Battle of Tornavento June 22, 1636

As a French-Savoyard army under Duke Victor Amadeus and Marshal Charles de Crequi campaigned in northern Italy, they were attacked on the Ticino, west of Milan at Tornavento, by Spanish Governor Diego Felipe de Guzma’n Marquis de Legane’s. The Spaniards were forced to retreat after fierce fighting and suffered another loss the following year at Monte Baldo (23 June 1636).

1636. Operations in Italy. A combined French-Savoyard army under Victor Amadeus and Marshal Charles de Crequi defeated the Spanish in the hard-fought Battle of Tornavento (June 22). But the duke refused to advance beyond the Ticino against Milan. [Italian]

Thirty Years War (Franco-Habsburg War)

Franco-Savoyard victory (Tactical)

Franco- Savoyard Army

Commanders: Vittorio-Amedeo I and Marshal de Créqui

Infantry: 8 000  men

Cavalry  ~ 2 500 men

Artilley: ?

Losses ~ 2 000 – 2 500 men

Spanish Army of the State of Milano

Commander: Marques of Leganés

Infantry: 9 000 – 10 000 men

Cavalry ~ 4 000  men

Artillery: 3-5 guns

Losses: 2 000 – 2 500 men

Strategic situation: En 1636, Richelieu and the Duke of Savoy (Vittorio Amedeo I) agreed to launch an offensive on the Spanish Duchy of Lombardia. The 20 of May 1636 the main confederate army started the campaign crossing the river Tarano near the city of Asti. After 2 weeks of march and counter march the allied finally crossed the river Pô at Valenza and marched to the North passing near Novarra and taking the city of Oleggio the 14 of June, with the objective to meet the army of the Duke of Rohan coming from the north. The 16 of June the French Marshal de Créqui, with select corps of 7 000 – 8 000 French troops crossed by surprise the river Ticino at Boffalora [1] at just 40 km of Milano, but without artillery and with a strong Spanish army marching on him, Créqui decided to join the rest of the army. The 20 of June we find Créqui at Somma Lombardo on the east bank of the Ticino, Vittorio Amedeo on the west bank of the Ticino at Varalla Pombia and the Spanish at Boffalora. Next day Créqui turn back to the south to face the Spanish at Tornavento waiting the rest of the army and protecting the ford of Oleggio. The Spanish stopped at Castano Primo and decided to attack first the French before the arrival of the Savoyard army. During the night of the 21 of June we find the French digging a defensive position at Tornavento, the Savoyard building a wood bridge and the Spanish organising their army for the next day.

The French army of Marshal of Créqui took position behind their fortification. The right wing (de Florinville) covers the space between the naviglio grande (a canal), a ditch (fosso di Pamperduto) and Tornavento and had 2 infantry regiments (Pierregourde and de Florinville), a cavalry squadron (Lestang) and a company of Gendarmes (Allencourt). The centre (Marshal of Créqui) was composed of 3 infantry regiments (Sault, Henrichemont and Roquefeuille) and 6 small cavalry squadrons (Cauvisson, Lorraine, Marolles, Bois David, de la Tour and la Ferté) and it was deployed around Tornavento.At last, the left wing (Plessis-Preslin) was composed of the infantry regiment of the Lyonnais, probably 3 cavalry squadrons (Chamblay, Moissac and Palluau-Cléranbaut), 150 carabins (3 companies) and 300 dragoons (Bouillac) and it was deployed behind a ditch (fosso della Cerca near the actual SP 52 Road).

The sabaudian army of Vittorio Amedeo I it is not well know (probably some 1200 horses, 6 000 foots and 10 guns) but the vanguard, who participate to the battle, numbered some 500 horses and 2 000 – 2 500 foots (Regiment of Count Marolles [2] and Regiment Du Cheynex [2]). The rest (including French troops) was near Oleggio guarding the artillery and the luggage or looting the countryside.  In total we have some 10 500 men, for the battle, subdivided in 8 000 foots, 2 000 horses and some 450 carabins/dragoons.

The Spanish army (Marques of Léganez) was organised with an infantry of 4 Spanish battalions (Tercios of Lombardia, Caracena, Mortara and Fijo del mar de Napoles), 2 Italians battalion (Carlo della Gatta and Giulio Cesare Borromeo) and 3 German regiments (Gaspare Visconti, Prince Borso di Modena and Gilles de Haes). The cavalry was composed of companies, of the State of Milano (some 30 companies?), from the Kingdom of Napoles (11 companies), a German regiment with 7 cornets and the 2 guards companies of the Governor of Milano. We must add some companies of dragoons and an artillery battery of 5 guns. The army was deployed with a vanguard (Gerardo Gambacorta) of 5 battalions with some cavalry, an assault brigade of 4 battalions with some cavalry and a strong rearguard (Filippo Spinola-Doria) with most of the cavalry and the dragoons. In total some 9 000 – 10 000 foots and 4 000 cavalry and dragoons.

A): The first action started on the left French flanks when well supported by the artillery the right Spanish wing, under Gambacorta, repulsed the French regiment of Lyonnais and takes their outposts.

B): On the right Spanish wing, with some delays, a powerful brigade of 4 battalions supported by some cavalry companies marched toward the French position, following the Fosso di Pamperduto.

C): On the right Spanish flanks, a counter attack by the French cavalry manages to stop the Spanish killing their commander. Meanwhile the French win time to reorganised their infantry.

D): On the left wing, the Spanish infantry slip to the left to attack the French right wing.

E): Disorganised by the death of Gambacorta and the ditch of Cerca, the Spanish cannot resist the attack of the reorganised French infantry and retire to their previous position.

F): Mean time the Spanish of the left wing dislodged the French from their position. The intervention of first Savoyard troops crossing the Ticino, and some French cavalry save the situation of that wing.

G): The battles expand to the entire front, degenerating in a series of partial and confused attacks and counter attacks. But the good resistance of the French at Tornavento and the intervention of the Savoyard vanguard blocked all Spanish progress. Cavalry of both side acted to help their infantry but the lack of space did not permit conclusive charges.

H): After several hours of heavy fighting, men of both armies suffered the effect of the losses, of the tiredness and of the lack of water (“sin àrbol, y con falta de agua” (“treeless, and lacking water”)). With the night coming, the Spanish commander decided that he could not ask more to his men and started to retire, with the protection of the rearguard, behind Castano Primo to reorganise his army. The exhausted confederate army did not follow them and stay on their positions.

Balance: In one day probably more than 3 000 men died, the Spanish abandoned the battlefield and retired to Boffalora, meantime the confederate army remained some days near Tornavento but decided to turn back to theirs bases, Torino for Vittorio Amedeo and Casale for Créqui. For the confederate army, little have been achieved with this battle and the invasion of Lombardia turn to be a complete failure. In 1637, the Spanish will retake the imitative of the operation taking the fortress of Nizza Monferrato. Worst for the confederate, Vittorio Amedeo will die in 1637, starting a civil war for the control of the duchy of Savoy.

[1] Note: Following Visconti the crossing was more to the north between in the ford of Oleggio and Boffalora was attack by a strong reconnaissance squadron.

[2] Note: Some authors called them Savoie and Montferrat, even if officially they had these names not until 1664.


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