Battle of San Pietro

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Battle of San Pietro
Part of the War of the Polish Succession
Date29 June 1734
Location
Crocetta, near Parma, then in the Duchy of Parma, present-day Italy

Coordinates: 44°48′N10°18′E / 44.800°N 10.300°E / 44.800; 10.300
Result Franco-Sardinian victory
Belligerents
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg  France
Flag of the Kingdom of Sardinia.svg  Sardinia
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austria
Commanders and leaders
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg François-Marie, 1st duc de Broglie
Royal Standard of the King of France.svg François de Franquetot de Coigny
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Florimund Mercy  
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Frederick of Württemberg
Strength
60,000 men 50,000 men
Casualties and losses
4,400 killed and wounded 6,200 killed and wounded

The Battle of San Pietro, also known as the Battle of Crocetta or the Battle of Parma was a battle fought on June 29, 1734, between troops of France and Sardinia on one side, and Habsburg Austrian troops on the other, as part of the War of Polish Succession, between the village of La Crocetta and the city of Parma, then in the Duchy of Parma. Austrian troops assaulted an entrenched Franco-Sardinian position, and were ultimately repulsed, due in part to the death of their commander, Florimund Mercy, and the wounding of his second in command, Frederick of Württemberg. Both sides suffered significant casualties in the battle, which lasted for most of the day.

France Republic with majority of territory in Europe and numerous oversea territories around the world

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.0 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Kingdom of Sardinia former Italian state (1324–1861)

The Kingdom of Sardinia was a state in Southern Europe from the early 14th until the mid-19th century.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European empire (1526–1804)

The Habsburg Monarchy, also Austrian Monarchy or Danube Monarchy, is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the kingdoms and countries in personal union with the Habsburg Archduchy of Austria between 1526 and 1804, when it was succeeded by the Austrian Empire. The Monarchy was a composite state of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, and was united only in the person of the monarch. The dynastic capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague. From 1804 to 1867 the Habsburg Monarchy was formally unified as the Austrian Empire, and from 1867 to 1918 as the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Contents

Background

Following the death in February 1733 of King Augustus II of Poland, European powers exerted diplomatic and military influence in the selection of his successor. Competing elections in August and October 1733 elected Stanisław Leszczyński and Frederick August, Elector of Saxony to be the next king. Stanisław was supported primarily by France, while Frederick August was supported by Russia and the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI. On October 10, France declared war on Austria and Saxony to draw military strength away from Poland, and shortly thereafter invaded both the Rhineland and the Habsburg territories in what is now northern Italy. The Italian campaign was conducted in conjunction with King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia, to whom France had promised the Duchy of Milan in the Treaty of Turin, signed in September 1733.

Stanisław Leszczyński king of Poland

Stanisław I Leszczyński, also Anglicized and Latinized as Stanislaus I, was King of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Duke of Lorraine and a count of the Holy Roman Empire.

Augustus III of Poland King of Poland, Elector of Saxony

Augustus III was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1734 until 1763, as well as Elector of Saxony in the Holy Roman Empire from 1733 until 1763 where he was known as Frederick Augustus II.

Russia transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia

Russia, or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.

Allies take Milan

Starting in October 1733, a combined Franco-Sardinian army, numbering over 40,000 and led by Charles Emmanuel, rapidly took control of Milanese territory without significant opposition from the roughly 12,000 Austrian troops defending the duchy. After the conquest of Tortona in February 1734, the fighting season slowed and the army camped for the winter.

Tortona Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Tortona is a comune of Piemonte, in the Province of Alessandria, Italy. Tortona is sited on the right bank of the Scrivia between the plain of Marengo and the foothills of the Ligurian Apennines.

The army was joined in November 1733 by the 81-year-old French Marshal de Villars. He and Charles Emmanuel disagreed on strategy, as the latter, distrustful of the French, wanted to secure Milan for himself, while Villars wanted to secure the southern ends of the passes through the Alps to prevent Austrian reinforcements from reaching Italy. Charles Emmanuel's tactics including deliberately delaying military movements that were unfavorable to his aims. Frustrated by these tactics, Villars asked to be recalled in May 1734. En route to France, he fell ill, and died in Turin in June. The French troops in the army were then placed under the command of generals de Broglie and Coigny, who were made Marshal.

Claude Louis Hector de Villars Marshal General of France

Claude Louis Hector de Villars, Prince de Martigues, Marquis then Duc de Villars, Vicomte de Melun was a general of Louis XIV of France, one of only six Marshals who have been promoted to Marshal General of France.

Alps Major mountain range system in Central Europe

The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, separating Southern from Central and Western Europe and stretching approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) across eight Alpine countries : France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided. Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,810 m (15,781 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains about a hundred peaks higher than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).

Turin Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Turin is a city and an important business and cultural centre in northern Italy. It is the capital city of Piedmont and of the Metropolitan City of Turin, and was the first Italian capital from 1861 to 1865. The city is located mainly on the western bank of the Po River, in front of Susa Valley, and is surrounded by the western Alpine arch and Superga Hill. The population of the city proper is 875,698 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 1.7 million inhabitants. The Turin metropolitan area is estimated by the OECD to have a population of 2.2 million.

