Last Updated: 4-24-17
Saturday, June 9
Melees with the War Council
Building on the skills practiced at War College and previous lessons from the curriculum.
Sunday, June 10
Open Field Battle
Swiss Confederacy: Attacking in three units vigorously
Swiss start battle at top of hill
French, Landsknechts, Venetian: Defending and not well formed up.
They are surprised. Fight in three main units with cavalry harassing the Swiss
Landsknechts start edge of Goat Woods
Victory Conditions: To the last man standing. May be repeated for fun
Black Knight Battle
No weapon restrictions.
Two sides. Designate a Knight on each side to be the “Black Knight” for the duration
of the battle. Each side will have resurrections until their designated “Black Knight”
has died three times, from that point forward everyone on that side has one life left.
Victory Conditions: Last fighter standing.
Battle of Marignano 1515 Italy: The Battle of Marignano was fought during the phase of the Italian Wars (1494–1559) called the War of the League of Cambrai, between France and the Old Swiss Confederacy. It took place on September 13 and 14, 1515, near the town today called Melegnano, 16 km southeast of Milan. It resulted in a victory for French forces. It pitted the French army, composed of the best armored lancers and artillery in Europe and led by Francis I, newly crowned king of France and a day past his 21st birthday, against the Old Swiss Confederacy. With Francis were German landsknechts, bitter rivals of the Swiss for fame and renown in war, and his late arriving Venetian allies.
Battle: The Swiss encountered Francis’s forces at the little burnt-out village of Marignano on a featureless plain. A treaty signed, the French were not expecting battle. Francis was in his tent, trying on a new suit of armor, when scouts reported the coming of the Swiss. The French army quickly jumped into action, forming up in three divisions: the vanguard, posted slightly forward and on the right under Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, the Constable of France; the central battle, commanded by the King, slightly trailing the right;and on the left and even further back, the “rearguard” commanded by the Duke of Alençon. Each division was a combined arms force of infantry, cavalry and artillery.
Massed in front of Francis’ center division was a grand battery of seventy-two field guns guarded by the infamous Black Legion, or Black Band. Also with the king’s division was the Chevalier Bayard and his company, the foremost lancers in the French army (and perhaps Europe).
Close to sunset, the Swiss approached the French in three divisions of their own, each a dense mass of pikemen. They had no artillery or cavalry and had learned in past actions that a rapid advance into the enemy would sweep all before them. At Marignano, the battle began with a “forlorn hope” detaching from the Swiss vanguard phalanx, and with lowered pikes charging the grand battery in front of the King’s position in the center. Their intent, justified by experience in other battles, was to quickly overrun the French cannon and then turn them upon their owners.
At first the Swiss attack succeeded in driving back the landsknecht defenders and capturing a few of the guns, the speed of the Swiss advance rendering their fire ineffective. But Bourbon’s cavalry from the French right counter-attacked their flank, driving the forlorn hope back to the shelter of the Swiss vanguard. The pursuing French horse were themselves routed by the oncoming Swiss mainbody.
Smoke and the coming of night obscured the battle; in the moonlight and confusion, the outcome hung in the balance. Furious French cavalry charges, often led by the king himself, with Bayard at his side, succeeded time and again in throwing back temporary Swiss gains. Many of the foremost French commanders were wounded or killed in the desperate night fighting, including the Prince of Tallemont, son of Louis II de la Trémoille, who died with sixty-two wounds on his body. The Black Legion counter-attacked and threw back the Swiss, only to be repulsed in turn. Bayard had to cut his way through the Swiss phalanx to rescue the Duke of Lorraine, stranded in the dark amongst his enemies. In the darkest hours, the fighting stopped, and both armies extracted themselves and reorganized. At dawn the battle commenced again.
In the French center, the grand battery had been reassembled. Opposing them, the Swiss had reformed their largest phalanx. Encouraged by the evening before, the Swiss once again lowered pikes and charged the French guns. This time the grand battery was ready for them. Massed cannon fire tore bloody furrows deep in their ranks, slowing the advance. But the undaunted Swiss continually closed ranks and pushed forward. Again, the defending German landsknechts were driven back; but the massed fire of the guns at point blank prevented the Swiss from pushing farther forward. Still another French cavalry charge, this time led by Bayard, forced the attacking Swiss to give ground.
