Bertola Roveda, Comte d'Exilles
"The Piedmontese Vauban"
by Jean Cerino Badone
Born in Tortona in 1655, he was a member of a local bourgeois family, the Roveda. He lost his father while he was a child. His mother married the Advocate Antonio Bertola (1647 &endash; 1719). Bertola was also famous as an expert in military fortifications, and he was soon called to the Savoy Court with the rank of military engeneer. He decide to adopt Ignazio Giuseppe and to gave him his surname. So he became Ignazio Giuseppe Bertola. Ignazio Giuseppe was near his adoptive father during the Spanish Succession War, expecially during the great works around the Citadel of Turin, in the years 1704-705. An extremely well planned countermine system was excavated around the fortress, while three earth made counterguards were built before the western bastions. A tenaille was created in the middle of the central Place d'Arme, and it was called the "Tagliata Reale" (the Royal Tenaille). All these fortifications were under the direct control of Bertola father and son.
At the end of the war the new Kingdom of Sardinia had new frontiers to be fortificated. Antonio Bertola had the commission to project the new great Fortress of Susa, La Brunetta, and a new construction over the old french Fortress of Exilles. In 1719 Antonio Bertola died, and his son Ignazio became the ideal successor. He continued the works of the father around the Fortress of La Brunetta, and begin the construction of the new Fort of Exilles, and he began to project the new Placefort of Fenestrelle, in Chisone Valley. Ignazio was also present around the walls of the Fortress of Demonte, in Stura Valley.
The 20 december 1726 Victor Amadeus II decide that all the military engeneers, before then civilians, had to be in the Batallion de l'Artillerie. Ignazio became the "Master of Fortifications", with the rank of Lieutent Colonel of Infantry, the 23 april 1728. In the same year he had the charge to build a new great exagonal Citadel in Alessandria, on the River Tanaro. This Citadel was the fulcrum of the eastern defence of the Kingdom, as the Maillebois's campaign should illustrate quite well in 1745.
In 1732 Bertola became Primo Ingegnere di S.M. (First Engeneer of H.M.).
The new King Charles Emmanuel III confirmed Ignazio Bertola the First Engeneer. At the outbreak of the Polish Succession War Ignazio Bertola was attached to the Artillery Regiment and with his colleague de Wullancourt he directed the siege of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan (16 December &endash; 2 Jenuary 1734).
Fenestrelle, Alessandria and Exilles were completed in their general outline just before the Austrian Succession War. Since the grandiosity of the new fortifications the sun of Bertola had to rise more and more: in 1739 he had the possibility to open inside the barracks of the great Arsenal of Turin the new Regia Scuola Teorica e Pratica d'Artiglieria e Fortificazione (Royal School of Theory and Practice of Artillery and Fortifications). He was the first Director of this school.
In Turin he worked also as Civil Engeneer, rebuilding the Via Dora Grossa, the main street of Capital to the westen gates.
At the begin of the Austrian Succession War he is created Compte de Exilles, the 2 march 1742.
He had to plan the strategic defense of the Varaita and Maira Valleys. A new mountain road was create to favorite the transport of artillery and troops over the watershed of the two Valleys.
Little artillery pieces were designed and cust under his direction. The 4 pounders had their fuses divided in two sections, a particular device for the transport with mules.
In 1743 he fortificated the section of Varaita Valley at the gorge of Chateau Dauphin. These field fortification were quite useful to stop the french &endash; spanish autumnal offensive. The follow year a new fortified line was created to close completel the Varaita Valley, and three Forts, in stone and wood, were erected by Bertola around the Village of Chateau, In any case the havy guns had little effect on the Prince Conti's offensive in summer 1744. The french column under the Balive De Grivy, after an extremely bloody battle around the Redoubt of Mount Cavallo, were able to break the defensive line just in its central section. The 1744 was the bleak year for the First Engeneer: the Fortress of Demonte, completely rebuilt under his direction, had fallen after less tha a week of artillery bombardment. The King and his powerful Minister of War, Giovambattista Bogino, defended the Compte de Exilles from the adverse citicism by many army's officiers and his career was in safe.
In 1745 the Fort of Exilles proved to be far better bilanced than his "brother" of Demonte. The french army under General Lautrec had no possibility to obtain its surrender with atille fire. In the same time the great Citadel of Alessandria became the main stronghold against the enemy invasion of eastern Piedmont.
With the Minister of War Bogino, Ignazio Bertola planned the counter offensive that at the beginning of 1746 clear the east side of piedmont from all the french garrison;
Le plan simple et raisonnèédes differentes marches, le calcul des obstacles qu'on aurait à vaincre et des moens de les sourmonte ètait traitè dans le mèmorie du compte Bogino d'une manière digne de Turenne.
Under the offensive of Baron Leutrum's Army were captured the City of Asti, Casale, Valenza and Alessandria, and its Citadel liberated from the block. The counter offensive was so well planned in detail that the field Engeneer Vedano had to said:
The bread is too much minutely cut! About this plan all is yet decided and previously calculated, with the precisely order to Baron Leutrum and Messieur Vedano to conform completely to it.
In 1746 Ignazio Bertola saw his last field service: the 5 october he began the siege of the Fort St. Paul over Veintemille. The garrison was under the Major Diafthalez with the 214 swiss soldiers of 3rd battalion of the Regiment Visier and 7 cannons. With the 2nd battalion of the Regiment Fusilliers and the Battalions of Aoste and Chablais, the siege began the 10 october, under the eyes of the King Charles Emmanuel III. Bertola placed a first battery of eight cannons of 24 and 32 poundes. Since the fire created no visible damage, another battery of four 16 ponders cannons and two motars was posted in a better collocation, while the mineurs reached the walls of the Fort. The 23 october the garrison surrended.
At the end of the war, the 4 july 1752, Charles Emmanuel III ordered that the Engeneers had to leave the Artillery to create a new Corp des Ingegneurs de S.M.. Ignazio Bertola d'Exilles the 7 july was ranked Chef of the Corp.
Celebrated, flattered and famous, he died in Turin the 22 may 1755.
He is buried in the crypt of the Basilica Magistrale dei SS. Maurizio e Lazzaro in Turin.
1728 "Master of Fortifications", Lieutenant Colonel of Infantry, 23 april 1728
1732 First Engeneer de S.M.
1739 Director of the new Regia Scuola Teorica e Pratica d'Artiglieria e Fortificazione
1742 Compte de Exilles, 2 march 1742
1752 Chef des Corp des Ingeneurs de S.M., Colonel of infantry, 4 july 1752
1755 Died, 22 may
Fortress Built by Ignazio Bertola
Placefort of Fenestrelle (Fort St. Carlo, Fort Tre Denti, Fort Valli)
Citadel of Alessandria
Fort of Exilles (Ravelin de St. Carlo)
Fort de Demonte
Main Features of Fortifications built by Bertola
- Occupation with fortified buildings of all the sites ables to give to the besieger tactical advantages.
- All the fortifications erected in different places in a mountain valley or on a dominating plain had to be englobed in a single great Place without solution of continuity.
- Internal communications had to be the more possible direct and protected by bomb proof galleries.
- Constant adaptation to the ground.
- All main fonts of the fortress had to display superimposed orders of fire.
- Excavation of a system of Countemine galleries.
Jean Cerino Badone