forcing them to abandon the town. The victors lost 5,374 killed and wounded. The French losses are unknown, but were probably heavier.
Battle of Blenheim
Allies defeat French-Bavarians
Fought August 13, 1704, between the British and Imperialists under Marlborough and Prince Eugene, and the French and Bavarians under Marshals Tallard and Marsin, and the Elector of Bavaria. The French numbered 60,000, the allies 52,000. Tallard had massed his best troops in the village of Blenheim, and Marlborough, seeing the weakness of his centre, hurled his cavalry against it, and cut the French line in two. Prince Eugene meanwhile had withstood the attack of Marsin and the Elector, and, after Marlborough's charge, he assumed the offensive, and the French right and centre were totally routed. The French lost 40,000, including 1,600 prisoners, amongst whom was Marshal Tallard. The allies lost about 11,000.



Commander
Short Biography
Marshall Tallard French General, captured at the Battle of Blenheim.
Prince Eugene of Savoy One of the Greatest generals of the Hapsburg Empire. Led HRE during the War of Spanish Succession.
Duke of Marlborough Most renowned general of his age. Prevailed against the French at the Battle of Blenheim.

Story LinksBook Links
Blenheim and After  in  Stories From English History: III  by  A. J. Church
Queen Anne, the Last of the Stuarts  in  Story of England  by  S. B.  Harding
Greatest General of His Age  in  Awakening of Europe  by  M. B.  Synge
Battle of Blenheim  in  Awakening of Europe  by  M. B.  Synge
Queen Anne and Marlborough  in  Tudors and Stuarts  by  M. B.  Synge




Allied Campain in the Low Countries : 1706-1712


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 The Duke of Marlborough as a young ensign

Following his great victory for the allies at Blenheim, Marlborough returned to the low countries and continued his attempt to drive the French out of Belgium. He succeeded in this effort and followed up his victory at Ramillies with a devastating rout of the French at Ourdenarde. France had now lost most of its territories in Germany and the low countries as well as Italy. Marlborough and Prince Eugene tried to press their victories at Malplaquet, which turned out to be the bloodiest battle of the war. The allies were victorious, but suffered such horrendous losses that the campaign to push further into France was abandoned.



Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Ramillies
Allies defeat French
Fought May 23, 1706, between the British and Imperialists, under Marlborough and Prince Eugene, about 80,000 strong, and the French, in equal force, under Marshal Villeroy. The allies drove the French out of Ramillies, their resistance on the whole being unworthy of them, and in the end they were disastrously defeated with heavy loss, 5,000 being killed and wounded, while 6,000 prisoners and 50 guns were taken. The allies lost less than 3,000.
Battle of Stolhoffen
French defeat Imperialists
Fought May 22, 1707, when Marshal Villars, with 45 French battalions, stormed and captured the lines of Stolhoffen, which were held by the Imperialists, under the Marquis of Baireuth. The French took 50 guns.
Siege of Bethune
Imperials defeat French
This small fortress, held by a French garrison of 3,500 under M. du Puy Vauban, was invested July 14, 1707, by the Imperialists, with 30 battalions under Count Schulemburg. Vauban made a most skilful and gallant defense, lasting 35 days, when, the garrison being reduced to 1,500 men, he was compelled to surrender. This little place cost the allies 3,500 in killed and wounded.
Battle of Oudenarde
Allies defeat French
Fought July 11, 1708, between 80,000 British and Imperialists, under Marlborough and Prince Eugene, and 100,000 French, under the Duke of Burgundy and Marshal Vendome. The French, who were besieging Oudenarde, raised the siege on the advance of the allies, and marched to meet them, but were totally defeated with a loss of 3,000 killed, 7,000 prisoners, and 10 guns. The allies lost 2,000.
Siege of Lille
Imperials defeat French
This city was besieged August 12, 1708, by the Imperialists, under Prince Eugene, and was defended by a French garrison, under M. de Bouflers, which after repulsing several determined assaults, surrendered October 25. The besiegers lost in the course of the siege 3,632. The French lost about 7,000.
Battle of Wynandael
British defeat French
Fought September 28, 1708, between the British, under General Webb, and the French under the Comte de la Motte. The French, with 40 battalions and 40 squadrons, attempted to intercept a convoy of supplies for the army besieging Lille, and were totally defeated, by a far inferior force, with a loss of 7,000 men.
Siege of Tournay
British defeat French
The town was besieged by the British, under the Duke of Marlborough, July 8, 1709, and was defended by a French garrison under M. de Surville. After 56 days of open trenches, the garrison surrendered, having suffered a loss of 3,000 men.
Battle of Rumersheim
French defeat Imperialists
Fought August 26, 1709, between the French, under Marshal Villiers, and the Imperialists, under Count Mercy. Mercy was defeated and driven out of Alsace.
Battle of Malplaquet
Allies defeat French
Fought September 11, 1709, between the British and Imperialists, under Marlborough and Prince Eugene, and the French, under Marshal Villars. Villars offered battle with the object of relieving Mons, which the allies were besieging, but while they were waiting for reinforcement from Tournay, he was enabled to entrench himself strongly on the ground he had chosen. After desperate fighting, however, the French position was carried from end to end, and they were driven out with a loss of 17,000 killed and wounded. The allies lost, according to most accounts, about 8,000, though some contemporaries assert that their losses were even heavier than those of the French.
Siege of Douai
Allies defeat French
This place was besieged by the allies under Prince Eugene, April 25, 1710, and was defended by a French garrison, 8,000 strong, under General d'Albergottf. The place was obstinately defended, numerous sorties being made, but, the French army being unable to relieve it, d'Albergotti was forced to surrender June 26. The besiegers lost 8,000 killed and wounded.
Battle of Denain
French defeat Allies
Fought 1712, when the camp of the allies, held by 10 battalions under the Earl of Albemarle, was attacked by 130 French battalions under Marshal Villiers. Prince Eugene made an effort to relieve the Earl, but was unable to cross the Scheldt, and the allies were overwhelmed by superior numbers, only about 4,000 making good their retreat. Five generals were killed or captured.



