From Pavia to Rocroi: The Tercios at war

In this chapter we describe the main military campaigns* organised and conducted by the Spanish monarchy during the two centuries (XVI and XVII). The next figure presents the main dependences of the Spanish crone for this period.
Europe in XVI and XVII centuries with the possesions of the Spanish monarchy: Espagne (Spain), Franche-Conté (FC), Lombardia (L), Naples, Sicile (Sicily), Flandres (Flanders).  Charles I (1520 - 1557) had also the control of the Saint Empire (German Holy Empire ) and the Terres des Habsourg (Land of the Habsburg). From 1580 to 1668, Portugal was a posession of the Spanish King.

* Note: During a war in that period, Pitch Battle was not very common, at contrary it was more the exception. The main military activities were sieges and skirmishes. In fact most of the battles were directly related with a siege.

6.1  Charles I of Spain, Emperor of the Holy Empire (1515 - 1556)
During the reign of Charles I (Charles V of Germany), the concept of Tercio was created and their number was only four: The "Old" Tercios of Lombardia, Napoli , Sicilia and Sardinia. The number of men involved in the Tercio was changing from 8 000 to 12 000 men out of a total of 60 000 to 80 000 infantrymen. They were the elite force of the Empire. Charles I of Spain could maintain, at maximum, an army of 100 000 men.
Charles I of Spain had made campaign principally against France, the Ottoman Empire and the protestant princes.
Italians Wars
The Italian wars were the major confrontation in Europe during half-century for the domination of the Italian peninsula. Briefly, the French Monarchy was confronted with the Spanish monarchy for the dominion of the Kingdom of Napoli and the Duchy of Lombardia. The result was the end of the italian dream for the French monarch and the domination of Italy by Spain for the next 200 years.
Balkanic and North African Wars
In the XVI century the Ottoman Empire under Sulaiman expanded strongly in Europe and in the west Mediterranean. The Struggle with the Holy empire was for the domination of East Europe (especially Hungary) and the North African coast. The Ottoman sent several campaigns in Hungary and the rest of East Europe and the culmination point was the siege of Vienna. In the Mediterranean, the Spanish tried to conquer Moorish strongholds (Tunis, Alger) in north Africa and to resist the Ottoman advance. It was a bitter and cruel wars which could cost heavy losses to the spanish infantry.
German War
The Protestant reformation had changed the political situation in the Germanic Holy Empire. The Schmalkaldic
league was formed in 1530 by the main protestant German princes and started to discuss the Emperor authority. Until 1544, Charles V was not able to turn his attention to the German problem. After futile discussion and
negotiation the war broke up and the protestant rebellion was destroyed at Mühlberg in 1647. The religious  struggle seemed to be solved  with the unsatisfactory compromise of Passau in 1552, but the religious question was again the main problem during the thirty year war (1618 - 1648).
6.2 Philip II  King of Spain (1556 - 1598)
To maintain his heritage Philip II made a great number of campaigns. The main conflict was against the Dutch rebels in Flanders, the Netherlands' War of Independence from 1567 to 1648. But Philip had also to check the Ottoman advance in west Mediterranean (siege of Malta, battle of Lepanto) and fight in France to support the Catholic league against the French Huguenot during the French religious wars (1562 - 1598). Also at the Death of the King of Portugual in 1578, Philip II claimed the Portuguese crone and sent an army to occupy his new kingdom in 1580.
The number of Tercios was reduced. The army of Flanders had an average of 4 Tercios. To protect Italy and  fight against the Ottoman Empire, the Spanish used to have 6-7 Tercios of which 3 (Tercio de la Ligua, Tercio de la galeras de Sicilia and Tercio nuevo de Napoles) were used in the Navy galleys. For the occupation of Portugal in 1580 and the operation of England in 1580, 4 new Tercios were raised, 1 stayed in Portugal and the rest was disbanded and the soldiers sent in Flanders in 1583 after the invasion of the Azores islands.
In 1588, the monarchy had 4 Tercios in Flanders, 6 Tercios in Italy and 5 Tercios in Spain plus an undefined number of independent companies to garrison the peninsula.
In total, the number of Spanish infantrymen would oscillate between 20 000 - 30 000 men (in total the Spanish monarchy had between 75 000 and 100 000 infantrymen) and the Spanish cavalry around 9 000 - 10 000 men.
Italian and French Wars (1495 - 1559)
From 1556 to 1559 Felipe II inherited from his father the end of the Italian wars against the French Monarchy. The battles of St Quentin and Gravelines, recognised the end of the French dream in Italy and the impossibility for the Spanish King to recover the Duchy of Burgundy, the peace was signed in Cateau Cambresis in 1559.
The wars of Religious in France (1562 - 1598)
The conflict in France could be divided in 9 separate civil wars between the Huguenot (French protestant) and the Catholics for the control of the French crone. As a catholic King, Felipe II supported the Catholigue cause first with money, afterwards sending troops and at last sending the Army of Flanders in the 1590 decades.
Ottoman Wars
Now that the Holy empire was to his Uncle Ferdinand, Felipe II could concentrate his force to block the Ottoman advance in the west Mediterranean. After  the battle of Lepanto the Ottoman did not tried (for non-military reasons) to challenge again the Christian fleet. In North africa the Spanish loose most of their stronghold like Tunis in 1575 and were able to keep only the city of Oran. The rest of the country was left to the authority of the Turks of Alger.
War in Flanders (The Netherlands' War of Independence)
This war was the main conflict of the Felipe II reign. In the XVI century, Flanders was divided in 17 different regions more or less united in the Duchy of Flanders. The war broke up with a widespread  opposition to the Spanish Monarch governance practice. Also the diffusion of the protestant religion amongst part of the Flemish rulers, and the Spanish repression  radicalised the opposition to the Catholic King, especially  in the north provinces of the Duchy (mainly in the province of Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht). The war of Flanders was a series of sieges and skirmish in this wet country cut of by arms of sea, rivers, canals and marshes and full of well-protected cities and fortresses. The impossibilities to deploy large armies means that few pitch battles were fought.
In 1578 the Portuguese king Sebastian died in combat against Moorish tribes in Morocco. Felipe II claimed the crone of Portugal (he was the grand son of  Sebastian) to unify the Iberic peninsula.
6.3 Philip III King of Spain (1598 - 1621)
After the death of the king Philip II, the Spanish Empire was exhausted and could not maintain the combat against the French, the Dutch and the English at the same time. The new king Philip III  negotiated the peace with France in 1598 and with the English in 1604. In 1609 the two enemies the Spanish and the Dutch negotiated a truce of 12 years.
The efficiency of the Tercios of Flanders was reduced by lack of funds and several mutinies. At that time the 4 Tercios of Flanders had around 7 000 men.
At his death, in 1621, Philip III infantry was composed of  7 Spanish Tercios (Iñigo Borja, Diego Luis de Olivares, Diego Mesia, Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, Juan Bravo de Lagunas, Rofrigo Pimentel, Ramón Cordona), 13 Italian Tercios, 11 Walloon Tercios, 2 Tercios from Burgundy, 2 Irish Tercios and 9 German Regiment. We can imagine a force of  50 000 - 65 000 infantrymen of which some 16% were Spaniards.
War in Flanders ( The Netherlands' War of Independence)
Thirty Years War
In 1618, began one of the major conflicts of the century, the Thirty Years War. To help the Emperor, Philip III engaged some Tercios from Italy to fight with the Habsburg armies. The White Mountain battle in 1620 gave end to the first part of the war.

