Online Encyclopedia

AND MILITARY OPERATIONS IN SPAIN NAVA...

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 608 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
AND MILITARY OPERATIONS IN SPAIN NAVAL OPERATIONS , The war of the Spanish succession affected all the nations of western, northern and central Europe in a greater or less degree, but that part of it which was fought out on the soil of Spain lay aside from the campaigns in Flanders, Germany and Italy. The purely Spanish campaigns had a close connexion with the movements of the fleets, and the two may be conveniently taken together. The naval war was superficially somewhat wanting in interest. Louis XIV., having to support armies of unprecedented size to contend with the forces of the Grand Alliance, and having also to meet the immense cost of the support of his court and the construction of palaces, was compelled to neglect his navy. Except therefore in 1704 he made no attempt to oppose the fleets of the allies with equal forces at sea. The honour of the French flag was chiefly maintained by the privateers who showed high courage and much skill. Some of their enterprises were undertaken with well-appointed squadrons, and attained to the dignity of regular operations of war. When the Grand Alliance was formed on the 7th of September 1701 a French naval force under M. de Chateaurenault was in the West Indies. Its avowed purpose was to cover the arrival in Europe of the Spanish treasure ships. The secret intention of King Louis XIV. was that the treasure should be brought into a French port, and used by him for the general advantage of the house of Bourbon. On the 12th-of September a British squadron of to ships commanded by Admiral Benbow was sent to the West Indies to intercept Chateaurenault, and carry out other attacks on the French and Spaniards. Benbow, who . was reinforced in the West Indies, did not intercept Chateaurenault, and his cruise was rendered of no effect by the gross misconduct of most of his captains, who refused to support him in an action with a French squadron under M. Du Casse near St Martha on the loth of August 1702 and subsequent days, He was himself mortally wounded, but lived long enough to bring his captains to court martial. Two of them were shot for cowardice. The treasure fleet sailed for Europe only to fall into the hands of the allies at Vigo. On the 1st of July 1702 a powerful. combined fleet of 30 British sail-of-the-line under Sir George Rooke, and 20 Dutch under Admiral Allemonde sailed from Spithead carrying 5000 troops. The general command was given to the duke of Ormonde. The purpose of this expedition was to occupy Cadiz and encourage a rising in Andalusia on behalf of the Habsburg candidate. It reached Cadiz on the 22nd of August, but the inhabitants and the garrison remained loyal. The leaders of the expedition quarrelled with one another and the soldiers aroused the bitter indignation of the inhabitants by plundering the small towns of Santa Maria and Rota. On the 3oth of September the expedition sailed away. Information sent by the British minister at Lisbon that Chateaurenault had put into Vigo reached them at Lagos. The duke of Ormonde and his colleagues decided to attack the treasure fleet. On the 22nd of October they forced the boom laid by the enemy between the inner and outer harbours of Vigo, and the treasure fleet was destroyed, but the bullion had been landed. During 1703 the " grand fleet " of the allies, i.e. their main force in European waters, entered the Mediterranean to carry help to the insurgent Protestants in the Cevennes, but effected nothing of importance. Portugal having now joined the Alliance, it was decided to make a serious effort in Spain. A combined fleet carrying 4000 Dutch and 8000 British troops, and conveying the archduke Charles, claimant of the Spanish throne, sailed from Spithead on the 11th of February 1704. Portugal undertook to provide 30,000 troops to co-operate with the British and Dutch who were landed at Lisbon on the 8th of March. The operations on land were for the most part languid. The duke of Berwick who commanded the Bourbon forces on the. Spanish frontier formed a vigorous plan for the invasion of Portugal. One Spanish force under Don Francisco Ronquillo was to threaten Beira Alta at Almeida. He himself entered Beira Baixa by the north bank of the Tagus. The prince of Tzerclaes was to have advanced from the south to meet Berwick at Villa Velha. But though Berwick achieved some success, and though both the Dutch general Fagel who operated on the north of the Tagus, and the British general, the duke of Schomberg; who was stationed on the south, proved indolent and incapable, the invasion failed. Ronquillo and Tzerclaes failed to support Berwick, and the newly levied Spanish troops proved unsteady. Fagel was surprised and taken prisoner with 2000 men at Sobreira Fermosa, and some of the frontier posts remained in Berwick's hands when the heat from which the British and Dutch soldiers suffered severely suspended operations. At sea, however, a material success was gained. Sir George Rooke went on from Lisbon accompanied by Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, to Barcelona. The prince who had been governor of Catalonia, believed that he could bring about a rising in the province in favour of the Habsburg cause. As the fleet carried no considerable body of troops, Rooke