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Siege of Novara, 3-6 June 1513


Siege of Novara, 3-6 June 1513

The siege of Novara (3-6 June 1513) was the highpoint of the French invasion of Milan of 1513, and was ended by the arrival of strong Swiss reinforcements who defeated the French in battle outside Novara (6 June 1513).

In April Louis XII of France sent 12,000 men under Prince Louis de le Trémoille across the Alps to recapture Milan. The French had captured Milan in 1499 (Second Italian War), had held it against a counterattack in 1500, but had then lost it to the Swiss in 1512. They installed Massimiliano Sforza as Duke of Milan, but the duchy became something of a Swiss protectorate.

In 1513 the Swiss position came under attack from several sides. La Trémoille threatened from the west, the French also secured control of Genoa, and their Venetian allies were pressing from the east. Sforza and the Swiss were unpopular in Milan, and as the French advanced their supporters rose against the Swiss. By the end of May Sforza and the Swiss only held Novara and Como.

On 3 June the French army arrived outside Novara, which was defended by a Swiss garrison. Trémoille attempted an attack on the town, but after this he was repulsed, pulled back a short distance and prepared for a longer siege. The Swiss inside Novara are said to have opened the city gates in an attempt to fight the French inside the walls rather than suffer through a regular siege.

The decision to pull back would prove to be a mistake. The Swiss sent a 5,000 strong relief force on a rapid march to Novara. Once there they combined with the garrison and launched a fierce attack on the French (Battle of Novara, 6 June 1513). The French were caught by surprise and suffered a heavy defeat. Only the Swiss lack of cavalry saved the French from even more serious losses.

The French were forced to retreat back out of Lombardy, and Sforza was restored at Milan, at least for the moment. Later in the year the Swiss invaded Burgundy, and were only repulsed after La Trémouille agreed to pay them 400,000 crowns.


Battle of Novara (1513)

The Battle of Novara was a battle of the War of the League of Cambrai fought on June 6, 1513, near Novara, in Northern Italy.

The French had been victorious at Ravenna the previous year. Nevertheless, the French under King Louis XII were driven out of the city of Milan the following month by the Holy League.

In 1513, the French army of 10,000 Β] under Louis de la Trémoille was stationed at Novara, which they were besieging, the city being held by some of the Duke of Milan's Swiss mercenaries, who, it is argued, may have intended to annex part (or all) of Milan to the Confederation. Novara, c. 40 kilometers west of Milan, was the second most important city of the Milanese duchy. However, the French were surprised at their camp there on June 6 by a Swiss relief army of some 13,000 troops, come to relieve the mercenaries in the town. The German Landsknecht mercenaries of the French, pike-armed like the Swiss, were able to form up into heavy squares, and the French were able to deploy some of their artillery. Despite this, the Swiss onslaught, sweeping in from multiple directions due to forced marches which achieved encirclement of the French camp, took the French guns, pushed back the Landsknecht infantry regiments, and destroyed the Landsknecht squares. Caught off guard, the French heavy cavalry, their decisive arm, was unable to properly deploy, and played little role in the fight.

The battle was particularly bloody, with 5,000 casualties (other sources state up to 10,000) on the French side, and moderate losses for the Swiss pikemen, mostly suffered from the French artillery as the Swiss moved into the attack. 700 men were killed in three minutes due to heavy artillery fire. Γ] Additionally, after the battle, the Swiss executed the hundreds of German mercenaries they had captured who had fought for the French. Having routed the French army, the Swiss were unable to launch a close pursuit because of their lack of cavalry, but several contingents of Swiss did follow the French withdrawal all the way to Dijon before the French paid them off to leave France. The Swiss captured 22 French guns with their carriages.

The French defeat forced Louis XII to withdraw from Milan and Italy in general, and led to the temporary restoration of Duke Maximilian Sforza, although he was widely regarded to be the puppet of his Swiss mercenaries and "allies", who held real military power in Milan.


Italy On This Day

The battle was part of the War of the League of Cambrai, fought between France, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice in northern Italy, but often involving other powers in Europe.

Louis XII had expelled the Sforza family from Milan and added its territory to France in 1508.

