Siege and First Battle of Manila (May 1–August 14, 1898)

The siege of Manila of May 1–August 14, 1898, occurred during the Spanish American War (April 21–August 13, 1898). The battle, which pitted troops of the U.S. Army VIII Corps against Spanish forces, was waged after the Protocol of Peace of August 12 had been signed in Cuba, which ostensibly ended hostilities. At the time, the cable linking Manila with Hong Kong had been cut, so field commanders in the Philippines were unaware of the truce agreement.

Manila, the capital and most important city of the Philippines, is located on the east side of Manila Bay on the island of Luzon. As the capital city, Manila was the center of Spanish power in the archipelago and understandably the focal point of Filipino nationalists’ efforts to overthrow Spanish rule. Following his overwhelming defeat of the Spanish naval squadron in the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, U.S. Navy commodore George Dewey realized that Manila could and should be seized. Dewey did take the Spanish naval station at Cavite, but with no available landing force to undertake such a mission, he simply blockaded Manila to await the army’s arrival.

The U.S. Army’s Philippine Expeditionary Force (VIII Corps) reached the Philippines in three contingents, departing from San Francisco as ship availability permitted. The first contingent of 2,500 men, under Brigadier General Thomas Anderson, arrived at the end of June, followed in mid-July by 3,500 additional men under Brigadier General Francis V. Greene. The final contingent, numbering some 4,800 troops and commanded by Brigadier General Arthur MacArthur, reached the islands at the end of July, as did commander of VIII Corps Major General Wesley Merritt.

At the end of July, the Spanish still controlled Manila and much of its environs. The city proper was split by the Pasig River, south of which stood the old walled city of Fort Santiago. The Spanish defensive line, known as the Zapote Line, was located 1.5 miles to the south from where a large blockhouse, Number 14, on the Pasay Road extended west to a stone structure known as Fort San Antonio de Abad, located near the shore of Manila Bay. A line of entrenchments connected these two strong points.

Opposing the Spanish positions were some 10,000 Filipino nationalist troops under the overall command of General Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, who had formally proclaimed the Republic of the Philippines on June 12. Through the early summer, the nationalists had managed to isolate Manila from its source of supplies, in effect leaving it a city under siege. In Manila, food was scarce and mainly consisted of a little horseflesh and some water buffalo. At night the nationalists and the Spanish defenders maintained lively fire between the two lines but undertook no serious offensive movements.

During the course of the U.S. buildup, Greene’s troops constructed a series of entrenchments and moved into some of the works created by the nationalists, who abandoned these positions only reluctantly when Greene persuaded them to do so. The arrangement was irregular, however. In places the nationalist forces actually occupied trench works in between the Americans and the Spaniards.

During the two weeks preceding the attack on Manila, heavy rains of the monsoon season had drenched the area. The period was also characterized by frequent exchanges of artillery and rifle fire between the Americans and the Spanish, with Greene’s units sustaining a number of casualties. In addition, relations between the Americans and Aguinaldo’s men, at first cordial, began to deteriorate, as the latter had grown increasingly suspicious of U.S. intentions in the islands.

During the latter part of July, Dewey, now a rear admiral, became convinced that the Spanish would surrender Manila through negotiations. Thus, he met first with Captain-General Basilio Augustín y Dávila and later with his successor, Fermín Jáudenes y Alvarez, to explore possible arrangements. Nevertheless, Greene urged naval gunfire on Spanish positions to relieve the pressure on his command. His troops had dug a line of trenches south of Fort Abad and were taking casualties from Spanish fire every day. General Merritt supported Greene in this request. Dewey, however, was reluctant to open fire from his warships, fearing that doing so would destroy any chance of securing the city by negotiation, an arrangement that he still believed to be entirely possible. Dewey suggested that perhaps the troops could be withdrawn from the trenches until a general attack became necessary. The admiral, however, did agree to support Greene should this prove absolutely necessary. In that eventuality, Greene was to burn a blue light on the beach, and the ships would open fire. Dewey hoped that it would not be necessary.

Merritt had arrived in the Philippines under orders from President William McKinley not to involve the nationalists in taking Manila because to do so would mean including them as partners in future treaty negotiations with Spain. Fermin Jáudenes y Alvarez, who had recently replaced Basilio Augustín as Spanish commander in Manila, had taken over with orders to hold the city. Inasmuch as peace negotiations were about to get under way, Spain’s bargaining position would be weakened by a surrender of the city.

On August 9, 1898, Merritt and Dewey sent an ultimatum to Jáudenes demanding that he surrender Manila. They warned that if he did not, U.S. forces would attack. Jáudenes responded by convening a meeting of his subordinate commanders, putting the issue to a vote. Seven voted in favor of immediate negotiations for a surrender, while seven were opposed. Jáudenes broke the tie, with a decision to continue the present delaying tactics. He informed the Americans that he had no authority to surrender and asked to be able to communicate with Madrid through Hong Kong. On August 10, Dewey and Merritt rejected the suggestion.

In the meantime, Dewey pursued separate negotiations with Jáudenes, working through Belgian consul in Manila Edouard André. Jáudenes then agreed to consider surrendering Manila to U.S. forces but insisted that it would have to appear that a genuine effort had been made to defend the city in order to salvage Spanish honor. Perhaps most important, the Filipino nationalists could not be allowed to enter the city, as Jáudenes feared that they would show no mercy to the Spanish defenders. He also did not want to make it appear as if Spain were surrendering to the Filipinos. Thus, Spain and the United States each had its reasons for wanting to keep Aguinaldo’s men from entering Manila.

Finally, the two sides agreed that the Spanish would offer a token defense of their outer works but not of the walled city itself. However, neither of the U.S. commanders who were to lead the attack, Generals Greene and MacArthur, had been made aware of the pact because General Merritt feared that if they had known of the arrangements, their respective attacks would have lacked authenticity.

Following expiration of the 48-hour truce, Merritt’s forces prepared to move. The axis of their attack would be south to north in two essentially parallel columns. Greene’s brigade would advance along the northern flank nearest Manila Bay, while MacArthur’s brigade was to move along the southern flank. By prearrangement, Dewey’s flagship, the Olympia, would fire a few token rounds at the heavy stone walls of Fort San Antonio de Abad before raising the international signal flag calling for Spain’s surrender.

On the morning of August 13 amid a heavy rain, reveille was sounded. Following the naval bombardment, directed against Fort San Antonio de Abad as agreed, the American artillery opened fire, and the assault moved forward, with the troops advancing under what had turned into a drenching deluge. The Spanish resistance turned out to be heavier than Merritt had expected although not sufficient to thwart the advance. The Spanish defenders gradually fell back, and Greene moved into the city unopposed to accept the Spanish surrender.

On the right flank MacArthur found the going much tougher, exacerbated by Filipino nationalists determined to be involved in the capture of the city. As MacArthur’s troops moved north along the Singalong Road, Spanish infantry positioned in a blockhouse inflicted numerous casualties on a regiment of Minnesotans. MacArthur’s biggest challenge, however, was in keeping the nationalists from entering the city. As his troops moved closer to Manila, their ranks became increasingly intermingled with those of the Filipinos, and MacArthur was compelled to have his commanders hold the nationalists back from the city.

By the end of the day, U.S. troops had occupied all of Manila proper, but outside the city, Aguinaldo’s troops, angry at being denied entrance, were in an ugly mood. Fortunately, for the Americans, the heavy tropical storm served to help defuse the hostile mob. On August 14, a joint group of American and Spanish officers agreed to a formal capitulation agreement supplementing a preliminary agreement signed by Merritt and Jáudenes the day before.

The capture of Manila yielded some 13,000 Spanish prisoners. In addition, the United States garnered 22,000 stands of small arms, 10 million rounds of ammunition, and 70 pieces of artillery. Because Manila had been seized after the Protocol of Peace had been signed, Spanish negotiators in Paris during the autumn of 1898 argued that the U.S. capture of Manila was not valid, a point that the U.S. peace commissioners countered successfully. With Germany anxious to acquire the Philippines, the McKinley administration decided to take possession of the islands, paying Spain $10 million for them. This decision gave the United States an excellent base in Southeast Asia but brought on the Philippine-American War of 1899–1902 and set up a future confrontation with Japan.

Further Reading

Cosmas, Graham A. An Army for Empire: The United States Army in the Spanish-American War. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994.

Linn, Brian McAllister. The Philippine War, 1899–1902. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000.

Musicant, Ivan. Empire by Default: The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century. New York: Henry Holt, 1998.

Wolff, Leon. Little Brown Brother: America’s Forgotten Bid for Empire Which Cost 250,000 Lives. New York: Kraus Reprint, 1970.

Siege of the Alcázar at Toledo (July 21–September 27, 1936)

On July 17, 1936, with leaders of the Popular Front government of Spain learning of their plans, rightist plotters in the army were forced prematurely to begin their effort to seize power in what became the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). An important battle early in the conflict was the siege of the Alcázar in Toledo during July 21–September 27, 1936.

The reformist Popular Front had won the recent national elections and was determined to bring Spain into alignment with the rest of western Europe. Those opposing the Republicans sought to preserve the character and traditions of ancestral Spain. As historian Herbert Matthews has put it, the central question of the Spanish Civil War was “whether the Catholic, traditional, agrarian, and centralized rule of the past centuries should continue, or whether the great issues that the French Revolution had resolved for France and much of the Western world should be accepted. These included democratic government, capitalism, civil freedoms, separation of church and state, and land reform.”

The Spanish Civil War was both hard-fought and sanguinary. Both sides were equally ruthless, and there were millions of casualties. Whatever the outcome, the war would have been over earlier had it not been for the intervention of other countries, principally Germany and Italy lining up with the Fascists and the Soviet Union supporting the Republicans.

The Nationalists, or Fascists as they were also known, had some two-thirds of the army and 90 percent of the officers. They also had the support of the Catholic Church, die-hard monarchists, and the conservative old-line families who possessed the bulk of the country’s wealth. They also had the Spanish Foreign Legion and the many powerful armies of the paramilitary groups, the Carlists and the Falange.

The government side was known as the Republicans or Loyalists. Led by Spanish president Manuel Azaña Diaz, the Republicans had the navy and most of the air force. It also had strong support from the peasants and workers in the most industrialized part of Spain, the Madrid-Valencia-Barcelona triangle. The loyalties of the middle class were fairly evenly divided.

Nationalist leader General José Sanjurjo y Sacanell was killed in a plane crash on July 20, and leadership devolved to General Francisco Franco, who would emerge as the Caudillo (Leader) and the most durable of twentieth-century dictators. Opinions differ as to which side would have won the civil war had it been left to the Spaniards themselves, but certainly the conflict would have been over much more quickly. Foreign military intervention greatly prolonged the suffering and dramatically augmented the death toll.

German and Italian aid came early. German chancellor Adolf Hitler loaned the Nationalist side transport aircraft and fighter escorts, with German crews, to ferry 20,000 of Franco’s troops from Morocco to Spain, for Republican control of the navy blocked access by water. Getting these troops to Spain was critical if the Nationalists were to be successful. Italy also sent aircraft and the most men, but German assistance, especially the Kondor Legion that enabled the Fascists to win control of the skies, was critical to the outcome. Soviet aid, while it bought influence and eventually subverted the Republic, was late and never in sufficient quantities to overcome that supplied to the Fascists by Germany and Italy. Unfortunately, the Western democracies remained aloof. Fearful of a general war, British leaders insisted on nonintervention and forced France to act accordingly. It was therefore almost a miracle that the Republicans were able to hold on as long as they did.

At the end of July 1936, however, the Spanish capital city of Madrid remained Republican, thwarting Nationalist plans for a quick coup. Most other major cities also remained loyal. Battles raged everywhere, with atrocities committed by both sides.