Baffled by the artillery but as yet undaunted, the Swiss refocused their assault against Alençon’s left-wing division. After making some headway, this attack too was thrown back. In his report later to his mother, King Francis would boast that “thirty brave charges” were hurled by the French gendarmerie against the stubborn Swiss.
Only the mid-morning arrival of allied Venetian forces commanded by the condottiero Bartolomeo d’Alviano turned the tide against the Swiss. Their attacks repulsed everywhere, their ranks in bloody shambles, they grudgingly gave ground and withdrew.
The battle was a decisive victory for Francis. This could be considered the expected outcome, seeing as the Swiss were heavily outnumbered and outgunned. But the Swiss during the preceding decades had almost habitually emerged victorious from such disadvantageous situations, and the French victory by no means came easily, the battle hanging in the balance until the arrival of the Venetian reinforcements.
Monday, June 11
Broken Field battle with “terrain”
French & Swiss Army: Attacking
Commander : Albert von Stein
2 main units
1 supporting unit
Cavalry on one side, left or Right, attack as a unit.
Imperial-Spanish & Papal Army/Landesknechts: Defending
Commander: Prospero Colonna
2 or 3 blocks of infantry
Combat archers in gaps between infantry blocks
1 cavalry unit behind the blocks
1 cavalry unit to be committed later
Victory Conditions: Killing the opposite commander. If both commanders die at the same time, it goes to the last man standing. May be repeated for fun.
Battlefield set up: Timbers and large ropes on the ground will make the terrain. Terrain not to be fought over.
Open Field Battle with Terrain
Venetian Army: Attacking from the corner by permanent pavilion
Holy Roman Army/Landsknechts: Defending in prepared position on the lake side of battle field.
Victory Conditions: Venetian Army pushing the Landsknechts off their positions or to the last man. May be repeated for fun
Battlefield set up: Timbers on the ground will make the prepared positions for Landsknechts to start begin the battle. Timbers may not be fought over.
Battle of Bicocca 1522 Italy: The battle was fought on 27 April 1522, during the Italian War of 1521–26. A combined French and Venetian force under Odet de Foix, Vicomte de Lautrec, was decisively defeated by an Imperial–Spanish and Papal army under the overall command of Prospero Colonna. Lautrec then withdrew from Lombardy, leaving the Duchy of Milan in Imperial hands. The battle is noted chiefly for marking the end of the Swiss dominance among the infantry of the Italian Wars, and of the Swiss method of assaults by massed columns of pikemen without support from other troops. It was also one of the first engagements in which firearms played a decisive role on the battlefield.
Battle: Dispositions Colonna had meanwhile relocated to a formidable new position: the manor park of Bicocca, about four miles (6 km) north of Milan. The park was situated between a large expanse of marshy ground to the west and the main road into Milan to the east; along this road ran a deep wet ditch, which was crossed by a narrow stone bridge some distance south of the park. The north side of the park was bordered by a sunken road; Colonna deepened this and constructed an earthen rampart on the southern bank. The Imperial artillery, placed on several platforms jutting forward from the earthworks, was able to sweep the fields north of the park as well as parts of the sunken road itself. The entire length of the north side of the park was less than 600 yards (550 m), which permitted Colonna to place his troops quite densely. Immediately behind the rampart were four ranks of Spanish arquebusiers, commanded by Fernando d’Avalos, Marquess of Pescara; they were backed by Spanish pikemen and German landsknechts under Georg Frundsberg. Most of the Imperial cavalry was placed at the south end of the park, far behind the infantry; a separate force of cavalry was positioned to the south, guarding the bridge.
On the evening of 26 April, Lautrec sent a force of about 400 cavalry under the Sieur de Pontdormy to reconnoiter the Imperial positions. The patrol reported that the ground was cut by irrigation ditches and ill-suited for maneuvering, but this failed to dissuade the Swiss. Colonna, having observed the French presence, sent messengers to Milan to request reinforcements; Francesco Sforza arrived the next morning with 6,400 additional troops, joining the cavalry near the bridge to the south of Colonna’s camp.
