The Spanish army

Spain had been the first land power in Europe up to the peace of the Pyrenees in 1659. By 1700 the Spanish army had however been annihilated by financial mismanagement, especially the inability of the crown to pay a regular sold to its soldiers. We'll start with the army in the Spanish Netherlands, then the army in Spain and finally describe the Spanish army in Italy. A lot of information about the previous tercios of the Spanish army can be found at La época de los Tercios

The army in the Spanish Netherlands

Thumbnail of Spanish Netherlands Cavalry OOB Thumbnail of Spanish Netherlands Infantry OOB

The regiments of the army in the Spanish Netherlands are described on separate pages. See Spanish Netherlands Cavalry and Spanish Netherlands Infantry. They can also be reached by clicking the pictures above this paragraph.

In the Spanish Netherlands the strength had gone from 70,000 in 1658 via 15,000 in 1690 to perhaps not more than 6,500 in 1695 1. By 1701 the army of the Spanish Netherlands numbered 18 'miserable' infantry regiments and 14 cavalry and dragoon regiments to a total of 6,000 'gueux et voleurs' (beggars and thiefs).

The task to rebuild the army in the Spanish Netherlands was entrusted to Puysegur. His job was to rebuild this army to 49 infantry battalions of 650 men and 46 cavalry and dragoon squadrons of 140 men each. These were to be supported by 6 Spanish and 3 Italian infantry regiments. This plan thus called for an army of about 44,000 men. This was not unreasonable for this part of the Spanish Empire, but the bad reputation for payment and the short time in which the soldiers had to be recruted forced the government to press young men into service, which had a negative effect on the quality and loyalty of these troops.

On 20 July 1702 there were 25 batallions and 27 squadrons in service2. Somewhat later an overview of the cavalry was made which showed 31 cavalry squadrons and 9 dragoon squadrons3. By January 1702 another 20 battalions were forming and the cavalry strength was listed as 40 squadrons4 .

The Spanish army in Spain

Some say that in Spain itself the Spanish army numbered only about 17,000 men in 1700. On 24 December 1702 it was stated to count 17 infantry regiments and 7 cavalry regiments. That same day a decree was issued to bring all infantry regiments to a strength of 1,000 men, the cavalry regiments to 500 men and to raise 1 cavalry and 4 dragoon regiments, but one can doubt the execution of this decree20.

The Spanish army in Italy

In the Spanish part of Italy there was also a Spanish Army. For the Duchy of Milan some particulars are known of the situation in May 1703. At that time the infantry of the duchy numbered 12 battalions of whom 3 foreign. Also in 1703 the Spanish cavalry in northern Italy numbered 7 cavalry regiments and 1 dragoon regiment and totalled 4,124 horse. The Spanish contribution in northern Italy was however especially welcome as regards the large amounts of artillery that were available in the arsenal of Pavia. This and the large quantities of forage that Lombardy provided would substantially aid the two crowns against the alliance30

Spanish cavalry in Italy

Spanish infantry in Italy


1) Israel
2) Pelet Tome 1 page 98
3) Staatse Leger VIII/I
4) Pelet Tome 1 page 540 renders this in a state made by Puységur on 21 January 1702
20) The Hollandsche Mercurius for 1703 page 139 mentions a decree issued in Montferrat on 24 December 1702.
30) See 1706 Le Aquile e i Gigli. Una Storia mai Scritta by Jean Cerino Badone
31) Letter by Electress Sophie to Leibniz on 19 November 1701 about the fight near Cassano d'Adda: '....Les Imperiaus ont passé le 31 le Dada la nuit et ont ruiné 3 regiments espagnols, celuy de Sesto (700), Fuenstes(600) et Moray (500)...
32) Letter by Electress Sophie to Leibniz on 19 November 1701
33) Letter by Electress Sophie to Leibniz on 19 November 1701, also mentioned by Pelet Tome 1 page 597 as 'De Mauroy'espanols 6 escadrons.
34) Pelet Tome 1 page 625 has a Spanish 'Savoy' regiment
35) Pelet Tome 1 page 623 renders the 'Relation de la trahison faite aux troupes espagnoles et françaises à la Mirandole, par la princesse de ce nom, le 21 décembre 1701. It tells of Spanish troops: 'du régiment d'Aguilar, terces de Lombardie'
36) Pelet Tome 1 page 623 mentions Napolitenean troops which probably were from the Naples tercio