The rebels hoped to take Madrid early on, believing that its capture would bring the war to a speedy conclusion. Franco and his Army of Africa now moved north from Seville, where they had been ferried by the Germans. But the Republicans had secured control of the city of Toledo about 45 miles south-southwest of Madrid. However, Nationalists there had barricaded themselves in the large Alcázar (fortress) and were refusing to surrender.

Toledo and the Alcázar were important symbolically to Spaniards. The city had been the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom, and the Spanish monarchs had lived in the Alcázar, built in 1520 on high ground and looming over the city, until it had been abandoned by King Philip II and turned into the Spanish Military Academy. The Alcázar was a formidable fortress structure with 10-foot walls. In 1936 it and the military academy were commanded by Nationalist supporter Colonel José Moscardó Ituarte.

On July 18, Moscardó had ordered the Guardia Civil of the province to Toledo and on July 19 and 20 had rejected efforts by the Republican government in Madrid to secure munitions from the city’s arms factory. The government then sent some 8,000 militiamen men south, with seven field artillery pieces and a few small tankettes. They would be aided during the siege by the Republican air force. Unfortunately, the attackers lacked the modern heavy artillery necessary to breach the fortress walls.

On July 21, the Republican force arrived and moved against the arms factory, where 200 Guardia Civil were then located. The latter used the time during surrender negotiations to load trucks with ammunition and remove it to the Alcázar before destroying what they could and withdrawing to the Alcázar.

By July 22, the Republicans controlled most of Toledo and commenced shelling the Alcázar in hopes of inducing its surrender. Throughout the siege, the Nationalist side adopted a passive stance, returning fire only when threatened by attack.

There were now some 1,500 people inside the Alcázar. Moscardó probably commanded 150 officers and noncommissioned officers assigned to the Academy, 650 members of the Guardia Civil, and 7 cadets (the others being on vacation). There were also more than 500 military dependents. In addition, the colonel had taken about 100 civilian hostages, including the provincial governor and his family. The defenders possessed only rifles and a few machine guns and grenades but were now well supplied with ammunition.

On July 23, in what is touted as the most celebrated single incident of the entire war, Republican militia leader in Toledo Candido Cabello talked by telephone with Moscardó inside the Alcázar and informed him that unless he surrendered the fortress within 10 minutes, he would shoot Moscardó’s 17-year-old son Luis. Cabello put the boy on the phone, and the colonel told his son that he should commend his soul to God and prepare for a hero’s death and shout “Viva Christ the King” and “Viva Spain.” “That I can do,” Luis replied. The elder Moscardó then informed Cabello that he would never surrender. Later asked for his report of the day, Moscardó replied, “Sin novedad” (Nothing new). The Republicans indeed executed young Moscardó, claiming this occurred on August 23 in reprisal for a Nationalist air raid.

The Republicans first concentrated their fire on the northern side of the fortress, but shelling here failed to achieve the desired results, and from August 14 for five weeks they attacked the House of the Military Government located close to the fortress, mounting 11 separate efforts, all of which were turned back. Had the Republicans been able to take this structure, they would have been able to mass a large number of men only 40 yards from the Alcázar.

On September 9, Moscardó again rejected a demand from an emissary, Spanish Army major Vicente Rojo Lluch, that he surrender. Two days later on Moscardó’s request, the Republicans allowed a priest of leftist views into the fortress to baptize two newly born infants. The priest also granted the defenders absolution. That evening Rojo again met with Moscardó and requested the release of the women and children. All the women rejected this, saying that if necessary, they would themselves take up arms in defense of the fortress.

On September 18, the attackers exploded a large mine that they had been preparing for a month. The blast collapsed the tower on the Alcázar’s southeast corner and opened a breach in the wall. In the next few hours, the Republicans launched four separate attacks on the breech, employing their tankettes. These met determined resistance and failed.

With most of the outlying structures having been destroyed, on the night of September 21 the defenders abandoned these and concentrated the defense on what remained on the Alcázar itself. Unaware of this, the attackers were slow to occupy the abandoned structures, but in a surprise attack at 5:00 a.m. on September 23 the Republicans gained access to the Alcázar’s courtyard. However, the defenders rallied and drove them back. Later that morning, another attack led by a tankette was also defeated. Still, the situation appeared dire, but relief was on the way.

General José Enrique Varela Iglesius had been headed for Madrid when Franco decided on September 21 to divert his forces to Toledo. Franco realized this decision might well cost him Madrid, but he believed that relieving the Toledo garrison was more important from a propaganda standpoint. On September 23, Varela set out, and three days later his men cut the road between Toledo and Madrid some four miles north of Toledo.

On the morning of September 27, before the Nationalists could arrive, the Republicans exploded another mine on the northeast side of the fortress, but their attack here was defeated. At dusk the same day, the Nationalist relief force arrived and entered the Alcázar, which was then in flames. The Moroccan troops massacred all Republicans in Toledo they could find, including the wounded, doctors, and nurses, in San Juan Hospital.

Republican casualties in the siege are unknown, but the Nationalists side claimed 65 dead, 438 wounded, and 22 missing.

The siege of Toledo was important in the course of the war. Although a great propaganda victory for the Nationalists, it did secure additional time for the Republicans to solidify their control of the capital and improve its defenses. Four Nationalists columns under General Emilio Mola y Vidal attacked the capital on November 8 but were repulsed. The city held out, its defenders vowing “No pasaran” (they shall not pass). Madrid’s fall on March 28, 1939, marked the end of the long conflict. The Alcázar was rebuilt after the war and today houses the Museum of the Army.

Further Reading

Beevor, Antony. The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006.

Eby, Cecil D. The Siege of the Alcazar. New York: Random House, 1965.

Matthews, Herbert L. Half of Spain Died: A Reappraisal of the Spanish Civil War. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973.

Moss, Geoffrey MacNeill. The Siege of the Alcázar: A History of the Siege of the Toledo Alcázar, 1936. New York: Knopf, 1937.

Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.

Thomas, Hugh. The Spanish Civil War. Rev. ed. New York: Harper and Brothers, 2001.

Whealey, Robert H. Hitler and Spain: The Nazi Role in the Spanish Civil War 1936–1939. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1989.

Siege of Kobanî (September 27, 2014–January 26, 2015)

YPJ fighters in Kobanî’s outskirts

YPG fighters raise their flag over the town

A map showing the progression of the siege of Kobanî, from October 2014 to January 2015

The siege of Kobanî, during September 27, 2014–January 26, 2015, was a key battle in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). After having already taken much of northern Syria in the ongoing Civil War there (2011 to the present) and most of Anbar Province in Iraq in which it had displaced a half million Iraqis, in early June 2014 ISIS launched a major offensive in northern Iraq. ISIS fighters seized Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul and also captured Tikrit, displacing another half million Iraqis, then advanced south toward Baghdad. By June 22, they were only some 60 miles from the Iraqi capital city. These territorial acquisitions accompanied by widespread ISIS atrocities—including the summary execution of non-Muslims refusing to convert to Islam, the raping and enslavement of women, and the beheading of hostages—prompted the formation of a broad-based international coalition headed by the United States to defeat and indeed destroy ISIS.

Then beginning on September 17, ISIS launched a major offensive to capture the important largely Kurdish town of Kobanî (also known as Kobanê or Ayn al-Arab), located in northern Syria on the border with Turkey and a major crossing points into that country. The ISIS offensive included tanks and artillery. By the beginning of October, ISIS fighters had taken some 350 Kurdish villages and towns in the Kobanî vicinity; displaced some 150,000 Kurds, most of whom sought refuge in Turkey; and were attacking Kobanî itself.

This presented the Turkish government with a dilemma, and on September 30 Turkish soldiers and tanks took up position along the border with Syria as the government debated whether to intervene militarily. Meanwhile, on September 27, U.S. and coalition air strikes targeted ISIS positions near Kobanî for the first time.

On October 2, the Turkish parliament voted 298–98 to authorize military force against ISIS. Although Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been outspoken in his insistence that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad must be removed from power and had urged the establishment of a no-fly zone over portions of Syria, he was also reluctant to intervene in Kobanî. With Turkish tanks and troops remaining in place, on October 8, ISIS fighters commenced a siege of Kobanî.

Turkey’s failure to act brought rioting by that country’s Kurdish minority, in which at least nine protests, organized in part by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, occurred across Turkey and in several foreign cities. Since 1984 some 40,000 people had been killed in clashes between Turkish government forces and its Kurdish minority, led by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which sought greater rights for the Kurds. In March 2013, however, imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had called for a cease-fire, and PPK fighters had withdrawn to the Iraqi mountains and the beginnings of a peace process had emerged. The Turkish failure to intervene to aid Kobanî, and indeed its turning back of Turkish Kurds wanting to fight for the city, fueled Kurdish anger anew. Ankara feared the establishment of an independent radical Kurdish state that would seek a larger Kurdistan to include the Kurdish portions of Turkey. Nonetheless, in a statement from prison, Ocalan warned that “the reality of Kobanî and the peace process are not separable.” On October 12, however, Ankara announced it would permit the United States and other coalition forces battling militants in Syria and Iraq to use some of its bases, which would make it easier for coalition air forces to assist the Kobanî defenders. However, the next day, Turkish warplanes attacked not Kobanî but PKK positions in southeastern Turkey.

Meanwhile, the battle for Kobanî raged on and intensified as the United States and other coalition forces continued air strikes in support of the Kurds. If ISIS were to capture Kobanî, it would control three official border crossings between Turkey and Syria and some 60 miles of their common frontier.

On October 19, for the first time in the coalition campaign against ISIS, U.S. military aircraft airdropped weapons provided by the Iraqi government to the Kurdish fighters in Kobanî as well as ammunition and medical supplies. Then the next day the Turkish government announced that it would allow some Kurds to cross the Turkish border into Syria to join the fight for Kobanî, but only those from Kurdistan and not those from Turkey itself. This decision opened a corridor to Syria for the Peshmerga fighters. The semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan was one of Turkey’s major security allies and a principal exporter of oil to Turkey. Indeed, in June Turkey signed a 50-year energy pact with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Iraqi Kurdistan had also been at odds with the PKK and its affiliates in Syria.

The struggle for control of Kobanî raged on but by mid-January 2015, the national army of Syrian Kurdistan, known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG), supported by the Peshmerga, other Kurdish volunteers, and members of the FSA, had turned back a number of ISIS assaults.

Finally, on January 26, 2015, the YPG and its allied fighters drove the last ISIS units from the city. The Battle of Kobanî reportedly resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 ISIS fighters and 324 YPG, as well as 12 allied rebels. Reportedly hundreds of other ISIS militants died in the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on the city and surrounding countryside.

For some time thereafter, however, most of the villages in the Kobanî Canton remained under ISIS control. Kurdish forces supported by allied Arab armed groups and aided by coalition air strikes, then made rapid advances. By early February, ISIS fighters had been driven some 15 miles from the city and by the end of April almost all of the villages in the canton captured earlier by ISIS had been retaken. Although the fight against ISIS continues, the Battle of Kobanî is considered by many analysts to have been a turning point in the fight against the Islamic State.

In late June 2015, ISIS again attacked Kobanî, killing some 233 civilians.

Further Reading

Abdulrahim, Raja. “Islamic State, Rival Al Nusra Front Each Strengthen Grip on Syria.” Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2014.

Cloud, David, and Brian Bennetan. “U.S., Allies Rush Heavy Weapons to Kurds to Fight Militants in Iraq.” Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2014.

Khalilzad, Zalmay. “To Fight the Islamic State, Kurdish and Iraqi Forces Need Expedited Aid.” Washington Post, August 13, 2014.

“La France renforce son dispositif militaire en Irak avec trois Rafale.” Le Monde, October 8, 2014.