At dawn on 27 April, Lautrec began his attack. The Black Bands brushed aside the Spanish pickets, clearing the ground before the Imperial positions. The French advance was headed by two columns of Swiss, each comprising about 4,000 to 7,000 men, accompanied by some artillery; this party was to assault the entrenched front of the Imperial camp directly. Lescun, meanwhile, led a body of cavalry south along the Milan road, intending to flank the camp and strike at the bridge to the rear. The remainder of the French army, including the French infantry, the bulk of the heavy cavalry, and the remnants of the Swiss, formed up in a broad line some distance behind the two Swiss columns; behind this was a third line, composed of the Venetian forces under Francesco Maria della Rovere, the Duke of Urbino.
The Swiss Attack: The overall command of the Swiss assault was given to Anne de Montmorency. As the Swiss columns advanced towards the park, he ordered them to pause and wait for the French artillery to bombard the Imperial defences, but the Swiss refused to obey. Perhaps the Swiss captains doubted that the artillery would have any effect on the earthworks; historian Charles Oman suggests that it is more likely they were “inspired by blind pugnacity and self-confidence”. In any case, the Swiss moved rapidly towards Colonna’s position, leaving the artillery behind. There was apparently some rivalry between the two columns, as one, commanded by Arnold Winkelried of Unterwalden, was composed of men from the rural cantons, while the other, under Albert von Stein, consisted of the contingents from Bern and the urban cantons. The advancing Swiss quickly came into range of the Imperial artillery. Unable to take cover on the level fields, they began to take substantial casualties; as many as a thousand Swiss may have been killed by the time the columns reached the Imperial lines.
The Swiss came to a sudden halt as the columns reached the sunken road in front of the park; the depth of the road and the height of the rampart behind it—together higher than the length of the Swiss pikes—effectively blocked their advance. Moving down into the road, the Swiss suffered massive casualties from the fire of d’Avalos’s arquebusiers. Nevertheless, the Swiss made a series of desperate attempts to breach the Imperial line. Some parties managed to reach the top of the rampart, only to be met by the landsknechts, who had come up from behind the arquebusiers. One of the Swiss captains was apparently killed by Frundsberg in single combat; and the Swiss, unable to form up atop the earthworks, were pushed back down into the sunken road. After attempting to move forward for about half an hour, the remnants of the Swiss columns retreated back towards the main French line. In the fields which they had crossed and before the rampart, they left more than 3,000 dead; among these were twenty-two captains, including both Winkelried and Albert von Stein. Of the French nobles who had accompanied the Swiss assault, only Montmorency survived.
Denoument: Lescun, with about 400 heavy cavalry under his command, had meanwhile reached the bridge south of the park and fought his way across it and into the Imperial camp beyond. Colonna responded by detaching some cavalry under Antonio de Leyva to halt the French advance, while Francesco Sforza came up the road towards the bridge, aiming to surround Lescun. Pontdormy held off the Milanese, allowing Lescun to extricate himself from the camp; the French cavalry then retraced its path and rejoined the main body of the army.
Despite the urging of d’Avalos and several other Imperial commanders, Colonna refused to order a general attack on the French, pointing out that much of Lautrec’s army—including the bulk of his cavalry—was still intact. Colonna suggested that the French were already beaten, and would soon withdraw; this assessment was shared by Frundsberg. Nevertheless, some small groups of Spanish arquebusiers and light cavalry attempted to pursue the withdrawing Swiss, only to be beaten back by the Black Bands, which were covering the removal of the French artillery from the field.
Battle of La Motta 1513 Italy: The battle took place at Schio, in the Italian region of Veneto, Republic of Venice, on 7 October 1513, between the forces of the Republic of Venice and a combined force of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, and was a significant battle of the War of the League of Cambrai. A Venetian army under Bartolomeo d’Alviano was decisively defeated by the Spanish/Imperial army commanded by Ramón de Cardona and Fernando d’Avalos.
