Thursday, 1 February 2007

The Sources on the Battle of Laupen 1339

This book is the main source for the following. It was written in 1939 bei Franz Moser. He gives an account of the battle based on Conrad Justingers "Berner Chronik" (1. half 15th century), the "cronica de Berno" and the "conflictus Laupensis", on account written thirty years after the battle by a brother of the Teutonic Order. I once found Delbrück's interpretation on the battle at Laupen (URL: but I think it's rather crap. He assumes the good ole threefold swiss deployment of the "Vorhut" , "Gewalthaufen" and the "Nachhut". Since the historical account only mentiones to "heaps" ("Hauffen, Huffen") in this battle, Delbrück says their must have been a "nachhut" wich was routed by an enemy outflanking force...but the sources say nothing whatsoever. Their was an incident in the beginning of the battle where the Bernese back ranks lost heart at the sight of the charging enemy masses and then fled into the woods. So here's the account of the battle as related by Conrad Justinger, a well educated and virtous Statesman of Berne in the early 15th century. Below I give an english translation of the the german original. For all you history buffs: scroll down for the original german version.

THE FORCES (according to the "Conflictus"):
On June 10th 1339 the allied feudal forces set up camp in front of the Imperial Fortress and Town of Laupen with siege-machines, "Katzen", and Warwagons. The besieging force consisted of 16'000 foot (incl. camp followers etc.) and about 1000 knights. Prior to the battle the enemy pledged to burn Laupen and hang all the garrison and inhabitants, to march for Berne and destroy the town.The contingents were:
- Fribourg with all it's men.
- the Baron of Neuenburg with his household troops and a crop of burgundian knights.
- the Baron of Nidau with his houshold troops and 140 nobel knights from the Elsass and Swabia.
- the Baron of Greyerz with his men.
- Lord Gerhard of Valendis (Valangin)with his troops.
- John, the only son of Louis de Savoy, Lord of the Waadt (Lausanne etc.) with his following.
- Lord of Montenach (Belp?) with his troops.
The Baron Eberhard of Kyburg did not participate in the battle. Instead he kept harrassing bernese territory on it's eastern border. In the meantime in the Aargau the bailifs of habsburgian domaines after mustering further troops began to march for Laupen, but turned back as soon as they heard of the bernese victory. Laupen was besieged for twelve days.
600 bernese soldiers were garrisoned at Laupen. The contingents of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, of the Haslital and Simmental (Lord Johann of Weissenburg) consisted of 1000 men. All in all, the bernese force was about 6000 strong. To discern foe from friend each man, soldier and general, attached the holy white cross on to their clothing.

"At their special request the troops of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden were positioned so they would stand the charge of the knights and other heavy cavalry while those from Berne, Hasli [black eagle on gold] and the Simmental [white castle on red] would fight the lot of Fribourg and the rest of the enemy infantry.
So on both sides men prepared their weapons. Then general Rudolf of Erlach spoke "Now where are those young men who where bousting in the streets of Berne? They shall come forth and stand before the banner!" These were the troops of the two bernese guilds called "metzgern" and "gerwern"; they appeared at once and replied "Sire, we are ready and we will do what you command". Then all the other guildsmen and the whole army pledged their obedience. Every man was willing to do his duty, all except those who would flee into the 'Forst'.
So now the general commanded to throw two or three volleys of stones every man had gathered while deploying. And then he ordered them turn and retreat back up the slope [of the "bramberg"] so they could receive the enemy charge on higher ground. But the men in the back mistook this for a hasty retreat and so many left the host and began to run. But after they saw that the front stood fast and nobody else intended to flee they turned on the spot and fought bravely as heroes. Still there were a few who fled into the "Forst" never to return; people afterwards called them "forster". [...] The battle began just after Vespers..."

We will continue with the "conflictus Laupensis": "On one wing the Waldstette (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden) got surrounded and were pressed hard by enemy cavalry, on the other wing the Bernese were attacked by the Friburgians and other enemy foot: but the Bernese broke the shackles of terror just like Samson, withstood the charge of the Friburgians and soon took all their banners, killed their bearers and many others and finally the whole enemy infantry turned and fled in panic. The Bernese rallied, turned to help the Waldstette, slaughtered and routed the knights."

The sources in german:
Justinger, Berner Chronik: "Also wurden die waltstette von ir bette wegen geordnet mit den herren und mit dem rossvolk zu vechtenne, aber die von bern, von hasle, von sibental an die von friburg und an die andern huffen des fusvolkes. Do bereit sich menglich uff beide site sin nassband für ze slande, sin weri recht und meisterlich in sin hand ze nemen. Do sprach der from ritter herr rudolf von erlach, houptman: "Wo sint nu die mit den guten reden und ir gesellen, die ze bern uf der gassen so mulich sint? die solten nu für die paner stan, darumb trettent harfür! Daz warent die metzger und die gerwer ze bern; die traten ouch zestunt hinfür und sprachen: herre, wir sint hie und tun waz ir uns heissent. Also warent ouch die andern hantwerk und menglich da gehorsam, nieman ussgenomen, und tet jederman waz er tun solte, ane allein die in den forst fluchen.
Und also, so man glich zutretten wil, do hat jederman zwen steine oder drye zu im genomen, hies der houptman in di vigende[=Feinde] werfen und damitte hinder sich tretten an den reine, umb daz si bergshalb stunden; do wonden die hindren, die vordren wölten fliechen und floch gar ein gros volk vom huffen; do si aber befunden, daz man bestund und da vor nieman ze fliechenne mut hat, do kerten si zestunt wider zu dem strit und taten alz biderb [= gut, vorbildlich. Eigentlich "bieder", damals noch positiv bewertet] from lüte und vachten und stritten als helde, usgenommen etlich die in den forst fluchen und nicht widerkerten; dieselben ouch iemerme forster hiessen. Man wolt si ouch dernach an lip und an gut gestraft haben, denne daz es gelassen wart, darumb daz man die vigende [=Feinde] mit erfröwte; doch so wurden darnach niemer me wert und musten menglichem versmecht sin und unwert. Und als nu die hindrosten fluchen, daz mocht der houptman noch die fromen davor nicht gesechen, die mitlen die es aber sachen die sprachen zem houptman: O herre, da hinder fliechent gar vil lüten von uns. Do antwurt der houptman: "Es ist gut daz die bösen bi den biderben nit sin; die sprüwer sint gestoben von den kernen. Und alsus nach vesperzit hat sich der strit erhaben..."

conflictus Laupensis: "Auf der einen Seite wurden die aus den Waldstätten von den Feinden, die zu Ross waren, mit furchtbarer Gewalt umzingelt, auf der anderen Seite wurden die Berner selbst von den Freiburgern und dem übrigen Fussvolk feindlich angegeriffen: die berner aber brachen wie Simson die Fesseln jeder Furcht, fingen den Angriff der Freiburger auf und nahmen alsbald alle ihre Fahnen, töteten Bannerträger und viel andere und schlugen das übrige Fussvolk samt und sonders in klägliche Flucht. Darauf wandten sich die Berner denen zu Hilfe, die von den Rittern umzingelt waren, töteten unverweilt alle zusammen oder schlugen sie in die Flucht."

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This blog is dedicated to ancient and medieval miniature wargaming. I'd like to share pictures of my painted armies and models, self made terrain-pieces and sketches of projects still residing in my head or on a piece of paper.
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