“Military Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria and Iraq Supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.” U.S. Central Command, January 14, 2015.

Rush, James. “Isis Air Strikes: US Brings in Apache Helicopters as British Jets Target Militants in Iraq.” The Independent, October 8, 2014.

Armagnac–Burgundian Civil War Part II

Household of John, Duke of Berry

The defence was directed from Bourges by the Duke of Berry. The Duke was no soldier but he was assisted by experienced captains including Charles d’Albret, John Duke of Bourbon and that bold fighter Raoul lord of Gaucourt. Bourges was filled with refugees of the Parisian proscriptions of the past year. For a man with Jean de Berry’s commitment to the dynasty, armed confrontation with what was ostensibly a royal army commanded by the King and the Dauphin in person was a terrible experience, perhaps the worst crisis in a long life devoted to the avoidance of discord and the pursuit of comfort and beauty. He took the only line that he could take, that he was not resisting the King but only the Duke of Burgundy. Even at this late stage he put out feelers in the hope of finding a way out which would not put him at the mercy of his terrible nephew. The chronicler of Saint-Denis, who was in the King’s entourage, believed that Charles and many of those around him would have welcomed these approaches had it not been for the unbending attitude of John the Fearless. But John, determined to stick to the policy of unconditional surrender, pressed on regardless. The army quickly overran the outlying garrisons which had been stationed on the eastern and southern approaches to Bourges. The first sustained confrontation occurred at Dun-le-Roi, the last garrisoned fortress before the city. Dun was defended by a garrison of 400 Gascon and Italian routiers under the command of one of the Duke of Bourbon’s bastard half-brothers. But it was an old fortress with high walls and vulnerable to artillery fire. The great bombard Griette, which had destroyed the gatehouse of Ham the year before, was hauled up. It took twenty men to move it, and the detonations could be heard four miles away ‘like reverberations from hell’. On the first day a direct hit demolished a large part of a tower. On the second it breached another tower in two places and brought down a considerable section of wall. The garrison was instructed by the Duke of Berry to submit and withdrew amid screams of abuse from the massed ranks of Burgundians outside. As John the Fearless marched on to Bourges a herald went ahead to call on the city to surrender. The Duke of Berry replied that he would willingly surrender to the King or the Dauphin but not to those whom they had about them. John the Fearless arrived before Bourges on 11 June 1412 to find the walls manned and banners flying from every tower.

Siege of Bourges

Bourges was a substantial walled city in the centre of the vast plain of Berry. Viewed from the south, the direction from which the Burgundian army approached, its skyline owed much to Jean de Berry’s forty-year tenure. There was the western gable of the cathedral with its great rose window and its clock, both commissioned by the Duke; the immense hall and palace dominating the upper town, still incomplete in 1412, today buried beneath the Préfecture of the Cher; the two-storey Sainte-Chapelle, even larger than its famous archetype in Paris, where the Duke intended to be buried, today gone like the palace. The city was defended by a complete circuit of walls dating from the end of the twelfth century, reinforced with a tall circular keep, five powerful gateways and more than forty towers. On the west side the walls stood over the River Yèvre and its tributary the Auron. Two fortified bridges crossed the rivers, giving access to an expanse of marshland and to the open country beyond. In June 1412 these ancient but still formidable defences were manned by about 1,500 men-at-arms and some 400 archers including sizeable contingents of Gascon and English mercenaries. The situation of Bourges made a complete blockade hard to achieve. The besieging army would have been divided by the bogs and watercourses of the Yèvre and the Auron, inviting defeat in detail by sorties from the town. In practice it could be taken only by assault from the plain on the east and south sides. It was there that the Duke of Burgundy set up his camp and sited his artillery. Shortly gaping holes began to appear in the walls and turrets. Huge balls of cut stone were hurled into the city, demolishing whole houses, smashing timber buildings like matchwood and creating wide fissures in stone structures. Over the following weeks the Duke of Berry had to move his headquarters seven times to escape the devastation. Morale among the terrified inhabitants was low. The professional soldiers bore up better but they were mainly interested in their pay, which was greatly in arrears. The Duke of Berry, whose revenues had been severely reduced by the loss of Languedoc and Poitou, had already been reduced to pawning the jewels of his palace chapel. As the siege continued he was obliged to raid the treasuries of the city’s churches, selling the precious stones from the reliquaries and melting down their silver mounts to be minted into coins for the garrison.

The besiegers were in no better case. Their difficulties began almost as soon as they arrived. The garrison had mounted cannon and large fixed catapults on the walls. They inflicted heavy casualties and forced the besiegers to withdraw their siege lines out of range. But by placing their lines further back they exposed themselves to murderous sorties from the gates across the open ground east of the city. The besiegers tried to construct pontoon bridges across the rivers in the hope of closing off access to the city by the west and north. But the soft ground made the engineers’ task impossible and the attempt had to be abandoned. Meanwhile the besiegers’ supply situation deteriorated. The weather was terrible for men working in the open. Torrential rain throughout the spring was followed by a long heatwave in late June and July. The streams and wells dried up. Water had to be fetched over great distances. Within days the army had eaten all the cattle to be found in the region and stripped the fields and trees bare for twenty miles around. The purveyors had to bring in supplies from the Nivernais and Burgundy via the bridge of La Charité in heavily defended convoys. Cash from the treasurers in Paris came by the same route. Even so the convoys were frequently attacked by sortie parties from the city or by the powerful Armagnac garrisons at Sancerre and Gien to the north. The supply situation eased somewhat after the capture of Sancerre at the end of June but food remained scarce and dear throughout the siege.

In addition to his logistical problems the Duke of Burgundy was encountering mounting political ones. Unlike the Burgundian army of 1411, which had been recruited entirely from his own domains and those of his allies, the army of 1412 had been brought together by the King’s officers. Its members had been found in every province of northern and western France. Not all of them were devoted to John’s cause. A number of captains were there only out of respect for the authority of the Crown. Many of them resented John the Fearless’s rejection of compromise, his use of the King as a cipher and his determination to drive the wretched monarch beyond his physical endurance. Their views were shared by a number of people in the royal household. The Armagnacs were well aware of these difficulties. They were kept informed by well-placed friends in the enemy camp. Shortly after the beginning of the siege one of the King’s private secretaries, Geoffroy de Villon, began to send messages into the city suggesting that a sortie might succeed in capturing the King and the Dauphin and bringing them into Bourges. A number of soldiers and body servants of the King were in on the plot. They spread rumours about the camp of a truce in order to lower the guard of the watch. Raoul de Gaucourt then led a sortie by more than a thousand men, about half the garrison. They left by the bridges on the open west side and made their way to the encampment of the vanguard where the King and the Dauphin were. There was a pitched battle at the edge of the encampment in which Gaucourt lost a quarter of his strength before being driven back to the city. The role of Geoffroy de Villon was discovered by interrogating prisoners captured in the raid. He and two squires involved were beheaded a few days later. But this example did not end the divisions in the royal army. Shortly afterwards some 200 men switched sides and fled for gates of the city where arrangements had been made to admit them.

All of the Duke of Burgundy’s problems came to a head in the second week of July 1412. Dysentery had begun to spread through the camp as the heat intensified. Shortly a serious epidemic took hold. In the space of a few weeks some 2,000 men died of disease. Youth and fitness were no defence. The victims included some of the army’s leading captains, among them the King of Navarre’s brother Pierre Count of Mortain and the Duke of Brittany’s young brother Gilles. The survivors sickened amid the stench of rotting corpses. Panic set in. Desertions added to the Burgundians’ losses. The King and the Duke of Burgundy were forced to withdraw from their encampment outside the city walls and to establish a new base several miles back where the air was thought to be healthier. In these conditions doubts about the wisdom of the Duke of Burgundy’s inflexible strategy resurfaced. Demands for a compromise were openly voiced among the noblemen about the King. To the fury of the Duke the Dauphin himself was won over to their view. He directed that the artillery should avoid hitting Jean de Berry’s palace. When John questioned this order he protested that the war had lasted too long. The defenders of Bourges were ‘his uncle, his cousins and his closest kin by whom he might one day be well served in his affairs’. It was the first recorded breach between the Dauphin and his father-in-law. John the Fearless had angry words with the Duke of Bar, whom he suspected of putting him up to it. The Duke of Bar, whose brother was fighting for the Armagnacs, was notoriously ambivalent about John’s cause. All of these problems were now complicated by the prospect of English military intervention.

English Intervention

Henry IV’s ministers had begun to prepare the expeditionary force at the beginning of May 1412, even before final agreement had been reached with the Armagnac ambassadors. The recruitment of companies and the requisitioning of ships were practised routines which generally took between two and three months. The original plan was to land the army in France early in July. However, the ink had hardly dried on the treaty before the preparations were engulfed by a fresh political crisis which delayed it by several weeks. The problem arose out of ill-feeling between the Prince of Wales and his father and brother. Henry IV had originally intended to take command himself, accompanied by the Prince with a separate force of his own. The Prince, however, made no secret of the fact that he regarded himself as bound in honour to the Duke of Burgundy. He had opposed the treaty with the Armagnacs and he remained in contact with the John the Fearless after it had been made. Partly for this reason and partly to save money, he had been given only a minor role with a retinue so small as to be insulting. After what was evidently a bruising negotiation the Prince’s retinue was eventually increased. However, all of these arrangements had to be revisited when it became clear that Henry IV was physically incapable of commanding an army. His health rapidly deteriorated during the summer. He could no longer either walk or ride. His council, profoundly suspicious of the Prince, was appalled by the prospect of his taking command in his father’s place. They advised the King to appoint Thomas of Lancaster instead. This provoked a damaging row. The Prince was furious at being supplanted by his younger brother and appears to have pressed for the cancellation of an expedition that he had never liked anyway. At the same time the government was having difficulty finding the money to pay the shipping costs and the troops’ advances. Henry’s ministers put it about that the Prince and his friends were actively obstructing their preparations. This may well have been true. The same reports reached the ear of Jean de Kernezn, who was now for practical purposes the Duke of Burgundy’s resident agent in England and had excellent sources of information in the households of the Prince and his stepmother Joan of Navarre. Jacques Legrand, who had stayed behind in London to represent the interests of the Armagnac princes, lobbied for the project with mounting desperation.

For some time the future of the expedition hung in the balance. Writing to the Duke of Burgundy on 31 May 1412, the Earl of Arundel thought that the outcome was still uncertain. But by 10 June the King had settled the issue. The council succeeded in borrowing part of the money from the City of London and raised the rest by a campaign of forced loans. The expedition was confirmed and Thomas of Lancaster was formally appointed to command it. He was also made Lieutenant in Guyenne and charged with the task of taking possession of the provinces which the Armagnacs had promised to restore once they had disposed of the Duke of Burgundy. To give him the status required for these important functions Thomas was raised to the peerage as Duke of Clarence. The King’s cousin the Duke of York and his half-brother Sir Thomas Beaufort (who now became Earl of Dorset) were nominated as the new Duke’s lieutenants. The Prince of Wales was excluded altogether. He took this very badly. He withdrew in high dudgeon to his estates in the Midlands to confer with his supporters and to discuss the wider implications. There were worrying signs of a broader assault on his position by his father’s councillors. An investigation was launched into his stewardship of the finances of Calais which concluded that he had retained large sums due to the garrison. There were even rumours that they were pressing the King to disinherit him, presumably in favour of Thomas. Whether there was any truth in these rumours is unclear but the Prince and his friends believed them and resolved upon a show of strength. On 17 June Henry of Monmouth issued an extraordinary public manifesto from Coventry in which he presented a highly tendentious account of recent events, denied the accusations that had been made against him and protested his support for the campaign in France. His father’s councillors were denounced as ‘sons of iniquity, disciples of dissension, supporters of schism, disseminators of ill-feeling and fomentors of discord’. At the end of June the Prince appeared in London accompanied by a great number of prominent friends and an intimidating personal retinue to demand the punishment of his detractors. He probably hoped to pressure his father into replacing his councillors. If so he was disappointed. The King fobbed him off with a promise to refer the matter to the next Parliament and in the end the issue was dropped.

