Wednesday 20 January 2021

Cerignola, 1503

After focusing on the forces of the Ottomans and Hungarians in the past months I thought it was time to revisit the Italian Wars. Using the ever evolving Renaissance Rampant rules that I have developed with Stuart I played through a classic Italian Wars battle and famous victory for El Gran Capitan, Gonzalo de Cordoba. If you have read this blog for a while you will know I am particularly fascinated by the career of El Gran Capitan and his Spanish forces in the war for Naples. This is also a battle that James Roach  put on a spectacular demonstration of a few years back which served as great inspiration.

The armies from above, starting at the top right and going clockwise we have: Prospero Colonna and the Spanish cavalry, the Spanish infantry and landsknecht auxilliaries with Gonzalo de Cordoba and his men at arms in support and then the Spanish left flank held by jinetes. On the French side Yves d'Alegre his gendarmes and the French light horse, then the French infantry under Gaspard de Coligny and the Swiss under Tambien Chandieu and finally in the top left are Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours and Louis D'Ars and the rest of the French heavy horse.

Cerignola, 28 April 1503

Louis XII King of France and Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain agreed the Treaty of Granada on 11 November 1500. Although Louis XII would be the Neopolitan monarch, the Spanish King and Queen, having already been involved in the war for Naples in the 1490s, were allowed a share in the Southern Italian Kingdom, a bargaining chip Louis hoped would allow him to hold onto Milan in the north without pressure from Spain to his western borders. With hindsight it looks as though this treaty was doomed to failure as the ill defined borders between Spanish and French territory soon led to open warfare. 

Following his earlier defeat in Italy,, and a campaign against the Ottomans in the Mediterranean, , Gonzalo de Cordoba, El Gran Capitan, returned to Naples having learnt from his past mistakes. He knew facing the French in the open with their heavy cavalry and fierce Swiss mercenaries would lead him to another defeat. Taking advantage of the skills his Spanish troops had learnt in the long war in Granada de Cordoba fought a guerrilla style campaign and played for time. Being outnumbered by the French forces in the peninsula the Spanish retreated to Barletta. De Cordoba refused to give in, continuing to launch raids such as the assault on Ruvo in February 1503,, until he was sufficiently reinforced by 2,000 landsknecht sent by Ferdinand's ally Maximilian I. 

Feeling confident that he now had an army that could face the French in pitched battle de Cordoba led his army out of Barletta. The French under Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, took the bait and marched to confront them. El Gran Capitan earnt his sobriquet by wiseley choosing a position at Cerignola that he could entrench and roughly fortify in order to maximise the power of his arquebusiers and artillery and lure the French into attacking him. The French arrived on the heels of the Spanish army but were prevented from reconnoitring de Cordoba's position by the skirmishing of the Spanish jinetes. A row developed between the French captains over whether to attack immediately or rest and wait until morning. Nemours wanted to wait until his artillery had caught up with the rest of the army whilst others, such as Yves D'Alegre and the commander of the Swiss, Tambien Chandieu, ordered for an immediate attack. Assuming a quick victory was within their grasp the more bellicose voices in the army won the arguement and a hasty attack was launched. De Cordoba's decisive victory over them using entrenchments and arquesbusiers would become a key event in the Italian Wars and subsequent military history.

A view from the Spanish right flank under the condottiere captain Prospero Colonna's command.

A view from the other end of the field with Yves D'Alegre and the French light horse, stradiots and mounted crossbowmen on the left and Spanish jinetes on the right.

The Spanish centre is held by landsknecht auxilliaries sent by Ferdinand of Aragon's ally Maximilian I and commanded by Fabricio Zamudio. They are flanked by Spanish arquebusiers under Diego Garcia de Paredes, the "Samson of Estremedura", with El Gran Capitan, Gonzalo de Cordoba and his men at arms in reserve.

The Spanish infantry defending the widened ditch.

The French general Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours and Louis D'Ars hold the French right flank.

The reisläufer under Tambien the seigneur de Chandieu.

French pike and Gascon crossbowmen under the eagle banner of Gaspard de Coligny.

The French and Spanish infantry face each other across the trench.

