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"Landsknecht vs Swiss - Eyewitness account" Topic


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Oldenbarnevelt11 Apr 2011 10:25 a.m. PST

In Florange's account of the Italian wars, he provides a description of the fight between Landsknechts, of which he was one of the captains, and the Swiss at the battle of Novara:

"The Swiss took heart and made to charge again with a big force, and came to fight the said landsknechts hand-to-hand, but I assure you that the Swiss found a marvellously good band [to resist them], and for a long time I thought that the Swiss would lose the battle. However, the landsknechts were not very numerous, and believe it that there were not more than 5,000 fit [landsknechts] at the point of combat. And the first Swiss to arrive were repulsed, and I assure you that since then I never saw a band of landsknechts and harquebusiers that did its duty so marvelously. And the said Swiss forced to detach 400 halberdiers that they had, and went to attack the harquebusiers who were 800, so that they made them flee, and then these halberdiers attacked the landsknechts from the flank.
When all is said and done, the battle was lost. And the landsknechts were so badly supported, for the French infantryman were neverd or willing to fight: when they saw the second force of Swiss, they all fled. And the lord of Sedan was searching for his children, whom he found in bad shape. The lord of Jamais, who was but lightly wounded, mounted a horse to go rally the landsknechts who were fleeing; and the Young Adventurer was found amongst the dead, in such a way that he could no …."

There several interesting aspects mentioned. For one, the Swiss do not seem to have shot support. To drive off the landsknecht shot they had to bring up halberdiers and not their own shot. Also, when the landsknecht shot were driven off and the Swiss halberdiers attacked the landsknecht flank there is no mention of landsknecht double-pay men coming up to oppose the Swiss halberdiers.

At the battle of Bicocca, when the Swiss assaulted the Imperial defenses, there is also no mention of Swiss shot support of the pike attack. Perhaps it was the tactic of the Swiss to go in without close fire support.

lkmjbc311 Apr 2011 10:37 a.m. PST

I wonder what the "French" infantry were armed with?

No mention of large numbers of crossbowmen….

Pikes?

Joe Collins

Daniel S11 Apr 2011 10:42 a.m. PST

Well Florange writes "band of landsknechts and harquebusiers" which to me suggest that the later were not Germans. Knecht mentions 500 French arquebusiers at Novara but i'm not sure if he has gotten the identity right. The 8000 "Aventuriers" recruited in 1515 were armed with pikes, halberds and crossbows.

lkmjbc311 Apr 2011 11:51 a.m. PST

I would assume this is too early for the French to have tons of handguns…. Interesting.

Joe Collins

Oldenbarnevelt11 Apr 2011 12:14 p.m. PST

Well Florange writes "band of landsknechts and harquebusiers" which to me suggest that the later were not Germans

As you pointed out the "Aenturiers" include crossbows and not arquebusiers. Qt Revenna (1512), the year before Novara, the French had a large number of Gascon crossbowmen. It is hardly likely these 800 shot were French. They could have been Italian. The French hired a number of Italian arquebusiers. But I doubt we can exclude German arquebusiers.

While Robert III de la Marck, seigneur de Florange was French he served as a captain of the German Landsknechts that his father raised. However, his comment seems to indicate the combination of pike and shot were not unusual.

"I assure you that since then I never saw a band of landsknechts and harquebusiers that did its duty so marvelously."

Daniel S11 Apr 2011 12:36 p.m. PST

Or perhaps the 500 French arquebusiers were part of the men that fled when the 2nd Swiss geveirthaufen made it's apperance. Had a look at the footnote, Knecht quotes a letter by Louis XII so their identity is straight from a primary source.

What does de la Marck's original French text say?

Oldenbarnevelt11 Apr 2011 12:50 p.m. PST

I have a copy of Florange's book in French but I need a reference page. I took this account from Google Books. Unfortunately Google didn't include that page.

Never mind. The edition the Google author used is different from mine. My edition is "pour La Societe des L'Histoire de France". I'l try to see what I can do from my edition.

Daniel S11 Apr 2011 1:36 p.m. PST

I have the quote in a book called "Renaissance Military Memoirs" the french quote the author provides speaks of "les hacquebutiers lantskenecht" which I interpret as meaning that the arquebusiers were landsknechts.

The lack of doppelsöldner sallying to meet the Swiss halberdiers is hardly surprising as those men were the armoured pikmen forming the front ranks.

Personal logo Condottiere Supporting Member of TMP11 Apr 2011 2:12 p.m. PST

For one, the Swiss do not seem to have shot support.

Wouldn't that be the case since the Swiss were attempting to charge in?

To drive off the landsknecht shot they had to bring up halberdiers and not their own shot.

That makes sense to me. Why would you drive off shot with shot? A shooting contest between bodies of shot was often an all day affair. If trying to roll over an opponent, hand to hand fighting, or the threat thereof, is required (I would think). So, it makes perfect sense to bring in support elements that would make quick work of the shot (assuming they were foolhardy and stood their ground).

At the battle of Bicocca, when the Swiss assaulted the Imperial defenses, there is also no mention of Swiss shot support of the pike attack. Perhaps it was the tactic of the Swiss to go in without close fire support.

It would appear to be the case, and it makes sense.

Daniel S14 Apr 2011 10:49 p.m. PST

The Swiss certainly had shot present at Novara, eyewitnesses such as Contarnini & Gritti describe the Swiss using firearms.

Patrice15 Apr 2011 6:48 a.m. PST

Blaise de Montluc who was a renowned French captain in the 1520s-1570s, writes in his book ("Commentaires de Messire Blaise de Montluc Maréchal de France") that the French army was armed with crossbows and no handguns till the 1520s. However they could employ some foreign handgunners.

Interestingly, in one skirmish against German pikemen he told his men to take their pikes at mid-length because the Germans were much better trained to handle the pikes by the bottom of the shaft.

Daniel S15 Apr 2011 9:04 a.m. PST

Monluc is a great source but was writing at the end of his life in 1570's, if the French King mentions French handgunners in a 1513 letter then then King is probably the more accurate source.

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