Friday, 10 January 2014

Ceresole 1544

A belated Happy New Year to you all. Many thanks for your continuing interest in my posts on our battles.
Our first battle of the year comes from the late Italian Wars.  Ceresole was fought between the French, under the Count of Enghein and a combined Spanish and Holy Roman Empire force commanded by Alfonso d'Avalos.  More detail of the forces can be found on this Wikipedia page .  The terrain for the battle is very simple, the French occupy a ridge (a gentle slope not impeding movement) and the Imperial forces line up opposite them.  The small village of Ceresole was represented by a couple of buildings.

Here is a rather blurred photo of the table, the French forces on the left. The forces were deployed historically, with light cavalry on the wings, infantry blocks and gendarmes in the centre. Each side had a reasonable number of guns, although they began the battle out of range of their opponents.  We used Steve's 'in-house' rules which are a modification of the DBx type. The crucial difference being that elements of each unit can be 'pushed back' by adverse reaction to missile fire and melee.  These elements then cost 'pips' to move back to the parent body; giving the commander the dilemma whether to push on with attacks or regroup first.

I took the part of  Alfonso and began a steady advance towards the French.  The intention was to drive off the opposing light missile cavalry, threaten the flanks and then drive forward with the landsknechts and gendarmes.  All went well until the Florentine cavalry on my left charged into their opponents.  In the ensuing melee they lost half their numbers and inflicted no damage to the French.

This of course meant that my flank was now under threat and the Salerno arquebusiers had to move away from supporting the landsknechts against the opposing French and Swiss infantry to covering the army's flank.  On the opposite flank, the Neapolitan cavalry charged Dampierre's light cavalry and achieved exactly the same result, ie they lost half their number in the melee.  Fortunately, some Spanish arquebusiers were in close attendance and their fire disrupted the French formation, giving the Neapolitans time to recover.  I was also helped by Steve's 'pip' dice which meant that the Italian infantry supporting Dampierre were only moving forward very slowly.

Leaving the Neapolitan cavalry and Spanish arquebusiers to contain the French left wing attack, my Spanish and German pikes moved to the left of Ceresola towards the Gruyere infantry and French Gendarmes.  The French had a superiority in heavy cavalry and had detached a second unit under Boutieres to support Des Thermes on their right.  Des Thermes had continued to push forward against the depleted ranks of the Florentine cavalry and although some of the Imperial artillery was firing at them it was having little effect.  In a last desperate attempt to wrest the initiative, Baglioni, the commander of the Florentine cavalry ordered his men to charge the French.  This they did, but bravery can only do so much and outnumbered three to one the cause was all but hopeless.  Following the melee the few surviving Florentine cavalry were driven from the field.

By now I had ordered the Salerno infantry to reform and resume their support for the advancing landsknechts.  As the arquebusiers moved forward the Boutiere's gendarmes arrived, with perfect timing, on their flank. Caught at such a disadvantage, the arquebusiers lost half their number before the rampaging cavalry were at last stopped by a determined stand by the veterans surrrounding the unit flag. The cavalry pulled back and then had to fall back further before the advancing pikes wielded by a unit of landsknechts.

Whilst all this activity had been going on on the flanks the two centres had been advancing towards each other.  As the distance closed the French arquebusiers began to fire at the advancing landsknechts. The ranks of the imperial troops began to thin under this sustained fire.  However, the Swiss suffered no comparable loss because most of the Imperial arquebusiers had been pulled away to take on the light cavalry on the flanks.

With the push of pike imminent, Enghein ordered forward is gendarmes.  They outnumbered Gonzaga's gendarmes by two to one and anticipated an easy victory.  It was not to be.  The Imperial heavy cavalry moved forward and won the initial contact.  As the melee continued a body of landsknechts moved towards the French gendarmes.  Before that hedge of pike points the cavalry had to give way.

To the left of the cavalry battle the pike blocks came together. Although weakened, the landsknechts gained the upper hand and began to push the Swiss back.  Near Ceresole the Spanish and German pikes were in melee with Gruyere and were also gaining the upper hand.  Beyond Ceresole, the Italian infantry had charged the Spanish arquebusiers and had been driven off.  The reformed Neapolitan cavalry had succeeded in neutralising Dampierre's light cavalry and even a desperate charge by Dampierre himself was not able to disorder the Spanish infantry.

It seemed as if the Imperialists may gain the victory, but Des Thermes light cavalry saved the day for the French.  After defeating the Florentine cavalry they then overran some Imperial artillery and were poised to attack the rear of the landsknechts.  The Imperialists had no reserves to meet this threat and although they had almost broken the French centre, they would be hard pressed to effect an orderly retreat.

A good evenings battle with fortunes swinging back and forth.  This period has a good range of troop types and also no 'super' troops.  Given the right conditions, arquebusiers can defeat pikes and although they may think otherwise, the gendarmes cannot charge around trampling everybody else underfoot.

No comments:

Post a Comment