THE CAMPAIGN FOR THE KINGDOM NAPLES
AND THE BATTLE OF CERIGNOLA
Including random photos of the game, which won second prize for best demo, at Sheffield Triples 2013
In 1500 Louis XII determined that he would re-conquer the Kingdom of Naples for France. In June 1501 his army, under the command of Louis d’Armagnac Duc de Nemours, began to mass in Rome in readiness for the invasion. King Federigo of Naples anxiously watched the French preparations and frantically tried to raise an army of defence; his one consolation was that several thousand Spanish troops under the command of his friend Gonsalvo de Cordoba had crossed the Straits of Messina to land in the south of his Kingdom. It seemed as though Federigo’s uncle, King Ferdinand of Spain, was coming to his rescue.
Just before the French army departed south Pope Alexander VI disclosed the secret Treaty of Granada signed on 11th November 1500. By the provisions of the treaty King Federigo would be forced to abdicate and his kingdom would be divided. King Louis XII of France would become King of Naples and take control of Naples, Terra di Lavoro and Abruzzi. King Ferdinand of Spain would take the title Duke of Calabria and control of Calabria and Apulia. Federigo had been stitched up by his own family.
By the spring of 1502 it was all over for the old regime. The Kingdom had been occupied and divided by the armies of France and Spain. But not everything was settled. Two important regions in the Kingdom, Capitanata and Basilicata, were not mentioned in the treaty and both France and Spain laid claim to them. By the summer of 1502 what had started as angry skirmishes between French and Spanish outposts in the contested provinces had escalated into open hostilities.
The Spanish army was heavily outnumbered by the French. Fearing that he would be overrun Gonsalvo ordered most of his troops to concentrate at, and fortify, the port of Barletta on the coast of Apulia. There he would await reinforcements and events. Nemours moved the French army to blockade Barletta. Gonsalvo wisely refused to give battle and Nemours secured most of the rest of Apulia for France.
Gonsalvo’s situation in Apulia began to change from the autumn of 1502. Nemours divided his army and sent a strong force to occupy Calabria; Nemours lifted the blockade of Barletta to put his army into winter quarters; Gonsalvo was reinforced - including a contingent of seven regiments of veteran landsknecht pikemen; in late February 1503, Gonsalvo led a sortie out of Barletta and took the town of Ruvo, capturing the French captain La Palisse, 150 gendarmes and 800 infantry. The scales were in balance (both sides were now equal in number with about 10,000 men each). Gonsalvo decided that the time had come to seek a battle with Nemours. On 27th April 1503 Gonsalvo marched his army out of Barletta and Nemours moved to confront him.
The Spanish army arrived at the hill top town of Cerignola on 28th April. It was a swelteringly hot day but, rather than rest his men after their hard and dusty march, he set them to deepening and widening a wet ditch at the foot of Cerignola’s vine clad slopes. The spoil, held together with stakes and vines grubbed up from the hill side above, were piled into a low rampart. This rampart, lined end to end with thousands of arquebusier (early musketeers) would decide the battle to come.
The French were marching to Cerignola, strung out along the road, advancing without reconnaissance, and harassed by Spanish light cavalry. It was very late in the day when they finally arrived before Cerignola. On seeing the Spanish army below the town the French held a council of war to determine their next move.
The Duc de Nemours favoured waiting until morning before attacking. This would allow his artillery (struggling up the road some distance to the rear) to come up, and his tired infantry (some of whom had suffered heat stroke) to rest after their long, hot march. Many of Nemours’ captains disagreed. Even though the army had not yet fully come up Yves d’Alégre, amongst others, urged an immediate attack. Surely, they said, one violent attack with a combination of the Swiss and Gendarmes that were present would decide the battle – as they always had – and afterwards they could all sleep, victorious, in comfortable beds in the town. The council became argumentative and Nemours was forced to bow to his officer’s wishes. No one in the French army had seen the deepened ditch and rampart.
The French deployed in three columns, echeloned from right to left. The right wing under Louis d’Ars comprised heavy and light cavalry. The centre comprised the Swiss under Tambien Chandieu and the Gascon infantry. The right, which had not fully arrived on the field, comprised heavy and light cavalry under Yves d’Alégre. The artillery was still on the road and miles away.
The Spanish deployed behind their rampart. In the centre of the line Gonsalvo placed his German landsknechts under the command of Fabricio Zamudio. To either flank of the landsknechts were Spanish infantry, deployed for the first time in permanently organised battalions called coronela. These were commanded by Pizarro and Diego Garcia de Paredes. The front was effectively manned by arquebusiers from end to end. The mixed Italian and Spanish cavalry was drawn up, in reserve, behind the wings and centre. The heavy cavalry was commanded by Fabrizio Colonna on the left, and by Gonsalvo de Cordoba in the centre. The light cavalry was, after coming in from its harassing duties, placed on the right. The artillery was drawn up on the crest of the slope and was trained on D’Ars’ heavy cavalry.
Nemours ordered the trumpets to sound the attack. The French line moved forward under fire from Spanish arquebusier and artillery. A light wind blew the powder smoke towards the French and that, with the clouds of dust kicked up by the horse’s hooves, blinded them to the danger of the ditch until they were upon it. The French were brought to an abrupt halt at the edge of the unexpected obstacle and subjected to a murderous fire. It was several minutes before the French crossed the ditch and came to close quarters with its defenders on the other side.
