The Battle of San Lorenzo, 1481 AD

Extract from another letter from Rusticello, a man-at-arms in Savoyard employ, to his brother is time to retire, I think. There was a time when campaigning meant a little show here, a little show there, and a purse of gold in the hand. Times change, my good brother. Now I envy you the vinyard! Does that not make you laugh?

It's been non-stop fighting for the last year, and there seems no end of it in sight. The Genoese are obviously not going to give up on holding Nice, and the Duke is determined not to let it go. However, the captains here are a useless lot, so what can be done? I feel that if an able commander is not found soon, very soon, it will go ill with us.

My contact runs out in three months time. I will wait until then, and see what sort of man leads the army - or what's left ot it. But I expect that you will see me home not long after that, God willing, rather than me extend my services. I doubt if any man could save this rag-tag army. A rag-tag army for a rag-tag state...


This was the sixth battle fought in the campaign. The Genoese Senate (played by Kevin Neilson), despite the appalling losses suffered in the previous year's campaign, was still determined to deny the Duchy of Savoy any access to the Mediterranean. Therefore, they used much of their not inconsiderable wealth to scour Italy for mercenaries to fill the ranks of their second expeditionary force. They once again ordered their generals Giovanni Ambulatore (played by Andre Evers) and Walter de Brienne IV (played by Bryan Sowman) to strike for Nice, marching along the coast supported by most of their navy.

The Duke of Savoy (played by Johnathan Parks), under pressure from the Duke of Milan (played Brent Regan) to pay considerable 'maintenance subsidies', had a very depleted treasury, and found great difficulty in finding a suitably qualified replacement for his general, Disco Volante, who was killed expelling the Genoese from the city only last year.

Eventually Disco's younger brother, Vermicelli, was nominated to the Captain-Generalship, and undertook to defend the province from the Genoese counterattack that was even now being monitored by the Duke's spies.

The militia of Nice, having recently tasted the brutal hand of Genoese oppression, were eager to answer the summons to arms issued by Volante the younger, and indeed, their numbers were surely going to be needed, as the invading Genoese appeared to be both numerous and exceedingly well-equipped. Volante could only marvel at the reports of their splendid arms and the vast financial resources behind them compared to his own poorly equipped men and the sorry state of Savoy's coffers. He comforted himself much with the thought that the opposing generals had however shown themselves to be both incompetents and cowards...

To spare Nice any further depradations, Volante had ordered his force eastwards towards the small village of San Lorenzo al Mare and lodged himself in a position fast between the mountains and the sea, knowing that the enemy had no choice but to come this way. He set his pioneers the task of preparing defensive positions to protect his artillery and crossbowmen, and waited for the enemy.

Upon arriving at Volante's position, the Genoese encamped, and prepared their plans for the forthcoming battle. Brienne and Ambulatore were both convinced that a direct assault upon the Genoese position would prove no more successful than the one attempted at Nernier had been. Accordingly, Ambulatore decided that the weaker positions nearer the mountains could be outflanked, while Brienne made a show in front of the main positions and kept the Savoyards occupied. The navy could make a useful diversion to the left, further distracting the inexperienced Savoyard commander.

Both armies breakfasted early, and as soon as it was dawn, Ambulatore's forces swung into action. Ambulatore had been privately embarrased at the battle of Nice with his wild charge; caused only by his inability to stay seated properly still in his saddle. In the intervening months, he had procured an expensive unguent for his painful piles, and the balm seemed to be working effectively. It was a more confident, steady and relaxed Ambulatore that led his forces out this morning.

The sky was somewhat overcast, so that the Savoyards were not dazzled by the rising sun to their front, and a light wind gently blew in the Genoan's faces as they advanced towards them. Brienne's main force marched slowly forwards, and halted just outside the effective range of the Savoyard artillery. The Genoese galleys rowed purposefully forwards, and aimed for the gently shelving beach abreast the Savoyard lines.

Deployment Map

On the northern flank, Ambulatore's men swiftly moved westwards, angling north. His crossbowmen swung past the rocky knoll bisecting Volante's position, and advanced towards the scrubby ground in front of them, where many militiamen form Nice were hiding. These showed their inexperience in moving out to meet Ambulatore's crossbowmen, and soon the more disciplned and more heavily armoured mercenaries were putting many of the militia crossbowmen and culverineers to flight.

Ambulatore's mounted squadrons followed up the victorious Genoese crossbowmen, supporting their left flank, threatening to assault the fortifications to the north of the rocky knoll. This prompted the younger Volante to order some of his men-at-arms forward to stabalize the line, but these became dangerously exposed as Ambulatore's crossbowmen, backed up by a few light wheeled guns, cleared the scrub of the rest of the militia, killing many and putting the remainder to flight.

Some momentary alarm was felt in the Genoese camp when some mounted crossbowmen emerged from the foothills to the north, and started moving towards their supply train, but the Genoese reserves were detailed to chase them off, and they never posed any genuine threat.

The handgunners that formed the Genoese galley marines had by now disembarked, and were moving towards the Genoese southern flank. They were challenged by some Savoyard billmen, and after some desultory skirmishing, a stalemate ensued in this sector.

Volante realised the battle was slipping away from him, and felt only a bold stroke would save the situation. He ordered his seaward battle forwards from behind their fortifications towards Brienne's men, but by now his own command was in disarray. Ambulatore's footmen were now charging the Savoyard pioneers, unarmed save for their entrenching tools, and others were nearly in amongst the baggage. The men-at-arms he had hoped would hold the front line had been ridden down by Amulatore's squadrons who were even now negotiating the trenchlines.

With the northern militia companies broken in rout, the pioneers being massacred, and the baggage about to be looted, the remaining Savoyard militia that had been occupying the central knoll started to flee the field. The southern battle, seeing men to their flank fleeing, refused to charge Brienne's waiting squadrons, and instead reined in their horses, turned and galloped from the field, leaving the Genoese artillery pieces to be captured intact by Brienne's men without having even fired a shot.

The Genoese pursued the militiamen all the way to Nice, killing great numbers, and stormed the garrisonless city, looting as they went. Once more the Riviera was to suffer the depredations of the mercenaries of Genoa. The bulk of the Savoyard regulars, however, along with their commander, escaped to the north.


This page last modified: November 12, 1998

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