The Armies

Based on what can be discerned from accounts of the battle the forces I used in the game are set out below. On the table top I really wanted to focus on the visual appeal of the game so you will notice that some of the units fielded are fairly large compared to what I normally game with. This didn't have much  of on an impact on the rules, and this didn't matter anyway as I was playing through a historical battle and taking command of both forces. Anyone who has played Lion Rampant will know that the forces take on a life of their own once the action starts anyway which is frustrating and fun in equal measure for anyone trying to control them.

In terms of the rules I divided both armies into a Cavalry and Infantry retinue while for the deployment I tried to follow historical accounts and create the "battles" deployed by de Cordoba and Nemours.

The French 


Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours
and Louis D'Ars in command of the French right

2 Units of Gendarmes (Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours
and Louis D'Ars )
1 Unit of Men at Arms
1 Unit of Ordonnance Archers with Demi lance

Yves d'Alegre and the French left

1 Unit of Gendarmes (Yves d'Alegre) 
1 Unit of Ordonnance Archers with Demi lance
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen
1 Unit of Stradiots


Tambien seigneur de Chandieu and
Gaspard de Coligny in the French centre

2 Units of Swiss Pike
1 Unit of Swiss Arquebusiers
1 Unit of French Pike
2 Units of Gascon Crossbowmen

 The Spanish


Prospero Colonna on the Spanish right

1 Unit of Men at Arms (Prospero Colonna)
1 Unit of Men at Arms
1 Unit of Jinetes

The Spanish left

1 Unit of Jinetes

Infanty in the Spanish centre

Fabricio Zamudio and Diego Garcia de Paredes, the "Samson of Estremedura"

2 Units of Landsknecht Pike
4 Units of Spanish Arquebusiers    
1 Unit of Spanish Pike 
2 Units of Rodeleros

The Spanish reserve, behind the infantry under Gonzalo de Cordoba and Pedro Navarro

1 Unit of Men at Arms (Gonzalo de Cordoba)
1 Gun (Pedro Navarro)

From above you will be able to see that the forces fielded were fairly small, although lots of figures were deployed for each unit. This meant that I could play through a large battle fairly quickly as although the units look large they could be "broken" quickly once the game started. As always the best way to follow the game is through the photo captions.

Unlike the historical battle the attack starts with D'Alegre's stradiots and mounted crossbowmen leading the assault along with Coligny's Gascon crossbowmen.

Under a rain of crossbow bolts some of the Spanish arquebusiers are forced back.

The problem with refighting this battle is once you know the ditch is in front of the Spanish lines it is very difficult to play it as it was with the French gendarmes and the Swiss heading straight into a headlong assault on the Spanish position. In this refight the game started with the French light horse under D'Alegre and the Gascon crossbowmen launching a "softening up" attack on the Spanish lines. This proved remarkably successful. The jinetes on the Spanish left flank were quickly chased off by the stradiots while the mounted crossbowmen and Gascons forced some of the rodeleros and Spanish pike to fall back. To counter this the Spanish arquebusiers moved forward, still under the cover of the widened ditch.

Once the Spanish arquebusiers were in range a fierce firefight developed but the fact that the Spanish were in good cover meant that the French had to push forward to avoid taking further casualties at their hands. At the far end of the field the Duke of Nemours gendarmes were attacked by skirmishing jinetes. Unbelievably they scored a lucky hit and managed to bring the French general down! While he may have not met his end at the hands of an arquebusier he was still obviously fated to fall early on in this refight.

As the Spanish jinetes on de Cordoba's right flank are seen off the Spanish arquebusiers enter the ditch in an attempt to draw in the French. More stradiots have arrived as French reinforcements on the French right flank.

A fierce fire fight has developed between the Gascons and Spanish shot.

A view of the fighting as it develops.

The Spanish jinetes on the Spanish right flank begin to engage some of the French heavy horse.

The Spanish left flank is being beaten back.

During a skirmish attack by Spanish jinetes, the French general Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours is slain!

