The Battle of Valeggio, 1480 AD

The first part of a proclomation issued by the Doge addressed to the Swiss emmisary, and posted in the Piazza San Marco at Venice, October 13, 1480, as noted by the humanist Niccolo Montone

The Senate of Venezia to Albrecht Schwartz:

The Republic of Venezia is well-pleased with the service of our beloved friends the Switzers, sharing in our great task of humbling the pride of the misguided citizens of Firenze.

As you know, Firenze had promised us a most welcome reception in the duchy of Mantua beyond the Adige, and God-willing, so it has proved.

This last week, we together have gained a great victory over their so-called army, and even now our valiant soldiers are feasting upon the victuals spread out before us. So much more the pity then that the Florentines could not stomach the fare!...


This was the fourth battle in the campaign. Eager to seek advantage of the recent Florentine defeat at the hands of the Milanese, the Doge of Venice (played by Nicholas Grant) mobilized his men for an attack on the Florentine protectorate of Mantua. His chosen general, Luigi Problematica (played by Martin Abel) led an army composed for the most part of foreign mercenaries - Albanians, Turks, and Swiss westwards from Verona and then south along the Mincio river.

The Florentine senators (played by Ion Dowman) had dismissed their captain-general after the recent battle by the Adda, and entrusted command of their diminished army to the noted condottieri Berterelli (played by Mark Otley), aided by Asti de Spumante (played by Brent Burnett-Jones). Berterelli's pleas for reinforcements prior to marching to the relief of Mantua fell on deaf ears however due to recent heavy expenditure leading up to the disastrous Piacenza campaign, and thus the Florentine forces were no larger than those of the small Venetian expedition by the time the two armies met near the market town of Valeggio.

It was a slightly overcast typical autumn morning as the two forces deployed in the plain between the unwalled town and the river not far to the west. Problematica issued instructions for his supply train to cross the Mincio at a shallow spot to his rear, escorted by his Turks. The river was running lower than normal at this season, but still deep enough to present a barrier to easy movement.

On the east bank of the river he posted the Venetian mercenaries, and immediately to their east, the formidable Swiss contingent in which he was placing his greatest trust. To their left his own lancer sqaudrons were arrayed, and to their east, nigh the road to Valeggio, were the Albanians - as far as possible away from the Turks on the other flank on account of their still-present emnity since the loss of their homeland to the Infidels last year.

Berterelli was concerned to find that the forces opposing him were more numerous than he had been led to believe. His own foot he had posted near the river, and to their rear, in front of a hastily erected stockade for the draught animals, were his own few lancers, plus those of the absent Florentine lieutenant-general Giovanni de Vermicelli, who was recuperating from a recent illness. To the right, Spumante's squadrons were deployed in a line stretching towards the recently-harvested crop-fields around the town. The smaller company of the other Florentine lieutenant-general, Lorenzo de Calimari was stationed to the rear as a reserve.

Berterelli had anticipated that a great advantage in heavy lancers would outweigh the enemy's reported advantage in light horse and the likely superiority of their Swiss pikemen over his own, but now he was wondering if his advantage in lancers would be enough as the Venetians suddenly surged forward all along their line.

Quickly the Albanian stadiots moved south tracing a route parallel to the road threatening Spumante's light flank. He countered this with his few crossbowmen while advancing his towards those of Problematica. Mounted crossbowmen from both sides skirmished in the centre between the armies but quickly withdrew as the Venetian and Swiss mercenaries rapidly closed the distance. Berterelli directed Calimari forward to plug the gap between his own foot and Spumante's men, while his own squadrons started moving off to the right to reinforce Spumante's crossbowmen who were likley to be overwhelmed by the superior numbers of Albanains stradiots closing in on them.

No sooner than had he given the orders and everyone was moving, Berterelli cursed as he saw to his chagrin that some horsemen had appeared from nowhere on a small rise over on the other side of the river. These Turks, scanning the field from their slightly elevated position, whooped with delight seeing the Florentine supply train was unguarded from this side of the river, and urged their horses on in the hope of securing some plunder from it.

Deployment Map

His own foot were mostly unable to intervene, since they were menaced by the Venetian mercenaries to their front, but a few crossbowmen managed to run back and fire some long-range shots into the Turks as they forded the river, momentarily checking their advance. Calimari anxious for his private baggage directed most of his men to their aid, but by then the Swiss were getting ominously close, and he could not afford to leave his own position in the line.

The single squadron of lancers of Spumante's that was in front of the Swiss decided it would be better to receive their charge on foot than on horse and dismounted, while the rest of Spumante's lancers charged their opposite numbers under Problematico. Soon a huge swirling melee developed as the sqaudrons reformed and recharged in succession, breaking up into smaller and smaller groups as the fight was then continued with sword and mace.

Some Florentine handgunners valiantly tried to stem the Swiss advance, but they were cut down by the rapid Swiss charge. They did however succeed in breaking up their advance, and seeing this Calimari told his own bugler to sound the charge. The 150 men of his small remaining squadron smashed their way through the foremost Swiss elements, breaking their pikes and hewing many down, but eventually the Swiss halberdiers closed in on his isolated men like Charles of Burgundy was only 3 years before, and he was hacked to death as he was thrown from his horse.

To the east, Spumante's men-at-arms, hampered by the loss of too many good horses in Piacenza, were worsted by those of Problematica, and eventually broke in rout. With Spumante's men fleeing, and Calimari dead, Bertereeli's men decided that enough was enough, and started to retreat before they were cut off by the maraudering Venetian light horse.

Spumante and his men were not so lucky: closely pursued by the Albanians and Problematica's lancers, barely a quarter of them survived the engagement; their captain at least was one of them. Leaderless, both Vermicelli's and Calimari's men also took heavy losses, so that less than half the Florentine army made it away safely to bring the news of their defeat to the Florentine senate. At least the senate could take some comfort that the Mantuan garrison had prevented the desolation of the province, and was still holding out.


This page last modified: October 26, 1998

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