6.4 Philip IV of Spain (1621 - 1665)
The reign of Philip IV was characterised by the war in Flanders once more, the support of the Catholics League during the Thirty Years War, the repeated crisis in Italy, the war with France from 1635 and the uprising in Catalonia, Portugal and in the kingdom of Naples.
After two decades (1622 - 1642) of victories, the Spanish power met his limits. Again, the monarchy did not have the money to maintain a large army (bankrupt of 1627, 1647 and 1662). From 1640, the Spanish had to fight on 7 fronts: in Flanders against the Dutch, the French and the German protestant, in Franche - Conté and Italy against France and in the peninsula against the Portuguese, Catalan and French. Finally the English would support the Portuguese and attack the Spanish possessions of America. Defeats would arrive very soon and Philip IV would have to negotiate to save his Kingdom.
In 1648 the independence of the Unite - Province (the Dutch) was recognised by Spain and in 1659, the
Peace of Pyrenean would put an end to the war with France (The territory of Roussillon was given to
France as well as some cities in the region of Artois).
In 1635, to face France, the Spanish had around 160 000 - 170 000 men in total: 70 000 men (88% infantry men and 12 % horsemen) in Flanders (44 000 men  had to be maintained in garrisons), 30 000 in Germany, 23 600 in Milano, 10 000 in Napoles and 31 000 in Spain.
With the conflicts in the Iberic peninsula in 1640, more troops had to be raised in Spain and new type of tercios were created.  In 1641, we had probably 90 000 men (6 Spanish Tercios) in the Flanders and Palatina, 30 000 in Italy (5 Spanish Tercios), 40 000 men in Catalonia (17  Spanish Tercios ?), in Extremadura 10 000 men (7  Spanish Tercios) and probably  10 000 - 20 000 men in the rest of Spain. In total a maximum of 190 000 men (cavalry and infantry), of which 50 000 were Spaniards infantrymen.
In 1652, after the surrender of Barcelona, the Spanish army was most reduced and only 77 000 men subdivided in 19 000 men in Flanders, 16 000 men in Italy, 4 000 men in Cataloña, 16 000 men in extremadura and 22 000 men in the rest of the peninsula.
War in Flander (The Netherlands' War of Independence)
The 12 year truce ended in 1621 and neither parties wanted to settle a peace treaty. The war  would give some victories, like the siege of Breda in 1625 or the battle of Kallo in 1638, unfortunately the lack of funds and the war with France and the disaster of the Dunes in 1639 would not permit to achieve the war. In 1648 the Spanish monarchy agreed to recognise the Dutch independence. The main weapon of the Dutch were the navy, but they had also an army of 70 000 - 80 000 men and by 1629 they could field an army of 20 000 - 30 000 men.
Thirty Year War
Spain would participate in this war for example sending funds to the Emperor Ferdinand, but the main politics was to fight against the Dutch and the French and all the Spanish military or diplomatic  movement in the Holy Empire was to reduce the naval supremacy of the dutch or to atract the Empire to fight with them.
French war (1635 - 1659)
Again the French monarchy was strong enough to challenge the Spanish. The war with France brought some victories (like Corbie in 1636, Salses in 1639, Honnecourt in 1642) at the beginning but none of these victories were decisive. At the end the French, with great difficulties managed to break the Spanish monarchy. France, for the next 70 years became  the dominant power in Europe. From 1635 to 1659, the French had a maximum of 210 000 men (170 000 infantry men and 40 000 horsemen) in their armies (in 1640 they had 6 field armies).
Wars in Italy (1620 - 1659)
At that time Italy was divided in a multitude of States, basically we had, the states (Duchy of Lombardy and the Kingdom of Naples) member of the Spanish crone; the duchies of Tuscany, Savoy and Mantua, the Papacy, the Republics of Venice and Genoa and some minor states. Some states, like the Duchy of Savoy, were part of the Holy Empire and thus affected by the thirty years war, but above all by the crisis between France, Spain and their Italian allies, maimly the cris in the Valteline passes (1620 - 1626) which connected Spanish lombardy with the Austrian Tyrol (the Spanish road), the Invasion of the Republic of Genova (1625), the Mantuan succesion war (1628 - 1631) and the Savoyan civil war (1638 - 1642). The crisis in the Italian peninsula affected strongly the strategy of the Spanish monarchy as well as their financial and military resources.
Iberic Campaigns
From 1640, these two regions, each with a strong individuality of history and of language, revolted themselves against the Spanish government who had the plan to extend the power of the monarchy by means of certain reforms.
Portugal (1640 - 1668)