Reports of these events reached France garbled and late. The Duke of Burgundy was of course aware of the Armagnac mission to London from Jacques Legrand’s intercepted papers. But the first that he knew about its outcome was in the middle of June when a copy of a letter from Henry IV to the Four Members of Flanders was brought to him at Bourges. The letter, written from Westminster shortly before the treaty was finalised, referred to the offers that the Armagnacs had made to him and informed the Four Members of his plans for military operations in conjunction with the Armagnac princes. Invoking the Anglo-Flemish truce Henry called on the Flemings to withhold all assistance from the Duke of Burgundy in his military enterprises in France. A few days later one of the Prince of Wales’s chaplains arrived in the Burgundian camp at Bourges bearing an apologetic letter from his master reporting what had happened and telling John that he was unable in the circumstances to take their current negotiations any further. The details were filled in by Jean de Kernezn. His report, addressed to Charles VI from England, must have reached the camp at Bourges in early July. ‘Make speed to complete your operations,’ he wrote, ‘for the English army is assembling and their fleet is ready to sail for France.’

The arrival of an English army outside Bourges would have transformed the military balance. The Duke of Anjou and the Count of Penthièvre, who were John the Fearless’s principal allies among the higher nobility, were on their way to reinforce him with about 2,500 men. Even so the combined forces of the English, the garrison of Bourges and the troops of Arthur de Richemont and Charles of Orléans would have outnumbered them. In a pitched battle the formidable corps of 3,000 longbowmen would probably have been decisive. The Duke of Burgundy was forced to abandon his policy of unconditional surrender and settle with the Duke of Berry before the English arrived. A short truce was agreed. The Dukes of Berry and Burgundy met in a carefully prepared enclosure in an atmosphere redolent of mutual distrust. The two sides were separated by a timber barrier. The Duke of Berry appeared in chain mail and helmet, sword and axe in hand. ‘I admit that I have done wrong,’ he is reported to have said to his nephew, his eyes full of tears, ‘but you have unquestionably done worse.’ As he left he added: ‘In your father’s time we never needed a barrier between us like this.’ ‘It is not my doing,’ John replied. The negotiations which followed extended over several days and divided both sides. Among the Armagnacs in the city there was the familiar division between those who were mainly concerned to recover their confiscated property and their lost status in government and those whose main purpose was to avenge the murder of Louis of Orléans. There were some who wanted to hang on until the English arrived. Others thought that reliance on these dangerous auxiliaries was shameful and preferred to do without their help. The Duke of Berry’s chancellor, who must have known the truth, denied point-blank that there was any agreement with the English. Some of the defenders, determined to wreck the negotiations, ignored the truce and led sorties into the Burgundian camp while the negotiations were in progress. As for the Burgundians there were many things to set them against each other. Some agreed with the Dauphin and the Duke of Bar that the war had lasted too long. Some wondered whether the capture of Bourges was still feasible. Some were fanatics who were determined to insist on unconditional surrender. Some had received grants of property confiscated from the Armagnacs which they were unwilling to surrender as part of any deal with them.

In the end the Duke of Burgundy prevailed by sheer obduracy and force of personality. On 12 July his staff sent a document into the town containing a summary of the terms that he would accept. It was a short and partisan document which gave John everything that he wanted except for the public humiliation of the Duke of Berry. Both sides bound themselves to adhere to the ‘hollow peace’ of Chartres. The Armagnacs were to surrender Bourges and to open all their other garrisoned fortresses to the King’s officers. They were also to renounce ‘any treaty or alliance that they are said to have made with the English’ and any other alliance directed against the Duke of Burgundy. In return the Duke of Burgundy and his allies promised very little. They would to do their best, they said, to persuade Charles VI to restore the offices and property of which the Armagnacs had been despoiled. The defenders of Bourges were given until three o’clock on the following afternoon, 13 July, to accept. As the appointed hour approached Charles VI stood in front of the walls in full armour in the burning heat, the Oriflamme flying from a lance beside him and his entire army drawn up in lines across the plain at his back. Inside the city the Armagnac princes were still arguing about the terms. Finally they decided to reject them. But the Duke of Berry was as determined as John the Fearless. He sent a message to the King accepting them. It was the King’s last public appearance for three months. At some time in the next few hours, as the heralds passed through the camp announcing the cease-fire, the King relapsed into his old illness after his longest and most active period of lucidity for many years. Yet even in this period of relative coherence Charles had contributed little to the decision to fight the Duke of Berry and nothing to the decision to make peace with him. His only function now was to dignify the grubby decisions of other men. That at least he had done.

For the Duke of Burgundy it was a remarkable outcome considering the weakness of his position just a week earlier. On 16 July 1412 the Duke of Berry presented the keys of the city to the Dauphin. The formalities were completed in the hamlet of Argenvières on the banks of the Loire opposite La Charité, where the Duke of Burgundy had withdrawn with the King and the Dauphin to escape the foetid air around Bourges. Here, a week later on 22 July, the Armagnac leaders who had been present at the siege swore the customary oaths to observe the terms of peace. They were joined by emissaries from Charles of Orléans and his brothers, who undertook on their behalf to be bound by them as well. They then set about burying as best they could their embarrassing treaty with the English. A letter was issued in the King’s name annulling it and commanding the Armagnac princes to renounce it. The Dukes of Berry and Bourbon and Charles d’Albret then sealed letters to Henry IV and the Prince of Wales citing the King’s command and declaring that they considered themselves to be released.

The Great Inca Rebellion – The Siege of Cuzco I

As always, the Spaniards’ first reaction to a disturbance with the Indians was to try to seize the initiative. Hernando sent his brother Juan with seventy cavalrymen – virtually every horse then in Cuzco – to disperse the Indians in the Yucay valley. While riding across the plateau of rolling grassy hills that separates the valley of Cuzco from that of Yucay, they met the two Spaniards who had been with Manco. These had been beguiled by him into leaving when he continued towards Lares, and they were now returning in all innocence to Cuzco, unaware of any native rebellion. The first sight of the magnitude of the opposition came when Pizarro’s men appeared at the brow of the plateau and looked down at the beautiful valley beneath them. This is one of the loveliest views in the Andes; the river below winds across the broad flat floor of the valley, whose rocky sides rise as abruptly as the fantastic scenery in the background of a sixteenth-century painting. The slopes are tightly contoured with neat lines of Inca terraces, and above them, in the distance, the snowy peaks of the Calca and Paucartambo hills shine brilliantly in the thin air. But now the valley was filled with native troops, Manco’s own levies from the area around Cuzco. The Spaniards had to fight their way across the river, swimming their horses. The Indians retreated on to the slopes and allowed the cavalry to occupy Calca, which they found full of a great treasure of gold, silver, native women and baggage. They occupied the town for three or four days, with the natives harassing the sentries at night but making no other attempt to drive them out. The reason for this was appreciated only when a horseman from Hernando Pizarro galloped in to recall the cavalry with all possible speed; for irresistible hordes of native troops were massing on all the hills around Cuzco itself. The cavalry force was harassed continuously on the return journey, but succeeded in entering the city, to the relief of the remaining citizens.

‘As we returned we found many squadrons of warriors continuously arriving and camping in the steepest places around Cuzco to await the assembly of all [their men]. After they had all arrived, they camped on the plain as well as on the hills. So many troops came there that they covered the fields. By day they looked like a black carpet covering everything for half a league around the city of Cuzco, and by night there were so many fires that it resembled nothing less than a very clear sky filled with stars.’ This was one of the great moments of the Inca empire. With their genius for organisation, Manco’s commanders had succeeded in assembling the country’s fighting men and in arming, feeding and marching them to the investiture of the capital. All this had been done despite the fact that the empire’s communications and supply depots were disrupted, and without giving any warning to’ the astute and suspicious foreigners occupying the land. All the Spaniards were taken by surprise by the mobilisation at their gates, and were staggered by its size. Their estimates of the numbers opposing them ranged from 50,000 to 400,000, but the accepted figure by the majority of chroniclers and eyewitnesses was between 100,000 and 200,000.

The great colourful steam-roller of native levies closed in from every horizon around Cuzco. Titu Cusi wrote with pride that ‘Curiatao, Coyllas, Taipi and many other commanders entered the city from the Carmenca side … and sealed the gate with their men. Huaman-Quilcana and Curi-Hualpa entered on the Condesuyo side from the direction of Cachicachi and closed a great gap of over half a league. All were excellently equipped and in battle array. Llicllic and many other commanders entered on the Collasuyo side with an immense contingent, the largest group that took part in the siege. Anta-Aclla, Ronpa Yupanqui and many others entered on the Antisuyo side to complete the encirclement of the Spaniards.’

The native build-up around Cuzco continued for some weeks after the return of Juan Pizarro’s cavalry. The warriors had learned to respect Spanish cavalry on level ground, and they kept to the slopes. The royal general Inquill was in charge of the encircling forces, assisted by the high priest Villac Umu and a young commander Paucar Huaman. Manco maintained his headquarters at Calca.

Villac Umu pressed for an immediate attack, but Manco told him to wait until every last contingent had arrived and the attacking forces had become irresistible. He explained that it would do the Spaniards no harm to suffer confinement just as he had done: he himself would come to finish them off in due course. Villac Umu was distressed by the delay, and even Manco’s son criticised his father for it. But Manco was applying Napoleon’s dictum that the art of generalship is to come to battle with a force vastly superior to the enemy’s. He thought that his warriors’ only hope against the Spanish cavalry lay in overwhelming numbers. Villac Umu had to content himself with occupying Cuzco’s citadel, Sacsahuaman, and with destroying the irrigation canals to flood the fields around the city.

The Spaniards inside Cuzco were suffering just as much anxiety as Manco had hoped. There were only 190 Spaniards in the city, and of these only eighty were mounted. The entire burden of the fighting fell on the cavalry, for the ‘greater part of the infantry were thin and debilitated men’. Both sides agreed that a Spanish infantryman was inferior to his native counterpart, who was far more nimble at this high altitude. Hernando Pizarro divided the horsemen into three contingents commanded by Gabriel de Rojas, Hernán Ponce de León and his brother Gonzalo. He himself was Lieutenant-Governor, his brother Juan was corregidor, and Alonso Riquelme, the royal treasurer, represented the Crown.

At the outset, while the native forces were still massing, the Spaniards tried their tactic of charging out into the thick of the enemy. This met with far less success than usual. Many Indians were killed, but the crush of fighting men stopped the onrush of the horses, and once the Indians saw that the cavalry was thoroughly embroiled they turned on it with savage determination. A group of eight horsemen fighting around Hernando Pizarro saw that it was being surrounded and decided to retreat to the city. One man, Francisco Mejia, who was then alcalde or mayor of the city, was too slow. The Indians ‘blocked his horse and grabbed at him and the horse. They dragged them about a stone’s throw away from the other Spaniards, and cut the heads off [Mejia] and off his horse, which was a very handsome white horse. The Indians thus emerged from this first engagement with a distinct gain.’

This success against cavalry on level ground greatly emboldened the attackers. They moved closer to the city until they were camped right up against the houses. In the tradition of intertribal warfare, they tried to demoralise the enemy by jeering and shouting abuse and by ‘raising their bare legs at them to show how they despised them’. Such skirmishes took place every day, with great courage shown on either side but no appreciable gains.

