War of the Austrian Succession 1740 -48
This war is little known in European history but none the less bloody for that: the battles in the Low Country, such as Laffeld, involved on at least two occasions armies of more than 100,000 men on both sides. Casualty rates could often be 33% or more, as at Assietta where the French attacked the Piedmontese up a steep hillside which was preprepared for defence.
Some calamitous naval battles were fought as well, such as Toulon, Cape Ortegal, and Ouessant off Brest, ending in the virtual destruction of the French navy. This enabled British acquisitions at the expense of the French, both in India and, notably, the conquest of Louisburg in Nova Scotia, guarding the river route into Canada down the St. Lawrence.
The causes of the war were various, and included the desires of royal dynasties to:
The consequent war spread itself across the Low Countries, Italy, Bavaria, Bohemia, Silesia and Moravia and involved many of the powers of Europe with the notable exception of the Turks and the Russians.
Much of the war saw Bourbon France, Spain and Naples allied with Frederick II the Great of Prussia against the Hapsburgs of Austria - Hungary, the Netherlands, and their paymaster Britain; with Piedmont- Sardinia playing a dangerous middle game playing one alliance off against the other. Prussia made a separate peace on two occasions, and Saxony also changed sides. There was constant intrigue in Russia and the French and Prussian party succeeded in involving Russia in a war with Sweden, to prevent it interfering in the main European war.
Memorable land battles included Assietta, Laffeld, Mollwitz, Chotusitz, Soor, Fontenoy, Dettingen and the storming of Asti and Bergen-op-Zoom.
Sieges included those of Alessandria, Genoa and the fortress of Cuneo in the Alps. There were many sieges in the Low Countries, usually quick French gains because of the poor quality both of the old Vauban fortresses and of the Dutch troops defending the Hapsburg forts under the "Barrier Treaty".
There was a memorable breakout of the French defenders of Prague followed by a winter march across the Sudeten mountains of Bohemia back to the relative safety of the French-occupied Rhineland.
The great Generals on display included not only Frederick II the Great of Prussia but also Belle-Isle and the great Maurice of Saxony on the French side who later published his autobiography "Mes Reveilles". Apart from Frederick II the Great of Prussia, King George also led his troops personally in the field, at the Battle of Dettingen, as did his son Cumberland, and certain other European monarchs. Indeed Cumberland narrowly escaped death or capture.
Revolts caused by warweariness in Genoa, Corsica and the Netherlands provided the ruling classes with a nasty pretaste of the French Revolution which would crash over them at the end of the century.
Contributory factors to the end of the war were the French realisation that they were beaten on the high seas and that conquering any more land in central Europe would cause all the powers of that region to unite their forces in resistance.HOME