Late in June 1734, Charles Emmanuel returned to Turin, because his wife Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg was sick. He asked the French marshals to avoid engaging in offensive actions until he returned, although this was likely another delaying tactic on his part.

Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg Sardinian queen

Princess Polyxena of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg was the second wife of Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Piedmont whom she married in 1724. The mother of the future Victor Amadeus III, she was queen consort of Sardinia from 1730 until her death in 1735.

Austrian campaign

In response to the allied seizure of Milan, Austria organized a relief army. Due to Charles Emmanuel's insistence on completely securing Milanese territory, some Austrian troops were able to cross the Alps to the stronghold of Mantua as early as November 1733, bringing the troop strength there to about 7,000. By the end of the year the garrison had swollen to 12,000, mostly due to troops pulling out of Milanese strongholds. Frederick of Württemberg established patrols along the Po and Oglio Rivers to monitor allied movements in January 1734, and fortified the Tyrolean border with Milan. By March the army's size had risen to 24,000, and Field Marshal Florimund Mercy had taken command of the forces. He continued to maintain a defensive posture, as he thought that offensive action would leave either Mantua or the Tyrolean border too weakly defended. It was not until early April that the Austrian army began marching out to face the allies, massing along the Mincio River. Prince Eugene of Savoy, in a letter dated April 26, ordered Mercy to begin the campaign; total Austrian forces in northern Italy had grown to more than 55,000.

Mantua Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy, and capital of the province of the same name.

Frederick Louis of Württemberg-Winnental german army commander

Frederick Louis of Württemberg-Winnental was a German army commander of the eighteenth century.

Oglio river in Italy

The Oglio is a left-side tributary of the Po River in Lombardy, Italy. It is 280 kilometres (170 mi) long. In the hierarchy of the Po's tributaries, with its 280 kilometres (170 mi) of length, it occupies the 2nd place per length, while it is the 4th per basin surface, and the 3rd per average discharge at the mouth.

On May 1 the left wing of the Austrian army began crossing the Po River, forcing the French detachments on the southern bank to retreat toward Parma. Throughout May, that wing, commanded by Frederick of Württemberg, moved upriver toward Parma, while the right wing, under Marshal Mercy, moved more slowly, delayed by the need for provisions and a stroke suffered by the aging Mercy, that deprived him of his sight. On June 1, Frederick dislodged a detachment of French troops that were stationed to protect a bridgehead at Colorno, not far from Parma. From June 3 to 8, the bulk of the allied army crossed the Po at Sacca to join the defensive position there. On June 4 and 5 a detachment of Sardinian troops drove the Austrians from Colorno, who retreated to Sorbolo to plan an attack against the allied position at Parma.

Battle

Marshal Coigny determined to make a stand at Parma, and on June 28 established a strong position outside the city walls. Anchoring his left flank to the city's defenses, he placed the right at the village of Crocetta, where it was further protected by swampy areas of the Taro River. The road between Crocetta and Parma ran on a causeway, and Coigny had deep trenches dug on either side of the road.

Marshal Mercy crossed the Taro canal at the head of his army and at about 10 am fired on the French advance posts, who withdrew. On reaching Crocetta, Mercy ordered Frederick, who had command of the Austrian left, to attack without delay. The Prince objected that he first had to cross more troops over the river and align them. Then Mercy said "Je vous laisse faire et je ferai la chose à ma mode (Do what you want, I will do it my way)" and led the right into battle. His troops began advancing, filling in the trenches with fascines amid a withering bombardment by the allies. The first wave was repulsed, but Mercy persisted in the attack, ordering fresh regiments into the assault. They continued to work filling the trenches, using the piled bodies of their comrades in the effort. They were about to take the first French line when Mercy was struck and killed by a musket ball, creating confusion and disorder within the lines.

Frederick then arrived to take command and restore order. The Austrians gained control of the causeway and began filling the trench on the other side, this time using the accumulated bodies of their enemies. Frederick had two horses shot out under him, and eventually withdrew from the battle with a minor wound. Hotwever, the Austrians persisted in the attack, driving the French to the walls of Parma amid continued heavy fighting. There the French made a desperate stand, and successfully stopped the Austrian advance. The Austrians then withdrew to the south after the onset of darkness.

Aftermath

The Austrians lost 6,172 killed and wounded, including Marshal Mercy and 6 generals. There were also a great many deserters. The French lost 4,000 killed and wounded and the Sardinians 400. While the allies held the battlefield, it was not considered a great victory due to the heavy casualties.

Frederick found refuge in the Montechiarugolo castle, where he wrote a report of the battle to the emperor, blaming the failure on Mercy's recklessness. The Austrians eventually retreated to the Secchia River, where they were joined in July by reinforcements and a new leader, Field Marshal Königsegg. There was little significant conflict as the two armies faced each other across the Secchia until September, when Königsegg began a series of moves that culminated in the Austrian defeat at Guastalla, again with heavy casualties, on September 19, after which the Austrians retreated to the Oglio River, a position they maintained for the rest of the year.

The battle was witnessed by the population of Parma and in particular by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, who happened to be in the city.

Sources

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