Finally on Saturday, 6 May, the feast of St John-ante-Portam-Latinam, Manco’s men launched their main attack. They moved down the slope from the fortress and advanced along the steep, narrow lanes between Colcampata and the main square. Many of these alleys still end in long flights of steps between whitewashed houses and form one of the most picturesque corners of modern Cuzco. ‘The Indians were supporting one another most effectively, thinking that it was all over. They charged through the streets with the greatest determination and fought hand-to-hand with the Spaniards.’ They even succeeded in capturing the ancient enclosure of Cora Cora which overlooked the northern corner of the square. Hernando Pizarro appreciated its importance and had fortified it with a palisade the day before the Indian onslaught. But his infantry garrison was driven out by a dawn attack.

If the horse was the Spaniards’ most effective weapon, the sling was undoubtedly the Indians’. Its normal missile was a smooth stone about the size of a hen’s egg, but Enriquez de Guzman claimed that ‘they can hurl a huge stone with enough force to kill a horse. Its effect is almost as great as [a shot from] an arquebus. I have seen a stone shot from a sling break a sword in two when it was held in a man’s hand thirty yards away.’ In the attack on Cuzco the natives devised a deadly new use for their slingshots. They made the stones red-hot in their camp fires, wrapped them in cotton and then shot them at the thatched roofs of the city. The straw caught fire and was burning fiercely before the Spaniards could even understand how it was being done. ‘There was a strong wind that day, and as the roofs of the houses were thatch it seemed at one moment as if the city were one great sheet of flame. The Indians were shouting loudly and there was such a dense cloud of smoke that the men could neither hear nor see one another…. They were being pressed so hard by the Indians that they could scarcely defend themselves or come to grips with the enemy.’ ‘They set fire to the whole of Cuzco simultaneously and it all burned in one day, for the roofs were thatch. The smoke was so dense that the Spaniards almost suffocated: it caused them great suffering. They would never have survived had not one side of the square contained no houses and no roofs. Had the smoke and heat come at them from all sides they would have been in extreme difficulty, for both were very intense.’ Thus ended the Inca capital: stripped for Atahualpa’s ransom, ransacked by Spanish looters, and now burned by its own people.

From the captured bastion of Cora Cora the Indian slingers kept up a withering fire across the square. No Spaniard dared venture on to it. The besieged were now cornered in two buildings facing each other at the eastern end of the square. One was the great galpón or hall of Suntur Huasi, on the site of the present cathedral, and the other was Hatun Cancha, ‘the large enclosure’, where many of the conquistadores had their plots. Hernando Pizarro was in charge of one of these structures and Hernán Ponce de León of the other. No one dared to move out of them. ‘The barrage of slingshot stones coming in through the gateways was so great that it seemed like dense hail, at a time when the heavens are hailing furiously.’ ‘The city continued to burn on that and the following day. The Indian warriors became confident at the thought that the Spaniards were no longer in a position to defend themselves.’

By extraordinary chance, the thatched roof of Suntur Huasi itself did not catch fire. An incendiary projectile landed on the roof. Pedro Pizarro said that he and many others saw this happen: the roof started to burn and then went out. Titu Cusi claimed that the Spaniards had Negroes stationed on the roof to extinguish the flames. But to other Spaniards it seemed a miracle, and by the end of the century it became established as such. The seventeenth-century writer Fernando Montesinos said that the Virgin Mary appeared in a blue cloak to extinguish the flames with white blankets, while St Michael was by her side fighting off devils. This miraculous scene became a favourite subject for religious paintings and alabaster groups, and a church called the Triunfo was built to commemorate this extraordinary escape.

The Spaniards were becoming desperate. Even Manco’s son Titu Cusi felt a touch of pity for these conquerors: ‘They secretly feared that those were to be the last days of their lives. They could see no hope of relief from any direction, and did not know what to do.’ ‘The Spaniards were extremely frightened, because there were so many Indians and so few of them.’ ‘After six days of this strenuous work and danger the enemy had captured almost all the city. The Spaniards now held only the main square and a few houses around it. Many ordinary people were showing signs of exhaustion. They advised Hernando Pizarro to abandon the city and look for some way to save their lives.’ There were frequent consultations among the weary defenders. There was desperate talk of trying to break the encirclement and reach the coast via Arequipa, to the south. Others thought that they should try to survive inside Hatun Cancha, which had only one entrance. But the leaders decided that the only thing to do was to fight back, and if necessary die fighting.

In the confused street fighting the natives were resourceful and ingenious. They evolved a series of tactics to contain and harass their terrible adversaries; but they could not produce a weapon that could kill a mounted, armoured Spanish horseman. Teams of Indians dug channels to divert Cuzco’s rivers into the fields around the city, so that the horses would slip and sink into the resulting mire. Other natives dug pits and small holes to trip the horses when they ventured on to the agricultural terraces. The besiegers consolidated their advance into the city by erecting barricades in the streets: wicker screens with small openings through which the nimble warriors could advance to attack. Hernando Pizarro decided that these must be destroyed. Pedro del Barco, Diego Méndez and Francisco de Villacastín led a detachment of Spanish infantry and fifty Cañari auxiliaries in a night attack on the barricades. Horsemen covered their flanks while they worked, but the natives maintained a steady barrage from the adjoining roofs.

The flat walls of Cuzco’s houses were exposed when the thatch was burned off in the first great conflagration. The natives found that they could run along the tops of the walls, out of reach of the horsemen charging below. Pedro Pizarro recalled an episode when Alonso de Toro was leading a group of horsemen up one of the streets towards the fortress. The natives opened fire with a bombardment of stones and adobe bricks. Some Spaniards were thrown from their horses and half buried in the rubble of a wall overturned by the natives. The Spaniards were only dragged out by some Indian auxiliaries.

With inventiveness born of desperation, the natives evolved another weapon against the Christians’ horses. This was the ayllu, or bolas: three stones tied to the ends of connected lengths of llama tendons. The twirling missile tangled itself around the horses’ legs with deadly effect. The natives brought down ‘most of the horses with this device, leaving almost no one to fight. They also entangled the riders with these cords.’ Spanish infantry had to run up to disengage the helpless cavalrymen, hacking the tough cords with great difficulty.

The besieged Spaniards survived the burning roofs, sling-shots, bolas and missiles of the Inca armies. They tried to counter each new native device. As well as destroying the street barricades, Spanish working parties smashed the flumes along which the natives were diverting the streams. Others tried to dismantle agricultural terraces so that the horses could ride up them, and they filled in the pits and traps dug by the attackers. They even began to recapture parts of the city. A force of Spanish infantry recaptured the redoubt of Cora Cora after a hard battle. In another engagement some cavalry fought its way under a hail of missiles to a square at the edge of the city, where another sharp fight took place.

The brunt of the Indian attacks came down the steep hillside below Sacsahuaman and on to the spur that forms the central part of Cuzco. Villac Umu and the other besieging generals had established their headquarters within the mighty fortress. Indians attacking from it could penetrate the heart of Cuzco without having to cross the dangerous level ground on other sides of the city. Hernando Pizarro and the besieged Spaniards deeply regretted their failure to garrison this fortress. They realised that as long as it remained in enemy hands their position in the roofless buildings of the city was untenable. They decided that Sacsahuaman must be recaptured at any cost.

Sacsahuaman – local guides have learned that they can earn a larger tip by calling it ‘saxy woman’ – lies immediately above Cuzco. But the cliff above Carmenca is so steep that the fortress needed only one curtain wall on the city side. Its main defences face away from Cuzco, beyond the brow of the cliff, where the ground slopes away to a small grassy plateau. On that side the top of the cliff is defended by three massive terrace walls. They rise above one another in forbidding grey steps, casing the hillside like the flanks of an armoured dreadnought. The three terraces are built in zigzags like the teeth of great saws, four hundred yards long, with no fewer than twenty-two salient and re-entrant angles on each level. Anyone trying to scale them would have to expose a flank to the defenders. The regular diagonal shadows thrown by these indentations add to the beauty of the terraces. But the feature that makes them so amazing is the quality of the masonry and the size of some of the blocks of stone. As with most Inca terrace walls, this is polygonal masonry: the great stones interlock in a complex and intriguing pattern. The three walls now rise for almost fifty feet, and excavations by the archaeologist Luis Valcárcel showed that ten feet more were once exposed. The largest boulders are on the lowest terrace. One great stone has a height of twenty-eight feet and is calculated to weigh 361 metric tons, which makes it one of the largest blocks ever incorporated into any structure. All this leaves an impression of masterful strength and serene invincibility. In their awe, the sixteenth-century chroniclers soon exhausted the mighty buildings of Spain with which to compare Sacsahuaman.

The ninth Inca, Pachacuti, started the fortress and his successors continued the work, recruiting the many thousands of men needed to manhandle the great stones into place. Sacsahuaman was intended to be more than a simple military fortress. Virtually the entire population of the unwalled city of Cuzco could have retreated within it during a crisis. At the time of Manco’s siege the crest of the hill behind the terrace walls was covered in buildings. Valcárcel’s excavations – made to mark the four-hundredth anniversary of the Conquest – revealed the foundations of the chief structures within Sacsahuaman. These were dominated by three great towers. The first tower, called Muyu Marca, was described by Garcilaso as having been round and containing a water cistern fed by underground channels. The excavations confirmed this description: its foundations consisted of three concentric circles of wall of which the outer was seventy-five feet in diameter. The main tower, Salla Marca, stood on a rectangular base, sixty-five feet long. Pedro Sancho inspected this tower in 1534 and described it as consisting of five storeys stepped inwards. Such height would have made it the Incas’ tallest hollow structure, comparable to the so-called skyscrapers of the pre-Inca Yarivilca culture along the upper Maranon. It was built of coursed rectangular ashlars, and contained a warren of small chambers, the quarters of the garrison. Even the conscientious Sancho admitted that’ the fortress has too many rooms and towers for one person to visit them all’. He estimated that it could comfortably house a garrison of five thousand Spaniards. Garcilaso de la Vega remembered playing in the labyrinth of its corbelled subterranean galleries during his boyhood in Cuzco. He felt that the fortress of Sacsahuaman could rank among the wonders of the world – and suspected that the devil must have had a hand in its extraordinary construction.

The Great Inca Rebellion – The Siege of Cuzco II

Manco Inca and other 3 soldiers with Spanish weapons during the rebellion.

The beleaguered Spaniards now decided that their immediate survival depended on the recapture of the fortress on the cliff above them. According to Murua, Manco’s relative and rival Pascac, who had sided with the Spaniards, gave advice about the plan of attack. It was decided that Juan Pizarro would lead fifty horsemen – the greater part of the Spaniards’ cavalry-in a desperate attempt to break through the besiegers and attack their fortress. Observers from the Indian side remembered the scene as follows:’ They spent the whole of that night on their knees and with their hands clasped [in prayer] at their mouths – for many Indians saw them. Even those on guard in the square did the same, as did many Indians who were on their side and had accompanied them from Cajamarca. On the following morning, very early, they all emerged from the church [Suntur Huasi] and mounted their horses as if they were going to fight. They started to look from side to side. While they were looking about in this way, they suddenly put spurs to their horses and at full gallop, despite the enemy, broke through the opening which had been sealed like a wall, and charged off up the hillside at breakneck speed.’ They broke through the northern Chinchaysuyo contingent under the generals Curiatao and Pusca. Juan Pizarro’s horsemen then galloped up the Jauja road, climbing the hill through Carmenca. They somehow broke and fought their way through the native barricades. Pedro Pizarro was in that contingent and recalled the dangerous ride, zigzagging up the hillside. The Indians had mined the road with pits, and the Spaniards’ native auxiliaries had to fill these in with adobes while the horsemen waited under fire from the hillside. But the Spaniards eventually struggled up on to the plateau and rode off to the north-west. The natives thought that they were making a dash for freedom, and sent runners across country to order the destruction of the Apurímac suspension bridge. But at the village of Jicatica the horsemen left the road and wheeled to the right, fought through the gullies behind the hills of Queancalla and Zenca, and reached the level plain below the terraces of Sacsahuaman. Only by this broad flanking movement were the Spaniards able to avoid the mass of obstacles that the Indians had erected on the direct routes between the city and its fortress.

