Ars Bellica

Battles In Brief

Battle of Sant'Egidio

July 12, 1416

The opponents

Braccio da Montone ( Montone 1368 - L'Aquila 1424 )

Braccio da Montone is the name by which it is known the commander Andrea Fortebracci; birth from a noble family of Perugia (Fortebracci Oddo, his father, was born probably in Castle Montone), fought under Alberico Barbian. As he was Politically close to John XXIII against Ladislaus, he received the command of Bologna, and in 1416 took Perugia becoming its lord. Taking advantage of a conspiracy hatched in Rome for the papal seat, he occupied the city but was pull out of it by Sforza, who beat then in 1420, forcing to the peace Martin V, by whom he was appointed vicar of some papal territories. But that, was just a truce for the ambition of Braccio. After a successful intervention in the Neapolitan regions and after a renewed peace with the pope, he went against the city of L'Aquila, the key position of the papal domination. Martin V was able to raise a coalition, that included a large part of the italian states, against him, and, despite the sudden death of Sforza, the war was lost by Braccio, mortally wounded (June 1424) under the walls of the city. His political work was dissolved starting from his death, but his military ratio survived with the so-called "Bracceschi" commanders and warriors.

Carlo I Malatesta ( Rimini 1368 - Longiano 1429 )

Son of Galeotto, he was a commander for Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and when this latter died, he raise the Councils for support the successor Giovanni Maria. In fact, once Duke Gian Galeazzo died in 1402, he participated in the league against his sons, and, as vicar of the Church, prepared to gave back to the papal state the city Bologna, at that time in the hands of the Visconti. After some incursions into the territory of Parma, he tried to enter, with a betrayal in the city of Bologna, but was repulsed and pursued by militias of Facino Cane. However, he was able to get rid of them, forcing the enemy to retreat inside the walls of the city. In 1407 he was appointed guardian of his nephew Gianfrancesco Gonzaga of Mantua in leading the lordship, until he had the right age. He served as chief of the army against the Perugia's anrmy of Braccio da Montone, in 1416, but at the Battle of Sant'Egidio, on the Tiber, after eight hours of fierce fighting, seriously wounded, was taken prisoner. He served for the lordship of Florence against Filippo Maria Visconti, but in the battle of Zagonara 1424, near Faenza, once again fell into the hands of enemies. Conducted in Milan was treated with deference and vacated. He died in his own castle of Longiano in 1429, after his dominion flourished in businesses and industries, especially regarding the enlargement of the port on the Marecchia.

The genesis

In the early years of the fifteenth century, at the higher prestige among the leaders in Central senttentrionale arose the commander of Perugia, Braccio da Montone. His noble family, Fortebracci, was one of the most powerful families in Perugia. The place of origin of Fortebracci was the village of Montone, but since two centuries they had taken up residence in Perugia. Andrea Oddo of Fortebracci was born in 1368, one year before the Sforza, and already in its early years began to be called Braccio. Since its first military enterprise, where because of his impetuosity was taken prisoner, his courage and his audacity made him famous. But he had to spend a lot of time before he succeeded in becoming a great commander. This delay probably depended in part by his reckless ways that were not going to the genius elderly leaders under whom he had in the military. However, the most plausible reason was different: after 1390, the family of Fortebracci had come to quarrel with Michelotti, who had taken over in Perugia. The Fortebracci had to go in exile, losing their possessions of Montone. Braccio, therefore, could not have provided a place of recruitment and for much of his life was an exile and a leader of the exiles. Braccio was seriously wounded in the head in his second feat of arms, remaining for a time paralyzed. After that always walked with a limp. But his appearance was impressive, as he was taller than the average day, and that, if we listen to his contemporaries, to do all drown when he was among the others. With a little number of warriors, he served first under the orders of Alberigian Barbian and under the pay of Florence in the last decade of the fourteenth century, and again under Alberigo in 1405, but still only twelve spears. Whenever he had the opportunity, Braccio joined the exiles of Perugia with the idea of regain their lost position in the city and, because of its interest in Perugia, he easily and usually abandoned the service under who had hired him, so many times, that was really difficult for him to acquire a good reputation as a leader. So, at age of 37 Braccio, when Sforza was already one of the commanders in chief of the Florentine army, still had the rank of Chief of Cavalry. But in 1406 he decided that was the turning point of his career. After some lucky feats of arms with Alberigo (which earned him the respect and envy from colleagues) Braccio stood alone, determined to make his way. A series of transactions blackmail against some small towns, brought him money, and with this, he began to form his own company, the backbone of which, however, he always wanted formed by exiles from Perugia.

