THE BATTLE OF TORTONA - JULY 18th 1758.

Tortona was a logical place for the Spanish and Piedmontese to come to grips. The town sat astride the road from Genoa as it debouched from the Apennine foothills along the bank of the Scrivia River.
The plain around the town was heavily cultivated, and largely open with the only woods being either on the foothills to the south or clustered along the banks of the Scrivia.

The battlefield around Tortona

Charles Emmanuel had led the Piedmontese army south from Turin, attempting to either relieve Genoa, or at least keep the Spanish from being able to deploy north out of the Apennines onto the plain of the upper Po valley where their superiority in cavalry might prove decisive. The collision of advance guards near Tortona on the 17th told Charles that he had at least achieved the latter aim.
Moving over familiar terrain, and well-organized, the Piedmontese managed to seize Tortona and collect themselves in a solid defensive position. Their right, under Stracchi and including the brigade of Guards and another brigade of converged grenadiers, was drawn up along the Scrivia and in Tortona itself. From Tortona, northwest the line was held by Linari's infantry all the way to Viguzollo where the Piedmontese left flank anchored itself on a stream with impassably steep banks.
A second line was formed behind by Iannela's command made up of a mix of veteran foreign regiments in Piedmontese service, and raw "provincial" units. These were supported in turn by the cavalry under Bonansea.
Charles Emmanuel's Army, deployed for battle.

It was in cavalry that Charles was at a significant disadvantage. He brought 43,200 men onto the field at Tortona as compared to Gallardo's total (after detachments left screening Genoa had been subtracted) of 40,000, but the Spanish army included some 9,600 cavalry. The Piedmontese on the other hand fielded only half that number. Given the constricted battlefield, this didn't seem too threatening. That was until, the morning of the 18th when the clouds opened and it began to rain. Musketry would now be at a discount, and the side with the stronger mounted arm at a significant advantage.

SPANISH ARMY OF ITALY (DUC DE GALLARDO) - 40,000 + 48 heavy guns

1st Column (Corredera)
1 Brigade Guards
3 Brigades Grenadiers
3 Brigades Foreign Infantry

2nd Column (Paredes)
5 Brigades Spanish Infantry
48 Heavy Guns

Cavalry Reserve (Latorre)
1 Brigade Guard Cavalry
5 Brigades Heavy Cavalry
1 Brigade Spanish Dragoons

PIEDMONTESE ROYAL ARMY (KING CHARLES EMMANUEL) - 43,200

1st Column (Stracchi)
1 Brigade Guards
1 Brigade Grenadiers
3 Brigades Line Infantry

2nd Column (Linari)
4 Brigades Line Infantry
2 Brigades Provincial Infantry

3rd Column (Iannela)
3 Brigades Foreign Infantry
2 Brigades Provincial Infantry

Cavalry Reserve (Bonnasea)
1 Brigade Heavy Cavalry
2 Brigades Dragoons

Gallardo's plan of attack was to pin the Piedmontese left with repeated cavalry attacks, led by the dashing Latorre who had been the one Spanish commander to emerge from the fiasco at Gabbiadano the previous year with his reputation in any way enhanced. 
Latorre's cavalry wing.

Meanwhile the Irishman O'Donnell would lead his column up the road from Cascina Gerola, deploy the army's heavy batteries across the Scrivia from Tortona and then use them to blast a path into the town for the supporting infantry. 
O'Donnell's flanking column moves up the left bank of the Scrivia.

This cannonade was to serve as the signal for Corredera to launch the cream of the army's infantry, the brigades of grenadiers, and the experienced Swiss and Walloon brigades on Tortona from the south. This, it was hoped, would carry the town and break the Piedmontese army in half.
The defenders of Tortona with Corredera's infantry in the distance.

 O'Donnell had his men underway by 05:00 and less than an hour later Latorre was launching the first of an apparently endless series of charges across the increasingly sodden fields between Tortona and Viguzollo. 
Waves of Spanish cavalry crashing against the Piedmontese line between Tortona and Viguzollo.

Struggling with damp powder, Linari's infantry were hard pressed and grudgingly they gave ground as the morning wore on, eventually, by 11:00, being pushed back beyond Tortona itself. This Corredera took as the moment to assault the southern environs of the town even though there was no sign of O'Donnell's flanking attack being imminent, and Corredera's men were beaten back.
Relentless pressure from the Spanish cavalry continued past noon and bodies of men and horses piled up between Tortona and Viguzollo as both sides focussed on this sector.
Linari's Infantry are pushed back.

Then, around 13:00 O'Donnell's guns finally crashed out from beyond the Scrivia, and Corredera gave the order for a second assault on the buildings to his front. This time, the Spanish were more successful and, over the next hour or so managed to secure the southern half of the town. Any hope they might have had of meeting their comrades from O'Donnell's command in the central square were soundly dashed by Stracchi's men, particularly those of the Piedmontese guards brigade. 
O'Donnell's flank attack on Tortona gets underway.

Spying the Spanish infantry fording the rising waters of the Scrivia to their right the Piedmontese guards deployed out of the loop-holed, and barricaded buildings they'd been holding, and lined the bank of the river. As the Spanish struggled across they were first swept with a devastating volley, then sent reeling back by a bayonet charge. Seeing the example of the guards, the 2nd line brigade followed, and soon a substantial counterattack was underway. The Piedmontese guards followed up across the river, capturing two dozen Spanish guns in the confusion, and helping put another brigade of enemy infantry to flight before events in the center brought their heroics to an end, and transformed them into a rearguard.
Counterattack led by the Piedmontese Guards.

Linari's infantry, and lately Bonnasea's cavalry had been struggling to cope from the relentless pressure exerted by the indefatigable Latorre's cavalry. By late afternoon they were forced to inform their sovereign that their men were at the end of their tether. Charles delayed the inevitable for as long as he could, but a withdrawal was organized, and by 18:00 the battered frontline of the Piedmontese army was pulling back behind the ranks of the guards brigade and the untouched units of Iannela's second line.
The fighting, conducted at close quarters, in the rain, in muddy fields, and the streets of Tortona had been bloody. Gallardo reported 5,000 casualties and the loss of 24 guns spiked by the Piedmontese guards. Charles Emmanuel's army had incurred the loss of 10,200 a total that could have been much higher had the Spanish horse not been completely exhausted by the day's efforts and unable to pursue.
Charles' army withdrew north and then turned west, heading for Nice where it was evacuated to Sardinia by the Piedmontese fleet beginning on August 1st. 
Gallardo let them go, marching north and entering Turin on July 24th, accepting the city's surrender and thus confirming the Spanish conquest of Piedmont. 
Morally, the hard-fought victory at Tortona was a redemption of Spanish arms after the previous year's misadventures, but strategically, its implications were huge.
The conquest of Austria's ally effectively meant the end of centuries of Habsburg influence in Italy. More immediately it opened a land route by which French armies could now march into Italy to unite with their Spanish allies in contesting the new Russian presence in the peninsular. 

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