Suddenly, there was a moment of panic in the Spanish ranks as a powder magazine blew up inside the entrenchment. Gonsalvo, seeing his troops flinch, rode up in person to restore their courage. All along the ditch the French tried to break through the Spaniard’s defensive line. Attempt after attempt was made in vain. Crashing volleys of Spanish arquebus fire poured into them and soon the French were knee deep in mud, and the blood of their piling dead. As the sun began to set the Duc de Nemours, riding along the line shouting words of encouragement to his men, was shot by an anonymous arquebusier. Then Chandieu crossed the ditch in an attempt to find a gap. He was immediately identified by his white plumes and fell, armour sieved, in a hail of shot. Darkness fell and the leaderless French began to falter.
Gonsalvo ordered a general advance. His infantry leaped across their breastwork crying out “Castile, Aragon, Santiago!” His cavalry crossed the ditch and wheeled in on the French flanks. The French broke. The slaughter was terrible. Only the darkness saved them from being completely massacred. The battle had lasted little more than an hour but, in that time, more than 4000 French soldiers had been slain. The Spanish had lost less than 100 men.
For the first time in history, an army comprising the best troops in Europe had been defeated by a thin line of ragged soldiers wielding short lengths of iron tube loaded with gun powder and lead pellets. Warfare was changing……….
FRENCH: Army Die D10 [BLUE]
A: Louis d’Armagnac Duc de Nemours – MD10
B: Louis D’Ars – MD12
3 units of 8 Gendarmes (A Class, fierce).
2 units of 8 mounted crossbow (C Class).
C: Tambien Chandieu – MD10
1 unit of 180 Swiss pike (A Class, fierce, murderous Vs landsknechts).
2 units of 12 arquebusier (B class).
D: Gespard de Coligny – MD10
2 units of 36 French pike (D Class).
6 units of 12 crossbow (D Class, specialist shooters).
E: (Off Table) Yves d’Alégre – MD8
4 units of 8 Gendarmes (A Class, fierce).
4 units of Stradiotti (C Class, grizzled, close skirmish).
No Command: (Off Table) – MD6
4 units of artillery (D Class).
SPANISH: Army Die D10 [RED]
A: Gonsalvo de Cordoba – MD12
3 units of 8 Spanish men-at-arms (A Class, fierce).
B: Fabricio Colonna – MD10
3 units of 8 Italian men at arms (B Class).
C: Diego de Paredes – MD10
2 units of 36 Spanish infantry in colonela (C Class, grizzled, specialist shooters).
2 units of 16 Italian arquebusier (C Class).
D: Fabricio Zamudio – MD10
1 unit of 90 Landsknecht pike (B Class, fierce, murderous Vs Swiss).
1 unit of 12 Landsknecht arquebusier (C Class).
E: Pizarro de Paredes – MD10
2 units of 36 Spanish infantry in colonela (C Class, grizzled, specialist shooters).
2 units of 8 Spanish genitors (C Class, grizzled, close skirmish).
1 unit of 8 Italian mounted crossbow (C Class).
F: Pedro Novarro – MD10
2 units of artillery (D Class).
WAR GAME SCENARIO NOTES
This battle will be fought using the group’s house rules for The Great Italian Wars. They are called Hell Broke Loose. They are based on Piquet mechanisms devised by Brent Oman and Bob Jones.
This war game scenario provides several military possibilities that must be recreated in order for the battle to look and feel like Cerignola.
1. The French player should not, with hindsight, be able to easily mitigate the ditch and breastwork by ‘fancy’ outflanking manoeuvres or lengthy preparation with missilery. Fortunately, the historical lateness of the day helps this a great deal, as does setting up the game with small flank areas. The French player has three game turns (turns ending on double initiative rolls do not count towards the total) to accomplish his victory conditions. The limited turns will not allow the French player much else besides an unprepared frontal assault. French victory conditions are subjective. The French player must attempt to force the ditch and do better than his historical counterpart. The degree by which he is able to do so will determine his margin of victory. His defeat can be victorious!
2. The tardiness of Yves d’Alégre’s command must be represented. He should not come immediately to action, if at all. Historically, he used his troops to cover the retreat. The easiest way to represent this is to start his command off table in columns of route. It may be, given the multiple move system and sequence cards employed in Hell Broke Loose, that he arrives quickly – it might be the opposite.
3. The artillery must be hampered in a similar fashion to Yves d’Alegre. Historically, the artillery was captured on the road, having never arrived on the field, after the battle was over. It therefore forms part of d’Alegre’s deployment but, to slow it further, it counts as a leaderless group.
4. The explosion behind the Spanish entrenchment must be replicated. Three powder magazines (marked with a wagon and stores) are placed, equally spread, behind the Spanish infantry line. When the French turn their Scenario card they roll D6. On a result of 1 – 3 one of the magazines (reading from French right to left: 1, 2, 3) explodes. Units within 12” of the explosion, and on the Spanish side of the earthwork, roll D6. On an even result they are unaffected, on an odd result they are vexed, on a result of 1 they are vexed and lose 1 unit integrity point. On a result of 4 - 6 the explosion is delayed until the cards next appearance, when the above procedure is repeated.
5. The French receive 9 cards from the Army Characterisation Deck plus a Scenario card. They are: Morale chips: 8, 10, 12, 12, 14, 16, 18 – total 90. Ciao Bella (Group wild card). Scenario 1.
6. The Spanish receive 8 cards from the Army Characterisation Deck. They are: Morale chips: 10, 10, 12, 14, 14, – total 60. Like Hail (missilery Up 1) × 2. Look Sir! (Army Morale - automatic rally for one unit).
These notes will be available to read at the table over the weekend but I'm not providing them as a handout. I believe handouts to be a waste of paper and ink. Instead, there will be address slips directing people, that wish to have this information for future use, here. Please feel free to copy these pages for your own use at home.
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Thanks for dropping by to say hello.