The Indians had also used the few weeks since the start of the siege to defend the level ‘parade ground’ beyond Sacsahuaman with an earth barrier that the Spaniards described as a barbican. Gonzalo Pizarro and Hernán Ponce de León led one troop in repeated attacks on these outer enclosures. Some of the horses were wounded, and two Spaniards were thrown from their mounts and almost captured in the maze of rocky outcrops. ‘It was a moment when much was at stake.’ Juan Pizarro therefore attacked with all his men in support of his brother. Together they succeeded in forcing the barricades and riding into the space before the massive terrace walls. Whenever the Spaniards approached these they were greeted by a withering fire of slingshots and javelins. One of Juan Pizarro’s pages was killed by a heavy stone. It was late afternoon, and the attackers were exhausted by the day’s fierce fighting. But Juan Pizarro attempted one last charge, a frontal attack on the main gate into the fortress. This gate was defended by side walls projecting on either side, and the natives had dug a defensive pit between them. The passage leading to the gate was crowded with Indians defending the entrance or attempting to retreat from the barbican into the main fortress.

Juan Pizarro had been struck on the jaw during the previous day’s fighting in Cuzco and was unable to wear his steel helmet. As he charged towards the gate in the setting sun, he was struck on the head by a stone hurled from the salient walls. It was a mortal blow. The Governor’s younger brother, corregidor of Cuzco and tormentor of Inca Manco, was carried down to Cuzco that night in great secrecy, to prevent the natives learning of their success. He lived long enough to dictate a will, on 16 May 1536, ‘being sick in body but sound of mind’. He made his younger brother Gonzalo heir to his vast fortune, in the hope that he would found an entail, and left bequests to religious foundations and to the poor in Panama and his birthplace Trujillo. He made no mention of the native siege, and left nothing to the Indian woman from whom ‘I have received services’ and ‘who has given birth to a girl whom I do not recognise as my daughter.’ Francisco de Pancorvo recalled that ‘they buried him by night so that the Indians should not know he was dead, for he was a very brave man and the Indians were very frightened of him. But although the death of Juan Pizarro was [supposed to be] a secret, the Indians used to say “Now that Juan Pizarro is dead” just as one would say “Now that the brave are dead”. And he was indeed dead.’ Alonso Enríquez de Guzman gave a more materialistic epitaph: ‘They killed our Captain Juan Pizarro, a brother of the Governor and a young man of twenty-five who possessed a fortune of 200,000 ducats.’

On the following day the natives counter-attacked repeatedly. Large numbers of warriors tried to dislodge Gonzalo Pizarro from the hillock opposite the terraces of Sacsahuaman. ‘There was terrible confusion. Everyone was shouting and they were all entangled together, fighting for the hilltop the Spaniards had won. It looked as though the whole world was up there grappling in close combat.’ Hernando Pizarro sent twelve of his remaining horsemen up to join the critical battle – to the dismay of the few Spaniards left in Cuzco. Manco Inca sent five thousand reinforcements, and ‘the Spaniards were in a very tight situation with their arrival, for the Indians were fresh and attacked with determination.’ Below ‘in the city, the Indians mounted such a fierce attack that the Spaniards thought themselves lost a thousand times’.

But the Spaniards were about to apply European methods of siege warfare: throughout the day they had been making scaling ladders. As night fell, Hernando Pizarro himself led an infantry force to the top of the hill. Using the scaling ladders in a night assault, the Spaniards succeeded in taking the mighty terrace walls of the fortress. The natives retreated into the complex of buildings and the three great towers.

There were two individual acts of great bravery during this final stage of the assault. On the Spanish side Hernán’Sánchez of Badajoz, one of the twelve brought up by Hernando Pizarro as additional reinforcements, performed feats of prodigious panache worthy of a silent-screen hero. He climbed one of the scaling ladders under a hail of stones which he parried with his buckler, and squeezed into a window of one of the buildings. He hurled himself at the Indians inside and sent them retreating up some stairs towards the roof. He now found himself at the foot of the highest tower. Fighting round its base he came upon a thick rope that had been left dangling from the top. Commending himself to God, he sheathed his sword and started clambering up, heaving up the rope with his hands and stepping off from the smooth Inca ashlars with his feet. Half way up the Indians threw a stone ‘as big as a wine jar’ down on him, but it simply glanced off the buckler he was wearing on his back. He threw himself into one of the higher levels of the tower, suddenly appearing in the midst of its startled defenders, showed himself to the other Spaniards and encouraged them to assault the other tower.

The battle for the terraces and buildings of Sacsahuaman was hard fought. ‘When dawn came, we spent the whole of that day and the next fighting the Indians who had retreated into the two tall towers. These could only be taken through thirst, when their water supply became exhausted.’ ‘They fought hard that day and throughout the night. When the following day dawned, the Indians on the inside began to weaken, for they had exhausted their entire store of stones and arrows.’ The native commanders, Paucar Huaman and the high priest Villac Umu, felt that there were too many defenders inside the citadel, whose supplies of food and water were rapidly being exhausted. ‘After dinner one evening, almost at the hour of vespers, they emerged from the fortress with great élan, attacked their enemies and broke through them. They rushed with their men down the slope towards Zapi and climbed to Carmenca.’ Escaping through the ravine of the Tullumayo, they hurried to Manco’s camp at Calca to plead for reinforcements. If the remaining two thousand defenders could hold Sacsahuaman, a native counter-attack might trap the Spaniards against its mighty walls.

Villac Umu left the defence of Sacsahuaman to an Inca noble, an orejón who had sworn to fight to the death against the Spaniards. This officer now rallied the defenders almost single-handed, performing feats of bravery ‘worthy of any Roman’. ‘The orejón strode about like a lion from side to side of the tower on its topmost level. He repulsed any Spaniards who tried to mount with scaling ladders. And he killed any Indians who tried to surrender. He smashed their heads with the battle-axe he was carrying and hurled them from the top of the tower.’ Alone of the defenders, he possessed European steel weapons that made him the match of the attackers in hand-to-hand fighting. ‘He carried a buckler on his arm, a sword in one hand and a battle-axe in the shield hand, and wore a Spanish morrión helmet on his head.’ ‘Whenever his men told him that a Spaniard was climbing up somewhere, he rushed upon him like a lion with the sword in his hand and the shield on his arm.’ ‘He received two arrow wounds but ignored them as if he had not been touched.’ Hernando Pizarro arranged for the towers to be attacked simultaneously by three or four scaling ladders. But he ordered that the brave orejón should be captured alive. The Spaniards pressed home their attack, assisted by large contingents of native auxiliaries. As Manco’s son wrote, ‘the battle was a bloody affair for both sides, because of the many natives who were supporting the Spaniards. Among these were two of my father’s brothers called Inquill and Huaspar with many of their followers, and many Chachapoyas and Cañari Indians.’ As the native resistance crumbled, the orejón hurled his weapons down on to the attackers in a frenzy of despair. He grabbed handfuls of earth, stuffed them into his mouth and scoured his face in anguish, then covered his head with his cloak and leaped to his death from the top of the fortress, in fulfilment of his pledge to the Inca.

‘With his death the remainder of the Indians gave way, so that Hernando Pizarro and all his men were able to enter. They put all those inside the fortress to the sword-there were 1,500 of them.’ Many others flung themselves from the walls. ‘Since these were high the men who fell first died. But some of those who fell later survived because they landed on top of a great heap of dead men.’ The mass of corpses lay unburied, a prey for vultures and giant condors. The coat of arms of the city of Cuzco, granted in 1540, had ‘an orle of eight condors, which are great birds like vultures that exist in the province of Peru, in memory of the fact that when the castle was taken these birds descended to eat the natives who had died in it’.

Hernando Pizarro immediately garrisoned Sacsahuaman with a force of fifty foot-soldiers supported by Cañari auxiliaries. Pots of water and food were hurried up from the city. The high priest Villac Umu returned with reinforcements, just too late to save the citadel. He counter-attacked vigorously, and the battle for Sacsahuaman continued fiercely for three more days, but the Spaniards were not dislodged, and the battle was won by the end of May.

Both sides appreciated that the recapture of Sacsahuaman could be a turning point in the siege. The natives now had no secure base from which to invest the city, and they abandoned some of the outlying districts they had occupied. When the counter-attack on Sacsahuaman failed, the Spaniards advanced out of the citadel and pursued the demoralised natives as far as Calca. Manco and his military commanders could not understand why their vast levies had failed to capture Cuzco. His son Titu Cusi imagined a dialogue between the Inca and his commanders. Manco:’ You have disappointed me. There were so many of you and so few of them, and yet they have eluded your grasp.’ To which the generals replied, ‘We are so ashamed that we dare not look you in the face…. We do not know the reason, except that it was our mistake not to have attacked in time and yours for not giving us permission to do so.’

The generals might possibly have been right. Manco’s insistence on waiting for the entire army to assemble meant that the Indians lost the element of surprise they had preserved so brilliantly during the early mobilisation. It also meant that the professional commanders could not attack while the Spaniards had sent much of their best cavalry to investigate the Yucay valley. The hordes of native militia did not necessarily add much to the effectiveness of the native army. But Manco had clearly felt that as long as his men suffered a terrible handicap in weapons, armour and mobility, their only hope of defeating the Spaniards was by weight of numbers. The heavy, determined fighting of the first month of the siege showed that the Spaniards had no monopoly of personal bravery. Once again, it was their crushing superiority in hand-to-hand fighting and the mobility of their horses that won the day. The only arms in which the natives had parity were projectiles – slingshots, arrows, javelins and bolas – and prepared defences such as breastworks, terraces, flooding and pits. But projectiles and defences rarely succeeded in killing an armoured Spaniard, and the siege of Cuzco was a fight to the death.

Manco could also be criticised for not directing the attack on Cuzco in person. He apparently remained at his headquarters at Calca throughout the critical first month of the siege. He was using his authority and energies to effect the almost impossible feat of a simultaneous uprising throughout Peru, together with the feeding and supply of an enormous army. But the Inca’s presence was needed at Cuzco. Although there were plenty of imposing fighting men in the various contingents, the army lacked the inspiration of a leader of the stature of Chalcuchima, Quisquis or Rumiñavi.

The fall of Sacsahuaman at the end of May was by no means the end of the siege. Manco’s great army remained in close investiture of the city for a further three months. The Spaniards soon learned that the native attacks ceased for religious celebrations at every new moon. They took full advantage of each lull to destroy roofless houses, fill in enemy pits, and repair their own defences. There was fighting throughout this period, with great bravery displayed on either side.

One episode will illustrate the typical daily skirmishes. Pedro Pizarro was on guard duty with two other horsemen on one of the large agricultural terraces at the edge of Cuzco. At midday his commander, Hernán Ponce de León, came out with food and asked Pedro Pizarro to undertake another tour of duty as he had no one else to send. Pizarro duly grabbed some mouthfuls of food and rode out to another terrace to join Diego Maldonado, Juan Clemente and Francisco de la Puente on guard.

