The political situation in London was all for the war in the beginning of 1706 and the field armies could count on generous support for this year. Marlborough devised a plan for an overland march to Italy. The United Provinces accepted it on condition that he would not take any Dutch troops with him. When events overtook this plan the states offered Marlborough to send 10,000 men to Eugen on condition that Marlborough would fight in Flanders. During this year the Dutch government gave instruction to their deputies to arrange for their troops to control as much towns as possible by getting a garrison and governor in.
The empire was still in impotence due to the uprising in Hungary.
In December Friedrich I had renewed the treaty with the seapowers for having 8,000 Prussians in Italy. Upon having trouble with the emperor he let the reinforcements halt in Bavaria in January 1706.
The French would off course try to get a decisive result in Italy and to retake Barcelona. They would start their campaign so early that the seapowers plans were crossed.
It was sound strategy that Felipe wanted to take Valencia, Girona and other places before attempting to retake Barcelona, that could be supplied by sea. Louis XIV however decided to take Barcelona first and so Felipe personally led the siege. The enormous losses taken in this attempt opened the doors for a disastrous campaign in which even Madrid itself would be taken by the allies. The disaster would however prove to be a blessing in disguise for Felipe because the arrival of Portuguese and protestant troops led to a general uprising against the invaders and gave him full support by people that had shortly before not lifted a finger to support his government. This support enabled him to return to Madrid on 4 October.
The affairs of Spain however were now far better managed than before, with the French ambassador, Felipe, Marie Louise and Des Ursins all working for the same goal. Felipe was growing in his role as king of Spain, be it at the head of the army or as a head of government.
Louis makes his first peace overtures
The marquis d'Alègre, who had been captured on the lines of Brabant was used as intermediary to communicate Louis's first peace attempts. Besides offering a bribe of 300,000 pounds to Marlborough these consisted of:
- Philip V gaining Spain, Milan and the colonies
- Charles III gets Bavaria
- Max Emanuel king of the Sicilies
- France keeps the fortresses on the Rhine
- The United Provinces the barrier and the Spanish parts of Gelre and Limburg
- The duke of Lorraine the rest of the Southern Netherlands
Of course this was not acceptable to the seapowers. The change in Bavaria would alienate the empire from the Habsburgs and French power on the Rhine would increase.
Situation of the front in early 1706
The French army had 60,000 men under Villeroy in Flanders, Villars with 40,000 on the Upper-Rhine. Marsin lay between them with 25 battalions and 30 squadrons, as did the Maison du Roy more northerly.
The Flanders campaign of 1706
After the very early mobilization of the French the seapowers decided on a campaign in Flanders. Marlborough was pessimistic about getting any results. Logically the French should stay on the defensive in Flanders, perhaps losing a few fortresses while conquering Italy and Barcelona. A new Flanders campaign thus seemed unwise
However, Louis XIV decided to help him out: The early successes of the year had again convinced him that the French army was able to gain major victories in open battle. Thus Louis started to pressure Villeroy not to evade an open battle. Louis also instructed Villeroy to operate aggressively by taking the minor fortress of Léau, lost in the previous year.
On 18 May the French army started its march in the direction of Tienen. On 22 May the allied army was concentrated at Corswaren with 74 battalions and 123 squadrons totaling about 62,000 men. (M. to H. 20 May 1706: When the Danes have joined we will have 74 battalions and 122 squadrons) Marlborough wanted to march between the Geete and the Mehaigne and if possible deliver battle near Jodoigne/Geldenaken. On the 23rd they met the French army on the plain of Ramillies.
The battle of Ramillies that was then fought would become one of Marlborough's greatest successes. It started with a feint attack against Offus on the north centre. In the south 4 Dutch battalions stormed Taviers, the southern tip of the French position. 14 squadrons of dismounted French cavalry that had orders to retake it were then charged by Danish cavalry and destroyed. On this (the left) flank then ensued a grand cavalry battle. Finally the battle was decided by Danish cavalry breaking through by Taviers and rolling up the French right wing from the south.
The French army collapsed and a vigorous pursuit yielded enormous prizes to the allies. The French army lost about 7,000 killed, 5,000 wounded and 6,000 prisoners, the allies lost about 2,500 men. Faced with the collapse of the French army the biggest part of the Southern Netherlands now declared for Charles III, and a lot of Spanish troops came over to the allied side. Cities like Brussel, Gent, Brugge adhered to the allies. Ostende was captured by Overkirk 4 July. The conquest of Flanders would however stir disagreement between the seapowers.
Villeroy retreated to Courtrai, There Marsin joined his army with him at the end of May and Villars also sent him a strong part of his troops. Villeroy was relieved of his command and to be replaced by Vendome. The French could now have decided to rely on the ring fortresses they had in the north, but instead they decided to rebuild a Flanders army at all costs, weakening all other fronts.
The Flanders campaign after Ramillies
After the capitulation of Ostend Marlborough marched to Courtrai, intending to capture the French fortress of Menin a first class fortress recently constructed. Menin had a garrison of 6,000 men commanded by Caraman. On 22 August it was captured, but now the French had an army in the field again. On 27 August 1706 the siege of Dendermonde was started, led by Marlborough's brother. It surrendered in the beginning of September with the garrison taken prisoner.
