1707, Toulon and Almanza



In the fall of the previous year the friendship between Sarah Marlborough and Queen Anne had started to decline. In that winter the position of Godolphin also declined, and the influence of the Tory Harley began to rise. It was also the year that the act of union between England and Scotland was ratified that created the United Kingdom.

The United Provinces

Though Marlborough was quick to demand all the trophies of battle for himself, viewing Ramillies as an English victory has little to do with the facts. The Dutch and Danes had done the majority of the fighting, and the English troops had seen very little fighting. These facts led the Dutch to increase there demands in the southern Netherlands regarding the barrier bringing them into conflict with part of the English and the Empire.

The Empire

The victory of Turin had given the Austrians some air and also ambitions. They now wanted to gain Naples, and tried to gain the lands in Lombardy promised to Victor Amadeus for themselves. Soon they would conclude the treaty of Milan with the French whereby the French were permitted to leave Italy on condition that they would never enter again. All in all a policy which was ungracious to the seapowers but considerably strengthened Austrian power and influence.


As yet I have no info on French plans for 1707. Anyhow Vendome in Flanders was instructed not to risk a battle. Villars was probably ordered to plan an offensive in to Germany, as we will see.


Aragon, Valencia and Cataluna were in the hands of Charles III, while the rest was controlled by Felipe V. The situation was not desperate for Felipe, but with the fall of Italy imminent, it could be expected that the alliance would move on Spain. Felipe would have to move quickly to act faster than the alliance, or take measures for a tough defense of his kingdom. His plans centered on defending to the side of Valencia. To support him and Berwick France sent the Duc D'Orleans with an army.

After Berwick's decisive victory at Almansa, and the subsequent reconquest of Valencia and Aragon Felipe annulled all privileges of these kingdoms, bringing them under the same laws as Castilla.


The seapowers plans

The seapowers, Prinz Eugen and Victor Amadeus planned to take Toulon. This would let them enter into France, rekindle the Cevennes war and drain troops out of Spain. The plans would soon be overtaken by events in Spain.

Situation of the front in early 1707

In Flanders the allies had 97 battalions and 164 squadrons totalling 90,000 men. The French had 124 battalions and 195 squadrons totaling about 110,000 men under Vendome, with 16 squadrons under La Motte detached.

The Flanders campaign of 1707

On 21 May 1707 the allied army was concentrated near Brussel commanded by Ouwerkerk. That day Marlborough arrived, took over command and marched in the direction of Soignies. Vendome then marched to Gosselies. Marlborough retreated to Brussel.

In the beginning of August 1707 Vendome had to detach troops to Toulon, and Marlborough now thought it time to attack. On August 11 the allied army broke up from Meldert (near Brussel), reaching Genappe in the afternoon. Fearing to be cut off Vendome retreated to Seneffe. Marlborough reached Arquennes 18:00 PM at the twelfth. Tilly who would have to cut off the French rearguard was sadly delayed because he could not read his orders in the darkness. The pursuit ended with the Anglo-Dutch at Soignies, where they also had been in May.

What is curious about the event is that WSC says 4,000 stragglers of Vendome's army were captured. For the rest of his description he characterizes the campaign as a failure. I would think that capturing 4,000 men without a shot being fired can be viewed as a considerable success looking at the outcome of a lot of battles.

The upper Rhine campaign of 1707

Louis of Baden finally died of wounds received at the Schellenberg on 4 January 1707. In his place stood Christian Ernst margrave of Brandenburg Bayreuth Kulmbach. Now the French attempted what they had not dared before: on May 22 Villars attacked the lines of Stollhofen. The lack of support, provisions and reinforcements of the defenders now made itself felt: without a battle the imperial troops fled to Dürlach. Villars set up his headquarters in the late margrave's palace at Rastatt 23 May 1707.

The incompetent Bayreuth did not much to hinder Villars. Villars now entered Stuttgart June 8th and started plundering and extorting millions. He even went near Nordlingen and Blenheim raising the specter of a Bavarian insurrection. The Margrave of Bayreuth then resigned and was replaced by George of Hannover who took up his command in the end of September. For want of provisions Villars retreated in October.

The Hungarian campaign of 1707

Rákóczi now officially declared himself prince of Transylvania. Though he operated aggressively against Joseph, there were however more and more signs of dissatisfaction with the war from certain areas of Hungary and from the protestants.

Rákóczi held a national assembly at Onod in which he planned to declare the throne vacant. It met on 27 April 1707, but Rákóczi failed to intimidate it. Soon it opposed Rákóczi's plans to tax the nobility and to issue depreciated currency. Rákóczi and Bercsényi then attacked the delegates that opposed his plans, first with words, but then with the sword. One of them, Rakovszky, was killed on the spot while Okolicsanyi was beheaded next day. This so intimidated the assembly that the taxation and monetary plans were accepted, and the throne was declared void on 14 June, and offered to Max Emanuel.

Though this gave Rákóczi the opportunity to officially ally Hungary to France it of course destroyed all credit he had with the seapowers. It also split the Hungarian nation in two. As long as the rebellion legally was a confederation of malcontents fighting to restore the constitution (read privileges) most influential Hungarians had united behind it. The bondsmen forming the majority of the population had believed that a rebel victory would improve their lot. Now that by killing two of their own it had become clear what Rákóczi thought of the constitution a lot of Magnates started to waver. The same went for the bondsmen who saw that Rákóczi was now in control of the rebellion but still did not relieve them of their bonds. In short the assembly at Onod cost Rákóczi popular support.

