Battle of Guinegate (1479)
The First Battle of Guinegate took place on August 7, 1479. French troops of King Louis XI were defeated by the Burgundians led by Archduke (later to be Emperor) Maximilian of Habsburg. This battle was the first in which the innovative Swiss pike square formation was first employed by a power that was not natively Swiss.
|Battle of Guinegate (1479)|
|Part of the War of the Burgundian Succession|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Philippe de Crèvecœur d'Esquerdes||Archduke Maximilian I of Habsburg|
|c. 11,000||c. 27,300|
|Casualties and losses|
Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy had been killed at the Battle of Nancy 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, Flanders, Hainaut and the Duchy of Burgundy. Nevertheless, Charles' only heir, Mary of Burgundy on August 19, 1477 had married Archduke Maximilian, who, determined to come into the Burgundian inheritance, concentrated troops in the former Burgundian Netherlands 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. 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 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 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 in the County of Artois, 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.
The French, whose infantry consisted primarily of marksmen, was positioned in the center of their cavalry.
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, 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.
At the beginning of the battle, Lord des Cordes forced back the knights within the left infantry square and also captured the Burgundian artillery 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.
Despite his victory, Maximilian was forced to cede Artois and Burgundy itself to Louis XI according to the Treaty of Arras (1482), after Mary of Burgundy had died from a riding accident.
- Delbruck, Hans (1985). History of the Art of War Volume IV: The Dawn of Modern Warfare. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 4–7. ISBN 0-8032-6586-7.