Swiss mercenaries fighting for the Holy League drove the French out of Milan and installed Maximilian Sforza as Duke of Milan in December 1512.

More than 20,000 French troops led by Prince Louis de la Tremoille besieged the city of Novara, which was being held by the Swiss, in June 1513.

Maximilian Sforza was installed
as Duke of Milan
However, a much smaller Swiss relief army arrived and surprised the French just after dawn on June 6.

German Landsknecht mercenaries, armed with pikes like the Swiss troops, put up some resistance to the attack, enabling the French to deploy some of their artillery.

But the Swiss encircled the French camp, seized their guns and pushed the German infantry back. Caught off guard, the French cavalry fled the field.

There were at least 5,000 casualties on the French side and about 1,500 casualties among the Swiss pikemen.

The Swiss mercenaries caught and executed hundreds of German Landsknecht troops who had fought for the French. They could not pursue the French cavalry, but they later marched into France and got as far as Dijon before they accepted money to leave. It was one of the last, big victories for the infamous Swiss mercenaries of that period.

Novara: The tall cupola of the Basilicata di San Gaudenzio was
designed by Alessandro Antonelli, who designed Turin's Mole
Travel tip:

Novara is to the west of Milan in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is the second biggest city in the region after Turin. Founded by the Romans, it was later ruled by the Visconti and Sforza families. In the 18th century it was ruled by the House of Savoy. In the 1849 Battle of Novara, the Sardinian army was defeated by the Austrian army, who occupied the city. This led to the abdication of Charles Albert of Sardinia and is seen as the beginning of the Italian unification movement.

The Novara Pyramid was built to hold the ashes of soldiers
who were killed in the 1849 Battle of Novara
Travel tip:

Among the fine old buildings in Novara, which include the Basilica of San Gaudenzio and the Broletto, a collection of buildings showing four distinct architectural styles, is the Novara Pyramid, which is also called the Ossuary of Bicocca. It was built to hold the ashes of fallen soldiers after the 19th century Battle of Novara.


Nopol

Summer turned to fall and the siege at Novara wore on. This siege by the Italian allies was advancing, while the bulk of French troops remained near Asti, to the west of Novara. There had been a number of setbacks for the French through the summer. Naples was rocked by revolts, the Italian allies in battle near Fornovo had forced the French to remain south of the Po, the troops and galleys stationed at Genoa had been forced to flee there, and the siege on Louis the Duke of Orleans at Novara was faltering. Baggage trains had been seized, the troops had little left to eat but bad grain and water, and a mysterious disease - probably syphillis - had begun afflicting everyone.

It was a decisive moment. Would the French stay or would they at last leave? Years later, the official historian for Venice, Pietro Bembo, would carefully tell the tale of the Battle of Fornovo as a Venetian victory saving Italy from the advances and scourges of the powerful French. Allowed access to Venetian state archives, Bembo could detail the benefices made to those actors and their heirs, as rewards to those who made this victory possible. But afterwards, as the Duke of Orleans was stuck under siege at Novara and the King and his massive army awaiting to the west, Bembo could instead paint the French as weakened, and poorly provisioned, their courage cooled.

The King then sent out word to gather fresh French and Swiss troops. Bembo tells us that the king's wife wrote back saying there were no more men willing to go over the Alps. This stands in stark contrast with matters just a year before. This wife of Charles, Anne of Brittany, though all of eighteen years old, had previously been married to Maximillian King of the Romans. She was essentially captured by Charles in 1491 and then married when Charles took the city of Rennes in a battle with Max. As the legal inheritor of Brittany, and in this context, when she married Charles, she brought her own army with her. The literature surrounding her is rich and varies over the last 200 years.

Bembo also reports that a hundred Germans and a hundred Swiss both joined the Venetians then because the king could not pay them. This also serves as a reminder that there were still cadres of armed soldiers from various places, marching off again to still more places, as a result of these wars in Italy. All this for a better price.


The Battle of Ariotta (Novara) 1513.

The Battle of Ariotta in 1513 was a decisive victory for the Swiss and was one of the last truly dominating battles for the famed Swiss pike blocks.

In the Spring of 1513, Louis XII was still angry at having lost the Duchy of Milan. The King selected La Tremouille to lead a 12,000 strong army including a large contingent of Landsknecht.