Militarily the situation was quite good for the rebels. They had reconquered most of Transylvania after Rabutin had left and were raiding across the western borders of Hungary. In August Rabutin then again marched to Transylvania, while Starhemberg occupied Hungary territories west of the Vah. Rabutin succeeded brilliantly in reconquering Transylvania.

The Italian campaign of 1707

On 13 march 1707 a 'General Capitulation' was signed between France and Austria by which Louis promised not to send troops to Italy again and those that were in northern Italy gave over all the strong points they still held there in exchange for the privilege to leave Italy unharmed. General Daun with 8,000 imperial troops then marched on Naples. The vice-roy fortified himself in Gaeta while Daun entered the city of Naples on 7 July 1707.

The Toulon campaign of 1707

On June 10, the French got reports that Eugen would march on Nice. On 30 June Eugen marched on Toulon with 35,000. On July he met marshall Tessé with 20,000 defenders before Toulon. On 30 July the fortress of St. Catherine was stormed and taken, only to be retaken 15 August 1707. In the evening and night of the 21st the Anglo-Dutch fleet started a bombardment that set Toulon ablaze, and that same night the army retreated, arriving at Pignerolo half September and ending the campaign with the conquest of Susa.

The battles near Toulon did have a serious effect on other fronts. On August 18th Berwick was ordered to gather his troops and march his troops to lift the 'siege' of Toulon. The attack also had another effect. The French had sunk their fleet to protect it from fire, but later a lot of it proved irreparable. It is estimated that the French permanently lost 15 ships of the line in this operation.

The Spanish campaign of 1707

In February 1707 8,000 British and Hugenot troops arrived at the allied HQ in Valencia. With the allies now having 30,000 men Galway and Stanhope were for marching on Madrid. Charles III and Noyelles were for a defensive approach. In the end a not so clever compromise was reached whereby Charles III and Stanhope would defend Catalonia and parts of Aragon, while Galway and the Portuguese general Das Minas would march on Madrid with the Anglo-Dutch and Portuguese infantry.

Galway now marched on Murcia where he met Berwick who was about to receive reinforcements of 8,000 that were permitted to leave Italy according to the treaty of Milan. Galway had 15,000 troops of which 5,000 Brits, while Berwick had 25,000 and 8,000 commanded by the duke of Orleans on their way. While besieging Villena Galway heard that Berwick was not far away, and he decided to look for a battle before Orleans had arrived. In fact the situation was thus that Orleans had not yet arrived, but most of his troops had. On 25 April they met on the plains near Almanza: 30,000 against 15,000.

With the Portuguese cavalry fleeing, the 8,000 Anglo-Dutch infantry was surrounded and desperately tried to retreat. Split in two detachments Galway with 3,500 men made it back to Valencia. Count Dohna, a Portuguese general and Shrimpton with 2,000 were cut off in the mountains, withstood all assaults for two days but had to surrender on terms on the third day. All in all the allies suffered 4,000 dead and wounded as well as 3,000 taken prisoner. Of 5,000 stragglers most were able to regroup with the army. The two crowns suffered between 2,000 and 5,000 casualties depending on sources. Galway retreated to Alcira where he got 2,600 reinforcements that had just arrived.

The allied disaster in Spain was now complete and Galway left Valencia. Valencia and Zaragoza surrendered on 8 May 1707, Castellon de La Plana was taken on the 12th of May. Jativa, with an English garrison was taken 6 June, its population cut to pieces and its name changed to San Felipe. After a delay caused by the Toulon affair that drew away troop from Spain, the Bourbon forces led by D'Orleans now started the siege of Lerida on 3 October. The city itself was then taken by assault and pillaged on the 13th. The citadel was taken only on 11 November, the garrison marching out on terms. The marquis de Bay took Ciudad Rodrigo for the Bourbons. The Bourbon chevalier D'Asfeld however failed to take Denia. As regards command the thrust between Galway and Charles III had been completely destroyed, making his replacement inevitable.

In their comments about the handling of the Spanish campaign Churchill and Macaulay adhere to very different points of view. Churchill scorns Peterborough, Charles and Starhemberg and defends Galway and Stanhope. Peterborough is Macaulay's hero, according to him the returning Peterborough advised on a defensive course in 1707, stating that Aragon, Valencia and Cataluna could easily be held because of popular support, and it would thus be wise to wait for either a success in Flanders or mistakes of Philip V. (According to Churchill Peterborough proposed to send a detachment to Eugen, but this does not have to be contrary to this)

Though both writers do not have much (or any) praise for Charles III and Noyelles this may shed light on their appraisal of the situation in the beginning of 1707. It could well have been that they imagined another entrance in Madrid like the one of 1706 to be the only possible prize for risking all and it probably would have gone like 1706 had Galway won at Almanza. With Habsburg power on the verge of capturing Italy (and the pope!) completely after the recent battle of Turin, Charles could have thought time on his side also. Charles III and Noyelles thus favored the correct strategic option and probably knew why they should adopt a defensive strategy.

The naval campaign of 1707

The main naval events of this year were the allied amphipious operation against Toulon, and the bombardment that destroyed the French fleet or part of it. The destruction was caused because the French had let warships run ashore to prevent them from sinking, but were later not able to refloat them, probably because they had burned.

In the battle of Cap Lizard on 21 October 1707 13 French warships defeated 5 English warships and captured about a dozen merchantmen.

A disaster would end the naval campaign with two ships of the line and one frigate wrecked at the Scillys and admiral Shovell drowning.