In Portugal, the rising was due to the feelling by a part of the native aristocracy that the Government in Madrid was not doing enough for the Portuguese interests (especially to defend colony’s trading against the Dutch and English). On the contrary Portuguese thought that they could do better without the Spanish monarchy. The decision of the Spanish to crush first the Catalans and after the Portuguese saved probably the new elected king of Portugal Joâo IV. From 1659 to 1665, the Spanish would tried to concentrated their forces to invade Portugal, the results would be three disastrous expeditions. The Portuguese never had more than 30 000 men to face Spain, but strong reinforcement (7 000 - 8 000 men)  would arrive from England and France.
Catalonia (1640 - 1652)
In Catalonia, the rebellion was against the Spanish monarchy a part of the ruler class as well as the attitude of the Spanish soldiers. Catalonian rebellion was directly connected with the war with France as the Catalonians decided to give the crone of the principally to the French king (even if the Catalonian discovered that to live under French rules was not easy). As we said before, for the Spanish this front was very important and strong forces and money was used to recover the country.
6.5 Charles II King of Spain (1665 - 1700)
When Charles II "El Hechizado" (The Enchanted) accessed to the throne, the Spanish  Empire was the ill man of Europe. Spain could not compete against powerful states like France, England or the Dutch. The finances were very weak (another bankrupt in 1666) and could not maintain a large army. Only the alliances with the Austrians, the Dutch and the English could save Spain from the new French monarch Louis XIV, at least the Spaniard were not alone anymore.
Against France, the Spanish monarchy would participate to the Devolution War (1667 - 1668), the Dutch wars (1672 - 1678) and the Augsburg League war (1688 - 1697). In thirty years (1667 - 1697), the Spanish crone would lose to France: the Franche - Conté, the region of Artois and Alsace and some fortress in Flanders.
Finally the endogenic cross in the Spanish Habsburg dynasty would produce a weak king unable to have a
heritor. It would be the end of the Habsburg monarchy and the beginning of the Bourbon (the actual King of Spain is called
Juan Carlos I de Borbón y Borbón).
The Tercios were still the sword (a short one) and shield of Spain but the monarchy have a big manpower problems to maintain his forces.
In 1694, the Spanish had around 65 000 - 75 000 men (77 - 80% of infantrymen), with  70 - 80 Tercios or regiments of infantry (35 - 40 should be native Tercios). In 1700 - 1703, at Charles II death, the Spanish had 33 native Tercios and 32 allied Tercios, so around 30 000 infantrymen (13 300 in Spain, 8 000 - 9 000  in Flanders and 8 000 - 9 000 Italy). Normaly he had also 1 Guard regiment, 18 Tercios of Cavalry and 9 Tercios of dragoons (around 10 000  men).
By Comparison the Dutch had in 1701, 57 infantry  regiments of native troops (43 100 men), 2 gardes regiments  (4 100 men) and 7 foreigns regiments (11 200 men), in total 58 400 infantrymen. The cavalry numbered 11 800 horsemen, 27 cavalry regiments and 4 dragoons regiments. The French had in 1700, a peace army of 190 000 men of which 30 000 were horsemen (cavalrymen and dragoons).
Devolution War (1667 - 1668)
This war started by the wish of the French monarch to expand the boundary of his kingdom, especially in north France. In 1667 the French army invaded the Spanish Flanders with 70 000 men against the 14 000 Spanish troops and the Franche-Conté. Without allies, the Spanish capitulated to the French demand in 1668 by the treaty of Aix la Chapelle..
Dutch wars (1672 - 1678)
In 1670, the French government recognised that the Dutch were now their main opponent and Louis XIV decided to invade the United Provinces (Dutch Netherlands) in 1672. To counter the French, the Dutch formed an alliance with Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Denmark, Brandenburg-Prussia, and Lorraine. For Spain the main fronts were Catalonia, Flanders and north Italy. After 6 years of fighting, the treaty of Nijmegen settle the peace at the expense of the Spanish monarchy.
Augsburg League war (1688 -1697)
In 1680, the French army occupied the Duchy of Luxembourg. In front of the expansion of the French monarchy, most of the European countries formed the League of Augsburg to stop Louis XIV aggressive politics. The war started in 1688 and finished 9 years later by the treaty of Treaty of Ryswick. In  the fisrt part of the war, the French took the offensive and  won several terrestrial battles, at sea the defeat of the Hougue in 1692 gave the superiority to the Anglo-Dutch navy. After 1694, the French strategy was defensive and the allies were unable to break to invade France. In 1697 all the European monarchies had the succession of the Spanish crone in mind....
In November 1700, Charles II died in Madrid, Philip of Anjou  grandson of the French king would access to the throne under the name of Philip V of Spain. In 1702 the Succession War (1702 - 1714) began. The Tercios would disappear in 1704, replaced by regiments copied on the French model.

