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Battle of Turin
Part of the War of the Spanish Succession
BattleofTurin prince Anhalt.JPG
The attack of Prince Leopold of Anhalt Dessau
Date May 14 - September 7, 1706
Location Turin (present-day Italy)
Result Piedmontese-Austrian victory
Belligerents
Savoy Savoy
 Austria
 Prussia
France France
Spain Spain
Commanders
Victor Amadeus II of Savoy
Eugene of Savoy
Virico Daun
Leopold I, Prince of Anhalt-Dessau
Philippe II, Duke of Orléans
Louis d'Aubusson de la Feuillade
Ferdinand de Marsin
Sebastien la Preste de Vauban
Strength
30,000[1] 44,000/47,000
Casualties and losses
20,000


The Battle of Turin took place on 7 September 1706 west of the city of Turin during the War of the Spanish Succession. In a decisive victory for the Allied forces under Prince Eugene of Savoy and Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy (proclaimed King by the Treaty of Utrecht after the end of the war), the French siege of Turin was broken and the withdrawal of French forces from northern Italy began.

The French troops were under command of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, Louis d'Aubusson de la Feuillade and Ferdinand de Marsin, who was taken prisoner and died in captivity.

Contents

Background

At the outbreak of the conflict, Victor Amadeus, backed by his cousin Eugene, generalissimo of the Imperial troops, had taken the risk to side with Austria's Habsburgs since they were the sole power in Europe that could grant his state a total independence after a final victory. However, in case of defeat, Piedmont and Savoy would be wiped off the European maps.

King Louis XIV of France, allied with Spain, replied by invading first Savoy and then Piedmont itself. As the Spanish armies occupied Lombardy, Piedmont found itself surrounded from every side. Attacked by three armies, the Savoyards lost Susa, Vercelli, Chivasso, Ivrea and Nice (1704). The last stronghold was the Citadel of Turin, a fortification built in the mid-16th century.

In August 1705 the French-Spanish armies were ready to attack, but De la Feuillade deemed his troops insufficient and waited for reinforcements. This choice turned out to be wrong, as it allowed the Piedmontese to fortify the city up to the neighbouring hills and to prepare for a long siege.

The siege

The siege began on May 14. The Allied troops amounted to more than 40,000 men. Sebastien la Preste de Vauban, marshal of France and expert of siege techniques, proposed a side assault to the city, pointing out that the wide net of countermine galleries set by the defenders would present a tenacious obstacle. But La Feuillade had different ideas, and had 48 military engineers excavate a long series of trenches.

The besieged, supported by the active participation of the population to the battle, offered a strenuous defence, inflicting heavy losses on the attackers. Fighting continued during the whole summer of 1706.

On June 17 Victor Amadeus left Turin to meet Eugene, who was marching from the Trentino with the Austrian troops under his command. The city was handed over to the Austrian general Virico Daun. The heroic deeds of the defenders, including the famous sacrifice of Pietro Micca who had himself explode in a gallery together with a French party in order to save the citadel, seemed however in vain at this point, with the city totally surrounded and heavily shelled, and the French lines nearing the first bastions of the citadel.

Epilogue

On September 2 the two Savoyards analyzed the tactical situation from the hill of Superga, which commands Turin and the neighbouring area. While the defenders pushed back the last attack fueled only by desperation, they decided to outflank the besiegers with the bulk of the Austrian army, including part of the cavalry, in the north-western part of the city, which was deemed the most vulnerable part of the Allied front. The manoeuvre succeeded and the Austrians managed to set up camp between the Dora Riparia and the Stura di Lanzo rivers. Eugene declared:

These men are already half defeated.

The final clash began at 10 AM on September 7 with an attack against the entire front of the besiegers. The Prussian infantry led by prince Leopold von Anhalt Dessau, after three failed attacks, was able to break the French right. The regiment La Marine went out of ammunition and it was no more able to stop the Prussian infantry. Two attempts to relieve the pocket formed in this way was driven back, and the Allied army started to rout. When Daun ordered the city's garrison to break out against the left wing of the French-Spanish army, it started to disband, with hundreds of soldiers drowning in the Dora Riparia in an extreme attempt to save their lives. The retreat of the Allied army towards Pinerolo started in the early afternoon of the same day.

Victor Amadeus and Eugene entered the liberated city and assisted a Te Deum issued to celebrate the victory. On the Superga Hill the Savoyard dynasty built a Basilica where, every September 7, a Te Deum is still held.

The victory put an end to the war on the southern front. After the failed Siege of Toulon in the following year, no relevant military event took place there until the peace of Utrecht.

New researches

2006 was the third centenary of the siege and the battle of Turin. Three important study congresses and up to forty books were published on this occasion. One of them, Le Aquile e i Gigli. Una storia mai scritta[2], is particularly important, since it gives for the first time a realistic account of the military operation, eliminating the traditional, but unreliable, account of those events. In particular it points out how the firepower of the Prussian infantry and the shortcomings of the French logistics were the major causes of the defeat of the French-Spanish alliance.

Footnotes

  1. ^ Excluding the city's garrison.
  2. ^ Giovanni Cerino Badone, ed (2007). Le Aquile e i Gigli. Una storia mai scritta. Turin. ISBN 978887241512-2.  

External links

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