Background: The Venetian commander, Bartolomeo d’Alviano, unexpectedly left without French support, retreated into the region of Veneto, pursued closely by the Spanish army under Ramón de Cardona. While the Spanish were unable to capture Padua, they penetrated deep into Venetian territory and in September were in sight of Venice itself. The Spanish Viceroy of Naples, Ramón de Cardona, attempted a bombardment of the city that proved largely ineffective; then, having no ships with which to cross the lagoon, turned back for Lombardy. D’Alviano, having been reinforced by hundreds of soldiers and volunteers from the Venetian nobility, and cannons and other supplies, took the initiative and pursued Cardona’s army, with the intention of not allowing the Spaniards out of the region of Veneto.
Battle: The Venetian army commanded by Bartolomeo d’Alviano, finally confronted Cardona‘s army outside Vicenza, a city in north-eastern Italy, on 7 October 1513. The Spanish and German infantry, composed by 7,000 men, led by Fernando d’Avalos and Georg von Frundsberg, well positioned and ready for battle, launched a strong charge against the Venetian army, causing thousands of dead and wounded (over 4,500 casualties) in the ranks of the Venetian army. This was a severe blow, forcing the Venetians to flee, and scattering D’Alviano’s entire army.
Tuesday, June, 13
Open Field – No weapons restrictions.
Fighters pair off and fight to the death. The winner of the first fight becomes the Captain. The loser of the first fight joins their Captain’s team as 2nd in command. The marshals will pair off the newly made teams of two and those teams will fight to the death. The team that wins maintains their structure, the team that loses joins the ranks of their former foes.
Victory Conditions: Lead your team through excellent communication. Crush your enemies.
No weapons restrictions.
The attackers get three resurrections per person. The defenders get none. Fight to the death. Switch sides.
Fortress walls may not be fought over. Outside boundaries of Fort will be marked.
Victory Conditions: Fastest time taking the fort OR fending off the invaders FOR-EV-VER! Will be repeated for fun.
Wednesday, June 14
Field Battle with Terrain:
French/Swiss Army: Attacking
Cavalry attack breach in lines
4 infantry units at edge of field
Imperial-Spanish/Landsknecht Army: Defending
3 infantry units, 1 each at right & left edge of field, 1 in center with combat archers
Once a cavalry force has broken through the breach each side’s remaining forces may enter battle from starting positions.
French/Swiss may make one additional breach once a cavalry force has broken through
Victory conditions: to the last man standing. May be repeated for fun.
Battlefield set up: Park wall will be Ropes and Timbers on the ground. The starting breach will be open. The park wall may not be fought over. The secondary Swiss breach will be marked timbers. Timbers will be moved and the breach is open.
Single Sword and Smiles. Open Field No resurrection.
Split into two teams. Each team has a sheep to protect. Each team wants to add more to their flock. None of the fighters can pick up the sheep or move the sheep. The fighters cannot form more than a half circle around the sheep.
Be mindful of your flock! Sheep get scared and run away! (The marshals will move your sheep at least once every two minutes.) Luckily, they are very lazy sheep and they only go 10 feet away.
Victory Condition for the “Sheep Herding” – maintain control of your sheep and gain control of the other team’s sheep. To gain control of the other team’s sheep, you and another team member must lay swords on the sheep at the same time! If everyone dies, the sheep win and they become sheep with teeth. May be repeated for fun!!!
Battle of Pavia 1525 Italy: An Imperial–Spanish army under the nominal command of Charles de Lannoy (and working in conjunction with the garrison of Pavia, commanded by Antonio de Leyva) attacked the French army under the personal command of Francis I of France in the great hunting preserve of Mirabello outside the city walls. In the four-hour battle, the French army was split and defeated in detail. The French suffered massive casualties, including many of the chief nobles of France. Francis himself was captured by Habsburg troops and imprisoned by Charles V and forced to sign the humiliating Treaty of Madrid, surrendering significant territory to his captor. The outcome of the battle cemented Habsburg ascendancy in Italy.
Battle: Movements in the dark- On the evening of 23 February, Lannoy’s imperial troops, which had been encamped outside the east wall of the park, began their march north along the walls. At the same time, the Imperial artillery began a bombardment of the French siege lines—which had become routine during the extended siege—in order to conceal Lannoy’s movement. Meanwhile, Imperial engineers quickly worked to create a breach in the park walls, at the Porta Pescarina near the village of San Genesio, through which the Imperial army could enter. By 5:00 am, some 3,000 arquebusiers under the command of Alfonso d’Avalos had entered the park and were rapidly advancing on Mirabello Castle, where they believed the French headquarters to be; simultaneously, Imperial light cavalry spread out from the breach into the park, intending to intercept any French movements.
