Aug. 6th, 2017

henry_flower: A melancholy wolf (Default)

Apparently, the Italians have their very own way to fight in battles.

29 Jun, 1440:

"the Florentines [4000 troops + 300 knights from Venice], under their commissaries, had drawn together their forces, and being joined by those of the pope [4000 troops also], halted at Anghiari, a castle placed at the foot of the mountains that divide the Val di Tavere from the Val di Chiane [...]"

"As the Signory had heard of the count’s victory and the recall of Niccolo [who was hired by Filippo Visconti, the duke of Milan], they imagined that without again drawing a sword or disturbing the dust under their horses’ feet, the victory was their own, and the war at an end, they wrote to the commissaries, desiring them to avoid an engagement, as Niccolo could not remain much longer in Tuscany.

These instructions coming to the knowledge of [Niccolo] Piccinino, and perceiving the necessity of his speedy return, to leave nothing unattempted, he determined to engage the enemy, expecting to find them unprepared, and not disposed for battle. [...]

Niccolo then led his forces [1100 troops + 2000 men from the nearby town Borgo] in battle array toward Anghiari, and had arrived within two miles of the place, when Micheletto Attendulo observed great clouds of dust, and conjecturing at once, that it must be occasioned by the enemy’s approach, immediately called the troops to arms."

"[...] The battle continued two hours, during which each side had frequent possession of the bridge, and their attempts upon it were attended with equal success; but on both sides of the river, the disadvantage of Niccolo was manifest; for when his people crossed the bridge, they found the enemy unbroken, and the ground being leveled, they could manœuvre without difficulty, and the weary be relieved by such as were fresh.

But when the Florentines crossed, Niccolo could not relieve those that were harassed, on account of the hindrance interposed by the ditches and embankments on each side of the road; thus whenever his troops got possession of the bridge, they were soon repulsed by the fresh forces of the Florentines; but when the bridge was taken by the Florentines, and they passed over and proceeded upon the road, Niccolo having no opportunity to reinforce his troops, being prevented by the impetuosity of the enemy and the inconvenience of the ground, the rear guard became mingled with the van, and occasioned the utmost confusion and disorder; they were forced to flee, and hastened at full speed toward the Borgo.

The Florentine troops fell upon the plunder, which was very valuable in horses, prisoners, and military stores, for not more than a thousand of the enemy’s cavalry reached the town. The people of the Borgo, who had followed Niccolo in the hope of plunder, became booty themselves, all of them being taken, and obliged to pay a ransom. [...]

This victory was much more advantageous to the Florentines than injurious to the duke; for, had they been conquered, Tuscany would have been his own; but he, by his defeat, only lost the horses and accoutrements of his army, which could be replaced without any very serious expense.

Nor was there ever an instance of wars being carried on in an enemy’s country with less injury to the assailants than at this; for in so great a defeat, and in a battle which continued four hours, only one man died, and he, not from wounds inflicted by hostile weapons, or any honorable means, but, having fallen from his horse, was trampled to death.

Combatants then engaged with little danger; being nearly all mounted, covered with armor, and preserved from death whenever they chose to surrender, there was no necessity for risking their lives; while fighting, their armor defended them, and when they could resist no longer, they yielded and were safe."

"This battle, from the circumstances which attended and followed it, presents a striking example of the wretched state of military discipline in those times.

The enemy’s forces being defeated and driven into the Borgo, the commissaries desired to pursue them, in order to make the victory complete, but not a single condottiere or soldier would obey, alleging, as a sufficient reason for their refusal, that they must take care of the booty and attend to their wounded; and, what is still more surprising, the next day, without permission from the commissaries, or the least regard for their commanders, they went to Arezzo, and, having secured their plunder, returned to Anghiari; a thing so contrary to military order and all subordination, that the merest shadow of a regular army would easily and most justly have wrested from them the victory they had so undeservedly obtained.

Added to this, the men-at-arms [knights], or heavy-armed horse, who had been taken prisoners, whom the commissaries wished to be detained that they might not rejoin the enemy, were set at liberty, contrary to their orders.

It is astonishing, that an army so constructed should have sufficient energy to obtain the victory, or that any should be found so imbecile as to allow such a disorderly rabble to vanquish them."

(From History of Florence, Book V, Chapter VII by Niccolo Machiavelli.)

October 2017

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