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"Agnadello - 500th anniversary" Topic

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Phillius Supporting Member of TMP21 Aug 2008 1:14 p.m. PST

I and a buddy are contemplating a refight of the Battle of Agnadello, close to the 500th anniversary. 14 May 2009.

This is not a battle particularly well written about in English, so I am looking for some guidance on what the battlefield looked like. I have the standard, the Venetians deployed on the high ground overlooking vineyards and the French were forced to attack up hill. The French then seem to have crossed ground, possibly high ground, criss-crossed with irrigation trenches, and attacked the Venetians on two sides at once, and gained the victory.

I would like to be able to understand more about the terrain if possible before we start investigating how we put on the refight.

So any advice or guidance would be gratefully accepted.



Top Gun Ace Inactive Member21 Aug 2008 1:39 p.m. PST

If I recall correctly, one of the accounts I read said that the higher ground was the edge of a stream, or river bank.

Can't recall if the stream/river was dry, or not, but there was a pretty substantial cliff or berm that needed to be climbed.

lkmjbc321 Aug 2008 3:02 p.m. PST

The only account I have seen has the high ground (covered in vineyards) in the western part of the battlefield. The eastern part of the battlefield where most of the fighting took place was cut by an irrigation ditch. I think the French attacked the Italian rearguard over this area.

Does anyone have any English analysis of this battle? The only one I have is Peter Sides Renaissance scenario book. I thank him for it… but I would like more!

Joe Collins

Top Gun Ace Inactive Member21 Aug 2008 3:29 p.m. PST

That is the same reference I read, and concur with the vineyards being on the high ground.

There may be some other on-line battle reports, or references to the battle as well, but I don't recall where right now.

Try a search here on TMP, or on the Renaissance Yahoo Groups.

sfumatoabacus Inactive Member22 Aug 2008 6:58 a.m. PST

I was on the battlefield a month ago and did not see any real high gound except one small rise where the Venitians made a final stand. The French erected a chapel on this hill to commemorate their victory. The chapel is no longer standing but there is a small shrine to the Virgin there now. The ground is now planted mostly in American corn that limited my field of vision. The main feature of the battlefield were the ditches. Most were shallow with fairly low banks but would have been a disruptive factor. I saw this high ground reference also and wondered about it. The only thing I could see that it may have refered to was the fact that much of the French Army was still crossing the river when the clash began. I will write my guide and see if he can add anything to this question.

Phillius Supporting Member of TMP22 Aug 2008 5:36 p.m. PST

Thanks for the feedback guys. All responses greatly appreciated.

I have had some feedback from the DBR and P&SS lists, and there seems to be very little evidence of significant high ground at all.

Somebody suggested using google earth, which I thought was a very sensible idea.

Barmy Flutterz Inactive Member23 Aug 2008 1:25 p.m. PST

I have The Art of War in Italy by F.L. Taylor

"The scene of the battle of Agnadello was very similar to that of the action at Fornovo. In the course of a series of maneuvers by Louis XII, whose object was to force the Venetians from the ground into the plain, the french Van found itself unexpectedly near the rearguard of the enemy. A dry river bed, sunk between steep banks, alone separated the two forces. Trivulzio and Amboise, in command of the French van, at once opened fire with guns posted along the top of the bank on their side of the river bed; at the same time their men at arms charged the enemy. Alviano, commanding the venetian Rearguard, sent for help to the Venetian Commander in Chief, replied to the french artillery fire with guns posted along his bank of the river, and with infantry, protected by steep bank and surrounding vineyards, repulsed the first charge of the French Cavalry. AT this point, the resemblance to Fornavo ceases. Alviano, receiving order from Pitigliano (Venetian CC) to break off the fight and to follow the main body, chose nevertheless to continue to resist the french, while Trivulzio and Amboise, undismayed by the first check, bombarded the enemy ceaselessly and fed the attack with fresh troops that continued to arrive. As the numerical odds increased against the Venetians, they were compelled to abandon their favorable ground for more open country. They were defeated by the troops of the French main body."

At that point, the rest is review where Taylor scolds Alviano's Tactics for having engaged with the rearguard against the French Van as they were bound to be reinforced as the rest of the army arrived on the scene. The French commanders are praised for their aggressiveness in getting on the heels of Alviano as they did. The French guns are also credited as being very helpful in supporting the attacks.

