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    Chapter 35

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    Chapter 36
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    Francesco Sforza marches to assist the Venetians, and relieves
    Verona--He attempts to relieve Brescia but fails--The Venetians
    routed by Piccinino upon the Lake of Garda--Piccinino routed by
    Sforza; the method of his escape--Piccinino surprises Verona--
    Description of Verona--Recovered by Sforza--The duke of Milan
    makes war against the Florentines--Apprehensions of the
    Florentines--Cardinal Vitelleschi their enemy.

    When their demonstrations of gratitude had subsided, the Venetian
    senate, by the aid of Neri di Gino, began to consider the route the
    count ought to take, and how to provide him with necessaries. There
    were four several roads; one by Ravenna, along the beach, which on
    account of its being in many places interrupted by the sea and by
    marshes, was not approved. The next was the most direct, but rendered
    inconvenient by a tower called the Uccellino, which being held for the
    duke, it would be necessary to capture; and to do this, would occupy
    more time than could be spared with safety to Verona and Brescia. The
    third was by the brink of the lake; but as the Po had overflowed its
    banks, to pass in this direction was impossible. The fourth was by the
    way of Bologna to Ponte Puledrano, Cento, and Pieve; then between the
    Bondeno and the Finale to Ferrara, and thence they might by land or
    water enter the Paduan territory, and join the Venetian forces. This
    route, though attended with many difficulties, and in some parts
    liable to be disputed by the enemy, was chosen as the least
    objectionable. The count having received his instructions, commenced
    his march, and by exerting the utmost celerity, reached the Paduan
    territory on the twentieth of June. The arrival of this distinguished
    commander in Lombardy filled Venice and all her dependencies with
    hope; for the Venetians, who only an instant before had been in fear
    for their very existence, began to contemplate new conquests.

    The count, before he made any other attempt, hastened to the relief of
    Verona; and to counteract his design, Niccolo led his forces to Soave,
    a castle situated between the Vincentino and the Veronese, and
    entrenched himself by a ditch that extended from Soave to the marshes
    of the Adige. The count, finding his passage by the plain cut off,
    resolved to proceed by the mountains, and thus reach Verona, thinking
    Niccolo would imagine this way to be so rugged and elevated as to be
    impracticable, or if he thought otherwise, he would not be in time to
    prevent him; so, with provisions for eight days, he took the mountain
    path, and with his forces, arrived in the plain, below Soave. Niccolo
    had, even upon this route, erected some bastions for the purpose of
    preventing him, but they were insufficient for the purpose; and
    finding the enemy had, contrary to his expectations, effected a
    passage, to avoid a disadvantageous engagement he crossed to the
    opposite side of the Adige, and the count entered Verona without

    Having happily succeeded in his first project, that of relieving
    Verona, the count now endeavored to render a similar service to
    Brescia. This city is situated so close to the Lake of Garda, that
    although besieged by land, provisions may always be sent into it by
    water. On this account the duke had assembled a large force in the
    immediate vicinity of the lake, and at the commencement of his
    victories occupied all the places which by its means might relieve
    Brescia. The Venetians also had galleys upon the lake, but they were
    unequal to a contest with those of the duke. The count therefore
    deemed it advisable to aid the Venetian fleet with his land forces, by
    which means he hoped to obtain without much difficulty those places
    which kept Brescia in blockade. He therefore encamped before
    Bardolino, a fortress situated upon the lake, trusting that after it
    was taken the others would surrender. But fortune opposed this design,
    for a great part of his troops fell sick; so, giving up the
    enterprise, he went to Zevio, a Veronese castle, in a healthy and
    plentiful situation. Niccolo, upon the count's retreat, not to let
    slip an opportunity of making himself master of the lake, left his
    camp at Vegasio, and with a body of picked men took the way thither,
    attacked the Venetian fleet with the utmost impetuosity, and took
    nearly the whole of it. By this victory almost all the fortresses upon
    the lake fell into his hands.

    The Venetians, alarmed at this loss, and fearing that in consequence
    of it Brescia would surrender, solicited the count, by letters and
    messengers, to go to its relief; and he, perceiving that all hope of
    rendering assistance from the lake was cut off, and that to attempt an
    approach by land, on account of the ditches, bastions, and other
    defenses erected by Niccolo, was marching to certain destruction,
    determined that as the passage by the mountains had enabled him to
    relieve Verona, it should also contribute to the preservation of
    Brescia. Having taken this resolution, the count left Zevio, and by
    way of the Val d'Acri went to the Lake of St. Andrea, and thence to
    Torboli and Peneda, upon the Lake of Garda. He then proceeded to
    Tenna, and besieged the fortress, which it was necessary to occupy
    before he could reach Brescia.

