Siege of Cuneo
The siege of Cuneo took place on June 28, 1691 during the War of the Palatinate Succession in Savoy , in the north of what is now Italy . The siege was part of the campaign of Louis XIV against Viktor Amadeus II of Sardinia , the Duke of Savoy, who had sided with the Augsburg Alliance the year before . With the siege, Louis XIV wanted to gain a foothold in Piedmont to ensure that Marshal Catinat's army could winter east of the Alps . Due to the incompetence of the two French commanders and the timely arrival of relief troops, the siege turned into a complete disaster, which ended with the loss of between 700 and 800 men for the French. Although French troops had taken Nice in the west and Montmélian in the north, Catinat's poorly equipped army was forced on the defensive. As a result, Louis XIV made a generous offer of peace, but the Duke of Savoy believed himself strong enough, thanks to the support from the Holy Roman Empire , to continue the fighting.
Viktor Amadeus II , the Duke of Savoy, attempted in June 1690 to free himself from French rule and therefore joined the Augsburg Alliance . A first campaign against the French under the command of Catinat ended with a clear defeat in the Battle of Staffarda on August 18, 1690. As a result, Catinat was able to take various other cities in the region from the French main base in Pinerolo . Nevertheless, due to communication problems and supply bottlenecks, the French were forced to withdraw from Piedmont at the end of 1690 and seek refuge in their winter quarters west of the Alps.
In March 1691, just after the end of winter, Catinat crossed the border with the county of Nice to attack the southern coastal cities of Nice and Villefranche . The capture of these cities was necessary because they could have served the allies of the Augsburg Alliance as a stepping stone to an invasion of Provence . In addition, the French military operations in southern Piedmont would be facilitated by the capture of the two cities. Villefranche capitulated without resistance on March 20, as did the city of Nice. The Citadel of Nice resisted a division under General Vins until April 1. Nice could be taken with a loss of only 100 men; Almost the entire county was now under the control of Louis XIV. Of all the former Savoyard cities west of the Alps, only Montmélian was still in the hands of the Duke of Savoy.
In Piedmont, the Marquis de Feuquières marched from Pinerolo to Luserna on April 18th to attack the Waldensians and Huguenots , French religious refugees . Feuquières, who had suffered a defeat at Luserna the previous year, encountered little resistance and had the town plundered and many of its inhabitants killed. Meanwhile Catinat devastated the road between Turin and Susa . Although the capture of the capital of Piedmont, Turin, due to lack of infantry and supply was not possible Catinat took no compelling reason on May 29, Avigliana one before a large department Feuquières and Bulonde with the siege of Cuneo in the di Stura Demonte in southern Piedmont.
The capture of Cuneo would have enabled the French to spend the winter of 1691/92 east of the Alps, but the incompetence of the two commanders turned the siege into a complete disaster. After news of the arrival of cavalry units under Prince Eugene of Savoy arrived to rush to the aid of the besieged, Bulonde lost his nerve and broke off the siege. Vivien de Bulonde is believed by some to be the man in the iron mask . This belief can be traced back to deciphered letters from Louis XIV to Catinat, in which the punishment of Bulonde is approved.
The French fled the battlefield with losses of 700–800 men and left behind their supplies, their wounded and their heavy artillery. The fleeing troops rushed to do everything possible to get to Catinat's main army near Turin. The Cuneo garrison had held out and was still intact when Prince Eugene arrived. After Prince Eugene had restored the city, he returned to Turin.
In July, Feuquières managed to bring reinforcements and money to the main French fortress of Casale . Nonetheless, the French troops in their Italian operational area were increasingly hampered by supply bottlenecks. On June 9, 1691, Catinat took Carmagnola , but in August was now confronted with an army of 13,000 men from the Holy Roman Empire. These troops had just returned from the Great Turkish War against the Ottomans and increased Amadeus' troops to a nominal 45,000 men. On September 26th, the Allied troops crossed the Po to retake the city. Carmagnola surrendered on October 8th due to insufficient French troops to defend it.
Meanwhile, the Marquis de La Hoguette , who commanded the French troops in the Duchy of Savoy, was sacking the Aosta Valley in preparation for the siege of Montmélian. The valley was one of two main routes to Savoy on which Viktor Amadeus II from Piedmont could have sent support. The capture of Susa in November 1690 had blocked the only other direct route. Hoguette came as far south as Bard until he returned to Savoy. He left a trail of devastation and destroyed all bridges. Due to the lack of siege guns, Montmélian could not be properly raked before November. When it finally became apparent that no support was coming from Piedmont, the governor of Montmélian handed the citadel over to the French on December 22nd.
Although the French had achieved little in Piedmont, Catinat now controlled almost the entire county of Nice and the Duchy of Savoy. In peace talks in the summer, Louis XIV insisted on keeping his profits in Nice, some Piedmontese cities on the way to Casale, and Montmélian. In addition, around 2,400 of Viktor Amadeus' men and three regiments of dragoons were to fight with French forces against the Augsburg Alliance on other fronts. However, on July 16, the very influential and war minister of King Louvois , who had played an essential role in this war, died. Twelve days later, Louis XIV summoned the more moderate Pomponne to the Conseil du Roi , which changed the political direction of the state. As a result, the French, who were now confronted with a superior enemy, but at the same time were no longer able to supply their troops in Piedmont, were more willing to compromise. As a result, Louis XIV made further peace offers in December that no longer bore any resemblance to the demands made at the beginning of the war in May 1690. Louis XIV was now ready to compensate Savoy for the war and to hand over the conquered territories to a neutral party. The French fortress of Casale was to be torn down and, in the event of the death of Charles II , King of Spain, Louis XIV was to assist Victor Amadeus II in defeating the Milanese. Despite these generous offers, Viktor Amadeus II was not prepared to negotiate seriously, as he now believed himself to be militarily superior. He rejected the peace offer and so the clashes continued into the next year.
- John A. Lynn : The Wars of Louis XIV: 1667-1714 , Longman, 1999, ISBN 0-582-05629-2
- George MacMunn: Prince Eugene: Twin Marshal with Marlborough. Sampson Low, Marston & CO., Ltd., 1933
- Guy Rowlands : Louis XIV, Vittorio Amedeo II and French Military Failure in Italy, 1689–96. , 2000 The English Historical Review 115 (462): 534-69
- John B. Wolf: Louis XIV. Panther Books, 1970, ISBN 0-586-03332-7
- Wolf: Louis XIV , 562
- Rowlands: Louis XIV, Vittorio Amedeo II and French Military Failure in Italy, 1689–96.
- Lynn: The Wars of Louis XIV: 1667-1714. , 220
- Wolf: Louis XIV , 564
- MacMunn: Prince Eugene: Twin Marshal with Marlborough , 53
- Lynn: The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667-1714 , 220. The reinforcement troops under Antonio von Caraffa were paid for by the naval powers England and the Netherlands.
- Rowlands: Louis XIV, Vittorio Amedeo II and French Military Failure in Italy, 1689–96. The French Italian army was severely hampered during the entire campaign by the fact that almost all of the artillery was tied up in Flanders and Alsace .
- Wolf: Louis XIV , 568