6.6 More details concerning some Military operations or battles
In this part, I give a small description of 25 battles/sieges were the Spanish Tercios have been involved. In general, I give the strategic situation and a table with the opposite armies. Also 10 battles ( Pavia in 1525 , Cerisoles in 1544 , Jemmingen in 1568 , Mook in 1574 , First Dunes in 1600 , Nordlingen in 1634, Rocroi in 1643, Montijo in 1644 , the day of Seneffe in 1674 and the battle of the river Ter in 1694) have been described in detail using diagrams.

The battle of Pavia  24/02/1525    Imperial victory (Strategic)

French Army 
Commander:  King François I 
Infantry: 17 000 men 

Cavalry: 6500 men (1200 gendarmes) 
Artillery : 53 guns 
Losses: 10 000 - 13 000 men

Imperial army
Commander: Duke of Pescara
Infantry: 19 000 men
        Spanish ( 5000 men)
Cavalry:  4000 men
Artillery: 17 guns
Losses: 500 - 600 men 

After the failure of the invasion of Provence in 1524, the French army under the command of the King François I attacked the imperial position of Pavia defended by 6 000 - 8 000 imperial troops. To releive the garnison the Duke of Pescara organised an army of 24 000 men army. The 25/02/1525, following a night march aproach, the Imperial army would destroy the French army in a confused battle. In two hours the battle was won and the King of France prisonner of the imperialist.
Click here for more information

Algiers Expedition   20/10/1541    Ottoman Victory (Strategic)

Ottoman Army 
Commander:  Bacha Hassan 
Infantry: 4 000 men 
           (Janissaries : 1000 men) 
Cavalry: 10 000 - 15 000*  men
Artillery: 50 guns

Losses: 1500-2000 men

Imperial Army
Commander: Charles V
Infantry: 18 000 men
                           (Tercio ~ 7000 men)
Cavalry:  1 500 men
Artillery: 56 guns

Losses: 7 000 - 8 000 men

In 1541, Charles V considered that the bulk of the Ottoman armies were fighting in east Europe and Persia and decided to destroy the main Ottoman outpost in the west of the Mediterranean, the harbour of Algiers. He collected an army of 19 500 men** (3500 men from the Tercio of Napoles, 3 000 men from the Tercio of Sicilia and 500 from the Tercio of Lombardia) and disembarked the 20/10/1541 on a beach near Algiers defended by a garrison of 4 000 men. But on the night of the 23 of October disaster came by a tempest of storm and rain. After tree days of winds and rain, 130 transport ships were destroyed as well as 14 warships. At the end of the tempest, clouds of Moorish horsemen came down from the hills  to skirmish the Imperials troops. Considering the situation the Emperor decided to re- embark his army.
* the garrison of Algiers had only some 1 000 cavalrymen, but the Moorish tribes sent numerous horsemen to attack the Christians.
** We do not take in account the numerous adventurers who participated to this expedition

The battle of Cerisoles       11/04/1544     French Victory (Tactical)

French Army 
Commander:  François of Bourbon 
Infanterie: 14 800 men 

Cavalerie: 1 500 men 
Artillerie ~ 20 guns 

Pertes: 1500-2000 men

Imperial Army
Commander: Marquis of De Vasto
Infantry: 17 800 men
                           (Tercio : 1500 men)
Cavalerie:  1 000 men
Artillerie: 20 guns

Pertes: 8 000 - 9 000 men  (3 000 prisoners)

After the disaster of the Algiers Expedition, the French King decided to start again the war against the Emperor Charles V and sent an army in north Italy. The French commander put siege at the fortress of Carignano to force the Imperials to react. The Imperialist commander, the Marquis of De Vasto organised an army with the help of    7 000 new Landsknechts and marched toward the French. The battle took place near Cerisoles the 11 april 1544. After fierce combat the Imperial centre was destroyed, the French had won the day. Unfortunately for them, the French king fearing an invasion of France recalled his best troops from Italy.
Click here for more information

The Battle of Mühlberg          24/04/1547             Imperial victory (Strategic)

Army of the Smalkalde league 
Commander:  John Frederic of Saxony 
Infantry: 12 000 men 

Cavalry: 3 000 men 
Artillery : 15 guns 

Losses: 7000-8000 men

Imperial army
Commander: Duke of Alba & Charles I
Infantry: 25 000 men
            (Spanish Tercio : 7 800 men)
Cavalry:   4 500 men
Artillery: 20

Losses: 100 -200 men 

The Emperor Charles tried to destroy the protestant ligue of Smalkalde (Protestant). Waiting for the arrival of the Spanish Tercios from Italy the Duke of Alba saved time refusing to fight a pitch battle. When the Spanish infantry arrived, Alba changed strategy and pursuit the Elector of Saxony. The battle of  Mühlberg was fought when the Elector couldn't escape from the trap near the river Elbe. The imperials sent a vanguard of 2 000 Spanish harquebusier and musketeers (first time to be used in a battle) and some 1 050 light cavalrymen to check the Saxon picket and cross the river. When both banks of the river were secured, the main group of imperial cavalry (1 800 men at arms, and 600 harquebusiers on horse) an a part of the infantry fall upon the Saxon army who fled in panic. The imperial victory was complete and the protestant league destroyed.

The battle of Saint Quentin     10/08/1557 Spanish Victory (Strategic)

French army 
Commander:  Duke of Monmorency 
Infantry ~ 18000 men 

Cavalry ~ 6000 men 
Artillery : ? 

Losses: 14000 men

Imperial army
Commander: Duke of Savoy
Infantry ~  6000 men
           (Spanish Tercio ~ 4000 men)
Cavalry ~   4000 men
Artillery: ?

Losses: 200  men 

After the occupation of three cities (Toul, Metza and Verdun) by the French forces in 1552, the new King of Spain Philipp II reacted and sent an army of 50 000 men to invade the north of France. The Spanish forces sieged the city of Saint Quentin defended by a garrison of 1000 men. An army of 24 000 men was sent by the French to releive the garnison. This army was intercepted by the Spanish in a narrow pass and destroyed. The 27/08/1557 the city surrended and in 1558 after a new victory at Gravelines the Spanish - French war was put to an end by the peace treaty of  Cateau-Cambressis.

