Sunday, 24 January 2021

Lithuanian III/18

The Lithuanian are ready for use consisting of four heavy cavalry, six light horse and two foot archer elements. An order with Legio Heroica was placed recently to add more light horse and foot archers, but for the moment these will do nicely for the planned historical scenarios. 

The heavy cavalry are a mix of Legio Heroica bow and lance armed figures with diverse shields from Essex. Shields are described in Ian Heath’s Armies of the Middle Ages, vol.2 as mostly red colour and I realise many modern representations have emblems painted on them, but decided against this as there would be a good number of banners to identify them as Lithuanian. The light horse are bow armed Turcoman figures with fur caps added with Milliput.

The flags like others made are interchangeable, so elements may crop up elsewhere as allies or morph into another army as the collection is meant for the later part of the 15th century. The description of flags is difficult to find, but the Columns of Gediminas and the Vytis are the most seen. Vytis, usually depicted with a sword, but a manuscript dated 1422 shows him with a spear which looked better. Despite the repetition of flags and banners in red colour, the different shapes should add some variety to their general appearance.




Thursday, 21 January 2021

Battle of Gavere – 1453

The revolt of Ghent in 1449 would reach its final act on the field of Gavere on 23 July 1543. Sources give both Burgundian and rebel forces an equal strength of 30,000, but at the end of the day, the Burgundians held the field sending the rebel army in full retreat. Days later, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy arrived before the walls of Ghent to receive the city’s capitulation.  

Background

In 1447, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, began a series measures to reduce the authority of the town council of Ghent. These included taxes to be levied on salt and flour, both of which would be collected by ducal officials. Not long after, other Flemish cities were included in the taxation programme and in retaliation town councils with the support of their guilds called for a general strike.

Leading the revolt, the city of Ghent raised troops throughout the county of Vlaanderen, yet not all towns were in favour of the strike. Those cities offering resistance were plundered. A few such towns, as Dender, Aalst and Geraardsbergen offered stiffer resistance and were placed under siege by the army of Ghent. Less successful were the castles of Poeke, Schendelbeke and Gavere which were captured and garrisoned. Seeing the rebellion quickly gaining support throughout Flanders and fearing a similar action developing in his border provinces, King Charles VII of France attempted to negotiate a truce for the two parties. Ghent refused the offer.

In June of 1453, Philip began his military campaign in earnest by sending his fleet, based at Sluis, up the River Scheldt to secure Antwerp. In the south, the main army would march from Lille and begin recapturing rebel held towns before approaching Ghent. Towns fell in rapid succession and by July, Gavere castle became the final bastion before approaching the city of Ghent. The rebels however had other plans.

Battlefield

The polder fields between Semmerzake and Gavere with the Schelde River bordering the battlefield’s northern and western side was the scene of the battle. The town of Gavere is behind the Burgundian position and from here the ground gently rises toward Semmerzake and Vurste. Behind the Burgundian line is a depression through which the Leebeek, a tributary of the Schelde, served to hide the Burgundian right. The castle and village of Gavere played no part in the actual battle and need not be placed on the battlefield, however, woods do line both sides of the Schelde River and the Leebeek.

Map of the battlefield: De Slag Bij Gavere, Antoine de Smet, deel 2, page 11.

The Opposing Forces

Sources give equal numbers for both armies and some quote a low of 16,000 to a high of 30,000 men, 20,000 being most likely. The rebel army left Ghent with 16,000 men and gathered additional troops along the route.

The Burgundian army, mostly recruited from Artesie, Picardy and Burgundy numbered 14,000, were under the command of Thibaut de Neufchatel, Marshal of Burgundy and Jean de Croy, Lord of Chimay. Additional pioneers and artillery personnel would bring the total to 20,000. This also include the Low Country crossbowmen and pikemen from cities and towns still loyal to Philip the Good. Considering the larger numbers that fought, our test games will use doubled the number of elements for each army.

Next week, the battle.

References

Route You, Battlefield of Gavere. 

Door het strijdveld van de Slag bij Gavere -Wandelroute | RouteYou

Gavere 1453, Feiten en Verhalen 

Microsoft Word - Slag bij Gavere 1453 feiten en verhalen.doc

De Slag Bij Gavere, Antoine de Smet

https://www.gavere.be/sites/default/files/atoms/files/boek_slag_bij_gavere_deel_1.pdf

https://www.gavere.be/sites/default/files/atoms/files/boek_slag_bij_gavere_deel_2.pdf

Communal Armies in the County of Flanders, Carl de Roo, Slingshot 201 p.20-22.




Friday, 15 January 2021

Normandy 1450 - the raid, the ambush and battle

With the exception of the Social Wars of Rome, peasant rebellions receive little attention by ancient and medieval rule sets. Reading the events preceding the Battle of Formigny fuelled the recreation of several light-hearted contests to the table between an English foraging party and the local peasantry. The smallest command possible in BBDBA is six elements, therefore the English foragers would consist of a mix of mounted and foot troops. The French resistance, I adapted the Lurker rule in HOTT for the first two sets with a third meeting, as open battle.