Meanwhile, a detachment of French cavalry under Charles Tiercelin encountered the Imperial cavalry and began a series of skirmishes with them. A mass of Swiss pikemen under Robert de la Marck, Seigneur de la Flourance moved up to assist them, overrunning a battery of Spanish artillery that had been dragged into the park. They missed De Vasto’s arquebusiers—who had, by 6:30 am, emerged from the woods near the castle and swiftly overrun it—and blundered into 6,000 of Georg Frundsberg‘s landsknechts. By 7:00 am, a full-scale infantry battle had developed not far from the original breach.
Francis Attacks: A third mass of troops—the German and Spanish heavy cavalry under Lannoy himself, as well as d’Avalos’s Spanish infantry—had meanwhile been moving through the woods to the west, closer to where Francis was encamped. The French did not realize the magnitude of the Imperial attack for some time; however, by about 7:20 am, d’Avalos’s advance had been spotted by a battery of French artillery, which commenced firing on the Spanish lines. This alerted Francis, who launched a charge against Lannoy’s outnumbered cavalry with the entire force of French gendarmes, scattering the Spanish by 7:40 am.
Francis’s precipitate advance, however, had not only masked the fire of the French artillery, but also pulled him away from the mass of French infantry, commanded by Richard de la Pole, and by Francois de Lorraine, who led the Black Band of renegade landsknecht pikemen (not to be confused with the Italian mercenary company of arquebusiers by the same name), which was 4,000 to 5,000 men strong. D’Avalos, left in command of the Spanish forces after Lannoy had followed the retreating cavalry, formed his men up at the edge of the woods and sent messengers to Bourbon, Frundsberg, and De Vasto requesting assistance.
Frundsberg meanwhile mauled the heavily outnumbered Swiss infantry opposing him; Tiercelin and Flourance were unable to hold their troops together, and the French foot began to flee the field.
Endgame: By 8:00 am, a mass of Imperial pikemen and arquebusiers descended on the French cavalry from all sides. Lacking room to maneuver by the surrounding woods, the French gendarmes were surrounded and systematically killed. Richard de la Pole and Lorraine, advancing to assist Francis, were met by Frundsberg’s arriving landsknechts; the French infantry was broken and routed, and de la Pole and Lorraine were both killed. In a particularly bitter contest between Imperial and renegade landsknechts, the Black Band was surrounded by Frundsberg’s pikemen and exterminated where it stood. The French king fought on as his horse was killed from under him by Cesare Hercolani, an Italian Condottiere; surrounded by Spanish arquebusiers, he was taken prisoner and escorted from the field.
Meanwhile, Antonio de Leyva had sortied with the garrison, overrunning the 3,000 Swiss under Montmorency that had been manning the siege lines. The remnants of the Swiss–both Montmorency’s and Flourance’s—tried to flee across the river, suffering massive casualties as they did. The French rearguard, under the Duke of Alençon, had taken no part in the battle; when the Duke realized what had occurred in the park, he quickly began to retreat towards Milan. By 9:00 am, the battle was over.
Thursday, June 15
Friday, June 16
Resurrection for 45 minutes.
Hard 7 minute break every 15 minutes OR when a team meets the victory condition.
Sword and shield only.
Two teams – Red and Yellow. The field will be split into an even square. The Red Team’s res point (hay bale) and resources (hula hoop) will be at the top two corners of the field. The Yellow Team’s res point and resources will be counter-changed at the bottom two corners of the field.
Zombies: 5 – 7 volunteers will be Zombies. Zombies can use whatever res point they want, but have to res in groups of 5. Zombies cannot fight within 20 feet of a res point. Zombies cannot win, they are there to cause chaos.
Victory Conditions: Maintain control of your resources and take control of the other team’s resources. To take control, you must get three of your fighters into the other team’s resource circle (hula hoop). Once a fighter is in the hula hoop, they cannot be killed and cannot kill others. You cannot move the resources.