Siege of Malta  May to  September  1565     Catholic Victory (Strategic)

Ottoman Army 
Commander:  Baja Mustapha & Piali 
Troops: 45 000 men 
Artillery : 70 guns 
Navy: 179 ships 

Losses: 30 000 men

Catholic Army
Commanders: Duke of  Alba & Order of Malta
Infantry: 15 000 men 
                 (Garrison of  Malta: 5000 h + 700 Spanish)
                  (Spanish Tercio:  6000 h)
Cavalry :  200 men
Navy: 60 Ships

Losses: 3000 men + 7500 civilians

In 1565 the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire decided to conquer the Strategic island of Malta. The defence of Malta belong to the Order of San John and the very catholic King of Spain would take care of the military situation of the island.  At the beginning of the siege the garrison had around 500 knights from the Order of San John, 4500 militias and 500 Spanish infantry from the Tercio of Sicila. Very quickly 200 Spanish infantrymen  and 100 Italians cavalry would be sent to the island. During 4 months, the garrison repulsed the Turkish assaults inflicting heavy losses to the attackers (to Take the Fort San Telmo the Turks would spent 30 days and lose 6 000 men). In September 1565, Philipp II King of Spain organised an army of 9 000 infantrymen (from the Tercio of Napoles, Cócerga o Bracamonte and Lombardia) with 60 fast ships to relieve the garrison. The troops were quickly disembarked and began to attack the tired Turkish troops. After a small resistance Mustapha decided to withdraw, it is the end of the siege of Malta.

The battle of Jemmingen 21/07/1568       Spanish Victory (Strategic)

Protestant Army 
Commander:  Louis of Nassau 
Infantry ~ 10 000 men 

Cavalery ~ 2 000 men
Artillery: 16 guns 

Losses: 7000 men

Spanish Army
Commander: Duke of Alba
Infantry ~ 12 000 men
      (Spanish Tercios ~ 5  500 men)
Cavalry ~ 3 000 men
Artillery: ?

Losses: around  300 men

In August 1567 the Tercios, under the command of Duke of Alba, arrived in Bruxelle to suddue the protestant uprising. In spring 1568 the Protestant leaders William of Orange and Louis of Nassau decided to invade the Flanders with mercenary armies. In front of superior forces, Alba decided to avoid a pitchbattle and to harass first Louis's army. Louis of Nassau made the mistake of tramping himself in a peninsula in Frisia borded by the rivers Ems and Dollard. The 21/07/1568, the Duke of Alba sent a vanguard of 1300 harquebusiers and musketeers and 300 horsemen. Thinking that it was the only Spanish force against him, the protestant leader launched a counter-attack but were destroyed by Alba's gunmen. After the victory, Alba marched towards the second protestant army which would disolve themselves under the Spanish skirmishes.
Click here for more information

Battle of Lepanto      7/10/1571                 Catholic victory    (Tactical)

Turkish Fleet 
Comamander:  Admiral Ali Pacha 
Navy : 221 galleys + 56 others ships 
Infantry : 34000 men 

Artillery : 750 guns

Losses: around 35000 men

Catholic League Fleet 
Commander: Don Juan of Autria
Navy : 207 galleys  +  66 others ships
Infantry : 33 000 men 
           (Spanish Tercio: 8000 men)
Artillery :  1200 guns

Losses: 7600 men (2000 Spaniards)

The Tercios were infantry units but in naval combat in the Mediterranean sea the boarding tactic was important and a good infantry was very helpful. After the fall of Cyprus, the Pope Pie V organised a Catholic League to repulse the Turks and liberate some strategic islands in the East Mediterranean. Italian states, the Spanish Empire and the Pope would  negotiate to create a important Fleet. This fleet of 273 ships with 33 000 infantrymen aboard (45 companies from the Tercio of Napoles, Figueroa, Sicilia, Lombardia and Moncada), under the Command of Don Juan of Austria, would meet the Turkish fleet in the golf of Lepanto. Thanks to  a better firepower (from artillery and harquebus) the Catholics would win the day. The Turkish Admiral would be killed in the combat between his galley the "Sultan" and the galley "La Real" of Don Juan. Lepanto was a tactical victory because Cyprus was not liberated, but  the Ottoman Empire would give away his power in the Mediterranean.

Campaign of 1574:
The Battle of Mook        15/04/1574      Spanish Victory (Tactical)

Protestant Army 
Commander: Luis of Nassau 
Infantry: 5 500 men 

Cavalry:  2 600 men 

Losses: 3 000  men 

Army of Flanders
Commander: Sancho de Avila
Infantry ~ 5 000 men
            (Spanish Tercio ~ 3200 men)
Cavalry:  800 men

Losses: 150 men

Coming from Germany, Louis of Nassau wanted to rejoin William of Orange to invade the Brabant and reduce at the same time the pressure on the besiege city of Leiden in Holland. The Spanish Commander organised quickly an army and marched towards Louis of Nassau. With a rapid march the Spanish would cut the retreat of the Dutch, who were obliged to fight a pitchbattle.The Dutch army was defeated and two of their Leaders Louis of Nassau and Eric of Nassau lied dead on the field. Lack of funds and mutinies would reduce the impact of the Spanish victory.
Click here for more information

Conquest of the Azores Islands    2/08/1583 Spanish Victory (Strategic)

Portuguese Army 
Comandant:  Comodore de Chaste 
Infantry: 9000 men 
Cavalry: 200 men 

Artillery : 203 guns (in fortresses) 
Navy : around 30 ships 

Losses: 9000 men (mostly prisonners) 

Spanish Army
Commander: Admiral Santa Cruz
Infantry: 11500 men 
                (Spanish Tercios: 9900 men)
Cavalry : 200 men
Artillery : 6 guns
Navy: 100 ships

Losses: 400  men

After the occupation of Portugal in 1580 by Philip II of Spain who became King of Portugal, the Portuguese pretendant Don Antonio retired to the Archipelago of the Azores. Don Antonio fortified the archipelago with the help of the English and French. In July 1582, Admiral Santa Cruz defeated a French fleet near the island of Terceira. The next year, Santa Cruz decided to invade all the archipelago and especially the island of Terceira defended by 9 000 men in 44 fortress (203 guns). The invasion force (for the Spanish: Tercio of Figueroa, Bobadilla, Iñiguez and de Toledo ) would disembark the 26/07/1583 and established, after some hard fighting, a bridgehead. Soon they would advance to the Capital Angra and obtained the surrender of de Chaste's troops. On the 2/08/1583 the conquest was over. Philip II was definitely King of Portugal.

