Monday, 19 April 2021

Bohemian Infantry

Following on from the command groups in my last post here are some infantry for the Hungarian army. While researching this army it has become clear that pavisiers were still an important troop type in Hungarian forces, certainly up until Mohacs in 1526. In his in depth study of the Hungarian military, "From Nicopolis to Mohács - A History of Ottoman-Hungarian Warfare, 1389-1526", Tamás Pálosfalvi states when talking about the army that was defeated at Mohacs: "Secondly, the army contained a considerable number of infantry forces, probably around 10,000. Most of these were recruited in the other Jagiellonian lands, primarily Bohemia and Moravia, the rest raised by the Hungarian lords and nobility but presumably from the same pool of mercenaries. The majority of these footmen, however, were not Swiss- or Landsknecht-type infantry armed with pikes and halberds, but handgunners (commonly referred to as pixidarii in Latin sources and scopetieri in Italian texts) protected by a considerably smaller number of pikemen and pavesiers". Similary Martyn Rady, in his essay "Jagello Hungary", when discussing the preparations earlier on in the campaign states "The muster of troops undertaken in Buda in July 1526, in readiness for the Mohacs campaign, indicates 2,500 hussars and 1,200 heavy cavalry - itself an interesting comment on the relative decline of the heavy cavalry - but then goes on to relate that overall there were 4,000 horse and 3,000 foot, mainly comprising harquebusiers and pikemen. Many of the footsoldiers were equipped with great shields and pavises that were 'as big as a man' as well as with iron-tipped pikes. Most of these were doubtless mercenaries, but we know that nobles also fought as foot soldiers". It was these pavise armed troops that I was keen to recreate for my collection. The issue was what did they look like?

Detail of pavisiers marching into action from the "Battle of Orsha, 1514" painting, c.1520-1534.

Another detail from the "Battle of Orsha, 1514" this time showing the same pavisiers in action with arquebusiers behind them.

Yet again the "Battle of Orsha" painting provided me with inspiration for these figures with its depictions of armoured pavisiers, shown above. This set me on a search for other examples of these troops and it turns out there are some great images of them. Another excellent source is Maximilian's Triumphal Arch, produced in 1515 but printed a few years later. Three of the plates in the arch, shown below, depict Bohemian style infantry both in Maximilian's employ and as his opponents. In the "Expulsion of the Hungarians from Lower Austria" woodcut, illustrating his campaign of 1490, they are depicted fighting alongside Landsknecht. In the image of Maximilian conversing in seven languages some of his soldiers are cleary armed in this style, in fact none of the infantry he is in coversation with in this image seem to be depicted in the classic Landsknecht dress. The Wenzenbach plate from the Triumphal Arch has a superb image of the pavise armed infantry, the front ranks of which are all in deep "German" sallets with bevors protecting their faces. It is interesting to compare this Wenzenbach image with one from a decade or so earlier, also shown below, where the Bohemians in the employ of Ruprecht of the Palatinate are depicted in much lighter armour.

"The Expulsion of the Hungarians from Lower Austria", from The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian I - 1515–17 - School of Albrecht Dürer.

Maximilian conversing in seven languages, from The Triumphal Arch. Note the large shields and polearms carried by two of the infantrymen on the left.

Later depicition of Wenzenbach from Maximilian's Triumphal Arch. Is that perhaps a throwing axe shown behind the second pavisier on the right? 

Detail from a contemporary image of The Battle of Wenzenbach 1504.

A final image of interest is Nikolaus Meldemann's 1529 depiction of a Bohemian Hauptman and his bodyguards, both carrying ahlspiess. From all of these images it is clear that all manner of polearms were carried by these infantrymen, but the ahlspiess seems to have been something of a speciality of theirs. A dusack, a sword with a single edged blade perhaps similar to a falchion, was one of their disctinct weapons which can be seen being carried by one of the bodyguards below. The Bohemians were also known for using throwing axes. If you look carefully at the depicition of Wenzenbach from Maximilian's Triumphal Arch it looks like one of the figures behind the four pavisiers is indeed about to throw a short hafted axe.

Bohemian Hauptman and bodyguards with ahlspiess, Nikolaus Meldemann 1529.

The Bohemian infantry.

The problem was how to build units of these infantry for the wargames table?  No manufacturer makes these specific troops.  Modelling them on the images discussed I was keen to have the troops armed with a wide variety of polearms as well as the pavises. It does seem like some of these troops may have only carried the pavise, and perhaps a sidearm, but in an attempt to replicate the troops shown in the above images I wanted them armed with glaives, ahlspiess, spears and halberds. I decided to use a couple of different standing pikemen and command packs from The Assault Groups Italian and Spanish early Renaissance range. Once their heads were swapped with Perry plastic sallets and they were armed with a whole variety of polearms from various manufacturers I felt they would look the part. I worked on a few sample figures which turned out well before committing to building the whole force.

