Battle of Campo Santo: February 8th 1743
The Spanish began to deploy at 3am on the 7th. De Gages had 33 battalions (averaging 400 men each) in 4 brigades of 6 battalions, one of 4, and one of 5. Their left was the expected point of attack, so it was reinforced and anchored on the Panaro. Occupying a large farmhouse on the extreme left were the Parma Brigade (5 bns), followed by the Walloon (Guards) Brigade (6 bns), extending the line a quarter mile from the river. The Castile Brigade and the Spanish (Guard) Brigade (both 6 bns) ran parallel to the river in front of Campo Santo. Nine squadrons of cavalry, angled back to the river, covered the Spanish Guards’ right flank. Here, light troops
occupied another farmhouse. The remaining two brigades were in reserve. The vital bridges were behind the center of the position.
Nothing happened on the 7th, so the Spanish continued to sort out the mess at the bridges and dig in. Von Traun was expecting them to retreat to Bologna and was content to let them go, but if they remained in place, he was resolved to attack. Now, as noted, the Spanish would have retreated, but the bridges were clogged. So it appeared to von Traun as if they were intending to maintain a lodgement. He called a council of war. The Piedmontese commander, d’Aspremont, was eager to attack despite the enemy’s superiority, and the normally cautious von Traun was in agreement. He too had his accusers at Court whispering he was incapable. It would also help to cement the alliance if a little Piedmontese blood were spilled.
It was now too late in the day to attack. Besides, von Traun was hoping for a consignment of heavy artillery from Mirandola. So the assault was timed for the 8th.
On the morning of the 8th, the Allies formed for battle in two lines. The Austrian intent was to engage the strong Spanish left with light troops, which they had in abundance, and strike the weaker right flank with the bulk of their army. The cavalry, on their far left, would sweep along the Panaro, while the infantry in the center engaged the Spanish Guards and its associates. This deployment entailed a speedy march, including a canal crossing (the Fiumecello, running parallel to the Panaro), to avoid the Spanish observing what was afoot. The movement succeeded.
Von Traun’s men were in position around 1:30 in the afternoon. They were deployed parallel to the Spanish, but offset so that the center of their line was opposite the right flank of the Spanish. Earlier, von Traun’s Croats had begun harassing the enemy left, successfully pinning the Parma and Walloon Brigades for most of the day. The general advance began at 2pm, but due to the presence of many ditches it took two hours to advance a thousand yards (many of the later battles in this theatre began with the units advancing in columns, but here the by-the-book linear style was followed).
Though operationally von Traun had initiated the attack, it was the Spanish who began the actual combat. At 4pm, the Spanish Guards, led by General Macdonald, plus 6 battalions from the reserve, advanced to meet the enemy, extending their line to the right until it rested on a pond. An extra battalion was stationed on the right of this pond.
[By moving in close, the Austrians had forced the Spanish to try and drive them away.]
The Austrian cavalry now crossed the Spanish right in order to take the infantry in flank, but were exposed to the Spanish squadrons only 300 yards away. Without hesitation the 5 right-hand Spanish squadrons charged. Two Sabaudian squadrons wheeling to flank this movement were countered by 2 of the Spanish squadrons peeling off on the left, and the remaining 3 Spanish squadrons crashed into the Miglio Cuirassiers before they could form line. That regiment was routed from the field. The Austrian second line, 8 squadrons of the Berlichingen Cuirassiers, in turn attempted to flank the Spanish horse, but took heavy fire from the enemy battalion posted on the right of the pond, which had been lying down in concealment. Three Spanish squadrons brought over from the left wing then charged and routed the cuirassiers.
Fortunately for the Austrians, after seeing their much-vaunted cavalry chased off the battlefield, the Spanish horse lost control and wasted itself in a pursuit, leaving the infantry to slog it out. When they eventually did return, they merely reformed on their old position and took no further part in the action.
At some point, the Austrian artillery opened up. Initially, the heavies from Mirandola did the talking, but von Traun’s field pieces soon had their say. By 4:30 in the afternoon, both sides
were close enough for muskets. Galled by artillery fire, the Spanish charged with the bayonet, driving back the Austrian infantry on its exposed right flank. D’Aspremont brought up one of his Piedmontese regiments and stabilised things, but both he and his second in command were wounded, d’Aspremont mortally so. Von Traun was everywhere in evidence, having two horses shot out from under him.
By 6pm darkness had fallen and both sides took a breather. De Gages only had 4 battalions in his reserve, and his left was still pinned. At 7pm, the Piedmontese general, the Baron Leutrum*, later famous for his defence of Cuneo, led an attack by 4 Sabaudian battalions from the second line, supported by 3 Austrian battalions. Capturing an entire Spanish battalion near
the pond (possibly the isolated one), they forced the rest back to their start line. The brigadier commanding the Walloon Guards led 3 of his battalions against the Austrian right but was
recalled by de Gages: wrongly, for de Gages now ordered 2 of the Castile battalions to help them. In the darkness, the Castilians mistook the Walloons for Austrians. 200 men were
killed before order was restored.
