The siege of Turin

Chapter 5 of the siege of TurinChapter 6: 31 August Chapter 7 of the siege of Turin

Second General Assault, Final attempts

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The aftermath of the first assault

After the first general assault had failed miserably in the morning of 27 August, La Feuillade wanted to give it a second try as soon as possible. His troops had however not only suffered great losses, but also a lot of discouragement. The French overcame these troubles when for a small interval, time worked to their advantage. This was when, because of their shorter route, the duc d'Orleans and his army outran Eugen on the way to Turin. Except for a 10,000 men detachment near Lake Garda the French army was now united before Turin while Eugen was still marching. It seemed logical to try to take advantage of this temporary advantage by at least taking the citadel before Eugen would arrive.

Preparations

From right after the failure of the first assault, the French had therefore been preparing for the second try. Batteries had finally been completed on the interior piazze d'armi (MAP= 1). These, together with the other batteries and mines ignited on the 30th had succeeded in (re)opening a breach in the Mezzaluna that was significantly larger than the previous breach, giving the besiegers a better chance of success. The Piemontese had tried to repair the breaches used in the previous assault, and tried to clear out the moat. The regular garrison had by now dwindled to 4,000 men, and therefore Daun had brought 500 militia into the citadel. On the bastions and the inner ring of the mezzaluna they had secretedly deployed guns especially for firing on the Controguardie and the Mezzaluna's outer ring, should they fall into the enemies hands again.

The Plan

In order to spare the troops that had suffered in the previous assault the attack was spearheaded by 11 grenadier companies taken from the troops that had recently arrived. These would be supported by more grenadiers, regular infantry and dismounted dragoons, some sources claiming the entire force to consist of 30 grenadier companies, and 5,000 infantry and dragoons. In order to distract the garrison a feint attack would first be made against the works on the other side of the Po, diverting part of the garrison away from the citadel.

Second general Assault

Map of the second general assault At 6:00 AM on the 31st the feint attack on the other side of the Po began. It failed to reach its objective, because Daun thought the place suitably defended, and therefore did not redeploy part of the garrison to defend it. In the oppressive heat and sunshine of an Italian summerday that can be used best for having lunch in some shaded place, the French achieved surprise when they started the assault at 1:00 PM. Headed by an engineer and twenty men charged to clear the way, three columns entered the moat and assaulted the three disputed works. Thus surprised the defenders did not succeed in stopping the attackers from conquering the outer ring of the mezzaluna, and most of the controguardie, meaning that in a very short time the French got much further then in their previous attempt. They did not stop there however; they assaulted the caponniere that had been prepared to stop them from entering further into the moat, and even sent a party to the back of the inner ring of the mezzaluna, trying to surprise it from behind.

Rudely disturbed from there lunch the defenders now reacted quickly, and while D'Allery was organising the defense, the Piemontese staff came on the scene. One of Daun's first orders was to order the Guard regiment to the citadel. They then devised a plan to retake the contested works. Luckily the surprise had worn off by now. The defenders had rebuffed the assault on the capponiere, and the attack on the backside of the inner ring was too. From the bastions and the inner ring of the mezzaluna infantry and 24 Artillery pieces were by now firing away at the scarcely covered attackers trying to entrench themselves. On the level of the moat the defenders of the casemates constructed there were doing their part.

The counter-attack (not on the map) was then initiated. The guard regiment and what was left of the Stahremberg regiment were ordered to attack the counterguard of San Maurizio, where the number of attackers was highest. Regulars from all other regiments were ordered to retake the counterguard of Beato Amadeo and the outer ring of the Mezzaluna. In half an hour of fierce fighting they succeeded in these tasks. Many French who were cut off from the breaches dying when trying to reach the moat by jumping off the works.

The French were not prepared to give up however, and continually brought up reinforcements. One of these consisted of three grenadier companies assembling near the left interior piazza d'armi of the mezzaluna. The Piemontese now ignited a mine below this piazza d'armi. It is said that of these three companies only one man survived. Of the battery on the piazza two guns were buried in the rubble, and one was launched into the moat. The French that had survived the counterattack now fled in terror, only halting when they reached their own trenches. The Piemontese, who were encouraged by this success, then attacked the French batteries, severely destructing them before retiring to their own lines.

Results of the second assault

A French attempt against the citadel had again been foiled, but now the consequences were perhaps even more serious for the French. The Piemontese lost 168 men in the attempt, while the French lost anywhere between 1000 and 3000 in dead and wounded. The French had not succeeded in retaining any of their early advantages, had lost a disproportionate amount of soldiers and a lot of morale.

That very night the Piemontese crowned their victory by moving the French gun that had landed in the moat and displaying it as a trophy. The defenders in general felt that this second victory had decided the siege, and in a sense this feeling proved right.

Final French attempts

Most defenders did not think a third general assault to be probable, but Daun while thinking of means to support the liberation army by a strong attack from the city, took measures to be prepared for such a case. The French did the same, keeping up the fire of the batteries in order to keep the breaches open.

Third general assault

On 4 September the French took advantage of an explosion inside the citadel to start their third assault. This time however, the defenders were prepared. They lighted the moat by their usual means, and then unleashed a barrage of musket and artillery fire, stopping the attack even before it reached the breaches. The ignition of another mine on the very place where the grenadiers had been buried in the second assault, then quickly decided the matter. The French flatly refused to go forward any further, and the assault had to be called off by their officers.

The East: Eugen has reached the surroundings of Turin

While the last part of the main French army had arrived at Turin on the 31st, Eugen's army had completed its march to Villastellone on the 31 August. Under cover of a strong advance guard two bridges were built near Carignan on 1 September. These were then covered by fortifications, while the princes of Savoy held a review of their army.

Chapter 7 of the siege of Turin