Another big issue was how to do the pavises. Anyone who has read this blog for a while will no I loathe painting shields and heraldic details of any kind! As part of their Hussite range 1st Corps make some lovely pavises and Little Big Men studios make some incredibly detailed transfers to go with them. Initially I wasn't keen to use these as I wanted specifically Hungarian infantry for the army and I also felt that many of the designs were simply too "Hussite" or "Taborite" to fit in. As I looked further into the Hungarian army of this period it became clear that Bohemians fought in their thousands in the army, the Jagiellonian monarchs also being Kings of Bohemia. It is clear that they still followed their Hussite faith, to such an extent that when Ruprecht of the Palatinate hired an army of Bohemian mercenaries to face Maximilian in the Landshut War of Succession, 1503-1505,  Maximilian was able to use this as a pretext to claim money from the Papacy and offer Crusading indulgences to those taking part! Based on this I have used the Hussite transfers, but have still tried to put the more overtly Hussite ones in the rear rank.

The decision to have two ranks of pavises was based on a few things. It makes the line look really solid and also gives some depth, similar to the contemporary images. I also wanted to be able to use the figures either with handgunners and crossbowen behind them, as shown in the photos, but also possibly in units of their own, maybe for assaulting fortified positions as they seem to be doing in "The Expulsion of the Hungarians from Lower Austria" woodcut shown above. When placed in file the double ranks also give an effective marching look, similar to one of the depictions of the pavisiers in the Orsha painting.

They are shown below in the service of Hungary with my generic pikemen, arquebusiers and crossbowmen placed behind them. The project involved 72 miniatures, pavises and transfers. They were armed with 72 polearms, 5 of which used a plastic rondel from the Perry plastic Wars of the Roses kits to turn a simple spear into an a
hlspiess. Of the 72 miniatures used 63 had headswaps to make them more suitable as Bohemian infantry, with lots of sallets and kettle hats being used. This means that to make 12 bases of the pavisiers required 356 components. Not a project I would undertake again lightly! They may not be perfect, I have nagging worries that too many French and English style sallets were used and that the transfers may be a little too early but as with my Ottomans I have had to make a few compromises as no manufacturer makes a specific range for early 16th century Hungarians or Bohemians. Despite this I like the overall solid look they give and the headgear really helps to get the right feel for the unit. The faces of nearly all the front rank of infantry are covered matching the Triumphal Arch woodcuts.

Lots of photos of them are below. Not only are they useful for the Hungarian army but they can also be used for the 
Landshut War of Succession to face my early Landsknecht and Men at Arms. Now to get planning a refight of Wenzenbach...

28mm Bohemian Infantry for the early 16th century.

Another unit of Bohemian infantry.

Bohemians in Hungarian service.

The pikemen wait behind the pavisiers and arquebusiers.

A wall of pavises.

The double ranking of the pavisiers means that they can be put into a marching formation as above. This reminds me of the image of the pavisiers arriving on the battlefield in the Orsha painting.

Detail of a heavily armoured Bohemian with a much lighter armed comrade forming the second rank.

A view of one of the units from the rear showing the lighter armed infantry.

Another view of units from behind showing the arquebusiers at the ready.

Infantry armed with pavises shield the arquebusiers and crossbowmen.

The solid ranks of pavisiers.


Monday, 1 March 2021

Captains and Kettle Drums

The eastern European theme continues with a couple of command bases and some mounted musicians, all of which will bring a more Hungarian flavour to the wargames table. The first base, with a captain in full harness and wearing a hairnet is inspired by one of the  Hungarian captains seen in the Weisskunig, shown below.  The figures are a mix of converted Assault Group and Steel Fist miniatures. The Captain has the hairnet head from the Warlord Games Plastic Landsknecht set. With the addition of a moustache he really looks the part. The drummer is a 17th century Polish Haiduk miniature with the, now ubiquitous, long loose sleeves added in green stuff and long hair sculpted on to bring him more into the early 16th century. As with the Hussars for this army, Gyozo Somogyi's "The Army of King Matthias 1458-1526" has been a great source of inspiration for these bases. The photos below show the first command base added to a couple of my more generic early 16th century pike and crossbow units. 

A Hungarian Infantry command base.

Detail of a Hungarian Captain from Weisskunig c.1516, note the hairnet worn by the captain with the mail and sabre.