The raid

English scouts galloped past the village intent on herding the grazing livestock north of it while mounted archers sealed the southern approach to the village. Following behind, English infantry marched directly on the village. The sudden appearance sent the few remaining villagers sprinting toward the woods. English revelry came to a halt when armed peasants catching the archers as they were dismounting. Peasants armed with bow moved out of the wood, but their arrows proved ineffective. Unbothered by the loss of the mounted archers, the raid was quickly executed leaving the peasantry powerless to contest it as they dared not move into range of English bows.


The Ambush

Elsewhere in Normandy, English scouts and mounted archers formed a vanguard of a supply convoy as news circulated of armed bands of peasantry were about. The column reached a section of the road flanked on either side with hedge lined fields and woods. The first sound of alarm came when the vanguard came under attack. Thick hedges blocked visibility and alarm further heightened with the sound of battle at the tail of the column. The action did not last long and the few English survivors fled leaving all their gathered plunder behind.



The Battle

A few peasant bands, led by firebrands, were bold enough to meet small parties of English inviting them to open battle. One such act of lunacy deployed a low ridge flanked by woods. Eager to repay the compliment, the English moved into line. Arrows rained on the peasant bands but their line did not waver prompting to English line to move forward. English scouts had encircled the enemy position to help the billmen cut through the peasants. With little understanding of tactics, peasants hurled themselves at the English archers forcing uncommitted English to join the hand-to-hand battle. This mis-calculation  cost the English dearly as half their number became casualties sending the survivors scurrying off the field.





Thursday, 14 January 2021

A prequel to Formigny – and a bit of fun

 Much of the research done for historical late medieval scenarios will not find its way to the blog, as there is simply too much. That said, I do find the following events preceding the Battle of Formigny interesting enough to do a write up and have some fun on the game board. 

Since the Agincourt campaign, the Duchy of Normandy has been remained occupied by English forces. From its regional headquarters in Caen, other key towns and cities, such as Cherbourg, Rouen, Bayeux, and Avranches also contain English garrisons and smaller units dispersed among the castles and villages in the region. 

To further strengthen control over Normandy, measures were taken to have urban inhabitants wear the cross of St. George. This not only served as a sign of their submission but would easily identify visitors. Unlike English occupied Guyenne in the south of France, the subsistence of English troops led them to forage and pillage the Norman countryside with severe consequences for the local inhabitants. 

The situation became so rampant (1440-1450) that English parties would encounter resistance by the local peasantry and Wright mentions in his book small numbers of French knights aiding the peasant bands. The escalation of resistance in Normandy did not go unnoticed by Charles VII, King of France who according to Contamine, began a programme of subsidising the partisans of Normandy during the period of 1447-1450. Slowly, the situation began to turn as every forage party became a target as well as the convoys supplying the garrisons. As a result, castles and towns were eventually retaken with French military support, such as Valognes and Carentan on the Cherbourg peninsula, Saint Lo, Coutances and Granville in the west and Argentan, Pont L’Evêque and Pont Audemer in the east. 

In late 1449, the Duke of Somerset financed the assembly of a contingent to depart England and join the garrison at Caen. The next step is translating the resistance movement preceding Formigny to the game board. 


Preceding Formigny, the raid, the ambush and the battle.

Carte – La Bataille de Formigny, le Avril 15, 1450

Recommended reading.

Knights and Peasants, The Hundred Years War in the French Countryside’ by N. Wright

War in the Middle Ages’ by Philippe Contamine

Friday, 8 January 2021

Play testing Formigny 1450

It is very rare event to have a freshly written scenario, play tested and end on the money with its historical outcome. Generally, further testing would require adjusting some aspect of the game such as increasing/decreasing the number of troops, refine distances or altering the position of terrain pieces. However, this is what happened and subsequent tests were made to make an alternative outcome possible.

Test one: No potholes were placed as the English would advance full steam to meet the French led by John II. Both lines overlapped the other’s left, with Gough’s open flank harassed by the franc-archers and artillery. On the opposite side, longbowmen rained havoc among French chivalry goading them to charge. The battle was hard fought with both sides equally inflicting heavy casualties. In the end, the French artillery cast the last stone shattering a unit of longbowmen to send the English into retreat (France 4-3).


Test two. The English remained in position as potholes and improvised stakes were placed across their front. This franc-archers seized the opportunity to harass the English open left flank. The English countered with an attack by billmen supported by the cavalry leaving their position from across the river. Hearing the sound of the guns, Richemont was able to approach the bridge without encountering any resistance. In the chaos that surrounded Gough’s division, Gough met his end defending the bridge. Casualties were high on both sides, especially among the Bretons. The battle nearly swung in favour of the English, but parting salvo from the guns ended the battle (France 4-3).


Test three. The English deployment remained unchanged; however, the French altered their plan by placing cavalry to face the enemy left flank. The English placed potholes and stakes to protect Gough’s division as Kyriell made plans to assault the French left comprising of franc-archers and the artillery fire. The early cannonade also announced the arrival of the Breton contingent prompting the English reserve to take a new position on the English side of the river. Leaving their protection, Gough’s longbowmen moved forward to lay a heavy barrage inflicting casualties among the French knights. Kyriell braved the firestorm and despite heavy losses (3 elements) reached the French line to return the favour and rout the French (England 4-3).



Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Scenario - Bataille de Formigny 1450

 The Battle of Formigny in Normandy, took place on April 15, 1450 between the English and French-Breton forces. It ends with a decisive victory for France, thereby ending the ambitions of the English crown on Normandy.

Background

Early 1450, English control of the Duchy of Normandy had receded to three areas; the northern tip of the Cherbourg peninsula, the region between Caen and Bayeux and the town of Avranches as the lands between were slowly being reclaimed by the French. A number of factors played a decisive part in the reconquest; the revitalisation of the army, a newly formed department for artillery and lastly the neutrality of Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, a former ally of England. Joining the French camp for the upcoming campaign was the Duke of Brittany, François I.

To avert a disaster in Normandy, the Duke of Somerset financed the gathering of 3,500 men to join the garrison at Caen.  Led by Sir Thomas Kyriell, they would assert English control of Normandy by re-capturing key castles and cities. Landing at Cherbourg on March 15, Kyriell, with the local English garrisons, marched south to lay siege to Valognes. Alerted to their presence, the King of France sent John II of Bourbon and 3,000 men to contest their movements. A Breton army of 4,000 men under the command of the Constable of Richemont would also support this endeavour. However, on reaching the frontier at Dol-de-Bretagne, the constable was ordered by Duke François I to leave half the army in Brittany as a precaution. With this completed, Richemont continued with his objective, to join John II of Bourbon.

With Valognes now in English hands, Kyriell marched east to reach Formigny on the afternoon of the 14th of April. On the morning of the 15th, the English were ready to resume their march when the French vanguard was sighted coming from the west. Following the standard practice, the English formed in line astride the road to Bayeux, with archers in front supported by the men-at-arms. The English force was divided in two divisions, the left, under the command of Sir Mathieu Gough and the right, commanded by Kyriell. All troops were dismounted with the exception of a small cavalry force positioned on the other bank.

The Battlefield

The ground in front of the English position is relatively flat but dotted with fields, orchards and farm houses. The river Ruisseau is behind the English line and the hills beyond form a ridge line parallel to the river to reach the Carentan - Bayeux road. The village of Formigny played no part battle and need not be placed if using a smaller game board.  


Opposing Forces

French Forces: 1 x John II of Bourbon (3Kn), 3 x gendarmes (3Kn/4Bd), 3 x franc-archers (3Bw), 1 x voulgiers (4Bd) or crossbowmen (4Cb), 1 x culverins (Art); allies: 1 x Constable of Richemont (3Kn), 1 x knight (3Kn), 1 x coutilliers (Cv).

English forces: 1 x Sir Thomas Kyriell (4Bd), 4 x longbowmen (4Lb), 1 x billmen (4Bd), 1 x Sir Mathieu Gough (4Bd), 3 x archers, 1 x billmen (4Bd), 1 x cavalry (Cv).


Deployment: English forces are divided in two equal wings, Kyriell commanding the right and Gough the left. The single element of cavalry is part of Gough’s division and positioned on the opposite bank in support. The English camp or ‘Taudis’ anglaise is located to the right of Kyriell’s line.

Following the English deployment, the French player positions his troops (nine elements) 6BW from their line. The Breton contingent enter south of the Ruisseau on the turn following the French cannonade and are placed 6BW from Gough’s division.


Subordinate commanders (optional). Players using the larger board for 15mm scale figures, may consider the subordinate commander, Richemont and Gough serve to extend the command distance. This allows an aggressive English player and Breton contingent to operate further from the main battle line. Subordinate commanders fight as their troop type.

Temporary fortifications (optional). On the English first bound only, pot holes and improvised stakes are placed in front of each element of longbowmen. This represents the completion of defensive measures begun on seeing the French vanguard. The element remains stationery and card stock representing pot holes and stakes (1BW x 1/2 BW) are placed in contact with its front edge. Treat them as rough going reducing movement to 1BW for mounted and solid formation troops.  

References

Bataille de Formigny 1450, French Wiki

LaBataille de Formigny, le avril 15, 1450

LaBataille de Formigny, illustrations and maps

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

An Update

The final batch of Landsknecht have been varnished and tomorrow they will be fixed to their bases. Completing them was an arduous task but between painting sessions, I had time to contemplate further the idea of a campaign.  This would-be put-on hold and in its place will come a series of historical scenarios, similar to ones made for the dark age period. I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent researching the latter half of the 15th century and found many interesting battles that begged to be fought out on the game board. 

From my last post I demonstrated how the collection could be stretched to cover many other nations than what I had originally painted. From the photo you will see production is already underway and more are planned in the coming weeks. These will cover the lesser-known conflicts, such as Portugal’s bid for independence from Spain, the final battles of Teutonic Order with Poland and the rebellion in Flanders and Liége against Burgundian hegemony. Conflicts within the Holy Roman Empire are also on the board. 

 

Have a happy holiday season.