Roccacontrada (country of the Marches), during the year 1407 offered to him the lordship in exchange for protection from Lodovico Migliorati, so Braccio was finally able to obtain a stable base of operation. In the following years, he only looked to improve and enlarge his own company going from side to side in the conflict between Ladislaus and the Angevin-papal alliance. But at the center of his ambitions was always the city of Perugia, so he continued to lose many other chances to improve his own position. Unlike the Sforza, Braccio was always an independent leader, but his rage was not the aspiration to his own status, but was an aspiration to a particular state, his hometown, where he was determined to return only as Lord. In 1414, Pope John XXIII appointed Braccio as Captain General of the Church and Count of Montone. So he had reached a position that led him to act as a rival of Sforza, who was, at that time, at the head of the army of Naples. However it was not until two years later, in 1416, that came for Braccio the decisive hour. Being able to have great strength and using his authority as Captain General of the Church and at the same time taking advantage of the absence of papal authority in the State of the Church (beacuse of Council of Constance), Braccio launched the final assault to Perugia. The citizens called for aid Carlo Malatesta, who marched towards Perugia with an army of five thousand men. The clash happened in Sant'Egidio: it was not a big battle, if we look at the number of the involved soldiers, but it turned out decisive for Perugia, and was a unique demonstration of the military ratio methods of Braccio.

The battle

The secret tactics practiced by Braccio must be seen, as in the case of Sforza, in their ability to control over his own soldiers during combat. But the analogy between the two leaders ends here. Indeed Braccio felt useful to divide his army into many small teams to throw a few at a time in the thick of the fray. In doing so, not only it was easier to get under his personal control over the course of the battle, but also implement a rotation of forces available, which in this way, even during the fight, they could benefit from breaks to rest. It happened so that his soldiers fought fiercely for short periods of time and then yes portrayed giving way to a team rested. This, coupled with the natural audacity of Braccio, produced the speed in maneuvering and the value of his warriors, called "Bracceschi". In the battle of Sant'Egidio, which is being fought on a hot day in the middle of summer, Braccio had the foresight to deploy, just behind the lines, a large amount of water barrels. While the combat lasted for hours, his soldiers were thus able to be more refreshed and vigorous than those of Malatesta, who proceeded in close formation in accordance with a plan already prepared. It is significant that Carlo Malatesta, having placed his men in a large semicircle to lure the impetuous Bracceschi soldiers, and then close them in the middle, had retired to his tent behind the lines, because he thinked that once started the fighting, there were very few things left to do for him. Braccio escaped the too simple trap that Malatesta had prepared, kept under constant pressure all the enemy line, and finally, when he saw the enemy soldiers tired, and no longer able to maintain their cohesion on the field, he launched its reserves for the definitive breakthrough. Carlo Malatesta was overwhelmed by his own fleeing men and taken prisoners. Three hundred were left dead on the ground.

The aftermath

The Battle of Sant'Egidio made Braccio Lord of Perugia and of many neighboring towns. So he had created his own state, to which regiment he dedicated always part of the year for the rest of his life. In Perugia, erected many buildings and took his soldiers to the escavation of a channel that was used to drain the Umbrian plain, freeing it from stagnant water, conveyed in Trasimeno. Obviously, however, that his firsts thoughts were dedicated on the military defenses. To this end, he reorganized the Perugia's militia, proclaimed tournaments and the traditional "stone-throwing" that Perugia practiced on the streets: the goal was to keep up the military spirit of his subjects. His company was increasingly made up of only Umbrian and so it took the appearance of a national armed force. The company was never allowed to etiolate in idleness, because Braccio, every year, went on the field, to defend himself from the insistent pressure of Pope Martin V, or to participate in the wars of the kingdom of Naples against Sforza. Braccio was able to maintain its place intact, despite the action of the Pope to remove him. Finally, however, it was precisely the papal forces and Neapolitan joint to get the better of him in June 1424 near the Eagle.