and Hesse-Darmstadt failed to persuade the Catalans to act. They were embarrassed by the knowledge that the count of Toulouse, a natural son of Louis XIV., the admiral of France, who had sailed from Brest on the 6th of May with 23 sail-of-the-line had entered the Mediterranean, and had reached Toulon in June. In expectation of an attack by the united fleets of Brest and Toulon, the allies fell back to the straits. Having obtained information that Gibraltar (q.v.) was not sufficiently garrisoned, they attacked and took it on the 3rd of August. On the 24th the count of Toulouse, came to the relief of the fortress with 50 sail-of-the-line, and 24 galleys. He engaged the allies, 62 British and Dutch line of battleships in all, off Malaga. The engagement was a cannonade accompanied with great loss of life, but without manoeuvring on either side. The French retired to Toulon, and the allies remained in possession of Gibraltar. An attempt of the Spaniards to retake it, made at the end of 1704 and beginning of 1705 was baffled by the resolute defence of the prince of Hesse-Darmstadt, and the relief afforded to the garrison by the squadron of Sir John Leake, who was left on the coast of Portugal, when Sir George Rooke returned to England. The events of 1704 had persuaded the allies to make more serious efforts to push the war in Spain. The duke of Schomberg was removed from the command of the troops in Portugaland replaced by the earl of Galway, a French Huguenot exile. But the main., attack was made, and the first successes were achieved on the east coast of Spain. On the 3rd of June 1705 Charles Mordaunt, earl of Peterborough, was sent with a commission to command both the fleet and the army, and to promote a rising in favour of the Habsburg, or Austrian party. He was joined by the archduke at Lisbon, and by the prince of Hesse-Darmstadt at Gibraltar. The truth in regard to the operations which followed has been very much obscured. Peterborough, a man of much erratic cleverness, but vain, spiteful and absolutely indifferent to truth, successfully represented himself as a species of hero of romance who won the most astonishing victories in spite of want of means, and of the ill will or incapacity of his colleagues. Critical investigation has destroyed much of the showy edifice of fiction he contrived to erect. The substantial facts are that after some operations on the coast of Valencia, which led to an insurrectionary movement in favour of the archduke, Barcelona was attacked and taken between the 13th of September and the 9th of October. The prince of Hesse-Darmstadt was killed during the siege. All the east of Spain, the former kingdom of Aragon, which was at all times restive under the supremacy of Castile, now pronounced more or less openly for the Austrian party. The fall of Barcelona gave a severe shock to the Bourbon king. He came in person with Marshal Tease who had replaced the duke of Berwick, and endeavoured to retake the town early in April 1706. The brutality with which Tease treated the people of Aragon and Catalonia raised the country against the Bourbon king. The British relieved Barcelona on the 9th of May, and Philip V. was compelled to retreat across the Pyrenees to Perpignan. In the meantime the withdrawal of troops from the Portuguese frontier for service in Catalonia, had opened the way for an invasion of Castile by the allies, British, Portuguese and Dutch. They occupied Madrid on the 25th of June 1706, and the queen who acted as regent in the absence of her husband retired to Burgos. But the success of the allies was merely apparent. The appearance in their midst of an invading army of Portuguese and heretics roused the national feeling of the Castilians. They rallied to the Bourbon cause. As in the later Peninsular War, guerrillero bands sprang up on all sides, and they found capable leaders in Vallejo and Bracamonte. The duke of Berwick, who was sent back to Spain, collected an army, and soon the allies, who were distressed by want of provisions and bad health, were forced to evacuate Madrid. They moved on Guadalajara to meet the archduke who was advancing from the east. Berwick outmanoeuvred them, and forced them to retreat on Valencia. In February 1707 they were reinforced by troops brought by the fleet and advanced in April. On the 25th of the month they were defeated by the French and Spanish troops at Almansa in the province of Alicante, with the loss of all their infantry. From this date till 1710, the land war in Spain remained stationary. The Bourbon king was master of the greater part of Spain, including Aragon. His generals retook Lerida on the Catalan frontier, and on the Portuguese frontier at La Gudina near Badajoz, on the 7th of May 1709, a Spanish army under the Marques de Bay defeated an Anglo-Portuguese army under the earl of Galway. Yet the Austrian party held Catalonia and Valencia, and the financial distress of the Spanish government, aided by the disorganized state of the administration, rendered a vigorous offensive impossible. By 1710 the French king had been reduced to great distress, and was compelled to make at least a show of withdrawing his support from his grandson Philip V. The allies decided to advance from Catalonia, a course which was strongly urged by General Stanhope (afterwards Earl Stan-hope), who commanded the British troops. He had served in subordinate rank from the beginning