I also have A History of Venice by Norwich

"At all events, Alviano did not hesitate, and, sending an urgent appeal for help to Pitigliano, who was a mile or two further ahead, he drew up his troops and artillery on the hillside above a row of vineyards and opened fire. There was no doubt that the Venetians had the advantage of position. Twice de Chaumont, the French Viceroy of Milan, tried to attack, first with his cavalry then with his regiments of Swiss Pike – but the vines and irrigation ditches that seperated him from the venetians prevented either attempt from gathering momentum; soon, too, it began to pour with rain, which quickly transformed the already marshy ground into a morass. Alviano, on the other hand could charge his own cavalry down a firm and gentle slope, and thus had no trouble in repulsing both attempts, holding down his adversaries in the valley, where, despite the difficulty of lowering the elevation of his guns to the point where they could be of maximum effect, they made an easy and tempting target.

If, therefore, at this stage in the battle Pitigliano had responded to his cousin's renewed appeal and hastened to his aid, Venice might have carried the day – with far reaching consequences for the future of the republic. But Pitigliano did not respond. His reply had merely emphasized the desirability of avoiding battle; he then continued on his way, apparently oblivious as to what was going on behind him. Even then, Alviano still had the upper hand – until, without warning, King Louis himself appeared with the main body of his army, while simultaneously the French rearguard launched a surprise attack from behind. Three quarters surrounded, the Italians collapsed. Two of the cavalry companies fled in confusion; the infantry, unable to flee, were cut down where they stood. Alcviano himself, though wounded terribly in the face, fought heroically for three hours before being captured.

The Venetian losses were about four thousand – including an entire regiemtn of Pikemen, raised in the Romagna by Nando da Brisighella; they perished to the last man"

SO, there's two accounts in english, minus the analysis of the results.

Phillius Supporting Member of TMP24 Aug 2008 3:03 p.m. PST

Great stuff thanks for your effort Barmy Flutterz. I have Taylor myself, I don't know how I missed that!!

Thanks again.


losart25 Aug 2008 3:58 a.m. PST

I live a few miles away from the battlefield that of course I know well.
This part of Italy is completely flat. BTW till the middle ages this was a marshy area (called Lake Gerundo, the battle is also know as the battle of the Gera d'Adda) as the main rivers (Adda, Serio and Oglio) were not as they are now and formed this sort of marshy lake.
You can still see today the borders of this lake and the rise mentioned about the battle of Agnadello is just part of these banks.
Today the rise is no more than 3-4 meters, probably in the past it was higher but not exactly an hill.

I'm not convinced that there were vineyards.
The terrain was, and still is, plenty of ditches for irrigation that means that a different cultivation was developed (now it is plenty of corn fields).

The battle was an unexpeted encounter. Both armies were moving parallel from north to south. The French from the village of Rivolta and the Venetians from Treviglio.
Both armies were marching towards Crema, a small town that was a Venetian enclave within the Milanese duchy (the lord of Crema left as legacy the city to Venice to preserve from Milanese domination). Just south of Agnaldello (about 2 miles) there is the village of Pandino were there is a '300 castle. Pitigliano (the prudent Venetian CiC) was almost in the castle when was reached by the news that the rearguard was reached by the French.

2 miles north the rearguard, contacted by the French vanguard had placed in squares and took defence beyond a ditch that probably made a small rise, waiting for orders. These were the Romandiole pikemen. When d'Alviano reached them with his gendarmes the French were starting to fire with their guns. He was informed by the order to ignore the French but was too late and ordered the pikes to charge the artillery supporting the romandioles with his gendarmes.
This also means that the ditch was not a great obstacle.

The Venetians repulsed French and Milanese gendarmes and in the breakthrough also repulsed a Swiss square that was advancing. This was a great momentum for the Venetians but the rest of the army didn't follow. The rest of the line was composed my militia (Cernite) and their leaders (more close to Pitigliano) where indecided.
When more French arrived in the battlefield things changed for d'Alviano and the rest of the army disengaged moving south to Pandino castle.

For the 500th anniversary I'm preparing a battlefield guide.

The battlefield is well preserved as it is an agricultural area but there are no indications.

Barmy Flutterz Inactive Member25 Aug 2008 8:58 a.m. PST

Well that was a good account right there, more concise than Taylor or Norwich.