While they were chatting together, some Indian warriors approached. Maldonado rode off after them. But he had failed to see some pits the natives had prepared, and his horse fell into one. Pedro Pizarro dashed off against the Indians, avoiding the pits, and gave Maldonado and his horse, both badly injured, a chance to return to Cuzco. The Indians re-appeared to taunt the three remaining horsemen. Pizarro suggested ‘Come on, let’s drive these Indians away and try to catch some of them. Their pits are now behind us.’ The three charged off. His two companions turned half way along the terrace, and returned to their post, but Pizarro galloped on ‘impetuously lancing Indians’. At the end of the terrace the natives had prepared small holes to catch the horses’ hooves. When he tried to wheel, Pizarro’s horse caught its leg and threw him. One Indian rushed up and started to lead off the horse, but Pizarro got to his feet, went after the man and killed him with a thrust through the chest. The horse bolted, running off to join the other Spaniards. Pizarro now defended himself with his shield and sword, holding off any Indians who drew near. His companions saw his riderless horse and hurried to help him. They charged through the Indians, ‘caught me between their horses, told me to grab the stirrups, and took off at full speed for some distance. But there were so many Indians crowding around that it was useless. Wearied from all my armour and from fighting, I could not go on running. I shouted to my companions to stop as I was being throttled. I preferred to die fighting than be choked to death. So I stopped and turned to fight the Indians, and the two on their horses did the same. We could not drive off the Indians, who had become very bold at the thought that they had taken me prisoner. They all gave a great shout from every side, which was their normal practice when they captured a Spaniard or a horse. Gabriel de Rojas, who was returning to his quarters with ten horsemen, heard this shout and looked in the direction of the disturbance and the fighting. He hurried there with his men, and I was saved by his arrival, although badly wounded by the stone and spear blows inflicted by the Indians. I and my horse were saved in this way, with the help of our Lord God who gave me strength to fight and to endure the strain.’

Gabriel de Rojas received an arrow wound in one of these skirmishes: it went through his nose as far as his palate. Garcia Martin had his eye knocked out by a stone. One Cisneros dismounted, and the Indians caught him and cut off his hands and feet. ‘I can bear witness’, wrote Alonso Enriquez de Guzman, ‘ that this was the most dreadful and cruel war in the world. For between Christians and Moors there is some fellow-feeling, and it is in the interests of both sides to spare those they take alive because of their ransoms. But in this Indian war there is no such feeling on either side. They give each other the cruellest deaths they can imagine.’ Cieza de Leon echoed this. The war was ‘fierce and horrible. Some Spaniards tell that a great many Indians were burned and impaled…. But God save us from the fury of the Indians, which is something to be feared when they can give vent to it!’ The natives had no monopoly of cruelty. Hernando Pizarro ordered his men to kill any women they caught during the fighting. The idea was to deprive the fighting men of the women who did so much to serve and carry for them. ‘This was done from then onwards, and the stratagem worked admirably and caused much terror. The Indians feared to lose their wives, and the latter feared to die.’ This war on the women was thought to have been one of the chief reasons for the slackening of the siege in August 1536. On one sortie Gonzalo Pizarro encountered a contingent from the Chinchaysuyo and captured two hundred of them. ‘The right hands were cut off all these men in the middle of the square. They were then released so that they would go off. This acted as a dreadful warning to the rest.’

Such tactics added to the demoralisation of Manco’s army. The vast majority of the horde that massed on the hills around Cuzco were ordinary Indian farmers with their wives and camp followers – with few exceptions a thoroughly militia army, most of whose men had received only the rudimentary arms drill that was part of the upbringing of every Inca subject. Only part of this rabble was militarily effective, although the entire mass had to be fed. By August the farmers began drifting away to sow their crops. Their departure added to the attrition of heavy losses in every battle against the Spaniards. Weight of numbers was Manco’s only effective strategy, so the reduction of his great army meant that further operations against Cuzco might have to wait until the following year. But Cuzco was only one theatre of the national uprising. In other areas the natives were far more successful.

Siege of Ottoman-held Osijek


A medium-high oblique view of Osijek bridge, built in 1526 on the orders of Suleiman the Great, spanning the River Draba and surrounding marshes between Osijeck and the Fortress of Dada to the north. This very considerable feat of engineering earned the Turks a freedom of manoeuvre which was denied to

the Austrians. Oriented with north-north-east to top. Habsburg-Ottoman Wars (Fourth Austro-Turkish War) (1663-4).

The bridge was 7 km (4.3 miles) long and 6 metres 20 ft wide. Its strategic importance lay in the easy access it gave Ottoman troops into western Europe, notably towards Vienna. The event shown in this print was the partially successful attempt to destroy the bridge by burning by the Ban [viceregal governor under the Habsburgs] of Croatia from 1647-1664, Nicholas VII of Zrin (Miklós Zrínyi; Croatian: Nikola Zrinski, 1620-64) – the ‘Conte Nicolo di Sd’rin’ in the text of this print. The objective of this assault, made on 1 February early in the 1664 campaign season, was to impede Ottoman access to Vienna.

The bridge was destroyed by the Austrian army some twenty-two years later in 1686: see RCIN 724135.

After seven years of war and the failed Siege of Vienna in 1529, the Treaty of Konstantiniyye was signed, in which John Zápolya was recognized by the Austrians as King of Hungary as an Ottoman vassal, and the Ottomans recognized Habsburg rule over Royal Hungary.

This treaty satisfied neither John Zápolya nor Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, whose armies began to skirmish along the borders. Ferdinand decided to strike a decisive blow in 1537 at John, thereby violating the treaty.

Despite the second failed attempt at capturing Vienna, the Ottoman’s and Austrians signed a peace treaty, which recognised the Kingdom of Hungary as an Ottoman vassal, as long as the Ottoman’s respected the regions of Hungary that had recognised Habsburg rule.

This peace deal did not end the war between the two rivals. The war would turn bloody again at the Siege of Osijek (1537), where Ferdinand and his massive Austrian army, which was well trained and equipped thanks to the success of his defending force at Koszeg, planned a massive blow to the Ottoman strong hold of Osijek. This attack would directly violate the treaty.

Ferdinand sent an army of 24,000 men (from Austria, Hungary, Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia, Tyrol, and Croatia) under the command of the Carniolan nobleman Johann Katzianer to take Osijek.

The siege came to nothing and because of the appearance of the Ottoman cavalry sent by the governor of Belgrade, the army had to withdraw. The Ottoman army reached the Austrians near the swamps of Gorjani, near Đakovo and Valpovo on the Drava river. The imperials were severely defeated and Katzianer fled with the cavalry and abandoned his army. The entire force was annihilated. At the Battle of Dakovo, the Austrian attempt would be futile, and faced a crushing defeat, leaving more than 25,000 Austrians dead or wounded and minimal loses to the Ottoman defensive force. Less than a year later at the Battle of Preveza, in 1538, the Ottoman army would again crush the Habsburg led coalition.

A reported 20,000 men were killed, including generals Ludwig Lodron and Pavle Bakić. Bakić’s severed head was taken to Constantinople.

Clement VII and the sack of Rome

Giulio de’ Medici, who finally emerged as Pope Clement VII in November 1523, was not only a tried administrator but a prelate hardened by much experience of armed conflict. As a youth in 1497 he had taken part in an attempt to restore the family to power in Florence; indeed, Guicciardini, commenting on this, remarked that he was more suited to arms than to the priesthood. He entered the crusading Order of Knights Hospitaller of St John, and joined the household of his cousin, Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici, accompanying him – and unlike him, avoiding capture – at the Battle of Ravenna in 1512. After Giovanni’s accession as Leo X Giulio was promoted to the cardinalate and office of Vice-Chancellor, and – as already mentioned – served as papal legate to the army in the campaign against Francis I in Lombardy in 1515 and in the war of Urbino. He took part in crusade planning in 1517 and in the Marche campaign in 1520, and was again legate to the army in the war in Lombardy in 1521. He continued to be active under Adrian VI, and in April 1522 was credited with defeating an attempted Bentivoglio coup at Bologna. The English ambassador at Rome reported (quoted here in his own words with archaic spelling),

Cardinal de Medicis, as legat of the said citie, made soche provision… that, the armye being within, with the aid of the peple issued out and slewe diverse of ther enemys…and put the whole [French and Bentivoglio] armye to flight so that the said Citie by the wisdom and diligence of the said Cardinall is savid for the Churche.

Yet after he became pope in November 1523 Giulio was for ever stamped – thanks to contemporary writers such as Guicciardini and Giovio, who observed him closely – with the reputation of timidity and vacillation. This was the pope who in May 1527 would have to face the sack of Rome, the gravest, most terrifying and humiliating challenge of armed force faced by any pope throughout the whole history of the papal monarchy, worse than in 1084, 1112, 1303, 1413, 1494 or indeed 1798 or 1870.

It could be argued that Clement lacked several of the indispensable qualities to be an effective Renaissance pope, and could do little about it. Of these essentials, he lacked first large resources of money. Second he lacked an aspiring and dependable son, nephew or other close male relative anxious to make a career in the Church or the papal state. His second cousin Giovanni Salviati, on whom Leo had conferred the red hat in 1517, was to prove quite able as a diplomatist, but he was probably too Florentine and parentally dominated to be potentially a Machiavellian new prince. It is worth noting, however, that Machiavelli had sent him a copy of his Art of War, about which the young cardinal wrote appreciatively in September 1521, assuring the author that the defects in organisation of modern armies, including the army of the Church, could be overcome by adopting his precepts. Another second cousin, Ippolito, who would become a cardinal in 1529, was altogether too young and too headstrong to fill the role of a prince within the papal state, and even he yearned in preference for power in Florence. Third, and most important of all Clement’s deficiencies, the second Medici pope lacked fortuna.

This third deficiency was most evident from the course of war in Italy in 1524–25 between the forces of Charles V and Francis I. Having at first continued cautiously to support the imperial cause, Clement, much influenced by Gianmatteo Giberti, his former secretary now promoted to a major post (‘datarius’) in the papal chancery, wavered and switched to France. How can this fatal step be explained? The Pope had of course pro-French tendencies going far back in his career, and may have been dazzled by Francis I’s successes in Lombardy in the autumn of 1524. He may even have had hopes, in spite of its dangers, about the foolhardy expedition to the south of James Stuart, Duke of Albany, or at least wanted to avoid exposing Rome to any threat from Albany’s large army. If only that adamant Swiss, Cardinal Schiner, had still been around, maybe Clement would have been dissuaded from switching to France, but Schiner had died at Rome in December 1522, a year before his former partner in anti-French campaigns became pope. An official agreement was signed with Francis in January 1525, but the timing could not have been worse, on account of the sensational defeat and capture of Francis in the Battle of Pavia at the end of February. This left Clement, by a stroke of extraordinarily bad luck, in a position of weakness from which it would take long to recover. Giberti, falling back on the argument that it was all a miraculous demonstration of God’s will, encouraged the cardinal legate, Giovanni Salviati, to send a note of congratulation to Charles V and express the Pope’s hope that peace would follow, that this was what he had always desired. In fact, a treaty negotiated with the Emperor and signed on his behalf by Lannoy, viceroy of Naples, seemed to give Clement almost all he could want. It included the guaranteed integrity of the papal state, with Reggio and Rubiera, which had been seized again by Alfonso d’Este during the long papal vacancy in autumn 1523, handed back, and Francesco II Sforza accepted as Duke of Milan. Unfortunately for Clement, nothing was done to implement this treaty.

After the Peace of Madrid, in January 1526, when Francis I was released from captivity, and in turn proceeded to break the terms that had been agreed, Clement again needed to act decisively. In a long letter or harangue addressed to him in March Guicciardini reproached him for not being as firm and astute as he had been as a cardinal, and insisted that decisive action could still save the situation and ‘liberate the Apostolic See and Italy from this atrocious and disgraceful servitude’. The Pope should act boldly, Guicciardini complained; for instance, he should retake Reggio ‘or play some trick on Cardinal Pompeo Colonna’, who was certainly the most aggressive, pro-imperial and ambitious member of the Sacred College. He (Clement) could yet emerge as ‘the most glorious pope in two hundred years’.