of the war, and had gained some reputation by the capture of Port Mahon in 1708. Stan-hope's energy overcame the reluctance of the Imperialist general Guido Starhemberg, who commanded the German troops of the archduke. The allies advanced and for a time seemed to carry all before them. The Spaniards were defeated at Almenara on the 27th of July 1710, and before Saragossa on the 20th of August. On the 21st of September the archduke entered Madrid. But the invasion of 1710 was a repetition of the invasion of 1706. The 23,000 men of the allies, reduced by a loss of 2000 in the actions at Almenara and Saragossa, by casualties in constant skirmishes with the guerrilleros, and by disease, were absolutely incapable of occupying the two Castiles. The Portuguese gave no help. The Spaniards were reorganized by the duke of Vendome, who was lent to King Philip V. by his grandfather, and were joined by soldiers of the Irish brigade, and by some Frenchmen who were allowed, or secretly directed, to enter the Spanish service. The position of the allies at Madrid, which was deserted by all except the poorest of its inhabitants, became untenable. On the 9th of November they evacuated the town, and began their retreat to Catalonia. The archduke left the army with 2000 cavalry, and hurried back to Barcelona. The rest of the army marched in two detachments, the division being imposed on them by difficulty of finding food. General Starhemberg with the main body of 12,000 men, was a day's march ahead of the British troops, 5000 men, under Stanhope. Such a disposition invited disaster in the presence of so capable a general as Vendome. On the 9th of December he fell upon General Stanhope at Brihuega, and after hard fighting forced him to surrender. Starhemberg, who received tardy information of the peril of his colleague, marched back to support him, and fought a drawn battle at Villa Viciosa, on the 11th. The fruits of victory fell to Vendome, for the Imperialist general was compelled to continue his retreat, harassed at every step by the Spanish cavalry and irregulars. His army was reduced to 7000 men when he reached Barcelona. The disastrous result of the campaign of 1710 proved to demonstration that it was impossible to force the archduke on the Castilians by any effort the allies were prepared to make. They remained quiescent at Barcelona till they evacuated the country altogether on the Peace of Utrecht. The Catalans, though deserted by their allies, continued to fight for their local franchises which had been declared forfeited by the victorious Bourbon king. Barcelona was only subdued on the 12th of September 1714, after a siege of great length and extraordinary ferocity, by the united exertions of the French and Spanish troops under the command of the duke of Berwick. The naval operations, apart from the transport and support of the troops in Spain, were more numerous than memorable. The overwhelming superiority of the allies alone enabled them to maintain the war in the Peninsula, but as they met no serious opposition except in 1704, there is nothing to record save their successive cruises. In 1707 a British and Dutch fleet under Sir Cloudesley Shovel aided the Imperialists in the unsuccessful siege of Toulon. The action of the allied navy was in fact as decisive as the naval strength of Great Britain was to be in the later struggle with Napoleon. But it was less brilliant. The many expeditions sent to the West Indies rarely did more than plunder coast towns or plantations in the French islands. An exception was indeed provided by the British admiral Sir Charles Wager, who in May 1708 destroyed or captured a whole squadron of Spanish treasure ships near Cartagena in South America. The loss of the treasure was a heavy blow to the government of Philip V. and had much to do with his inability to follow up the victory of Almansa. On the whole however neither the British nor the Dutch achieved any material success against the French in America. One powerful British combined force, which was sent against Quebec in 1711, was compelled to return by the shipwreck of a number of the vessels composing it at the mouth of the St Lawrence on the 21st of August. The French found some consolation for the weakness of the royal navy in the daring and the frequent success of their privateers. They were indeed the finest operations of the kind recorded in naval warfare. As the British and Dutch took measures to guard against capture of their merchant ships by sailing in well protected convoys, the French combined their privateers into squadrons and attacked the guard with great vigour. On the loth of October 1708, aattacked near the Lizard, and was almost wholly destroyed or captured by Duguay Trouin and Forbin with 12 smaller vessels. This was but one example of a number of operations of the same character by which the trade of Great Britain and Holland was hampered. The most signal single achievement of the privateers was the capture of Rio de Janeiro from the Portuguese in September 1711 by a" fleet of 6 sail-of-the-line and 6 frigates with corsairs. The royal ships were equipped as a speculation by Duguay Trouin and the shipowners of St Maio. The booty taken gave a profit of 92 % on the capital invested.
End of Article: AND MILITARY OPERATIONS IN SPAIN NAVAL OPERATIONS
[back]
NAVAL
[next]
NAVAL STRATEGY AND

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.