The Invincible Armada   21/07/1588 - 2/09/1588    English Victory (Strategic)

English Navy
Commander:  Effingham 
Navy:  50 Ships (16 Gallions)
Infantry: 1500 men

Artillery : 1500 guns

Losses: 200 men 

Army of Flanders
Commander:  Duke of Parma
Navy :  275 ships  (250 transports)
Infantry: 26000 men
                     (Spanish Tercio :  6000 men)
Cavalry:  1000 men
Artillery : 12 guns

Losses:     - 

Commander: Medina Sidonia
Navy:   126 Ships (20 Gallions)
Spanish Infantry: 18000 men

Cavalry : 1000 men
Artillery : 2431 guns

Losses: 63 vessels (8000 infantrymen)

For economic, politic and religious reasons, Philip II of Spain would intend to invade England. In 1588, the Spanish organised a fleet of 126 ships in Galicia with 18 000 infantrymen. At the same time the Army of Flanders prepared an expedition force of 26 000 men under the command of the Duke of Parma. The major problem for the Spanish was that they controlled only the Harbour of Dunkirk in the Flanders. The rest of the coast was under Dutch control. The 12 July 1588, the main fleet sailed to the Flemish coast to join with  armada's men. By the 21/07/1588, The English navy would start to harass the Spanish fleet in some heavy engagements. At the beginning of august Medina Silonia  decided to sail to Calais to re-supply his ships. During the night 7- 8 august, the English sent fireships among the anchored enemy vessels, many of which cut their cables in panic. Finally the English navy attacked strongly the Spanish the 8/08/1588 in front of Gravelines. The next day, the Spanish Commander decided to go back to Spain passing by the north of Scotland. In the Atlantic, severe gales would sunk many ships, the survivors arrived in September in Spain. Elisabeth I, Queen of England had saved her kingdom.

First Battle of the Dune          2/07/1600      Dutch Victory (Tactical)

Dutch Army 
Commander:  Maurice of Nassau* 
Infantry: 9 400 men 

Cavalry: 2 500 men 
Artillery  : 6 guns 

Losses: 1700 men

Army of Flanders
Commander: Archduke Alberto
Infantry < 9 000 men **
        (Spanish Tercio ~ 4 000 men)
Cavalry : 1 600 men
Artillery : 9 guns

Losses : 4 000 - 4 500 men

Thanks to the superiority of his Navy, Maurice of Nassau decided to disembark an army to reduce the Spanish bases of Nieuport and Dunkirk. The Spanish reacted quickly and the Spanish commander, the Archduke Alberto sent an army of 16 000 men to counter the Dutch. The Spanish destroyed at first the Dutch vanguard (2000 men lost) and then marched towards the bulk of the enemy force. The Archduke decided to launch immediately an assault on the Dutch position. Thanks to a major mobility of his infantry and his cavalry, Maurice of Nassau was able to counter the Spanish infantry and inflict heavy losses to the attacker. Exhausted by the march and the hard fighting, the Spanish run away. Maurice of Nassau had won the day, but he had also suffered severe losses and decided to re-embark his troops.
* The 2000 men lost during previous days are not counted.
** In this number we do not count  4 000 Germans infantry who did not participate to the battle.
Click here for more information

The White Mountain   8/11/1620 Imperial victory (Strategic)

Bohemian Army 
Commander:  Christian of Anhalt 
Infantry ~ 10 000 men 

Cavalry ~  11 000 men 
Artillery : 10 guns 

Losses: 5 000 men 

Imperial Army
Comandant: Tilly & Bucquoy
Infantry: 18 500 men
                          (italian Tercio  ~ 2800 men)
Cavalry :  6 500 men
Artillery ~ 10 guns

Losses:  700 men

Around 1618, the protestant nobility of Bohemia refused to accept the Emperor Ferdinand II as King of Bohemian state. It was the beginning of the Thirty Years War (1618 - 1648). The Emperor organised a coalition of Catholic princes and with the support of Italian (Tercio of Spinelli) and wallon (with some spaniards in the Tercio of Bucquoy and Verdugo) troops attacked the Protestant. The decisive battle would take place at the west of Prague in the massif of the White mountain. The Imperial troops would launch a frontal attack on protestant position and after two hours of bitter fighting, the protestant broke and fled. The victory would put an end to the Independence of the Kingdom of Bohemia.

The battle of Nordlingen             6/09/1634      Imperial victory (Strategic)

Swedish /Protestant Army 
Commanders: General Horn  &  Saxe-Weimar 
Infantry: 16 300 men 

Cavalry: 9 300 men 
Artillery : 54 guns 

Losses: 13 000 -15 000 men

Imperial Army
Commanders: Cardinal-Infante &  Ferdinand II
Infantry < 21 000 men 
          (Spanish Tercio : 3 200 men)
Cavalry: 12 000 men
Artillery :  32 guns

Losses: some 5 000  men

During a large part of the Thirty Years War, Sweden would be the protestant champion with the victory of Breitenfeld and Lutzen over the Imperialist. The battle of Nordlingen showed the only pitch battle where the Swedish infantry (in fact german mercenaries in Swedish service) would fight against the Old Spanish Tercio (Lombardia and Napoles). The result would be the destruction of the Swedish dream in Germany.
Click here for more information


The Battle of Salses 2/11/1639 Spanish Victory (Strategic)

French Army 
Commander:  Prince of Condé 
Infantry ~ 22 000 men 
Cavalry ~  4 000 men 
Artillery : 12 guns 

Losses ~ 2 000 men 

Spanish Army of Catalonia
Commander: ?
Infantry: 23 000 men
Cavalry ~  5 000 men
Artillery ~ ?

Losses~  400  men

In june 1639, a French army of 16 000 men invaded the Spanish province of Rossellon (South France) and take very quickly the fortress of Salses the 15/07/1639. Offended by this defeat, the Spanish reacted strongly and sent an army of 28 000 men to retake the place and in october 1639, the second siege of Salses started. The French, under the command of the Prince de Condé tried to save their conquest, but the 24/10/1639 a strong tempest delay a french attack. The 2/11/1639, the French attacked again the Spanish position and after fierce fighting were obliged to retreat. The garrison of Salses capitulated the 6/01/1640.