Untroubled by the fact that their general had been slain the French infantry and light horse pressed home their attack on the Spanish centre. Leading the landsknecht in a counter attack across the ditch Fabricio Zamudio was slain by the Gascons. On the French left the heavy cavalry now moved into action. The jinetes who had killed Nemours were unable to evade a furious charge by the gendarmes and were quickly defeated. This in turn put some of the French heavy horse within range of the Spanish shot who opened fire on them. In an effort to avoid this fire and press home the assault the gendarmes rode into the Spanish men at arms who were waiting behind the fortifications. A chaotic cavalry melee developed and the already disordered French cavalry were defeated in the difficult terrain.

A full on attack is launched on the Spanish infantry and landsknecht in the centre.

In revenge for the death of their captain, the Duke of Nemours retinue charge down the jinetes.

As the landsknecht launch a counter attack on the Gascons, their captain, Fabricio Zamudio, is slain.

As Diego Garcia de Paredes arquebusiers begin to fire murderous volleys into the reisläufer, they are forced to attack the ditch. 

A view from above with the battle in full swing.

The landsknecht briefly force the French assault back...

... only to be forced back by the weight of French numbers.

A chaotic cavalry melee has developed between the Spanish men at arms and disorganised French gendarmes.

The Spanish left flank has been completely turned.

A view of the French attack on the ditch.

As the Swiss attempt to force the ditch their numbers are thinned by the Spanish arquebusiers.

Having lost their skirmishing arquebusiers to the Spanish guns the Swiss launched a charge on the Spanish position. They reached the ditch but suffered terrible casualties as this part of the Spanish position had not been involved in the duel with the Gascons and light horse. The Swiss were effectively stopped, causing little damage to the Spanish lines. This was to no avail as although the reisläufer had been checked by now the stradiots and Gascons were within the Spanish defences having broken through on the Spanish left.

On the Spanish right flank Prosepro Colonna lead his troops into Louis D'Ars gendarmes, defeating them and then rolling up the French heavy cavalry wing. This allowed de Cordoba and Colonna to escape with the Spanish men at arms in relatively good order, in fact not a single heavy cavalry unit had been lost. For the Spanish and landsknecht infantry it was a different matter. Yves D'Alegre and his cavalry swept into the Spanish position while Gaspard de Coligny's French infantry were also in relatively good shape. As the evening drew in some of the French guns began to arrive and it was clear that the field was theirs.

The Spanish have some luck on their right flank where Prospero Colonna leads a counter attack that pushes Louis D'Ars and his gendarmes back.

The seigneur de Chandieus reisläufer force a way across the ditch despite suffering terrible casualties.

The Spanish and landsknecht in the centre have been defeated with only the Spanish cavalry on their right flank escaping undefeated. As the light fails some of the French guns begin to arrive but they are not needed.

 This was a fascinating battle to refight and was not as one sided as I thought it was going to be, especially as once the surprise element of the ditch was removed it gave the French more options as to how to tackle the Spanish defences. With the French light horse and Gascons attacking first it really changed the nature of the fight, helped a lot by the chaotic nature of the rules! Having said that the Spanish shot behind and in the ditch were still really formidable and did manage to effectively wipe out the Swiss with them barely getting into any combat. With a few tweaks and special rules, such as the Spanish powder wagon blowing up as is reported in some accounts, this could be a game to visit again in the future.

Thursday 7 January 2021

Early 16th Century Hussars - "The Battle of Orsha"

The new year starts with another Hungarian unit, another take on the hussars. This was only meant to be a small side project, a couple of bespoke units that I could use alongside other parts of my collection as Hungarians. Inevitably the more time I've spent researching this army, the more figures I have wanted to try and convert. The "Battle of Orsha" painting discussed in my last couple of posts has fascinated me. There is an excellent article on it online, which I would recommend. It divides the painting up into over 50 sections and then discusses each in detail. The appendices at the end are also an invaluable tool for anyone trying to model some of the troops in the image. 

The artist's depiction of the hussars has particularly caught my attention and I've converted some of the Perry Miniatures stradiots into a second unit. I have seen this done before,, to great effect and was keen to have ago at this, trying to match the figures as closely to the painting as possible. This hasn't been entirely achievable and some of the details have been compromised. The horses don't have the coverings depicted in the image and their tails are tied in the Turkish fashion on the miniatures, which is not common in the painting. The hussar's coats or dolmans on the miniatures also lack the detailed frogging of many of those in the painting.