[*Karl Sigismond Frederick Willeim Leutrum. Born Karlhaunsen, Baden, 1692, died Cuneo (as the city governor) 1755. Probably the best Piedmontese commander of the 18th Century.]
After failing in an attempt to storm the Spanish fieldworks, von Traun ordered a withdrawal back to the near side of the canal. He fully intended to renew the attack next day, but by then de Gages was gone. The Spanish quietly began crossing the Panaro at 3am on the 9th; by dawn there were only a few mountain guns to be moved across. De Gages’ men reached
Bologna on the 10th.
The Battle of Campo Santo cost the Spanish 3,464 men (23%) and the Allies 1,751 (14%). This was the bloodiest battle of the war to date, and seemed even more so from the small numbers involved. Both sides claimed victory. The Austrians, with the better case, because they had repulsed the enemy and were ready to go a second round, the Spanish because they had retained the field at the end of the day.
To be continued……….
Austro-Sardinian Army: (Nafziger)
Commanding Officer: Feldmarschal Graf Traun
l00 Havor Hussars
Brigade: FLM Graf Schulenburg,GFW Baron Pestaluzzi
Alt-Wallis Infantry Regiment (3)(4 guns)
Roth Infantry Regiment (2)(2 guns)
Brigade: FLM Marquis Pallavicini,GFW Graf Novati
Deutschmeister Infantry Regiment (2)(2 guns)
Traun Infantry Regiment (3)
Brigade: GL Count Aspremont,GM Chevalier Cinzano,Brigadier Cumiane
Artillery (Sardinian)(5 guns)
l/Schulemburg (Sardinian)Infantry Regiment (l)
l/Diesbach (Sardinian)Infantry Regiment (l)
Savoy (Sardinian)Infantry Regiment (2) (5 guns)
Brigade: FLM Graf Pyersberg,GFW Graf Petrusati
Miglio Cuirassier Regiment (6)
Savoy Cuirassier Regiment (2)
300 Havor Hussars
4 Fortress guns
Mounted Slavoniers (zu Pferd)(2 sqns) 3
Mounted Maroser (zu Pferd) (2 sqns)
Combined Austro-Sardinian Cavalry (4 sqns)
Brigade: GFW Neuhaus
Diesbach Infantry Regiment (3)
Brigade: GFW Graf Colloredo
Piccolomini Infantry Regiment (3)
Brigade: Brigadier Baronleutrom
2/Diesbach (Sardinian) Infantry Regiment (l)
l/Rehbinder (Sardinian) Infantry Regiment (l)
Piedmont (Sardinian) Infantry Regiment (2)
Brigade: FLM Graf Ciceri,GFW Graf St. Pierre
Berlichingen Cuirassier Regiment (3)
Queen's (Sardinian) Dragoon Regiment (2)
FLM = Feldmarschallieutenant GFW = Generalfeldwachtmeister
Spanish: Lieutenant General de Gages
Right Wing: LtG Duke de Atriasco,MdeCs J. de Silva & de Croix
Brig de Silva
Carabinier Regiment (3)
Reyna Cuirassier Regiment (3)
Center Right: Lieutenant Genral R. Macdonald, MdeC de Carvajal
Spanish Guard Infantry Regiment (6)
Center or Castillan Brigade: LtG Ramirez, MdeC de Valdecanas
Castilla Infantry Regiment (2)
Flanders Infantry Regiment (2)
Lombardy Infantry Regiment (2)
Center Left: LtG Mariani, MdeC Count Jauche, Brig Count Grossberg
Walloon Guard Infantry Regiment (6)
Left Wing: LtG Beaufort, MdeC de la Torre, Brig de Castro
Sagunta Dragoon Regiment (3)
2nd Line: LtG Count Sayve
Right Wing: MdeC de Crevecour, Brig Duke de Arcos
Reyna Dragoon Regiment (3)
Center Right or Queen's Brigade: MdeC de Gravina, BrigJ. Pacheco
Reyna Infantry Regiment (2)
Corona Infantry Regiment (2)
Guadalajara Infantry Regiment (2)
Artillery: MdeC Pignarron
Center Left or Irlanda Brigade:MdeC de Villadrias, Brig de Burke
Irlanda Infantry Regiment (2)
Ibernia Infantry Regiment (2)
Left or Parma Brigade: Brig A. Bessler
l/,4/Bessler Infantry Regiment (2)
Wirtz Infantry Regiment (l)
Parma Infantry Regiment (2)
Mountian Fusilier Infantry Regiment (2)(883)
Mountian Fusilier Regiment (2)
MdeC = Maistre de Camp