Italian Wars 6.10 - The 15th Century - Prelude

Italian Wars 6/10 – The 15th Century – Prelude

It’s 1509. With the Battle of Donatello and the League of Cambrai, Pope Julius II solved the problem of Venice. However due to their quick and overwhelming victory France’s power grew menacingly large. Therefore he quickly makes peace with Veniceand starts to ponder the possibility of an anti-French alliance. For now, Ferdinand is open to the idea buss eager not to be seen as the aggressor.

Maximilian has other things on his mind, Ashe is still at war with Venice. Having made peace with France and the papacy,the Republic bought itself precious time and launched a counterattack against Maximilian. Papua is liberated and its defenses are strengthened. In September Maximilian lays siege to the city,

but fails to take it. Throughout 1510 a state of war persists, therefore neither Venice, nor Maximilian is able to aid the pope. Julius concludes that if he wants war with France, he will have to start it himself.

First he launches a piecemeal attack on Genoa,then takes territory from Ferrara. Ferrara is an ally of France. Louis cannot allow such a provocation. In retaliation he sends a detachment of soldiers from Milan to occupy Bologna. This is exactly what Julius wanted. In 1511 the pope proposes a Holy League withthe aim of expelling the French from papal lands. Ferdinand joins as he is eager to act as protectorto the papacy. Venice joins in the hope of winning back territory lost to the French. Maximilian is persuaded to make peace with Venice and joins the league in hope he can grab Milan. Even Henry VIII of England joins, anticipating he can enlarge his possessions in France.

War starts again, and by 1512 Venice manages to recapture Brescia, and Spanish and Venetian troops are besieging Bologna. A large Swiss army hired by the pope is threatening Milan from the north. The French are in a dire situation. However they have a young and energetic commander,

Gaston de Foix. He is determined to reverse the situation. Throughout winter, he refuses to face the Swiss in open battle, who lacking siege equipment eventually withdraw. With the Swiss gone, in February he marches through the snow, defeats the Venetians and reoccupies Brescia.

Next he hurries to the Romagna, expels papal forces and occupies Bologna. Foix knows he is acting on borrowed time. With an English invasion pending, his soldiers might soon be recalled to defend France. Additionally, with Maximilian in the league,the Landsteiner fighting in French service might be recalled at any time. Foix must act quickly to obtain a decisive battle.

He marches to Ravenna and proceeds to besiege the city in the hope of drawing out the forces of the League. He has around 23.000 soldiers under his command,including 8000 Landsteiner, a contingent from Ferrara, and 54 artillery pieces. Facing them is a combined Spanish-papal army numbering 16.000 with 30 guns. 5000 additional troops are in Ravenna.

The French are encamped on the left side ofthe river Ronco. The League army takes up position on the rightbank of the river. Their plan is to use the same strategy that succeeded at Cerignola a decade ago. They dig a trench and build an earthen palisade. They position their Spanish Albuquerque behind this trench and palisade, ready to receive and break the charge of the French men alarms.

Guns are positioned in the center, cavalryin the back. The French build a pontoon bridge across Theron and early morning on the 11th of April cross over to the other side. Under heavy cannon fire they proceed to the League position and arrange themselves in a crescent shape around the Spanish entrenchments. The French take up the right and center, parentheses form up on the left flank.

They leave a small force to guard the rear and act as a reserve. The superior French and Ferrarese artillery opens up. Such a furious cannonade has never before been seen between two armies. The artillery duel lasts for two hours. The Spanish target the dense blocks of French infantry who are in open country without any form of concealment. 2000 casualties are inflicted shaking the French infantry to the core.

For now the Spanish infantry is safe behind its palisade, most of the damage is taken by the cavalry. At this point Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Marrakesh a decisive move. He moves 24 of his guns to the extreme right flank of the League forces. Enfilading fire from the Ferrarese brings the carnage to a new level.

Now every cannonball is finding its mark. The League infantry is still relatively sheltered;however the cavalry finds the bombardment increasingly unbearable. The right wing cavalry loses its nerve an din a spontaneous move charges the Ferrarese guns. The central cavalry reserve joins them. They are met by the French cavalry on the left and by the central cavalry division.

A bloody melee develops where the French seem to have the upper hand over the already shaken Spanish. More reinforcements are sent from the other flank. Taking the queue from the left wing cavalry,papal men at arms charge the French guns on the other side. The French reserve moves to meet them and repulses their charge. Broken and disheartened, the Spanish and papal cavalry leave the field,

closely pursued by the French. The League position is now compromised, however the battle is still far from being decided. Spanish and papal infantry is still relatively unscathed in its fortified position. To dislodge them, the French move two cannons to the other side of the river and begin to hit the Spanish from the rear. The infantry moves in for the attack. The Gascons are easily repulsed.

The Landsteiner are also repulsed by murderous fire. After a short respite, the Landsknechts makea second attempt, this time supported by the cavalry on the left wing. The League infantry is now encircled, underfire from every side. Many try to escape, but few manage to do so. 9000 League forces are dead to 3000 Frenchand Ferrarese. Tragically for the French, Gaston de Foix becomes a casualty of his own success.

He charges a company of retreating Spanishpikemen and gets killed. Left without proper leadership, the French-fail to capitalize on their victory. Public opinion soon turns against them. In May the Swiss join the League and marchto Verona with 20.000 troops linking up with the Venetians.

Maximilian declares war on France, and recallsall the Landsknechts in French service. Meanwhile Spain and England prepare to invadeFrance through Navarre. This invasion falls short of its goal, howeverthe Spanish manage to conquer the tiny Kingdom of Navarre and incorporate it into Spain.

The English win a naval engagement near Boulogne,be it at great expense to themselves. Being threatened from every side, the French have no other choice but to withdraw from Italy. The pope occupies the Romagna, and Venice recovers all the land it lost. The Swiss occupy Milan as a protectorate,installing Assimilation Sforza as a puppet governor. With France vanquished, the League quicklyloses its porpoise.

Relations between the Swiss and Venice breakdown. The Swiss acting as protectors of Milan insistthat Cremona should be handed back to Milan. The Venetians categorically refuse. The pope withdraws support from Venice, and begins to plot his next move; however in early 1513 he falls ill and dies. His plan to weaken the Venetians and expel the French had worked, however the overall fate of Italy is still left to be decided.

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