Timed 20 minutes
French-Navarrese/Landsknecht Army: Attacking
Castilian Army: Defending in Fortress
Fortress walls may not be fought over. Outside boundaries of Fort will be marked.
Victory Condition: Banner in Fortress must be brought out to the Landsknecht starting point. May be repeated for fun.
Limited Front Battle with resurrections
30 Minute time limit
Danish/Landsknechts on road and on either side. Attacking
Commander: Duke John Slenk
Danish/Landsknechts get 3 resurrections
Dithmarsians on road and on either side. Defending
Commander: Wulf Isebrand
3 units: 1 left, 1 on road, 1 right.
Cavalry in back used as a single unit
Dithmarsians get 1 resurrection
Both units have combat archers
Battlefield set up: Road will be rope or timbers as edges. The road edges may not be fought over. Either side of the road is a marshy area, all fighters are on their knees to cross the marsh.
Victory conditions: Kill either commander or beat opposing side. May be repeated as time allows
Battle of Fuenterrabia 1521 Navarre: With the echoes of the defeat in Noain still fresh in memory, kings Henry II of Navarre and Francis I of France allied again to strike back, this time on the northern fringes of Navarre—probably expecting the Spanish to be worn out by their relentless war activity and broke financially. In late September 1521, the French-Navarrese divided in two columns and advanced towards the Bidasoa. The first column, made up of Agramont-party Navarrese, Normans and Gascons, was based in Labourd (French royal territory), while the second, formed by German, Gascon and Norman infantry, set off from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port—then in hands of troops loyal to Henry II— totalling a vast force of 27,000 combatants under the command of Guillaume Gouffier, seigneur de Bonnivet.:95 Most of the troops were not French proper, but raised in the Norman and Pyrénées-based possessions of the Foix-Albret. After taking over Roncal, the second column headed west along the Pyrénées range, and captured Roncevaux.
The Franco-Navarrese force approached the fortress of Amaiur (Baztan, Navarre), laying siege to the fortress the Castilians had just reinforced. Eventually on 3 October 1521 the Castilians capitulated in exchange for their lives and an open way back to Castile. So was done, and the fortress was captured.
Battle of Hemmingstedt 1500 Schleswig-Holstein:The ducal army consisted of the “Great Guard”, 4,000 mercenaries from the Netherlands, commanded by a petty noble (Junker) named Thomas Slentz, 2,000 armoured cavaliers, about 1,000 artillerymen and 5,000 commoners. The defenders were about 1,000 men, all peasants. These men were a well-armed and well-organized militia, not the desperate, badly armed rabble one would associate with the term “peasant army”.
Use of Terrain: After seizing the village of Meldorf, the ducal army advanced, but was stopped at a barricade equipped with guns (Geschütze). The defenders opened at least one dike sluice in order to flood the land, which quickly turned into morass and shallow lakes. Crammed together on a narrow road with no solid ground on which to deploy, the ducal army was unable to make use of its numerical superiority. The lightly equipped peasants were familiar with the land and used poles to leap over the ditches. Most of the ducal soldiers were not killed by enemy arms, but drowned. The conquest attempt was thus repelled. The casualties among the Dithmarsians are not known, but the Danish and the Dutch lost together more than half of their army, making about 7,000 men killed and 1,500 men wounded.
Danish Army: Duke John was also the ruling monarch of the Kalmar Union, a state that brought together the three Scandinavian nations (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) and their territories under one ruler. John recruited troops not just from Holstein and Denmark but from all the lands of the Kalmar Union.
In addition, he hired some 4000-6000 German mercenaries known as the Schwarzen Garde (Black Guard). The Black Guard (in some histories referred to as the “Great Guard”) was comprised of landsknechts, the pre-eminent mercenary soldiers of Europe. They were created specifically to battle the Swiss and their blocks of pikes, and the rivalry between these two renowned groups was legendary.