A unit of Hungarian pike for the early 16th century.

Hungarian crossbowmen, early 1500s.

The second command base is a mix of old Citadel Miniatures, Assault Group Haiduks and a Wargames Foundry priest. All, apart from the priest, have had some conversion work done on them to make them more suitable as Hungarians for the 1500s. Below are some pics of them leading a heavy infantry unit and some crossbowmen. I am working on specialist infantry for the Hungarians at the moment but I also like the idea of being able to use the generic stuff I already have. These two bases, when put at the forefront of units, help to change the look of them and give them a more eastern European character.

A Hungarian command base with a drummer, piper and priest.

Hungarian Captain, early 16th century.

Hungarian early 16th century infantry.

Hungarian crossbowmen.

German Mounted musicians, Hans Leonhard Schäufelein 1537.

Detail from the "Battle of Orsha" showing mounted musicians in German fashion.

The "Battle of Orsha" painting is still serving as a great source of inspiration. Next up is a mounted band based on the one in the painting and shown in the detail above. This will be a really useful addition to the collection as the Imperialists were also fond of their mounted musicians, as demonstrated by the Hans Leonhard Schäufelein image above from 1537, so these chaps would be great for later Italian Wars games. For my base the two riders are both converted Wargames Foundry figures and the drums are from Essex and covered with green stuff in an attempt to match the red cloth on those in the Orsha image.

The final kettle drummer was inspired by an illustration in Gyozo Somogyi's book. He is a converted Polish drummer from The Assault Group. I have added the cloth covering to the drums and painted on the Hungarian colours to match those in the illustration. The Hungarian "conversion army" is really starting to shape up. Hopefully the specialist infantry to join them will be completed in the next couple of months.

Mounted kettle drummer and trumpeter, with a Hungarian mounted kettle drummer in the background.

Mounted musicians in German fashion.

Mounted Hungarian kettle drummer.


Monday, 1 February 2021

Pieve di Cadore, 1508

Following on from my Cerignola refight I was keen to try another Italian Wars battle. So here we have Pieve di Cadore (also Pieve de Cadore or Cadore). I liked the idea of an Italian Wars battle in the snow and the fact I could use my landsknecht and Venetians. It didn't really go to plan for a couple of reasons. Firstly whilst I have chosen some photos for this write up about 90% of them were unusable. The white background just made the figures too dark and it didn't work at all. Secondly when I played through the game it went even better for the Venetians than the historical battle! A total rout of the Germans with them never clashing with the main body of Venetian infantry who were blocking their escape. As a result the write up of the actual game is fairly brief.

Pieve de Cadore, 1508

On 29th April 1507 the French king Louis XII entered Genoa in triumph having threatened it with a powerful army. With Louis also being the ruler of Milan the French were now dominant in northern Italy. This was not to the liking of Maximilian I, nominal ruler of the Hoy Roman Empire, who did not want the French closing in on yet another of his borders. In an Imperial diet at Constance Maximilian attempted to raise the funds to invade Italy, assert his Imperial rights and be crowned Emperor. The funds for 12,000 men were raised but Maximilian knew this was not enough to challenge the French.

Not wishing to pass up the opportunity of the money raised Maximilian changed his target from the French to the Venetians. He used the fact they had refused to ally with him against France as well as repeatedly refusing him passage through their territory as a pretext for a war which he hoped would expand the Habsburg territories. In February 1508 his troops began to invade Venetian territory. Despite the snow a diversionary force of around 4,000 German infantry under Paul Sixt I von Trautson invaded the Cadore region of the Dolomites. On hearing reports of this the Condottiere Captain Bartolomeo d'Alviano with a few hundred men at arms and light cavalry and a couple of thousand infantry under Pietro Monte moved over the mountain passes in an attempt to cut this force off.

On 2 March, as the Venetians drew near, the Germans attempted to retreat, adopting a formation with their baggage and camp followers in the centre of an infantry square. D'Alviano's light cavalry,  consisting of mounted crossbowmen and stradiots, held up the Germans, allowing Pietro Monte's infantry to take up a position at a dry stream bed outside Pieve di Cadore and block the German retreat. Sixt von Trautson was slain, reputedly in a duel with Rinieri della Sassetta a Venetian standard bearer (although confusingly I have also read that he was beheaded shortly after the battle) and two thirds of his force failed to escape. A grateful Venetian republic richly rewarded d'Alviano, giving him some of the captured German artillery pieces. Maximilian's main force, heading for Verona, was blocked by d'Alviano's cousin, Niccolo Orsini da Pitigliano and the Habsburg ruler was forced into a humiliating retreat.