But there have been lots of details that is has been possible to model. Firstly those distinctive "top hats" with the metallic bands around them and the plume holders have been great fun to reproduce on the miniatures. Small strips of paper have formed the bands with green stuff being used to model the top of the hats so that they get wider as they get taller. The ends of scabbards from the Perry plastic Wars of the Roses kits have then been used to form the plume holders themselves. This took a while but has produced some great results. I have also included a Dürer image below (is a Camisado post complete without one?) which shows what must have been deemed the typical Hungarian attire in the early 16th century. One of these Hungarian hats with a plume is clearly at the top of the "trophy" being carried. This is important as we don't know exactly what nationality the hussars depicted in the painting are meant to be, those in the painting may well have been mercenaries as they were developed in Hungary in the 15th century and the painting depicts them in a Polish/Lithuanian army. 

Albrecht Dürer, sketch of horseman carrying a Hungarian war trophy for Maximilian's triumph, 1518.

Detail from the "Battle of Orsha, 1514" c.1520-1534 showing a hussar with a buzdygan mace.

Further detail showing a hussar horse with a dyed mane and tail.

The captain of the unit is carrying a buzdygang mace typical of those used in Eastern Europe at this time. In the first detail from the painting, shown above, a hussar is depicted wielding one of these maces in battle and in other parts of the painting hussars are shown with the buzdygang mace tucked into their belts. He also rides a white steed with a dyed mane and tail. The famed Polish hussars of the 17th century, of which these are the precursor, were known to sometimes dye their horses so it was great to find this early example in the painting and be able to represent it on the tabletop. The finished captain can be seen in the photo below.

Hussar captain holding a buzdygan mace and riding a horse with a dyed mane and tail.

Detail from "The Battle of Orsha" showing a wealthy hussar captain with an ermine cloak and saddle signal drums.

Other details I wanted to represent were the saddle signal drums shown being carried by a hussar captain. The section of the painting above depicts a wealthy hussar in an ermine lined cloak. The signal drums were used to give commands on the battlefield. This hussar's dress and the drums clearly mark him out as a leader. These small drums were obvioulsy a feature of the light horsemen of Eastern Europe as the stradiots were known to use them. In the 1506 print of the Battle of Fornovo, 1495, the stradiot in the bottom left of the image,, carries one of these saddle drums. They were very easy to reproduce in miniature. The drums were taken off some 15mm figures and then added to the saddle with the gaps filled in with green stuff. Now I wish I had added them to a couple of my stradiots back when I painted them up! 

Hussar captain with saddle signal drums.

The hussar hats in green and burgundy.

Apart from one of the captains and the standard bearer, all of the hussars carry lances with the St George's cross as in the original image. I have also tried to stick to a palette that only uses those colours for the clothing and hats that are seen in the painting and have attempted to match the shields as closely as possible. Copying the shields also meant I didn't have to attempt loads of complex shield designs which I was more than happy to avoid! You may notice that some of the Perry stradiot miniatures used are orginally cast with padded armour. This was easy to change, the padded armour has simply been smoothed over with green stuff and I have then added long loosely worn sleeves to the backs of the models, a technique used on lots of the miniatures in my last three blog posts.

When I painted the first unit of hussars I failed to appreciate how heavily ornamented the hussar scabbards were. From the painting it is clear that many were almost entirely covered in metal and gilt placques. To reflect this the scabbards for this unit have been painted as entirely metallic in either silver, bronze or gold. This also helps to further differentiate them from looking like stradiots. 

The finished unit is below, along with a couple of pictures showing both of the hussar units I have completed. Two quite different attempts on the same theme. Which do you prefer and do you think the converted Perry figures really look that different from the stradiots they originally portrayed? I am not finished with the "Battle of Orsha" painting yet, there are at least two other sections that I want to try and recreate. As you can tell I have really gone down the rabbit hole on this one!

16th century Hungarian hussars.

28mm Early 16th century hussars.

Perry Miniatures stradiots converted into hussars.

The hussars from the back - note the long sleeves that have been added to some of the miniatures with green stuff.

Both units of hussars together.

28mm Hungarian hussars c.1520