The Battle of Lerida  28/03/1642      Franco - Catalan Victory (Strategic)

French - Catalan Army
Commander: Conte of la Motte
Infantry : 9  000 men
Cavalry: 4 000 men
Artillery : ?

Losses : 500 - 1 000 men

Spanish Army of Catalonia
Commander: Duck of Leganés
Infantry: 15 000 men
Cavalry:  5 000  men
Artillerie : 20 guns

Losses ~  7 000  men 

In 1642, most of the cities and fortress of Catalonia were in French and Catalan hands. King Philip IV decided to launch an offensive to retake the important city of Lérida. Troops from Zaragoza and Tarragona marched to attack the French army near Lérida. The battle took place outside the city and after bitter fighting the Spanish army was  defeated, losing more than 3 000 dead in the day. The Spanish had to wait 2 years before launching a new offensive on Lérida in 1644.

The Battle of Rocroi         19/05/1643 French Victory (Tactical)

French Army
Commander: Condé Duke of Enghien
Infantry 16 000 men

Cavalry: 6 000 men
Artillery : 14 guns

Losses : 4 500 men

Army of Flanders
Commander: Francisco de Melo
Infantry: 18 000  men 
        (Spanish Tercios ~ 4 500 men)
Cavalry:  7 000 men
Artillerie : 18 guns

Losses ~ 12 000  men (Tercios ~ 4 000 men)

It is said that the Spanish Tercios have been humiliated at Rocroi. In fact poor coordination between Spanish infantry and cavalry and the tactical initiative of a young French general Prince of Condé have lead to the first major French victory over Spain. Left alone on the battlefield, the Tercios had obeyed to the orders and had been destroyed to save their reputation.
Click here for more information

The Battle of Montijo    26/051644   Spanish Victory (Tactical)

Portuguese Army
Commander: Albuquerque
Infantry < 8 000 men 
Cavalry : 1 600 men
Artillery : 6 guns

Losses: 4 000 men

Spanish Army of Extremadura
Commander: Baron of Molingen
Infantry ~4 200 men
Cavalry : 1 700 men
Artillery : 2 - 4 guns

Losses: 1 000 men 

In 1644, the Portuguese government sent an army to raid the region of Badajoz in Spain in order to reduce the capacity of the Spanish and test the defences in this area. The Spanish Governor organised an army  under the command of a Belgium general Molingen to repulse the enemies. The Spanish attacked the Portuguese near the city of Montijo the 26th of may. The Spanish right wing and the centre  repulsed the Portuguese left wing and disorganised their vanguard. After bitter fighting and thanks to the indiscipline of the Spanish troops and the counter-attack of 4 Portuguese battalions, Albuquerque was able to retire in good order with his guns. More than 3 000 men died in this bloody battle.
Click here for more information

Battle of Lens 20/08/1648   French Victory (Tactical)

French army
Infantry : 10 000 men
Cavalry: 5 000 men
Artillery: 18 guns

Losses: ?

Spanish army of Flanders
Infantry : 13 000 men
Cavalry: 7 000 men
Artillery 20 guns

Losses: 10 000 men 

In 1648 the situation in Paris is quite difficult for the power of the Cardinal Mazarin. Lacking money, the French are unable to launch any action against the Spanish. The Spanish king order his governor of Flanders the young Archduke Leopoldo Guillermo to attack the French positions in Artois. The army of the young prince of 20 000 men (16 infantry battalions and 58 cavalry squadrons) met an inferior French army of 15 000 men (12 infantry battalions and 45 cavalry squadrons) commanded by Condé near Lens. The bad actuation of the Spanish cavalry give the victory to the French, again the Spanish infantry are left alone on the battlefield losing 9 000 men. This victory was useless for the French because sooner the rebellion against the power would spread along France.

The second battle of the Dunes 14/061658    Anglo-French Victory (Strategic)

Anglo-French Army*
Commander: Viscount of Turenne 
Infantry: 9 000 men
Cavalry: 6000  men
Artillery : 5-10 guns 

Losses 500  men

Spanish army of Flanders
Commander: Prince of Condé and Don Juan José of Austria 
Infantry ~ 7  000 men 
Cavalry ~ 7 000 men
Artillery : no guns

Losses: 8 000  men

In 1658, with the alliance of the England of Cromwell, the French launch a massive offensive to take the harbours of Dunkerque (for the English) and Gravelines. The Spanish Governor Don Juan José reacted and organised a small army of 14 000 men to attack by surprise the Anglo-French forces and save Dunkerque. The Viscount of Turenne, was alerted of the coming of the enemy and decided to attack the next morning living only a small force to siege the city. The 14 of June, the two armies were deployed in the dunes north of Dunkerque. The French had two lines on infantry with some 18 battalions (6 english) and  4 cavalry squadrons in-between, 2 wings of cavalry (in total 45 squadrons) and a reserve of 7 cavalry squadrons. The Spanish were deployed in two corps with the infantry in the front and the cavalry behind in several lines: the first corps, under Don juan José of Austria, numbered some 9 500 men (10 infantry battalions and 40 squadrons) the second, under Condé, had 4 500 men (3-4 battalions and 22 squadrons). With the help of various English vessel, the Anglo-French army attacked the right and the left of the Spanish army and repulse all the cavalry  counter-attacks launched by Condé. After some hard fighting the Spanish were forced to retire in disorder, leaving 3 500 - 4 000 prisoners, 6 days later the garrison of Dunkerque capitulated.
*note: At the same time a part of the Anglo-French army (13 infantry battalions and 8 squadrons, some 7000 men) was besieging the city of Dunkerque. The garrison of the city numbered 3 000 men.

The Battle of  Estremoz  08/06/1663  Portuguese victory (Strategic)

Portuguese Army
Commander: Don Sancho Manuel and Schomberg
Infantry: 12000 men
Cavalry: 4000 men
Artillery : 15-20 guns ?

