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The Battle of Murten, 1476

Course of the Battle (2)

The Confederates formed three blocks for a frontal attack launched in several waves. While the vanguard comprised skirmishers (bows and arquebuses) and pikemen, the main body was made up of pikemen supported by halberdiers; the rearguard consisted of halberdiers.
The pikes (tipped with iron and up to 5.5 m long) were superior to the cavalry; however, they were exposed to the enemy artillery and the shower of arrows raining down from the archers and arbalesters. In close combat the halberd (approx. 1.8 m long, comprised of a metal axe blade topped with a spike with a hook on the back of the blade) was complemented by other pole weapons and batons. The arquebuses remained heavy and unwieldy (taking two to three minutes to load).

With the Confederates attacking unexpectedly, only some 2,000 men from Charles’s troops were in position. At first the frontal attack on the Grünhag and the artillery failed, but then a contingent of Swiss found a breach through the Burggraben (rift near Burg) and was able to overrun the Burgundian artillery and the archers through the flank. Finally the vanguard succeeded in breaking through the Grünhag and into the various camps. Only now was the Burgundian army in full alarm. Those, unlike Charles the Bold, who were unable to save themselves by taking flight, were killed in battle, in their camps or on the run.

The Burgundian army lost 10,000 to 12,000 men (out of approx. 22,000); the Confederates, lost around 400 out of an army of some 24,000, most of then killed in the frontal attack on the top of the Grünhag.

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