The army consisted of about 6,000 German pikes, 4,000 Gascons and Navarrese, 1000 lances and 1000 light horse, including stradiots. There was also a good amount of artillery.

Tremouille crossed the Alps without opposition by taking an unexpected pass. The small Swiss force was taken by surprise and sought refuge at the town of Novara. Records indicate that there were about 4,000 Swiss at Novara. Desperate messages for reinforcements were sent back to the Cantons and a relief force of around 8,000 pikes was sent.

Tremouille set siege to the town of Novara, where the Swiss had been joined by a small force of a few hundred knights and the duke Maximilian Sforza.

On the 5th June, the Swiss reinforcements could be seen approaching Novara, and Tremouille decided to withdraw towards Milan. That evening he set up camp near the small farming village of Ariotta. He assumed that the Swiss would need to rest after the long march from the cantons, especially as some of the troops would not even arrive until the next morning.

The Swiss had no intention of resting, but instead marched on the French camp ready for a dawn attack. They silenced their drums on the march to give no indication to the French that the attack was imminent. What followed was a daring attack of surprise and movement which kept the French off balance. The Battle of Ariotta had started.

Order of battle and deployment

We plan to play the Battle of Ariotta at our club game day in February. We will be using a 5ft x 14ft battle area. The following map and notes detail the initial set up and troops that will be used. This deployment is base on information in the book “La Battaglia dell’Ariotta” .

The initial deployments

The game will start with the Swiss approaching from the bottom of the map along the road from Novara. The French will be deployed in the positions shown on the map, while the majority of the Swiss units will initially be off table.

Swiss Forces and deployment.

Swiss Pike blocks A and B attacking the Landsknechts

The game will start on Turn 1 with the Swiss Enfant Perdue emerging from the woods to charge the French guns.

This attack was ultimately unsuccessful in the battle, but it does give the Swiss a chance of surprising, capturing and using the French artillery. It will also give the main Swiss Pike block some cover against the artillery.

On Turn 2, the main Swiss Pike block A of 6,000 men will emerge from the woods.

In the battle this pike block was held in place for a while by some French Gendarmes and received heavy casualties from the artillery. However, it eventually got to grips with the French pike and crossbows and routed them, before turning its attention to the Landsknechts.

The Swiss player may choose to deploy pike blocks B (3000 men) and C (1,000 men) onto the table on Turn 2 or any turn after. Until they are deployed their presence will not be made known to the French. In the actual battle, these units marched unseen by the French and achieved total surprise. In the battle pike block B was tasked with attacking the Landsknechts and pike block C was intended to cause confusion in the French rear and prevent the Gendarmes effectively countering the main Swiss pike blocks near Ariotta.

  • Swiss Pike Block B of 64 figures (8 rows wide x 8 rows deep)
  • 16 Swiss Halbardiers supporting pike block B (8 rows wide and 2 rows deep). This unit may be added to the pike block to increase the stamina and attack values or may operate as a separate unit.

In the battle the Halbadiers operated as a separate unit and attacked the Landsknecht arquebusiers before supporting the pike block and attacking the Landsknecht pike block in the flank.

The final Swiss Pike block C marched to the rear of the French army along a canal. It was hidden from the French during this march. Its main roll is to threaten the French camp.

  • Swiss Pike Block C of 24 figures (4 rows wide x 8 rows deep).
  • Milanese Knights consisting of 8 figures.

The Swiss reserves in the actual battle did not arrive from the cantons in time to play a part. The lead units entered the field as the French were routing. However, the French scouts were aware of the approaching reserves and this certainly played a part in their tactical choices in the battle. They did not want to send all of their units against the two main Swiss Pike blocks and leave their rear exposed. When I run the battle, once the Swiss player has deployed pike blocks B and C, I will make the French player aware that their scouts have observed another pike block approaching along the road. Depending upon how the game is progressing, I can then choose to make this pike block available to the Swiss at any time.

French forces and deployment

French pike – a bit like bringing a knife to a gun fight with the large Swiss and Landsknecht pike blocks in the game.