Losses: less than 1 000 men

Spanish army of Extremadure
Commander: Don Juan José of Austria
Infantry: 11 120 men 
Cavalry : 6100 men
Artillery : 20 guns

Losses 5 000 - 6 000 men 

In 1663 the Spanish Monarchy decided to launch a massive expedition of  21 000 men to recover Portugal and the city of Lisboa. The first objective was the capture of the fortress of Evora, that was done the 22/05/1663. But  the Spanish army lack of ammunition, food and money paralysed the army. The Portuguese were able to raised a 16 000 men strong army and march against the Spanish. The Spanish commander decided to wait for them in a strategic position at the north west of Evora. The 8 of June, the impetuous Portuguese attack break the Spanish position and win the day. The Spanish army  was obliged to retreat to Badazos in Extremadura. Also the new Spanish garrison of Evora of 3 700 men capitulated the 24 of June 1663, all the expedition was a complete failure.

The Battle of Seneffe  11/08/1674

French army 
Commander:  Prince of Condé 
Infantry: 30 000 men 
Cavalry:  14 500 men 
Artillery : 60 guns 

Losses 7 000  men

Dutch-Spanish-German Army
Commander: William III Prince of Orange
Infantry :  40 000 men
Cavalry :   21 000 men
Artillery: 70 guns 

Losses 11 000  men

During the Dutch wars (1672 - 1678) a Dutch - Spanish-German army of 60 000 men commanded by William III (Future King of England) invaded the north of France. During 5 weeks the French commanders the Prince of Condé with his 45 000 men outmanoeuvred the Dutch and refused the pitch battle. The 10/08/1674 William decided to march to Paris, thinking that Condé's forces retreated. The 11/08/1674, Condé sent a detachment of 500 selected horseman to occupied the allied vanguard and outflanked the rest of the Allied army to attack the rearguard at Seneffe or Senef. After 10 hours of hard fighting the two armies were forced to retire, more than 8 000 men died in this bloddy battle.
Click here for more information

The Battle of Neerwinden    26/07/1693        French Victory   (Tactical)

French army 
Commander:  Duke of Luxembourg 
Infantry ~ 45 000 men 
Cavalry ~  25 000 men 
Artillery : 74 guns 

Losses ~ 10 000 men

English-Dutch-Spanish Army
Commander: William III King of England
Infantry ~  31 000 men
Cavalry ~    19 000 men
Artillery :  104 guns

Losses ~ 18 000  men

During the war of the Augsburg League (1689 - 1697) an Allied army of 50 000 men (150 cavalry squadons and 52 infantry battalions, with at least 2 Spanish battalions from the Tercio de Zúñiga and Tercio de Mancheño ) commanded by William III (King of England) took position near the city of Liege to block a French invasion army of 70 000 men (around 190 cavalry squadron, 90 Infantry battalions and 2 regiments of Artillery) commanded by the Duke of Luxembourg. William III had a good defensive position but could not resist the various flanks attacks (the french launch 3 attacks to take the village of Landen on the left flank) and the final centre assault on his troops. The Allied cavalry charged to save  the day, but  they were blocked by the French cavalry squadrons, Luxembourg had won. Due to his losses (probably 8 000 dead) the French commander was unable to pursuit the campaign.

The Battle of la Marsaglia 04/10/1693 French Victory   (Tactical)

French army
Commander:  Marischal of Catinat
Infantry ~ 25 000 men

Cavalry ~ 12 000 men
Artillery :  20 guns 

Losses: 2 000 - 5 000 men

Savoy - Spanish & Imperial Army
Commander: Duke of Savoy
Infantry:~ 20 000 men
        Spanish Tercio ( 2000 men)
Cavalry:  ~ 10 000 men
Artillery: 31 guns 

Losses~ 10 000  men

During the Ausburg league war, the Duke of Savoy joined the league against the French. The campaign of the year 1693 in Piedmont (north Italy) started with the shelling of the town of Pinerolo by the Allies and their seizure of the fort of Santa Brigida near the town. The French reacted and with some reinforcement, the Marischal of Catinat marched against the Allies with more than 38 000 men (82 cavalry squadron, 2 dragoons battalions and 52 infantry battalions). The Duke of Savoy had 79 cavalry squadron (at least 32 were payed by the Spanish) and 43 infantry battalions (5 were supplied by the following Spanish Tercios: Lisboa, Saboya, Napoles, Lombardia and San Pedro; 3 by the Italian Tercios and 8-9 by Swiss and German regiments). The battle took place near the village of Orbassano in Piedmont and the superior (in number) French beat the Duke of Savoy's army. The allies retired to reorganise their forces and the french were not able to pursue their enemies further because of the weakness of their supply lines and also of the losses incurred by them in the battle. In 1696 Savoy signed a treaty of peace in Turin.

The Battle of the River Ter  27/05/1694        French Victory   (Strategic)

French army
Commander:  Marschal of Noailles
Infantry :15 000 men
Cavalry : 6 000 men
Artillery  :  20 guns   ?

Losses: 500   men

Spanish  Army
Commander: Virrey Duck of  Escalona 
Infantry : 12 300 men
Cavalry:  4 000  men
Artillery: 8 guns

Losses  3 300 - 5 700 men

During the Ausburg league war, the front of Catalonia was the main war - theatre for the Spanish Monarchy. For the French army it was a  front where small armies could achieve a lot. In 1694 a French army of 21 000 men under the command of  the Marschal of Noailles launched an invasion of Catalonia. The Spanish army tried to stop the French on the river Ter, but the lack of equipment, the poor training of Spanish infantrymen (most of the troops were new recruits) and the bad command of Escalona - Villena converted this day in a Spanish defeat. The Spanish were obliged to retreat to Barcelona. The French army was able to take the fortress of Palomas and the city of Gerona. Barcelona was saved by the French minister of war who reduced the money to the Marischal of Noailles and immobilised his army.
Top of the Page