Battle of Guinegate (1479)

Battle of Guinegate (1479)

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The First Battle of Guinegate took place on August 7, 1479. French troops of King Louis XI
Louis XI of France
Louis XI , called the Prudent , was the King of France from 1461 to 1483. He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the House of Valois....

 were defeated by the Burgundians
Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy was a title borne by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy, a small portion of traditional lands of Burgundians west of river Saône which in 843 was allotted to Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Franks...

 led by Archduke (later to be Emperor) Maximilian of Habsburg
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

. This battle was the first in which the innovative Swiss
Old Swiss Confederacy
The Old Swiss Confederacy was the precursor of modern-day Switzerland....

 pike square
Pike square
The pike square was a military tactic developed by the Swiss Confederacy during the 15th century for use by its infantry.- History :The pike square was used to devastating effect at the Battle of Nancy against Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1477, when the Swiss defeated a smaller but more...

 formation was first employed by a power that was not natively Swiss.

Background


Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

 had been killed at the Battle of Nancy
Battle of Nancy
The Battle of Nancy was the final and decisive battle of the Burgundian Wars, fought outside the walls of Nancy on 5 January 1477 between Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, and René II, Duke of Lorraine...

 on January 5, 1477. King Louis XI immediately adjudicated his territories to be recovered fiefs of the French kingdom and campaigned in the counties of Artois
County of Artois
The County of Artois was an historic province of the Kingdom of France, held by the Dukes of Burgundy from 1384 until 1477/82, and a state of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 until 1659....

, Flanders
County of Flanders
The County of Flanders was one of the territories constituting the Low Countries. The county existed from 862 to 1795. It was one of the original secular fiefs of France and for centuries was one of the most affluent regions in Europe....

, Hainaut
County of Hainaut
The County of Hainaut was a historical region in the Low Countries with its capital at Mons . In English sources it is often given the archaic spelling Hainault....

 and the Duchy of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

. Nevertheless Charles' only heir, Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy
Mary of Burgundy ruled the Burgundian territories in Low Countries and was suo jure Duchess of Burgundy from 1477 until her death...

 on August 19, 1477 had married Archduke Maximilian, who, determined to come into the Burgundian inheritance, concentrated troops in the former Burgundian Netherlands
Burgundian Netherlands
In the history of the Low Countries, the Burgundian Netherlands refers to a number of Imperial and French fiefs ruled in personal union by the House of Valois-Burgundy and their Habsburg heirs in the period from 1384 to 1482...

 and marched against the French army.

Many of the troops that had been victorious at the Battle of Nancy had been provided by the Lower League
Lower League
The Lower League was a union of the four imperial cities Strasbourg, Basel, Colmar and Schlettstadt, formed in 1473, joined by the bishops of Basel and Strasbourg, Sigismund of Habsburg and by the Old Swiss Confederacy in 1474.The name of the league is intended to distinguish it from the "upper" ...

. Among these troops was a sizable contingent of Swiss soldiers that had been a part of the victorious army of Lorraine, and the salient characteristic of this contingent was their method of fighting. Formed up in pike squares, Swiss mercenaries
Swiss mercenaries
Swiss mercenaries were notable for their service in foreign armies, especially the armies of the Kings of France, throughout the Early Modern period of European history, from the Later Middle Ages into the Age of the European Enlightenment...

 made themselves and their method of warfare felt far beyond their borders. The notable characteristic of the pike squares is the difficulty with which the traditional cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 of the day had in penetrating it.

The failure at Nancy, and its reasons, had not escaped Jacques of Savoy, Count of Romont. who had fought under the Archduke's father-in-law Charles at the battle of Nancy. He was now fighting with the Archduke, and he urged him to adopt a similar method of fighting with his 11,000 foot troops.

Prelude to battle


Both sides met at the village of Guinegatte
Enguinegatte
-History:Known as Guinegatte in medieval times, it is the site of several late 15th and early 16th century battles. The first was the Battle of Guinegate, the later and more famous, the Battle of the Spurs, in 1513. The village was largely destroyed in the Second World War.-References:* -External...

 in the County of Artois
County of Artois
The County of Artois was an historic province of the Kingdom of France, held by the Dukes of Burgundy from 1384 until 1477/82, and a state of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 until 1659....

, and armies gathered into formation. The cavalry was stationed on the flanks, and the infantry was positioned in the center. However, besides this the two sides diverged significantly in the character of their armies.

French dispositions


The French, whose infantry consisted primarily of marksmen, was positioned in the center of their cavalry

Habsburg dispositions


The Archduke was employing Burgundians in his army, and had formed his infantry into two deep, large squares. One of these was commanded by the Count Engelbert of Nassau
Engelbert II of Nassau
Engelbert II of Nassau, Engelbrecht in Dutch, , was count of Nassau and Vianden, lord of Breda and Lek, Diest, Roosendaal, Nispen and Wouw...

, who had also fought under the Archduke's father-in-law at Nancy. The other square was commanded by the Count of Romont. These large, deep squares were not to be the only innovation employed in the Archduke's army. The Archduke himself, instead of joining the cavalry arm as was the tradition of the time, joined the infantry square with 200 of his nobles. While it was not unheard of for some poorer nobles to do this, the fact that such a prominent official as the Archduke himself doing this was unheard of. These nobles were positioned in the first ranks of the squares.

Battle


At the beginning of the battle, Lord des Cordes
Philippe de Crèvecœur d'Esquerdes
Philippe de Crèvecœur, seigneur d'Esquerdes , was a French military and a Marshal of France in 1486.He is also known as Maréchal des Cordes ou Maréchal d'Esquerdes.-Biography:...

 forced back the knights within the left infantry square and also captured the Burgundian artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 drawn up on that flank. The Archduke's left flank was in a perilous state. In addition to being attacked from the front, it was also drawing fire on its flank from the captured artillery. However, instead of following up their advantage on the left flank, the French knights on the left chased after the Burgundian knights who were fleeing from the field, thereby giving up their advantage. Meanwhile, on the other flank the Burgundians held fast and slowly fought their way forward. It was there that victory was achieved.

Results


Despite his victory, Maximilian was forced to cede Artois and Burgundy itself to Louis XI according to the Treaty of Arras (1482)
Treaty of Arras (1482)
The Treaty of Arras was signed at Arras on 23 December 1482 by King Louis XI of France and Archduke Maximilian I of Habsburg as heir of the Burgundian Netherlands in the course of the Burgundian succession crisis....

, after Mary of Burgundy had died from a riding accident.

Source

  • Delbruck, Hans (1985). History of the Art of War, IV: The Dawn of Modern Warfare. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 4-7. ISBN 0-8032-6586-7.
  • Georges-Henri Dumont (1982) .Marie de Bourgogne, Fayard, ISBN 2-213-01197-4