Von Mechel Inactive Member11 Oct 2008 1:20 p.m. PST

It's a pity the Venetians didn't beat their opponents!
The history of Italy might have been completely different.

losart13 Oct 2008 9:37 a.m. PST

"It's a pity the Venetians didn't beat their opponents!
The history of Italy might have been completely different."

well this is an interesting idea that was very followed in the "Risorgimento", but I'm not so convinced.
Venice had never shown a particular interest in unite Italy (its interests were away, Croatia or Crete were as important as other Italian territories) and the Italian Wars were a conflict of "balance". Just few years later Venice was allied with the French and this time the "league" was against France.
Of course who knows.
Maybe with a more powerfull Venice state the Piedmontese could have more difficulties in their process.

Rich Knapton Inactive Member30 Nov 2008 9:43 p.m. PST

I was just reading about this battle in The History of the Wars in Italy by Guicciardini as translated by Austin Parke Goddard. I thought you guys might like it. By the way it was Guicciardini that mentions the vines.

"The Venetian Generals were aware of the King's Project, and concluded that it was necessary for them to take possession of some other slrong post near the Enemy, that they might continue to hold them under the same Difficulties, and obstruct their Progress. Count Pitigliano advised not to move till the next Day, but Alviano insisted on the contrary with such Warmth, alleging that it was necessary to prevent the Enemy, that at last it was resolved to move with all Speed. There are two Roads that lead to Crema and Cremona, one lower, near the Adda but longer as being in a curve Line, the other more remote from that River, but shorter, and in a straight Line, representing the String of the Bow, as the other does the Bow itself. The lower [244]

Road was taken by the King's 
Army, which was said to consist of 
above Two Thousand Lances, Six Thousand Swiss, and Twelve Thousand Gascons and Italians, abundantly provided with Artillery, and a great Number of 
Pioneers. The Venetian Army marched 
by the higher Road, with their Right towards 
the Enemy, and was reckoned to, 
consist of Two Thousand Men at Arms, 
above Twenty Thousand Foot, and a 
very great Number of light Horse, Part 
Italians and Part enlisted by the Venetians 
in Greece. These rode on before the 
rest, but could not well extend nor range 
themselves for the Shrubs and Stumps of 
Trees that covered the Ground between 
the two Armies, and also took off all 
Prospect they might have one of another. 
The Venetian Army marching in this 
Manner, and continually advancing along 
the higher Road, the Vanguard of the 
French, led by Charles d'Amboise and 
Gianjacopo da Trivulzi, in which were 
Five Hundred Lances and the Swiss ; and 
the Venetian Rearguard commanded by 
Bartolomeo Alviano, consisting of Eight [245]

Hundred Men at Arms, and almost all 
the Flower of the Foot, arrived at the 
Meeting of the Roads much about the 
fame Time ; but the Venetians marched 
in no good Order, because Alviano had 
no Thoughts of fighting that Day. However 
when he saw himself so near the 
Enemy, either stimulated by his usual 
Ardor, or finding himself reduced to such 
a Situation as made it necessary for him 
to engage, he immediately sent Notice to 
Count Pitigliano, who was advanced forwards 
with the other Part of the Army, 
of his Necessity -and Resolution, desiring 
him to come to his Assistance. But the 
Count sent him word to pursue his 
March, and avoid fighting, because the 
Rules of War so required, and such were 
the Orders of the Venetian Senate.

Alviano having drawn up his Foot, 
with Six Pieces of Cannon, on a small 
Bank made to check the Violence of a 
Torrent, the Bed of which was then 
without Water, and lay between both 
Armies, attacked the Enemy with such 
Vigor and Fury that he made them give 
Way, [246]

In this Beginning of the Battle he was greatly favored by some Vines, 
among which the first Charge was made, 
and which by their trailing Branches very 
much incommoded the French Horse. 
But their main Battle advancing with the 
King in Person to their assistance, the 
two first Squadrons drew up and fell on 
the Enemy. Alviano, who had conceived 
mighty Hopes of the Victory from 
his prosperous Beginning, rode up and 
down, and was present every where, animating 
and encouraging his Troops with 
the most ardent and enlivening Speeches. 
The Fight was very furious and obstinate on all Sides, and the French, by the 
seasonable Advance of their main Body, 
having recovered their Courage 
and Spirits, and the Engagement being now drawn 
into an open Place, their Cavalry, in 
which they were much superior. had 
Room to exert their utmost Force. They 
were also much animated by the Presence 
of their King, who, without regarding 
his Person any more than if he had been 
a common Soldier, exposed himself to the 
danger of the Cannon, and was forever 
laboring [247]