The French Gendarmes will initially be classed as disordered due to the surprise attack. They are elite so they will have a chance to roll this off at the start of Turn 1

  • 1 unit of Household Gendarmes (8 figures)
  • 3 units of Gendarmes (8 figures each)
  • 4 units of Mounted Archers (8 figures each)

The French Artillery will also start the game disordered. They will be deployed facing the road emerging from the woods. They will be the first units to see the approaching Swiss.

The Landsknecht pike block will start the game disordered, but the two units of shot will start the game in good order. The shot were the first units to respond to the Enfant Perdue approaching the French artillery.

  • Landsknecht Pike block of 100 figures (10 rows wide by 10 rows deep)
  • 2 Landsknecht shot units each of 8 figures

The French infantry will also start the game disordered.

  • 4 units of French crossbow each of 16 figures
  • 2 units of French pike each of 24 figures (4 rows wide by 6 rows deep)

The French Stradiots will start the game in good order as they are performing scouting duties on the French flank.

Terrain

The terrain for the Battle of Ariotta is relatively simple, we will be playing on a 5ft x 14 ft table.

The three key items of terrain are the small farming village of Ariotta, the woods and the marshes.

No fighting took place in the village of Ariotta, but it represented the left flank of the French army, so it is important that it is represented. I am in the process of building the village and I hope to have it finished for the February game. Here it is at the moment.

Ariotta village, still needing some work before the game.

The next item of terrain will be the woods. These woods were used to obscure the advance of the main Swiss body. Key will be the distance between the artillery and the edge of the woods. I am to make this distance around 18-24 inches. This should give the Enfant Perdue a small chance of reaching the artillery.

The main item that will need to be included is the marsh area. I plan to make this by imbedding some static grass mats from Killing Fields terrain into their Teddy Bears mats. I will post some pictures of the marshes when I am done. The main tactical reason for the marshes will be that they limit the French Gendarmes (and other troops) to one move distance per turn (in Pike and Shotte rules, troops can potentially move up to three moves per turn) and they will not be able to claim the lance bonus when charging in the Marsh. These marshes will therefore limit the attacks on the Swiss pike block A as happened in the real battle.

The game

We plan to run the Battle of Ariotta in February. I still need to finish the terrain and to paint a few more figures. I have the Milanese knights, the Swiss Enfant Perdue and halbardiers and a unit of French crossbows still to Finish. Once we run the game I will post a full review. I am looking forward to this battle as it is not the usual type of game with two armies facing each other across the table. How the French respond to being attacked on all sides will be key. If they can decisively deploy their forces they should win. If they fail to take tactical control, they will be routed as occurred in 1513.


Reformation

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Reformation began in Germany, and in 1520–1530, it spread to Switzerland, even in a more radical form. The center of the reform movement was Zurich, where the first translation of the Bible into German was compiled and printed. The translation was done by Huldrych Zwingli and Leo Jude. It was printed by Christoph Froschauer’s printing house. Besides Zwinglianism in Zurich, there was also another Reformation movement – Anabaptism. At the same time, the central part of Switzerland remained Catholic, largely because Zwinglianism condemned the use of mercenary armies, where for the inhabitants of this region the service of mercenaries was the main source of income. The conflict between Protestants and Catholics poured into civil wars twice: the First Filmergen War of 1656 and the Toggenburg War of 1712. The main battles of both wars took place near the settlement of Filmergen.

Not without resistance, the Reformation was introduced in Geneva. Here, the French theologian Jean Calvin and his compatriot Guillaume Farel, who had been expelled from Paris, became the main ideologists of the reformation of the Church. It should be noted that Protestants differed little from Catholics in relation to heretics: a good example of this is the fate of the Spanish thinker and naturalist Miguel Servet, who was convicted by Catholics in Lyon and executed at the insistence of Calvin in Geneva. The reformers did not yield to the witch hunt – for the period from 1590 to 1600 only in one Protestant canton of Vaud more than 300 women were burned at the stake. But in the Protestant cantons they willingly accepted the Huguenots from France, as well as from other European countries, where Catholicism prevailed. Most of them were in Neuchâtel and Basel. Since many of them were jewelers, bankers and watchmakers, thanks to them, western Switzerland became the center of banking and watchmaking.

