Friday 27 July 2018

899 AD, the Battle of Brenta

In the year 899, an invading Magyar army ravaged the northern Italian countryside between Verona and Aquileia taking much plunder and prisoners. King Berengar I of Italy assembled and army to meet the invaders prompting them to hastily withdraw from the Adda River to regroup north of the Brenta. Once there, the Magyars began a series of negotiations promising to return plunder and prisoners but this was rebuffed by King Berengar. Whether the negotiations were indeed meant or merely designed as a ploy to gain time is not known as on the morning of the 24th of September, the Magyars crossed the Brenta and caught the Italian Lombard army off their guard. The battle ended in a disaster for Berengar I and opened the door for more Magyar incursions resulting in the burning of Feltre, Vercelli, Modena and the monastery at Nonantola, the attack on Venice however was without success. Why the Magyar invaded Italy leaves some historians to speculate they may have been invited by King Arnulf of Carinthia as part of his plan to undermine Italian affairs, but none no with any certainty. 

The Battlefield.
The exact location of the battle site which took place on 24 September is not precisely known. Our only reference of the battle is given by Luidprand of Cremona as having taken place along the River Brenta north of Padua. Tracing the course of the Brenta River from its headwater at Trentino it passes 170 km of arable plain to empty into the Adriatic Sea. Along its route are many possible locations for a battle site. The battle of Brenta was predominately a cavalry action and therefore the selection of a battle site would most likely to have taken place with a minimum of bad and rough going terrain.

For our purposes, the battlefield should certainly have two plough, a wood and possibly a small hamlet. After many test games, we opted to have the river present but placed this near the Magyar board edge. Its presence would not hamper the deployment of troops, but would serve as danger to fleeing troops. By the date of 24 September crops will have been harvested, however rainfall could still turn plough into rough ground on a die cast of ‘1’. 

The Armies.
The Magyar
The Magyar host should follow army list Book III/30b giving them eleven mounted units with an option to replace a light horse with foot skirmishers (Ps) for the twelfth element. 

The Italian Lombard
According to one modern author (Frediani) Berengar commands a heterogeneous army. We interpreted this as an Italian Lombard force with two allied contingents, both of which are taken from the same Italian Lombard list. These are represented as 1 x knight and 1 x foot element and the total number of knights must not exceed the original list for the Italian Lombard. The allied contingents may not make a group move with the Royal troops which simulate the dissention among the nobles which occurred on the day of battle (Luidprand). 

The Italian Lombard
To suggest the element of surprise by the Magyar, the deployment area for the Italian Lombard is slightly reduced. The Italian Lombard cavalry deploy 4BW from the centre line and the Lombard infantry are placed within 1BW of the camp with two of the seven foot elements deploying inside the camp.  This represents the rapid deployment of cavalry to cover the slower moving columns of Lombard infantry. 

The Magyar
The Magyar forces now deploy 6BW from the Lombard cavalry, essentially placing them 1BW closer to the centre line.

Recommended reading:
La Storia del Mundo in 1001 battaglie, Andrea Frediani.

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