The starting deployment of the armies. In the top left hand corner are the stradiots and mounted crossbowmen of the Venetian army. Along from them is the Venetian general, Bartolomeo d'Alviano, and his heavy cavalry followed by Pietro Monte and the infantry. In the top right hand corner are more heavy cavalry under Carlo Malatesta and more stradiots. In the foreground Paul Sixt I von Trautson and his German force surround their baggage train in preparation for an attempt to break out of the Venetian snare.

The game was played as always using adapted Renaissance Rampant rules and as in the last post the units deployed were fairly large to give the impression of a pitched battle. The aims of the two armies were simple with the Germans having to exit the table from the Venetian table edge and the Venetians having to stop as many of them as possible. All the wagons and camp followers behind the landsknecht were simply table dressing, representing the camp followers the army formed a square around to protect. They had no significance in the rules. The armies used were as follows:

Sixt von Trautson's Germans

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Sixt von Trautson)
4 Units of Landsknecht Pike
3 Units of Landsknecht Shot
2 Units of Landsknecht Halberdiers

Bartolomeo d'Alviano's Venetians

1 Unit of Men at Arms (Bartolomeo d'Alviano) 
1 Unit of Men at Arms (Carlo Malatesta)
2 Units of Stradiots
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen
1 Unit of Italian Pike (Pietro Monte)
1 Unit of Italian Pike
2 Units of Italian Infantry 
1 Unit of Italian Shot
1 Unit of Italian Crossbowmen

A view of the Venetian infantry under Pietro Monte.

The Venetian right flank, comprised of mounted crossbowmen and stradiots.

The Venetian general, the condottiere captain Bartolomeo d'Alviano.

Sixt I von Trautson's Germans surround the baggage train. The force comprises pike, halberdiers and arquebusiers. 

Von Trautson's force.

The German troops begin their attempt to break out of the Venetian blockade.

As mentioned above this turned out to be a disaster for the Germans. Initially they had an early success, sending one of the stradiot units that came out to meet them fleeing after one volley of shot from a unit of landsknecht arquebusiers. This turned out to be the only Venetian unit they would destroy. As the rest of the Venetian light horse rode around the German left flank and Pietro Monte's arquebusiers and crossbowmen took up position in the frozen stream the oncoming German infantry suffered. Initially the German arquebusiers fired back at the Venetians but all of the German shot were soon routed leaving the rest of their infantry to face a steady rain of missiles from the Italian ranks.

The Germans were already disordered by the time they reached the frozen stream. There were brief clashes with the Italian crossbowmen and arquebusiers holding the steam. The Italians put up a heroic defence and although the crossbowmen were pushed back Von Trautson's men could not force a way across.  Morale amongst them had fallen to such a level that when Von Trautson himself fell to the shot of an arquebusier the whole German force crumbled and began to melt away into the snow with the Venetian cavalry only too willing to chase them down.

The opening stages of the battle. The Venetian arquebusiers and crossbowmen have moved into the dried (or possibly frozen) stream bed whilst their light cavalry begin to flank the Imperialist column.

A view from the baggage train as they trudge through the snow.

The front pike blocks prepare to engage. Von Trautson is just behind them under the white Habsburg banner in the foreground.

The German force comes under attack from the Venetian shot and crossbowmen.

For a moment it looks like battle will be joined all along the front. In the top left a block of pikemen can be seen heading towards the stradiots and mounted crossbowmen in an attempt to stop them harassing the column.

Close quarter fighting breaks out as the Germans reach the stream.

The Venetian arquebusiers put up an epic defence in the stream pouring shot into the advancing Germans and preventing them from crossing the ditch.

The Venetian crossbowmen also put up a heroic defence in the stream fighting off repeated attacks.

Von Trautson's forces have faltered and failed to cross the stream and even engage with the Pietro Monte's pike and swordsmen who are waiting for them.

Von Trautson is shot dead by the arquebusiers as he attempts to lead his men in the assault.

With their commander dead the German force crumbles and flees. The Venetian light horse are not far behind them.

A view from the panicked baggage train as the German army crumbles and flees.

 As you can see it turned out to be a very one sided engagement. I think most wargamers have had these games, often more times than they would care to remember! It was interesting to see the armies deployed in the snow terrain (also known as a white sheet on the table) and this could still be a interesting battle to refight. I think the German force would need some more missile units to give them more of a chance. Von Trautson had some artillery, as we know d'Alviano was awarded some of it after the battle, but I had imagined that would have been in the baggage train rather than being deployed for the engagement. Maybe a couple of light guns, and some better dice rolls, would have given them a greater chance at breaking out of the Venetian trap.