    Niccolo, on being acquainted with the count's design, led his army to
    Peschiera. He then, with the marquis of Mantua and a chosen body of
    men, went to meet him, and coming to an engagement, was routed, his
    people dispersed, and many of them taken, while others fled to the
    fleet, and some to the main body of his army. It was now nightfall,
    and Niccolo had escaped to Tenna, but he knew that if he were to
    remain there till morning, he must inevitably fall into the enemy's
    hands; therefore, to avoid a catastrophe which might be regarded as
    almost fatal, he resolved to make a dangerous experiment. Of all his
    attendants he had only with him a single servant, a Dutchman, of great
    personal strength, and who had always been devotedly attached to him.
    Niccolo induced this man to take him upon his shoulders in a sack, as
    if he had been carrying property of his master's, and to bear him to a
    place of security. The enemy's lines surrounded Tenna, but on account
    of the previous day's victory, all was in disorder, and no guard was
    kept, so that the Dutchman, disguised as a trooper, passed through
    them without any opposition, and brought his master in safety to his
    own troops.

    Had this victory been as carefully improved as it was fortunately
    obtained, Brescia would have derived from it greater relief and the
    Venetians more permanent advantage; but they, having thoughtlessly let
    it slip, the rejoicings were soon over, and Brescia remained in her
    former difficulties. Niccolo, having returned to his forces, resolved
    by some extraordinary exertion to cancel the impression of his death,
    and deprive the Venetians of the change of relieving Brescia. He was
    acquainted with the topography of the citadel of Verona, and had
    learned from prisoners whom he had taken, that it was badly guarded,
    and might be very easily recovered. He perceived at once that fortune
    presented him with an opportunity of regaining the laurels he had
    lately lost, and of changing the joy of the enemy for their recent
    victory into sorrow for a succeeding disaster. The city of Verona is
    situated in Lombardy, at the foot of the mountains which divide Italy
    from Germany, so that it occupies part both of hill and plain. The
    river Adige rises in the valley of Trento, and entering Italy, does
    not immediately traverse the country, but winding to the left, along
    the base of the hills, enters Verona, and crosses the city, which it
    divides unequally, giving much the larger portion to the plain. On the
    mountain side of the river are two fortresses, formidable rather from
    their situation than from their actual strength, for being very
    elevated they command the whole place. One is called San Piero, the
    other San Felice. On the opposite side of the Adige, upon the plain,
    with their backs against the city walls, are two other fortresses,
    about a mile distant from each other, one called the Old the other the
    New Citadel, and a wall extends between them that may be compared to a
    bowstring, of which the city wall is the arc. The space comprehended
    within this segment is very populous, and is called the Borgo of St.
    Zeno. Niccolo Piccinino designed to capture these fortresses and the
    Borgo, and he hoped to succeed without much difficulty, as well on
    account of the ordinary negligence of the guard, which their recent
    successes would probably increase, as because in war no enterprise is
    more likely to be successful than one which by the enemy is deemed
    impossible. With a body of picked men, and accompanied by the marquis
    of Mantua, he proceeded by night to Verona, silently scaled the walls,
    and took the New Citadel: then entering the place with his troops, he
    forced the gate of S. Antonio, and introduced the whole of his
    cavalry. The Venetian garrison of the Old Citadel hearing an uproar,
    when the guards of the New were slaughtered, and again when the gate
    was forced, being now aware of the presence of enemies, raised an
    alarm, and called the people to arms. The citizens awaking in the
    utmost confusion, some of the boldest armed and hastened to the
    rector's piazza. In the meantime, Niccolo's forces had pillaged the
    Borgo of San Zeno; and proceeding onward were ascertained by the
    people to be the duke's forces, but being defenseless they advised the
    Venetian rectors to take refuge in the fortresses, and thus save
    themselves and the place; as it was more advisable to preserve their
    lives and so rich a city for better fortune, than by endeavoring to
    repel the present evil, encounter certain death, and incur universal
    pillage. Upon this the rectors and all the Venetian party, fled to the
    fortress of San Felice. Some of the first citizens, anxious to avoid
    being plundered by the troops, presented themselves before Niccolo and
    the marquis of Mantua, and begged they would rather take possession of
    a rich city, with honor to themselves, than of a poor one to their own
    disgrace; particularly as they had not induced either the favor of its
    former possessors, or the animosity of its present masters, by self-
    defense. The marquis and Niccolo encouraged them, and protected their
    property to the utmost of their power during such a state of military
    license. As they felt sure the count would endeavor to recover the
    city, they made every possible exertion to gain possession of the
    fortresses, and those they could not seize they cut off from the rest
    of the place by ditches and barricades, so that the enemy might be
    shut out.

