Siege of Capua (1734)

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Siege of Capua
Part of the War of the Polish Succession
DateApril 30 November 1734
Location Capua, Kingdom of Naples (present-day southern Italy)
Coordinates: 41°06′N14°12′E / 41.100°N 14.200°E / 41.100; 14.200
Result Spanish victory
Belligerents
Bandera de Espana 1701-1748.svg  Spain Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg  Habsburg Monarchy
Commanders and leaders
Count Marsillac
James Fitz-James Stuart, 2nd Duke of Berwick
Otto Ferdinand von Abensberg und Traun
Strength
6-16,000 men 6,000
Casualties and losses
1,000

The Siege of Capua was the last major military action of the War of the Polish Succession in the Kingdom of Naples. Austrian forces of the Habsburg Monarchy, under the command of the Austrian Marshal Otto Ferdinand von Abensberg und Traun, withstood for seven months a blockade begun in April 1734 by Spanish and French forces under Count Marsillac. General Traun surrendered the fortress of Capua in November 1734 with full honors of war, primarily because of exhausted provisions and ammunition, but also because it was clear no relief was coming to the isolated garrison.

War of the Polish Succession war in Europe 1734–1738

The War of the Polish Succession (1733–35) was a major European war sparked by a Polish civil war over the succession to Augustus II, which the other European powers widened in pursuit of their own national interests. France and Spain, the two Bourbon powers, attempted to check the power of the Austrian Habsburgs in western Europe, as did the Kingdom of Prussia, whilst Saxony and Russia mobilized to support the eventual Polish victor. The slight amount of fighting in Poland resulted in the accession of Augustus III, who in addition to Russia and Saxony, was politically supported by the Habsburgs.

Kingdom of Naples former state in Italy

The Kingdom of Naples comprised that part of the Italian Peninsula south of the Papal States between 1282 and 1816. It was created as a result of the War of the Sicilian Vespers (1282–1302), when the island of Sicily revolted and was conquered by the Crown of Aragon, becoming a separate Kingdom of Sicily. Naples continued to be officially known as the Kingdom of Sicily, the name of the formerly unified kingdom. For much of its existence, the realm was contested between French and Spanish dynasties. In 1816, it was reunified with the island kingdom of Sicily once again to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Habsburg Monarchy former Central European empire (1526–1804)

The Habsburg Monarchy – also Habsburg Empire, Austrian Monarchy or Danube Monarchy – is an unofficial umbrella term among historians for the countries and provinces that were ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg between 1526 and 1780 and then by the successor branch of Habsburg-Lorraine until 1918. The Monarchy was a typical composite state composed of territories within and outside the Holy Roman Empire, 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 outbreak of the War of the Polish Succession in the fall of 1733, and news that Bourbon allies France and Spain were planning operations against the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, Habsburg military and political leaders began planning the defense of Naples against the expected invasion. Hampered by a lack of resources, Marshal Otto Ferdinand von Abensberg und Traun and the Count of Caraffa disagreed on how to best defend Naples. Caraffa wanted to minimally garrison the country's fortresses and concentrate Austrian forces into a single army that could either avoid or force confrontation with the Spanish, while Traun, whose opinion prevailed, wanted to strongly garrison the fortresses and force the Spanish to besiege them. [1]

House of Bourbon European royal house of French origin

The House of Bourbon is a European royal house of French origin, a branch of the Capetian dynasty. Bourbon kings first ruled France and Navarre in the 16th century. By the 18th century, members of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty held thrones in Spain, Naples, Sicily, and Parma. Spain and Luxembourg currently have monarchs of the House of Bourbon.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country 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 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, 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.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Major garrisons were placed at Pescara and Gaeta, and Traun himself took command of 3,500 men and occupied the fortress at Capua, near the northwestern border between the kingdom and the Papal States. [2] Caraffa was responsible for the defense of the city of Naples and the safety of the Austrian viceroy.

Pescara Comune in Abruzzo, Italy

Pescara is the capital city of the Province of Pescara, in the Abruzzo region of Italy. It is the most populated city in Abruzzo, with 125,717 (2017) residents. Located on the Adriatic coast at the mouth of the Aterno-Pescara River, the present-day municipality was formed in 1927 joining the municipalities of Pescara, the part of the city to the south of the river, and Castellamare Adriatico, the part of the city to the north of the river. The surrounding area was formed into the province of Pescara.

Gaeta Comune in Lazio, Italy

Gaeta is a city and comune in the province of Latina, in Lazio, central Italy. Set on a promontory stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 kilometres from Rome and 80 km (50 mi) from Naples.

Capua Comune in Campania, Italy

Capua is a city and comune in the province of Caserta, in the region of Campania, southern Italy, situated 25 km (16 mi) north of Naples, on the northeastern edge of the Campanian plain.