Commander
Short Biography
Duke of Marlborough Most renowned general of his age. Prevailed against the French at the Battle of Blenheim.
Prince Eugene of Savoy One of the Greatest generals of the Hapsburg Empire. Led HRE during the War of Spanish Succession.
Marshall Villeroy French Marshall during the War of the Spanish Succession.


Allied Campain in Spain : 1705-1714


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 The city of Saragossa

Early in the war, the Austrian forces, under Archduke Charles gained control of Barcelona. They held the city and most of Catalan for the duration of the war. In 1710, a new offensive was launched in Spain to try to forcibly place the Archduke Charles on the throne, but it was ultimately stymied. At this point, the British dropped out of the war, and even the Austrians declined to renew their effort to gain the throne. They continued to hold onto Barcelona until they were finally driven out by the French-Spanish, in 1714.



Battle / Outcome
Description
Siege of Barcelona
British defeat Spanish
This city, which was held for Philip V of Spain by a Spanish garrison, was besieged September 14, 1705, by the British under the Earl of Peterborough. After a short bombardment, the place surrendered, October 9.
Battle of Alcantara
British defeat French
Fought 1706, when a force of British and Portuguese under Lord Galway attacked and drove out of Alcantara the garrison, consisting of a portion of Marshal Berwick's army. Ten French battalions laid down their arms, and 60 guns were captured.
Battle of Almanza
French defeat British
Fought April 25, 1707, between the French under Marshal Berwick, and the British and Portuguese under Lord Galway and the Marques das Minas. Galway, though inferior in cavalry, attacked at first with success, but the Portuguese on the right broke and fled, and the British centre, attacked in front and flank simultaneously, was routed and forced to surrender. As a consequence of this defeat, the whole of Spain was lost to Charles with the exception of Catalonia.
Battle of Almenara
British defeat Spanish
Fought July to, 1710, when the British contingent of the Archduke Charles' army, under General Stanhope, attacked and defeated the Spaniards under Philip V, after severe fighting. So complete was the rout that Philip's army was only saved by the fall of night from complete destruction.
Battle of Saragossa
Allies defeat Spanish
Fought August 20, 1710, between 25,000 Spaniards, and a force of Austrians, British, Dutch and Portuguese troops, 23,000 in number, under the Archduke Charles. The Portuguese in the right wing gave way, leading a large force of Spaniards in pursuit, but the left and centre stood their ground, and finally repulsed the enemy, with a loss of 4,000 prisoners, besides killed and wounded. The Archduke at once took possession of Saragossa.
Battle of Brihuega
French defeat British
Fought 1710 between the British under Stanhope, and the French under the Duc de Vendome. Stanhope, who was retreating from Madrid to Catalonia, was surprised and surrounded, and, though he made a gallant stand, fighting till all his powder was spent, and then leading a bayonet charge, his force was at last reduced to 500 men, when he surrendered.
Battle of Villa Viciosa
British defeat French
Fought December 10, 1710, when 13,000 Imperialists, under Staremberg, retreating into Catalonia, after the defeat of Stanhope at Brihnega, were attacked by 20,000 French, under Philip of Anjou and Marshal Vendome. Staremberg's left wing was cut to pieces, but his right and centre more than held their own, driving back the French with considerable loss, and capturing some guns. Staremberg was, however, too weak to take advantage of this partial success, and continued his retreat after the action.
Battle of Barcelona
Spanish defeat Allies
French-Spanish forces surrounded the city in July 1713, but were not strong enough to take the city until they received reinforcements of 20,000 men. The assault resumed under the Duke of Berwick, and the city was taken on August 30, 1714.