The center of the Counter-Reformation (Catholic Reformation) in Switzerland was the city of Lucerne. Here settled Carlo Borromeo, one of the most prominent figures of the Counter-Reformation. In 1577, a Jesuit college opened in Lucerne, and a century later a Jesuit church.

In 1648, in the Westphalian peace treaty between the major European powers, the independence of Switzerland was formalized.


1513 in History

Event of Interest

Mar 11 Giovanni de' Medici chosen Pope Leo X

Historic Expedition

Mar 27 Spaniard Juan Ponce de León and his expedition first sight Florida

    Explorer Juan Ponce de León claims Florida for Spain as the first known European to reach Florida Battle of Novara, the War of the League of Cambrai: the Swiss Confederacy defeat the French

Victory in Battle

Aug 16 Battle of the Spurs at Guinegate (now Eguinegatte): Henry VIII of England and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I beat France

    Battle of Flodden Fields English defeat James IV of Scotland King Henry III & Emperor Maximilian conquer Doornik Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa crosses the Panama Isthmus becoming first European to see the Pacific Ocean Battle of La Motta: Spanish troops under Ramón de Cardona defeat the Venetians.

Historical introduction

This game encompasses a long period of the Italian Wars when the two main European powers, France and Spain, confronted for the possession of Southern Italy. Both countries claimed their rights upon this part of Italy, for dynastic and religious motivations. But the true stake was political of course. Southern Italy at the end of Middle Ages was a rich and fertile countryside, within the parameters of the era. Furthermore it was in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, focal point of all sea trading routes for Spain towards Middle East. After the Angiovin domination, the Kingdom of Naples passed in the hands of the Aragonese Crown, a dynasty of Spanish origins. King Ferdinand of Spain and his wife isabella, the catholic kings, appointed Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba as commander in chief for the Spanish operations in Naples. Gonzalo gained his glory, and the name "El gran Capitán, while Ferdinand gained the south of Italy to Spain for centuries.


Italy On This Day

The battle was part of the War of the League of Cambrai, fought between France, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice in northern Italy, but often involving other powers in Europe.

Louis XII had expelled the Sforza family from Milan and added its territory to France in 1508.

Swiss mercenaries fighting for the Holy League drove the French out of Milan and installed Maximilian Sforza as Duke of Milan in December 1512.

More than 20,000 French troops led by Prince Louis de la Tremoille besieged the city of Novara, which was being held by the Swiss, in June 1513.

Maximilian Sforza was installed
as Duke of Milan
However, a much smaller Swiss relief army arrived and surprised the French just after dawn on June 6.

German Landsknecht mercenaries, armed with pikes like the Swiss troops, put up some resistance to the attack, enabling the French to deploy some of their artillery.

But the Swiss encircled the French camp, seized their guns and pushed the German infantry back. Caught off guard, the French cavalry fled the field.

There were at least 5,000 casualties on the French side and about 1,500 casualties among the Swiss pikemen.

The Swiss mercenaries caught and executed hundreds of German Landsknecht troops who had fought for the French. They could not pursue the French cavalry, but they later marched into France and got as far as Dijon before they accepted money to leave. It was one of the last, big victories for the infamous Swiss mercenaries of that period.

Novara: The tall cupola of the Basilicata di San Gaudenzio was
designed by Alessandro Antonelli, who designed Turin's Mole
Travel tip:

Novara is to the west of Milan in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is the second biggest city in the region after Turin. Founded by the Romans, it was later ruled by the Visconti and Sforza families. In the 18th century it was ruled by the House of Savoy. In the 1849 Battle of Novara, the Sardinian army was defeated by the Austrian army, who occupied the city. This led to the abdication of Charles Albert of Sardinia and is seen as the beginning of the Italian unification movement.

The Novara Pyramid was built to hold the ashes of soldiers
who were killed in the 1849 Battle of Novara
Travel tip:

Among the fine old buildings in Novara, which include the Basilica of San Gaudenzio and the Broletto, a collection of buildings showing four distinct architectural styles, is the Novara Pyramid, which is also called the Ossuary of Bicocca. It was built to hold the ashes of fallen soldiers after the 19th century Battle of Novara.