Prelude

The army of Charles of Parma, numbering about 21,000, marched south from Tuscany where it had been assembled, and reached the northern border of Naples on March 28, 1734. [3] [4] Traun had taken most of the Capua garrison, and constructed a fortified line at Mignano, at which he expected conflict with the Spanish forces. [2] However, on March 30, the Spanish, aided by sympathetic locals, sent 4,000 troops through narrow mountain passes, threatening to flank Traun's position. When Traun learned of this, he ordered a precipitous retreat to Capua, abandoning armaments and camp equipment along the way. The Spanish then proceeded southward toward Naples, bypassing Capua, and entered the city on May 10 after securing the surrender of its fortresses. About 6,000 troops were stationed to blockade Capua cutting off its communications and access to the land for provisions. [5]

Charles III of Spain King of Spain and the Spanish Indies from 1759 to 1788

Charles III was King of Spain (1759–1788), after ruling Naples as Charles VII and Sicily as Charles V (1734–1759). He was the fifth son of Philip V of Spain, and the eldest son of Philip's second wife, Elisabeth Farnese. A proponent of enlightened absolutism, he succeeded to the Spanish throne on 10 August 1759, upon the death of his half-brother Ferdinand VI, who left no heirs.

Tuscany Region of Italy

Tuscany is a region in central Italy with an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.8 million inhabitants (2013). The regional capital is Florence (Firenze).

While Charles' army was marching south, a Spanish fleet had landed forces on the islands of Ischia and Procida in the Bay of Naples. [6] Austrian garrisons from these islands had been brought to the mainland, where the joined the garrison at Capua (before it was blockaded), raising the size of Traun's garrison to about 6,000. The Austrians were hoping to be relieved by the forces of Florimund Mercy in northern Italy, but these were occupied with the Franco-Sardinian army.

Ischia volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea

Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It lies at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples, about 30 kilometres from the city of Naples. It is the largest of the Phlegrean Islands. Roughly trapezoidal, it measures approximately 10 km east to west and 7 km north to south and has about 34 km of coastline and a surface area of 46.3 square kilometres (17.9 sq mi). It is almost entirely mountainous; the highest peak is Mount Epomeo, at 788 metres. The island is very densely populated, with 60,000 residents.

Procida Comune in Campania, Italy

Procida is one of the Flegrean Islands off the coast of Naples in southern Italy. The island is between Cape Miseno and the island of Ischia. With its tiny satellite island of Vivara, it is a comune of the Metropolitan City of Naples, in the region of Campania.

Following the destruction of the Austrian army at Bitonto in May, Spanish forces turned to besiege the three remaining Austrian outposts: Pescara, Gaeta, and Capua. Pescara was the first to surrender, on July 29, with Gaeta surrendering in August. [7] Charles was then able to detach troops for the conquest of Sicily, and focus the remaining troops on Capua.

The Battle of Bitonto was a Spanish victory over Austrian forces near Bitonto in the Kingdom of Naples in the War of Polish Succession. The battle ended organized Austrian resistance outside a small number of fortresses in the kingdom.

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

Defenses

The fortress of Capua was a substantial construction, although it had not been maintained well in the years immediately preceding this conflict. It had numerous weaknesses, the principle of which were:

The garrison, under the command of Marshal Traun, consisted of 6,000 men, including 10 battalions of infantry from the regiments of Heister, Göldlin, O'Nelly, Carl Lothringen, and Schmettau, 6 grenadier companies, and companies of horseless cuirassiers from the regiments of Pignatelli and Kokoržowa. [8]

Traun may also have benefited from a long-standing friendship with Count Marsillac, the commander of the besieging forces. The two had fought together in previous campaigns, and even shared the same tent on occasion. [9]

Siege

While the Austrians had intended to provision the fort sufficient to keep a garrison of 5,000 for five months, the supplies present in April were only sufficient to keep the garrison for two months. Traun organized a corps of volunteers that engaged in foraging operations during the months of the blockade. Their forays were successful enough that in mid-July the Austrians still had one month's supplies. [9] His prospects for relief, however, were dampened by news that Marshal Mercy had died in the Austrian defeat at Parma and that the Austrians had retreated afterwards.

On August 10 Traun launched an elaborate sortie against the Spanish blockade, which had grown to over 15,000 men. In addition to raiding Spanish supplies, he targeted a boat bridge the Spanish had set up across the Volturno River. Sending several battalions out the Naples and Rome gates in the middle of the night, they spent several hours attempting to reach and destroy the bridge. The Spanish were able to fend off the attacks, but they were only cover for the true operation, in which a picked company of 500 successfully raided the countryside. Around dawn, this force returned with 150 cows, 90 water buffalo, 1,000 sheep. The attempt on the bridge had cost the Austrians over 300 casualties, although they killed more than 350 Spanish and took 52 prisoners (who Traun promptly released). [10]

The siege continued into November, and conditions in the blockaded city became progressively more severe. On November 20 Traun and the Spanish command reached an agreement that Traun would capitulate if relief had not arrived by November 30. On that day, the Austrian garrison, reduced to about 5,000 men, marched out with the full honors of war, including two field pieces, and boarded Spanish ships to be transported to Triest and Fiume. The only term of the surrender that the Spanish denied was permission for the troops to assist in the northern Italian campaign. [11]

Notes

  1. Colletta, p. 32
  2. 1 2 Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen, p. 424
  3. Colletta, p. 30
  4. Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen, p. 425
  5. Colletta, p. 35
  6. Colletta, p. 34
  7. Colletta, pp. 40-44
  8. Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen, pp. 452-455
  9. 1 2 Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen, p. 456
  10. Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen, pp. 457-458
  11. Feldzüge des Prinzen Eugen, pp. 459_460

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