Loud were the lamentations in the Palazzo Vecchio2 when the Venetians gained the field at Valeggio. Rumours that Berterelli3 had done less than his duty were rife, and unrestrained was the anger of the Senate at the news that he had deserted our noble cause to throw in his lot with the Venetians.
As soon as winter had abated, the Venetians marched south from Mantua. Letting a mercenary command at Valeggio was a mistake that the Senate was not going to make twice, so once more Giovanni4 was appointed to lead the Florentine forces to oppose Problematica, the Venetian mercenary general. Owing to Berterelli's desertion, the Florentines were severely outnumbered, and militia had to be raised from the surrounding countryside to augment their numbers.
Giovanni chose a strongly fortified position around Cavezzo to block the Venetian's advance. Their attack lacked resolution, and they withdrew from the field with their tales between their legs...
1. Secretary to Florentine senate, 1475-84.
2. Where the Florentine senate met, begun in 1298.
3. Condottieri captain, went over to the Venetians at the ned of the year.
4. Senator and Captain-general of the Florentine militia.
This was the seventh battle fought in the campaign. The Florentine senate (played by Ion Dowman), dismayed at Berterelli (played by Mark Otley) having gone over to the Venetains, scored a significant diplomatic counter-blow by convincing the Swiss to back them rather than Venice, and secured the services of 2100 experienced Swiss infantry for the forthcoming seasons.
Asti de Spumante (played by Brent Burnett-Jones) remained loyal to the Floentine cause, but even so, their army was small, especially in mounted troops. When the news that Problematica (played by Martin Abel) was leading the Venetian army south arrived, the Florentines immediately started summoning their northern militia contingents to the town of Cavezzo, where Giovanni, the Florentine captain-general, had determined to block the Venetian advance.
Entrenchments were dug by the Florentine pioneers to the right of the town extending back to a wood to the south in their rear, which would serve to anchor the Florentine's right flank. Some more entrenchments were dug in the gap between the town and a wooded hill to the left, and some more entrenchments behind that to secure the left flank.
A stream, tributary to the Secchia a few miles to the west, ran westwards just north of the town so adding a further barrier to the Venetian advance, although it was unseasonally low, the winter snows not having yet melted in the mountains in the south. It's firm rocky bottom and shallow waters would impede only a child, but the brambles that grew beside the stream bed offered some small measure of an obstacle, save where the road crossed the stream. At the southern edge of this ford movable barricades were erected to further impede the expected assault.
Giovanni instructed the Swiss to hold the narrow flood-plain between the stream's bank and the town. Militia were posted in the town itself, and also hidden in the wood to the southeast. Giovanni's own personal squadron was posted between the wood and the town, and mercenary crossbowmen and billmen manned the entrenchments to his front.
To the left of town were the Florentine pioneers, baggage and other supplies, plus some militia armed with pikes, with the bulk of the mercenary elmeti under Spumante to their left acting as a reserve. The Florentine guns were positioned behind the entrenchments to their front, covering the river, and more militia were hidden in the wood at the top of the hill to their left.
Two ambushing parties had been set on the far side of the river - one to the far left, comprised of 100 mounted crossbowmen hidden behind a wood, the other to the right, composed of 400 pikemen and 150 lancers under Giovanno de Vermicelli hidden within another wood.
It was past mid-morning before the mist cleared allowing the Venetians to properly see the Florentine lines. Berterelli's men, plus the Turkish light horse, deployed opposite Spumante's command, with Problematica's squadrons in the centre. To his left were the Albanian stradiots. Berterelli's horsemen rapidlly advanced and espied the Florentine mounted crossbowmen to their right. These, being greatly outnumbered, withdrew into the wood rather than fight it out in the open, but when Berterelli's handgunner's and crossbowmen entered the wood to flush them out, the Florentines charged out of the wood heading for the Venetian baggage.
Berterelli's pikemen moved to interpose themselves, and as his lancer's chased them over the plain, the nimble Florentines shot down quite a of Berterelli's horses much to his annoyance. Eventually however, they were surrounded and caught.
To the east, the Stradiots had scouted out the river and found it to be more easily crossable than they had been led to believe. Having crossed it, they briefly chased another small band of Florentine mounted crossbowmen north back across the river, but halted upon nearing a wood, smelling an amush - and in this they were right, for Vermecelli's men were hidden there waiting to pounce upon them.
Meanwhile, Problematica had moved his guns forwards to a position where they could fire at the Swiss in front of Cavezzo. The Swiss sent forward some skirmishers across the stream to distract the gunners from their task, and eventually, Problematica had to order his own crossbowmen up to take care of them. The Swiss put up a good account of themselves, but were hampered by having to fight over the rocky stream bed, and the superior numbers of the Venetains made themselves felt, and the Swiss were driven back with loss. This prompted Giovanni to send his own crossbowmen forward, and in the shooting excahnge across the stream that followed, they came out victorious, forcing the Venetians there to give ground.
By now, the sun had passed its zenith, and the temperature was at its peak. The Florentines and Swiss retreated back into the town seeking shelter from both the sun and from the Venetian guns, while the Venetians were unwilling to press forwards the attack into such a strong position.
The stalemate continued, and Problematica, having deemed honour had been satisfied, disengaged his forces. Giovanni, having more than twice as many foot, but less than one half the horse of his opposite number, was in no position to hinder him, and was content to let them retire northwards to Verona unmolested.
The Doge, when he heard of the result, was not so impressed however, and immediately ordered another march south as soon as the men were paid and revictualled. Likewise many in the Florentine Senate were wrath that Berterelli's head had not been delivered to them on a plate, but cooler opinions prevailed, pointing out Giovanni had done well just to force the Venetains to retreat, let alone destroy them.
This page last modified: December 19, 1998