For brief periods Clement appeared to muster some strength. The signing in May 1526 of the Holy League of Cognac with Francis I, an avowedly aggressive alliance, seemed to signify a new beginning. In a letter of self-justification sent to the Emperor in June 1526 the Pope was emphatic that Charles should withdraw from Italy, reproaching him for the non-fulfilment of treaty obligations and his violations of papal territory including Parma, and his forcing Clement to seek other allies and to take arms in self-defence. In July Guicciardini, now commissary general of the papal army, saw that immediate action was imperative: a rapid move to capture Milan had every chance of victory over the unpaid, unprepared, numerically inferior imperial forces in Lombardy. That this did not happen seems to have been mainly the fault of the Duke of Urbino, who first hesitated because the Swiss troops had not arrived, and then, having made in July several unsuccessful attempts to attack Milan, retreated; in August and September he lost more time, in spite of receiving French reinforcements, by carrying on the fairly pointless siege of Cremona, then held by imperial forces.

Perhaps it would have made a difference if Clement VII had appointed a resolute cardinal legate to the army and applied himself with furious vigour, as Julius II would have done, to rallying the coalition and insisting on action. The blame, it has to be repeated, falls on the Duke of Urbino, that same Francesco Maria della Rovere who had failed his uncle Julius II in 1511 and been ousted from Urbino by Leo X, only to be reinstated in his dukedom under Adrian VI and – in spite of his known resentment against the Medici for the way they had treated him – reappointed Captain of the Church by Clement. Meanwhile, as well as losing the military initiative, Clement received a crushing reply to his ‘justification’, aimed at depriving him also of the moral high ground. This reply, handed to Castiglione on 18 September 1526, took the argument back to fundamentals, even playing the Lutheran card. The Pope, the Emperor insisted, had drawn the sword that Christ ordered Peter to put up. It was beyond belief for the vicar of Christ to acquire worldly possessions at the cost of even one drop of human blood. No one was coming to attack the Holy See, so there was no need of weapons or troops.

As for Guicciardini’s suggestion to play a clever trick on Cardinal Pompeo Colonna, Clement was instead the victim of an outrageous demonstration by that overpowerful dissident, who in spite of the above assurance did come to attack the Holy See, and moreover did so in the Emperor’s name. Pompeo had nearly been elected pope himself in 1523 but was finally persuaded to switch his votes (rather reminiscent of Ascanio Sforza in 1492) in exchange for the vice-chancellorship and other compensations; his fury at Clement’s desertion of the Emperor in 1525 and signing later of the League of Cognac led him to call an armed march on Rome by the Colonna and their supporters in September 1526. Here was a cardinal – not only that, but the Vice-Chancellor of the Church, head of the whole machinery of papal government – declaring war on the Pope: it was one of the most bizarre and anarchic episodes in a long trend of violent behaviour on the part of a secularised minority in the Sacred College. According to Paolo Giovio, whose biography of Pompeo was highly partisan and stressed his love of family and military honour, 8000 knights and 3000 infantry commanded by Pompeo’s brother were involved in this expedition, with artillery drawn by buffaloes and men, helped at difficult points by Pompeo himself.63 When they reached Rome the cardinal shut himself up in his palace, leaving his followers do as much damage as they could, looting and terrifying the inhabitants of Rome, though they did not succeed in laying hands on Clement.

The Pope took his revenge on the Colonna in November 1526 with a punitive campaign worthy of Alexander VI, demolishing their fortresses and devastating their lands. According to the papal bull condemning Pompeo, which was published in February 1527, the latter’s purpose had been to seize Clement, alive or dead, and to rule as pope in his place, apparently without election by his peers, or any other of the normal formalities. It is hard to imagine how on earth Pompeo can have justified to his conscience and his confessor this treasonable presumption, or justified using force in a manner more calculated to endanger than defend the Church. Though formally deprived of his cardinalate and other offices, he was not punished for long. In fact, he was soon needed to intercede on Clement’s behalf with much more fanatical enemies than himself, and give refuge to fellow cardinals and others in danger.

Meanwhile in September 1526 the Job-like Clement had also had to bear the shock of the Turkish victory at Mohács in Hungary, and news of the loss to Christendom of that country. Like Adrian and Leo before him when such tidings of disaster arrived, Clement declared that he himself would take part in a military expedition and as vicar of Christ was prepared to lay down his life. It was no clearer than the avowals of previous popes, whether he meant by this simply to be ready for martyrdom, or was prepared even to fall in combat. A war-planning council of five cardinals was set up, but it is fairly clear that the Pope’s distractions in Italy, quite apart from his shortage of money, meant that nothing would be done.

Worse than the Colonna raid was to come in the spring of 1527, with the League of Cognac coalition not only continuing to do nothing, but even failing to protect Rome from the mainly Spanish army advancing under the Duke of Bourbon’s command and the horde of Lutheran ‘landsknechts’ under George von Frundsberg. The latter were mercenary foot soldiers, first raised by the Emperor Maximilian in the early years of the century from the south German lowlands. Less disciplined than the Alpine Swiss on whom they were supposedly modelled, landsknechts were a brutal new phenomenon in European warfare. Armed with huge pikes and swords, swaggering in feathered hats and slashed breeches, inspired by Lutheran slogans but furious for want of food and wages, Frundsberg’s undisciplined troops were a terrifying prospect for Rome, even if the Spaniards, demoralised after Bourbon’s death, proved to be equally brutal and avaricious.

For all his military experience, Clement did not strike a heroic pose as he cowered in the Castel Sant’Angelo amid the horrors of the sack and the passive experience of hearing and watching Spanish sappers undermining it; one correspondent in Rome wrote in horrified anticipation of seeing ‘a pope and a whole flock of cardinals blown into the air by fire’. Most of the cardinals, those not with the Pope in the safety of the castle, fared much worse in the terrible months of May and June 1527, suffering torture and mockery to extort from them money and valuables, not only from the landsknechts but also from the Spanish captains whom some had paid handsomely for protection. Few offered physical resistance, in spite of their well-stocked armouries, guards and military retainers. An exception may have been Cardinal Giovanni Piccolomini, who probably considered himself untouchable, having a solidly pro-imperial and pro-German family background from his great uncle Pius II onwards. Nevertheless, according to one of the most reliable accounts – a letter of Cardinal Scaramuccia Trivulzio of Como to his secretary, sent later from Civitavecchia – Piccolomini suffered twice over. After he had bought off the Spaniards, the cardinal’s palace was then assaulted by landsknechts. Since the latter were said to have kept up the attack for four hours before the cardinal surrendered, it sounds as though there was counter-fire from within, and the dead piled up on both sides. Cardinal Piccolomini was paraded through the streets, bareheaded and in a shabby garment, kicked and punched and forced to make another ransom payment, before gaining refuge with Cardinal Pompeo Colonna.

In December 1527 Clement eventually bought his escape to Orvieto, and by then could again pin some hope on relief by the forces of the League of Cognac. For a French army, led by Odette de Foix, Vicomte de Lautrec, had gained much success in Lombardy and Emilia; early in 1528 it advanced down the Adriatic coast; it won many more victories before laying siege to Naples in April. There Lautrec was deadlocked. The city, defended by imperial forces, was still holding out in August when Lautrec himself died of disease; the remnants of his army had to withdraw northwards. Once again fortuna had been cruel to the Pope. Or had the papacy met its deserts as the victim of military force, hoist by its own petard after itself sponsoring so much war and slaughter?

The debate about the sack of Rome – whether it represented scandalous sacrilege and disaster or a providential judgement of God on a corrupted body – was only just beginning. One writer in the court of Charles V, Erasmus’s friend Juan de Valdés, made a pretty clear case for the latter point of view, in a polemical dialogue that attacked the whole concept of papal war and deplored all the horrors it had perpetrated. The protagonist, called Lactancio, is answered by an apologetic archdeacon, who uses the old argument of necessary defence of the Church; at one point he concedes, ‘I agree that all those things are very cruel, but the people of Italy would look down on a pope who didn’t wage war. They would think it a great insult if a single inch of Church land were lost.’

Whether or not there was any truth in the fictitious archdeacon’s assertion, it is paradoxical that, relatively soon after Clement VII’s return to Rome in October 1528 and reconciliation with Charles V in the Treaty of Barcelona (29 June 1529), the Pope seems to have recovered more purpose than he had shown for years. Charles, not without a tinge of remorse for what had happened, now stood as guarantor of both the papal lands in Italy and of a Medici principate in Florence, to replace the popular republic that had been set up there in 1527. After the successful imperial siege of Florence (1529–30) and final overthrowal of the republic, Clement endeavoured to take a strong line with cities in the papal state that had again tried to throw off papal rule during the period of crisis. Ancona was one example. On the strength of allegations that Ancona was threatened by Turkish naval attack – allegations strongly denied by the city’s own ambassadors – he sent a force to take it in 1532, suppressed the ancient civic constitution and appointed as cardinal legate and governor Benedetto Accolti. Archbishop of Ravenna and a papal secretary since 1523, Accolti had been made a cardinal in 1527, and commanded a troop of 4000 Spanish infantry in the siege of Florence. At Ancona he supervised the building of a new fortress complete with its own gun foundry, and his government was reputedly so oppressive that he was eventually removed and put on trial under Clement’s successor. His interests appear to be neatly expressed by the inventory of his possessions, drawn up after his arrest in 1535, where scarcely any devotional objects, books or works of art are listed (one of the few exceptions was a portrait of Julius II), but several swords and daggers and six or seven handguns.

Perugia also had to be dealt with. Clement appointed as legate in Umbria his second cousin Ippolito de’ Medici, the bastard son of Giuliano, Duke of Nemours, who had been raised to the purple at the age of eighteen in January 1529. The purpose of his legation was to dispossess Malatesta Baglioni of Perugia, who was then serving the republic of Florence as military commander against the besieging imperial and papal army. Ippolito never went there, and delegated the administration to a series of vice-legates, the first of whom in 1529–30 was Ennio Filonardi, Bishop of Veroli, but the condition of Perugia deteriorated and reached a point of crisis under Clement’s successor.

Ippolito de’ Medici’s opportunity for greater glory came in 1532 when he was sent as papal ambassador to Charles V’s brother Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and King of Hungary. Ippolito arrived in Ratisbon (modern Regensburg) with a retinue of five prelates, ten secretaries and an armed guard of thirty to forty gentlemen, most of whom were former military captains, and with 5000 ducats in hand with which to enrol troops. His office was extended to that of papal legate to Ferdinand’s army against the Turks in Hungary, and the Venetian ambassador reported on 1 September that he had set off by boat down the Danube accompanied by ten gunners (arquebusieri). Ippolito was described as ‘dressed like Jupiter’ – modified in a subsequent letter to ‘wearing military habit’. Unfortunately, a portrait by Titian showing him in full armour does not survive; Vasari mentions it in his life of the artist as painted at Bologna at the same time as the well-known portrait of the Cardinal in the costume of a Turkish warrior (which it seems unlikely that he was wearing on the above occasion). Ippolito intended to select horses at Vienna and proceed at once to the battlefront, but when he reached the imperial army, which was on full alert, the Turks on the other side of the river made no move. Eventually the campaign was called off and Ippolito was said to have expressed his disappointment with such rage that Ferdinand imprisoned him for a day. The Mantuan agent in Rome, Fabrizio Peregrino, whose graphic and opinionated dispatches will frequently be quoted in the following pages, heard of this episode and commented that Ippolito had wanted madly to play the part of a war captain (‘voleva pazzamente fare il capitano di guerra’). After the papal election in 1534 he quickly left the Apostolic Palace and planned to leave Rome altogether, according to Peregrino, to reduce the expense of maintaining so many military captains and bravi.