by Commands, by Encouragements, and by Threats, as need required, 
to stimulate his Men to the Charge. On 
the other hand, the Italian Infantry, enlivened 
their first Success, maintained the Fight with incredible Vigor, Alviano 
performing the Office of an excellent 
Soldier as well as of a General, But at 
last, after a valorous Contest for about 
the Space of three Hours, the Venetian 
Forces suffering very much from the Enemy's Horse in the open Plain, and besides 
not a little incommoded by the Ground, 
which was become very slippery, from a 
heavy Shower of Rain that fell during the 
Battle, and hindered their Infantry from 
standing firmly on their Feet, but, above 
all, wanting the succor of the rest of 
their Troops, began to fight under very great Disadvantage. They continued 
however to make a noble and resolute 
Resistance, but having loft all Hopes of 
overcoming, they fought more for Glory 
than for Safety, and made the victory 
bloody, and, for some time, dubious to 
the French ; till, at last, being spent, and 
their Strength, but not their Courage 
failing, [248]

the greatest Part, without turning 
their Backs to the Enemy, were killed in 
the Field. Among the Slain was the much celebrated Piero, one of the Marquises del Monte a Santa Maria in Tuscany, who had been an Officer of Foot in the 
Wars of Pisa in the Pay of the Florenines, and was now a Colonel of a Regiment 
of Foot in the Service of the Venetians. 
By this valiant Resistance of only 
one Part of the Army, it was then firmly 
believed by many, that if the whole Venetian 
Force had been engaged, they would 
have obtained the Victory. But Count 
Pitigliano, with the greater Part of the 
Army kept off from the Field of Battle, 
either because, as he himself alleged, his 
Troops were put in Disorder as he was 
turning them with an Intention to come 
up and engage, by a Squadron of Horse 
that fled ; or rather, as the Report went, 
because he had no Hopes of getting the 
better, and was angry that Alviano, in 
Defiance of his Authority, had presumed 
to engage, and thought the wisest Measure he could take was to save that Part 
of the Army which was with him, and 
not [249]

sacrifice the whole to another's inconsiderate Rashness. There died in this 
Battle but few Men at Arms, the greatest 
Loss fell upon the Venetian Foot, of 
whom some affirm that Eight Thousand 
were killed ; others say that the Number 
of the Dead on both Sides did not exceed 
Six Thousand. Bartolomeo Alviano 
remained Prisoner, having one of his 
Eyes almost beat out, and his whole Face 
much bruised, and in that Condition was 
conducted to the King's Pavilion ; twenty 
Pieces of heavy Cannon were also taken, 
but the Remainder of the Venetian Army 
not being pursued, got off in Safety. 
Thus ended the famous Battle of the 
Ghiaradadda, or, as some call it, of Vaila, 
which was fought on the Fourteenth 
Day of May, and in Memory of which 
the King erected a Chapel on the Place 
where the Armies engaged, and honored 
it with the Name of Santa Maria della 


xenophon Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2008 8:07 a.m. PST

Excellent information regarding this conflict. Does anyone have any advice or suggestions on how to model the Romagnol pikemen? I have seen some rather vague references to red and white clothing but I am not quite sure what that means.


xenophon Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2011 6:47 a.m. PST

Has anyone put together some sort of army lists for the French and Ventian forces at Agnedello in 1509?

Stuart MM Inactive Member17 Dec 2011 3:10 a.m. PST

Herewith the listing from DBR Renaissance Battles vol 1;


Louis XII 300 Gendarmes; c in c + 1 L(S)
d'Amboise 300 Gendarmes; sub gen + 1 L(S)
300 Gendarmes; 1 L (S)
500 Italian & French light cavalry; 3 LH(O)
3000 Gascon crossbowmen; 15 Sk(O)
8000 Swiss Pike; 20 Pk(S)
Artillery; 2 medium guns & 2 light guns


Count of Pitigliano 1500 men at arms; c in c + 5 L(O)
d'Alviano 200 men at arms;sub gen + 1 L(O)
3000 Stradiots; 15 LH(O)
15000 Italian Pike/xbow; 3 x of 6 Pk(I), 13 Sk(O)
2000 Italian militia; 10 Sk(I)
3000 Romandiole Pike; 8 Pk (O)
Artillery; 2 medium guns

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