1711 - The Siege

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The defenders

The catalan Manuel Desvalls

Manuel Desvalls Manuel Desvalls

Manuel Desvalls i de Vergós was an infantry colonel and governor of Cardona’s Castle since 1711. During the siege he coordinated the defense abided by the military direction of Count of Eck (right hand of Starhemberg) which was sent on purpose forecasting the possible attack that finally occurred. Some historian said that Desvalls was about to be captured the day that the Bourbon came into the village, just before starting the siege. He was rescued “in extremis” by his soldiers at the gates of the fortress.

Manuel Desvalls had a civil life which he developed in a house that he had in the village but is known that during the 34 days of siege he could not come out of the castle. Therefore, this character allows us to explain the siege from an inside view, with the key points of the internal resistance to the attacks that the Bourbons staged.

Paradoxically, Starhemberg doesn’t mention Manuel Desvalls in any occasion in his diary, probably because they didn’t even know each other and that because he had Count of Eck as reference. However, we have learnt about the motivator character of Desvalls upon his men, which is proved when 150 elite soldiers sneak into the castle to relive the most tired men, but any of these last men want to stop fighting. In between this elite group of soldiers there is the eldest brother of Manuel, Antoni Desvalls I of Vergós, marquis of Poal, who will become General commander in the resistance forces that will fight in the outskirts of Barcelona in 1714.

The Austrian Count of Gehlen

The Austrian Christopher Heinrich von Chalon, Count of Gehlen, was Colonel since 1702 and one of the most trustable men of Starhemberg since 1708. In fact, Ghelen directed the Starhemberg’s personal regiment, of about a thousand men. His experience in war made him a great strategist, thing which was demonstrated when he got to introduce 150 elite grenadiers chosen by Starhemberg to give a break to the castle’s most tired soldiers. He probably manipulated it to perform his maneuver over night, accompanied by a local guide as the French lowered their guard. The goal was to refresh those men, release soldiers and inform about the intern situation, of the casualties and of the damage that the bombings had caused.

Gehlen came back to Prats de Rei with empty hands: the supposedly tired soldiers from Cardona did not want to abandon, and that was a big surprise for the danger it supposed. But November 29 he could communicate to Starhemberg the situation of the siege. Gehlen served in Prats de Rei for a few more days, until December 18, when he was sent by Starhemberg to the camp of Battée in Malagarriga. The goal was, beside of subordinating himself to Battée, to study the enemy’s positions and to organize the rescue attack.

Gehlen planed the offensive together with Battée (head of the operation), on the 20th he camped in Valldeperes (an hour from Cardona) and once there he subordinated himself to Edward Stanhope, leader of the British elite grenadiers. On December 21, Gehlen attacked and controlled La Coromina, and then he joined the bloody battles of La Querosa and of Escorials. He took Stanhope’s position – as commander of the action - once the English was defeated. And he won.

Marshal Guido Von Starhemberg

Mariscal Guido Von Starhemberg Marshal Guido Von Starhemberg

He was Viceroy and Generalissimo of the allied forces serving Archduke Charles of Austria from 1708 and 1713. He stayed in Prats de Rei from September to December of 1711, where the two great armies were fighting. From there he sent 4.300 soldiers to free Cardona from the siege (plus the men of Count of Eck). At 54 years old, Starhemberg was a veteran having dedicated all his life to war, and he was the most influential leader after the Archduke.

Count of Eck

German General directly sent by Starhemberg to rule Cardona’s Castle in case there was a suspected attack. He didn’t occupy Desvalls’ position as a governor of the castle, but as a commander of the military operation. He had the temptation to abandon two days before the release because he was seriously injured. He died February 2 of 1712 at Sant Andreu’s Hospital in Manresa. His grave is found in the cloister of the basilica of Manresa’s See.

Antoni Desvalls i de Vergós

Marquis of Poal. Manuel Desvalls’ eldest brother. He participated in the aid of the siege of Cardona as a commander of the Catalan Militias, and then he entered in the castle on the second day of the siege with Gehlen. He ended up becoming, in 1714, commander of all the resistance in the outskirts of Barcelona.

Coronel Edward Stanhope

He was the British colonel, leader of an elite regiment with, at least, 400 grenadiers. Stanhope commanded the allied offensive of December 21 at Querosa and Els Escorials, where he was mortally wounded (he died two days later). He was General James Stanope’s brother, in the moment imprisoned in Madrid and the same who would end up becoming minister of the British Treasury.

Pere Montaner Ramon i de Sacosta

Regiment of Catalonia’s Council’s colonel, he participated in the garrison of Cardona’s castle in 1711. He died December 21 at Querosa, fighting against the Bourbon troops.

Rafel Nebot

General of the Catalan cavalry who directed the Catalan troops (Miquelets I Sometents) in the Cardona’s Siege’s release. Responsible of the first of the release attacks and of the last attack too, chasing with 100 horses the Bourbon withdrawal.

Baró de Battée

Austrian, he was a general deputy of the allied armies liberating the siege. He was designated by Starhemberg since the Bourbon arrival in Cardona, and he settled two hours away (Malagarriga) with 300 men waiting for the new regiments the marshal would send when he believed it was right. He was in charge of introducing the aid men inside the castle; about 400 people who entered with provisions and ammunition in the middle of the battle “La Querosa”.

Count of Traun

He was Starhemberg’s helper, in charge of establishing communication between Battée and Starhemberg. He was General, in a military scale a position below Battée, but he had a greater authority than the other Generals and even greater that Battée himself, being the right-hand man of Starhemberg. He announced the end of the siege. In 1733 he became the marshal of the Austrian army.

Other relevant characters in the Austrian side were, outside the castle, Generals Hamilton (Bristish), Monthese (Dutch) and Lescharain (Swiss), the Colonels Shomberg, Spee, Beaufort and Rohr, and the Catalan official Joan Vilar I Ferrer (colonel), Manuel Moliner i Rou (Colonel), Segimon Torres (Colonel) and Casanova (Captain); inside the castle, we should highlight German General Shover and Colonels of Count of Taaff’s (Italian) and Conrad Planta’s (Swiss) prestige.