    The Count Francesco was with his army at Tenna; and when the report
    was first brought to him he refused to credit it; but being assured of
    the fact by parties whom it would have been ridiculous to doubt, he
    resolved, by the exertion of uncommon celerity, to repair the evil
    negligence had occasioned; and though all his officers advised the
    abandonment of Verona and Brescia, and a march to Vicenza, lest he
    might be besieged by the enemy in his present situation, he refused,
    but resolved to attempt the recovery of Verona. During the
    consultation, he turned to the Venetian commissaries and to Bernardo
    de' Medici, who was there as commissary for the Florentines, and
    promised them the recovery of the place if one of the fortresses
    should hold out. Having collected his forces, he proceeded with the
    utmost speed to Verona. Observing his approach, Niccolo thought he
    designed, according to the advice he had received, to go to Vicenza,
    but finding him continue to draw near, and taking the direction of San
    Felice, he prepared for its defense--though too late; for the
    barricades were not completed; his men were dispersed in quest of
    plunder, or extorting money from the inhabitants by way of ransom; and
    he could not collect them in time to prevent the count's troops from
    entering the fortress. They then descended into the city, which they
    happily recovered, to Niccolo's disgrace, and with the loss of great
    numbers of his men. He himself, with the marquis of Mantua, first took
    refuge in the citadel, and thence escaping into the country, fled to
    Mantua, where, having assembled the relics of their army, they
    hastened to join those who were at the siege of Brescia. Thus in four
    days Verona was lost and again recovered from the duke. The count,
    after this victory, it being now winter and the weather very severe,
    having first with considerable difficulty thrown provisions into
    Brescia, went into quarters at Verona, and ordered, that during the
    cold season, galleys should be provided at Torboli, that upon the
    return of spring, they might be in a condition to proceed vigorously
    to effect the permanent relief of Brescia.

    The duke, finding the war suspended for a time, the hope he had
    entertained of occupying Brescia and Verona annihilated, and the money
    and counsels of the Florentines the cause of this, and seeing that
    neither the injuries they had received from the Venetians could
    alienate them, nor all the promises he had made attach them to
    himself, he determined, in order to make them feel more closely the
    effects of the course they had adopted, to attack Tuscany; to which he
    was strenuously advised by the Florentine exiles and Niccolo. The
    latter advocated this from his desire to recover the states of
    Braccio, and expel the count from La Marca; the former, from their
    wish to return home, and each by suitable arguments endeavored to
    induce the duke to follow the plan congenial to their own views.
    Niccolo argued that he might be sent into Tuscany, and continue the
    siege of Brescia; for he was master of the lake, the fortresses were
    well provided, and their officers were qualified to oppose the count
    should he undertake any fresh enterprise; which it was not likely he
    would do without first relieving Brescia, a thing impossible; and thus
    the duke might carry on the war in Tuscany, without giving up his
    attempts in Lombardy; intimating that the Florentines would be
    compelled, as soon as he entered Tuscany, to recall the count to avoid
    complete ruin; and whatever course they took, victory to the duke must
    be the result. The exiles affirmed, that if Niccolo with his army were
    to approach Florence, the people oppressed with taxes, and wearied out
    by the insolence of the great, would most assuredly not oppose him,
    and pointed out the facility of reaching Florence; for the way by the
    Casentino would be open to them, through the friendship of Rinaldo and
    the Count di Poppi; and thus the duke, who was previously inclined to
    the attempt, was induced by their joint persuasions to make it. The
    Venetians, on the other hand, though the winter was severe,
    incessantly urged the count to relieve Brescia with all his forces.
    The count questioned the possibility of so doing, and advised them to
    wait the return of spring, in the meantime strengthening their fleet
    as much as possible, and then assist it both by land and water. This
    rendered the Venetians dissatisfied; they were dilatory in furnishing
    provisions, and consequently many deserted from their army.

    The Florentines, being informed of these transactions, became alarmed,
    perceiving the war threatening themselves, and the little progress
    made in Lombardy. Nor did the suspicion entertained by them of the
    troops of the church give them less uneasiness; not that the pope was
    their enemy, but because they saw those forces more under the sway of
    the patriarch, who was their greatest foe. Giovanni Vitelleschi of
    Corneto was at first apostolic notary, then bishop of Recanati, and
    afterward patriarch of Alexandria; but at last, becoming a cardinal,
    he was called Cardinal of Florence. He was bold and cunning; and,
    having obtained great influence, was appointed to command all the
    forces of the church, and conduct all the enterprises of the pontiff,
    whether in Tuscany, Romagna, the kingdom of Naples, or in Rome. Hence
    he acquired so much power over the pontiff, and the papal troops, that
    the former was afraid of commanding him, and the latter obeyed no one
    else. The cardinal's presence at Rome, when the report came of
    Niccolo's design to march into Tuscany, redoubled the fear of the
    Florentines; for, since Rinaldo was expelled, he had become an enemy
    of the republic, from finding that the arrangements made by his means
    were not only disregarded, but converted to Rinaldo's prejudice, and
    caused the laying down of arms, which had given his enemies an
    opportunity of banishing him. In consequence of this, the government
    thought it would be advisable to restore and indemnify Rinaldo, in
    case Niccolo came into Tuscany and were joined by him. Their
    apprehensions were increased by their being unable to account for
    Niccolo's departure from Lombardy, and his leaving one enterprise
    almost completed, to undertake another so entirely doubtful; which
    they could not reconcile with their ideas of consistency, except by
    supposing some new design had been adopted, or some hidden treachery
    intended. They communicated their fears to the pope, who was now
    sensible of his error in having endowed the cardinal with too much
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