Commander
Short Biography
Archduke Charles Austrian candidate for the Spanish throne, during the War of the Spanish Succession.
James Stanhope British statesman and general during the War of the Spanish Succession.
Duke of Berwick Illegitamate son of James II, and a General in the French Army.


Naval Campaign : 1702-1707


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 A sortie made by the garrison of Gibraltar

There were several important Naval battles fought during the war, the most famous of course, being the taking of Gibraltar by the British. The British were, as usual, dominant on the sea, and in addition to Gibraltar, won a terrific battle at Vigo Bay in which the sunk or captured the entire Spanish treasure fleet.



Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Vigo Bay
British defeat French
Fought October 12, 1702, when the combined fleet of 30 British and 20 Dutch ships, under Sir George Rooke, forced the boom at the entrance to Vigo Harbour and destroyed the French and Spanish fleet anchored therein. Of the men-of-war, If were burnt and 10 captured, while 11 Spanish galleons, with treasure, were taken. This action is generally called the affair of the Spanish Galleons.
Siege of Gibraltar
British defeat Spanish
This fortress was captured, July 24, 1704, by a combined British and Dutch fleet, under Sir George Rooke, from the Spaniards under the Marquis de Salinas. The resistance of the garrison lasted 2 days only, during which the allies lost 12 officers and 276 men killed and wounded.
Battle of Malaga
British defeat French
Fought August 13, 1704, between the combined British and Dutch fleets, consisting of 45 sail of the line, under Sir George Rooke, and the French fleet of 53 line-of-battleships, under the Comte de Thoulouse. The French admiral was endeavoring to effect a junction with the Spanish fleet, which was engaged in the siege of Gibraltar, and was brought to action by Sir George Rooke off Malaga. The fighting was severe, and though no ships were lost on either side, the British gained an important strategic victory as the junction of the two hostile fleets was prevented. The British lost 6 officers and 687 men killed, and 18 officers and 1,645 men wounded. The French lost 191 officers and 3,048 men killed and wounded.
Battle of Alicante
British defeat Spanish
On June 29, 1706, Alicante was taken by a British squadron of 5 ships under Sir George Byng. The fleet attacked the city walls, while the suburbs were occupied by a landing party of marines under Sir John Jennings. The place was captured with a loss to the British of only 30 killed and 80 wounded.



Commander
Short Biography
Sir Georege Rooke English Naval commander during the War of the Spanish Succession. Governor of Gibraltar.

Story LinksBook Links
Spanish Bourbons  in  Romance of Spanish History  by  J. S. C. Abbott
Gate of the Mediterranean  in  Stories From English History: III  by  A. J. Church
Rock of Gibralter  in  Historical Tales: 7—Spanish  by  Charles  Morris




War of the Quadruple Alliance : 1718-1720


A few years after the close of hostilities in the War of the Spanish Succession, a new conflict arose over the Spanish Empire's claim to Sicily. France, along with Britain, Holland, and the Holy Roman Empire joined forces and insisted that Spain withdraw from Sicily and Sardinia. Spain relented after losing several battles.



Battle / Outcome
Description
Battle of Cape Passaro
British defeat Spanish
Fought July 31, 1718, between a British fleet of 21 ships under Sir George Byng, and a Spanish fleet of 29 ships under Don Antonio Castafleta. Admiral Byng attacked the Spaniards in the Straits of Messina, and, after a very severe action, in which both sides lost heavily, captured or destroyed no less than 15 of the Spanish ships. Castaneta died of wounds received in the action. This battle is also known as the Battle of Messina.


Map Links
Battle of Ramilles
Battle of Blenheim
Battle of Blenheim


Image Links
The Taking of Gibralter  in Stories From English History: III Battle Blenheim  in Famous Men of Modern Times Destruction of the Spanish fleet in the Mediterranean, 1719  in Greatest Nations: Spain
The English bombardment of Gibralter  in Greatest Nations: Spain Prince Eugene before the battle of Malplaquet.  in Prince Eugene