Prelude to the Battle: There was only one usable road between Meldorf and Heide, which was likely a raised road several feet above the surrounding farmland. In addition to the low agricultural lands, a large amount of swampy land added to the daunting terrain. A few miles south of Heide, a slight elevation dominated the otherwise flat landscape. Over the course of the day and into the night, the “peasant” militia transformed this slight rise into an earthen defensive mound effectively blocking any progress up the road. Finally, in what could be considered an act of either desperation or clever planning, Isebrand ordered the sluice gates of the dikes opened, flooding the land around the mound.
Battle of Hemmingstedt: The Danish army left the ruins of Meldorf early in the morning of February 17. Mother Nature decided to enter the story, sending snow with intermittent rain and hail, with whipping winds. As they proceeded north on the elevated roadway, the invaders began to notice that the farmland to either side of the road was becoming waterlogged, nearly impassable to the 12,000 or so marching men.
Finally, about noon, the Danes approached the town of Hemmingstedt and were shocked to see a defensive mound blocking the road. A bit of reconnaissance revealed a force of several hundred Dithmarsian militiamen occupying the fortification. [Some chronicles state that Wulf Isebrand’s men received a few hundred reinforcements on the morning of the battle, but this is not fully confirmed.] The men of Dithmarschen were probably outnumbered about 30-to-one.
In a bit of bravado left over from the days of chivalry, the Black Guard’s commander Thomas Slentz sent forward a herald. He asked that the peasant army’s strongest man come forward and fight him in a one-on-one duel to avoid excessive bloodshed. Not unexpectedly, the offer was refused. Sometime in the early afternoon, the battle began.
The Danish army formed into three columns – one on the road and two initially on either side – to attack the Dithmarsian works and to attempt to outflank them. Each side opened the engagement with cannon fire. The pike- and spear-wielding landsknechts formed the front line, followed by footmen, with the knights in the rear. [Apparently, the lessons of the Hundred Years’ War had penetrated to Scandinavia, as most knights wanted to strike the first blows in battle.] As they charged the Dithmarsian works, the members of the Black Guard shouted, “Look out, peasants, here comes the Guard!”
The invaders stormed the militia battlements, braving the cannon and musket fire. Despite the ferocity of the initial attack, the farmers held their ground. In addition, the flanking forces discovered the shrewdness of Isebrand. The flooded farmlands were now a freezing, sucking morass, with deeper channels pulling in heavily-armored men to their deaths, drowning in a few feet of water.
Observing the attack faltering, Isebrand ordered a flanking counterattack on the Danes. Small groups of Dithmarsian militiamen left the safety of their battlements to attack the wavering enemy. Chronicles state that as they charged the Danes the peasant attackers shouted their own battle cry, “Wahr di Garr de Bur de kumt!‘ (Look out, Guard, here come the peasants!) As they were wearing next to no armor, the peasants could maneuver over and around the sunken fields. Many chronicles even stated that these attackers used long poles to spring over the channels – much like modern pole-vaulters – to get to the enemy. The Danes met this counterattack, and the Dithmarsians returned to their sheltering works.
Over the next two hours or so, Danish attacks on the Dithmarsian mound intensified. In answer, another counterattack was mounted by the peasant militia. Soon, the Black Guard’s situation became desperate: the militia counterattacks, the near-fanatical resistance of the earthworks’ defenders, and the push of their own infantry and knight cavalry to their rear made a bad situation even worse. Seeing that the Black Guard was heavily pressed and near the breaking point, Wulf Isebrand ordered a third counterattack. The result was devastating…
After nearly three hours of constant fighting, in freezing water and inclement weather, the Black Guard finally broke. Seeing their elite unit trying to rout from the field, the remainder of the Danish army lost all cohesion. With only a narrow road to use, many of the men who had not been engaged tried to use the water-swollen farmland to retreat. Hundreds of men were drowned in the rout, while others were slaughtered by the avenging peasant militiamen, who took no prisoners.
At the beginning of the rout, many of the knights – none who had managed to unsheathe their swords – were beset by the rampaging militiamen. An order went out, “Leave the men and kill their horses.” However, as the knight fell into the freezing water and drowned, the order was modified to “Kill the men and leave their horses.” After all, the horses were probably more valuable to the agriculturally-minded Dithmarsians. By nightfall – about 5:30 pm – the battle was done.