Italian Wars 3/10 - The 15th Century - Prelude

Italian Wars 3/10 – The 15th Century – Prelude

It’s August, 1494. Charles VIII, King of France gathers his armyof invasion at Lyon. He has a good claim to the throne of the Kingdomof Naples. He concluded treaties of neutrality with Spain,England, and the Habsburgs. He has an ally in Ludovico Sforza, the rulerof Milan. Naples and Milan are already on war footing.

Ferdinand I of Naples wants to depose Ludovico S forza whom he considers to be a usurper. Neapolitan forces gather near Bologna an dare marching on Genoa, an ally of Milan. Charles dispatches Louis Duke of Orleans (theater king Louis XII) to deal with them. Louis sails from Marseilles with a small detachment of French and Swiss and defeats the Neapolitan at Rapallo in September.

Drunk with glory, the Swiss massacre the entire town. Meanwhile Charles crosses the Alps unopposed,and establishes his base in Asti – a French possession at the time. His army consists of some 30000 men. It includes:4000 men at arms, a professional force of heavy cavalry. Like the knights of old, they are an unstoppable striking force. Unlike knights, they are under the direct command of the king who uses them as his ultimate tool on the battlefield. 8000 Swiss pike men, the foremost foot soldier sin Europe form the backbone of his infantry.

Men fighting in densely packed and unbreakable infantry squares, a formidable force both in attack and defense. There’s a large artillery train including field artillery and siege guns. Unlike in other armies, these guns are all manned by professionals, and are all drawn by horses for greater mobility. This level of professionalism of the artillery corps will prove to be a decisive factor of the invasion. 15000 other infantry of indifferent quality form the bulk of the army – mostly archers and crossbowmen. There’s also a small number of light cavalry.

In October the French start to march south. They defeat a Papal-Neapolitan force near Bologna. They cross the Apennines where they link up with siege artillery arriving by sea from La Spezia. With this they reduce the small town of Lipizzaner,and massacre all its inhabitants. The Florentine try to resist them but are quickly beaten into submission. Florence capitulates and allows the French free passage. Struck with fear, the pope recalls his troops to defend Rome. Now Naples is left alone to defend itself. Its forces retreat south,

and barricade themselves in their castles. In December Charles enters Rome. In January the exasperated Ferdinand abdicate sin favor of his son, Alfonso II. The French enter the Kingdom of Naples. The town of Monte San Giovanni tries to resist them. The French reduce its defenses in less thana day and massacre its inhabitants.

They dispatch a small force in the Volleyball. In February they enter Naples itself, and the city surrenders after a brief siege. Alfonso flees to Sicily. Charles’s daring march to Naples is over. The kingdom is back in Valois hands aftera hiatus of 50 years. Charles has all the reason to congratulate himself.

However things are far from over. Struck by the unprecedented ease and successof the French advance, the Italian states decide to formulate a proper response. The pope calls for an anti-French alliance– The League of Venice, or the Holy League is formed 1495. Charles’s former ally, Ludovico Sforza joins,fearing he might be next. Venice joins ostensibly to fight the Ottomans,in reality fearing they might be next after Milan.

Spain being beholden to the pope after the treaty of Tortillas that granted them most of America also joins. Maximilian, in spite of his appeasement also feels obliged to join, since France augmented with the resources of Naples might threaten his Burgundian possessions. Fearing he might be cut off,

Charles decides to return to France at once. He leaves behind a detachment to guard his new possessions and marches north along the coast. Meanwhile League forces start to gather in Lombardy. Most are sent by Venice, as the republic haste highest state of martial readiness.

Only a few are sent by Milan. The Duke of Orleans, who stayed behind nastiness receives reinforcements from France. Instead of marching south to join up withhis king, as was originally planned, he directly attacks Milan, occupying the city of Novara. Sforza has to keep most of his army at home,blockading them. But even without the Milanese, the Leaguearmy outnumbers the French almost two to one.

Their army consists of around 20000 men – mostof them cavalry. Italian heavy cavalry despite being armed with a lighter lance, is all but equal to its French counterpart on a one to one basis. However as a group they are outclassed bythe more disciplined French. Another contingent of cavalry, the radiotherapist no counterpart in the French army. They are light horsemen from the Balkans,riding lightning fast Turkish horses.

They are best suited for ambushes and daringhit and run tactics. There is also a large number of Italian light cavalry who are mostly armed with light crossbows. The infantry is of doubtful quality – crossbowmen,spearmen and arquebusiers fighting in loose order, who are mostly used to back up thecharging men at arms. The command of the army is shared among twomen. Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua is inoverall command, his more experienced uncle Rodolfo Gonzaga is in charge of the reserves.

This shared command – a result of the overcautious Venetian senate will prove to be a crucial mistake in the battle to come. As Charles prepares to cross the Apennines,the League forces take up a blockading position at the village of Giarola. The French arrive on the battlefield on the 5th of July, Their goal is to march back to France – possibly even avoiding battle. The Leagues goal is to defeat them to sucha extent as to force Charles to renounce all his conquests. Both armies deploy in three battle lines madeup of mixed formations of cavalry and infantry.The French place their strongest troops in thevanguard, the Italians in the middle. The next morning,

as negotiations are underway, the French decide to press on, but rather than attacking League forces head on, they cross to the other side of the river. By the time the Italians realize what’s going on, the French are already on the opposite bank. The League forces form up to attack. Each of the battle groups takes up positional a river crossings. Due to the previous night’s heavy rainfall the river begins to swell.

First to attack are the estradiol. They ride after the French where they initially crossed. After some skirmishing they fall upon the straggling French baggage train, and overcome its defenders. Next across the river is the cavalry of the right wing. They are faced by the Swiss who promptly repulse them.

The right wing infantry follow them and attack the artillery protecting the French vanguard. They are also beaten back and retreat across the river. The central cavalry division commanded Francesca Gonzaga tries to cross the ford at Op piano, however they find this impossible due to the rising tide. Loosing precious time and momentum, they cross upstream. This gives the French ample time to turn toface them.

Gonzaga at the head of the central division launches a ferocious charge that almost manages to break the French middle and rearguard.

A French counter charge manages to save the situation. At this crucial point Rodolfo Gonzaga, fighting in the front ranks, the only one who could order the reserves to attack is killed. Now the League’s plan is compromised. The central division is forced to regroup on the banks of the river around a mill. A brutal melee ensues,

where no quarter is given. The Italians are forced to retreat. The central reserve moves to block a possible French advance across the river. The estradiol had already fled, laden withhold pillaged from the French baggage train. The whole battle lasted little more than an hour. Both sides claim victory.

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