The upper Rhine campaign of 1706
On 3 May 1706 Villars attacked Louis of Baden who was blockading Fort Louis, drove him over the Rhine and on 2-5-1706 captured Drusenheim, and on 11-05-1706 Hagenau. (Düremberg?). A new siege of Landau seemed imminent. The battle of Ramillies prevented this. Louis of Baden was replaced by general Thungen later that year and would soon die of wounds received at the Schellenberg. (4-04-1707)
The Hungarian campaign of 1706
The Austrians had done quite well in 1705, and in March 1706 official peace-negotiations started in Pressburg and Tyrnau, that agreed to a truce that would last to 12 July 1706. A formal peace-congress then met in Tyrnau, but failed to achieve peace primarily because the rebels insisted on the independence of Transylvania. A demand Joseph could never accept because an independent Transylvania would always be a threat to his dominion in Hungary (Ingrao) Ingrao also states that Rákóczi had already decided to put his faith in French promises and merely lengthened the negotiations in order to put the blame of their failure on the emperor. Indeed Joseph was blamed for their failure when hostilities were reopened from 24 July 1706.
The fact that Rákóczi was never that willing to reconcile himself with Joseph can also be deduced from the fact that he had offered the Hungarian crown to August the Strong Elector of Saxony, and king of Poland in April, and later also to Charles XII of Sweden.
General Rabutin (who had succeeded Herberville in Transylvania) then performed a failed siege of Kaschau losing many men. After this he marched west to aid in the reconquest of South-West Hungary, where Starhemberg was in command of Serbian and Croatian auxiliaries. Rabutin would however only reach Buda in January 1707. These military failures of the imperialists stiffened the rebels in their demands. In December they demanded the independence of Transylvania and the removal of imperial troops as conditions for renewed peace-negotiations. These conditions showing their thrust in their military strength rather than any willingness to reconcile themselves with the emperor.
The Italian campaign of 1706
In March Vendome, who had mobilized very early, won on 19 April 1706 a victory near Calcinato against Reventlow who was in command with Eugen in Vienna. The imperialists lost about 10,000 men, but the arrival of Eugen quickly restored the situation.
On royal orders the French were split into two armies. One under marshall La Feuillade besieged Turin from 14 may, and the other under Vendome would cover the siege holding the Adige line in the northeast of Italy. It would have been easy for the French if Eugen had not received reinforcements that brought his army to 50,000 men. Next to these fronts there was the duke of Savoy with 6,000 cavalry (Becker says 13,000 men) that was hunted throughout the duchy but never caught and greatly hindering the siege.
In July Eugen crossed the Adige unhindered. The above mentioned order for Vendome to take up command in Flanders came through and he was replaced by prince Philip duc of Orleans and Marsin., Marsin then stood against Eugen. The prince of Orleans arriving at the siege of Turin found that it did not proceed well, and Marsin would also not fare that well. On 1 September Eugen joined his army with the cavalry of the duke of Savoy 35 km south of Turin, totaling 30,000 men. (Becker says 37,000 men)
With the French totaling 60,000 it would off course have been wise to interrupt the siege and face Eugen with all disposable forces. This was however not done and on the 7th it came to a battle that the French lost leaving 6,000 prisoners.
And then another blunder was made. In spite of the duke of Orleans' wishes some of the commanders under him arranged it that the French army retreated to France instead of Lombardy. This made the allied success complete. The French still held strong positions in Lombardy, but these could now easily be taken by siege. The cause of the two crowns in Italy was lost. A reversal of fortunes equal to that following Blenheim.
The Spanish campaign of 1706
The count of Noailles entered Cataluna from the north with a French army. He took Figueras in early February and wanted to take Girona. Somewhat more to the south Peterborough, after getting the town of Nules, entered Valencia on 4 February 1706 after raising the Bourbon siege. From there he marched to surprise 4,000 reinforcements that were on their way to count Torres and annihilated this force.
The reaction of Versailles to all this was to change Felipe's plans to attack Valencia and to send an army under Tessé to besiege Barcelona, while the city was blocked from the sea-side by the Count of Toulouse. Peterborough then went north again with 3,000 men and harassed the besiegers from the mountains together with the count de Cifuentes. Though the artillery of the besiegers was insufficient they finally managed to shoot three breaches in the walls. Before Tessé came to a decision whether or not to storm the city, the arrival of the allied fleet became imminent, and Toulouse left with the French fleet on 10 May. Tessé then hastily lifted the siege in the night of 11/12 May leaving guns, ammunition and wounded behind. The retreat of the two crown army was shameful. Felipe personally withdrew over the French border to return to Spain via Pampluna arriving there on 2 June.
As seen above on the 23rd May Ramillies was fought in Flanders, which would soon compulse the French to decrease their troops in France. Felipe now asked for Berwick to retake command in Spain. He arrived in Madrid 11 March. The allies then planned to march on Madrid: Charles III would march from Catalonia, Peterborough from Valencia and Galway from Portugal. In the beginning Galway with 19.000 men was opposed only by Berwick with 8,000 men. Galway made good headway when Alcantera, garrisoned by 10 battalions, surrendered in April after only 5 days of siege. After that Galway took Salamanca and entered Madrid on 27 June 1706 where he proclaimed Charles III. Now more uprisings against Philip took place with Arragon, Saragossa and Carthagena and Toledo going over to Charles III. The government of Felipe retired to Burgos.
The invasion of the Portuguese had however incited a popular uprising in Castille, Berwick reentered Madrid and when the allied forces met near Guadalajara on 6 August they were outnumbered and isolated. The allies then retreated to Valencia losing about 10,000 men in the process. In Valencia Galway became supreme commander instead of Peterborough. The allies then took Mallorca in October, and Minorca except for its harbor Port Mahon. Felipe however retook Carthagena and Alcantera. With regard to the territory they occupied both parties were now somewhat in the same position as they had started out with. Felipe however now had a more solid foundation for his government, while the allies had the advantage of the recent successes at Ramillies and Turin.
The naval campaign of 1706
Of course the raising of the siege of Barcelona was the most important naval affair of the year. The allied fleet also bombarded Alicante which was under siege by the French.