Units of the Irish Brigade of France fight in Italy at the Battle of Marsaglia, a battle in the Nine Years’ War, on October 4, 1693. The battle involves the French army of Marshal Nicolas Catinat against the army of the Grand Alliance, allies of William of Orange, under the Duke of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia.
Catinat, advancing from Fenestrelle and Susa to the relief Pinerolo, defended by René de Froulay, Comte de Tessé, and which the Duke of Savoy is besieging, takes up a position in formal order of battle north of the village of Marsaglia, near Orbassano. Here, on October 4, the Duke of Savoy attacks him with his entire army, front to front, but the greatly superior regimental efficiency of the French, and Catinat’s minute attention to details in arraying them, gives the new marshal a victory that is a worthy pendant to Neerwinden.
During the battle, Irish dragoons are reported to have “overthrown squadrons, sword in hand,” but elsewhere on the battlefield, Prince Eugene of Savoy overruns a French line and advances to the second line, held by Irish regiments. There Eugene’s advance is broken, and his troops are soon put to rout. The impetuous Irish then pursue without orders. Seeing this development, the French commander orders a general advance and the allied army breaks and runs. Official French reports speak of the “extreme valor” of the Irish that day.
The Piedmontese and their allies lose approximately 12,000 killed, wounded and prisoners, as against Catinat’s 1,800. Among the Irish killed in this great victory are Brigadier Francis O’Carroll of the dragoons and Colonel Daniel O’Brien, 4th Viscount Clare. One very young officer of the Irish Brigade who survives the fight is Lieutenant Peter Lacy.
Marsaglia is, if not the first, at any rate, one of the first, instances of a bayonet charge by a long deployed line of infantry. Hussars figure here for the first time in Western Europe. A regiment of them had been raised in 1692 from deserters from the Austrian service. It is also notable as one of the first major battles to see the new Irish Brigade in action for the French army.
(Pictured: Marshal Nicholas Catinat at the Battle of Marsaglia, October 4, 1693, painting by Eugène Devéria, 1837, Museum of the History of France)