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    Chapter 37

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    Chapter 38
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    CHAPTER VII

    Brescia relieved by Sforza--His other victories--Piccinino is
    recalled into Lombardy--He endeavors to bring the Florentines to
    an engagement--He is routed before Anghiari--Serious disorders in
    the camp of the Florentines after the victory--Death of Rinaldo
    degli Albizzi--His character--Neri Capponi goes to recover the
    Casentino--The Count di Poppi surrenders--His discourse upon
    quitting his possessions.

    While these events were taking place in Tuscany, so little to the
    advantage of the duke, his affairs in Lombardy were in a still worse
    condition. The Count Francesco, as soon as the season would permit,
    took the field with his army, and the Venetians having again covered
    the lake with their galleys, he determined first of all to drive the
    duke from the water; judging, that this once effected, his remaining
    task would be easy. He therefore, with the Venetian fleet, attacked
    that of the duke, and destroyed it. His land forces took the castles
    held for Filippo, and the ducal troops who were besieging Brescia,
    being informed of these transactions, withdrew; and thus, the city,
    after standing a three years' siege, was at length relieved. The count
    then went in quest of the enemy, whose forces were encamped before
    Soncino, a fortress situated upon the River Oglio; these he dislodged
    and compelled to retreat to Cremona, where the duke again collected
    his forces, and prepared for his defense. But the count constantly
    pressing him more closely, he became apprehensive of losing either the
    whole, or the greater part, of his territories; and perceiving the
    unfortunate step he had taken, in sending Niccolo into Tuscany, in
    order to correct his error, he wrote to acquaint him with what had
    transpired, desiring him, with all possible dispatch, to leave Tuscany
    and return to Lombardy.

    In the meantime, the Florentines, under their commissaries, had drawn
    together their forces, and being joined by those of the pope, halted
    at Anghiari, a castle placed at the foot of the mountains that divide
    the Val di Tavere from the Val di Chiane, distant four miles from the
    Borgo San Sepolcro, on a level road, and in a country suitable for the
    evolutions of cavalry or a battlefield. As the Signory had heard of
    the count's victory and the recall of Niccolo, they imagined that
    without again drawing a sword or disturbing the dust under their
    horses' feet, the victory was their own, and the war at an end, they
    wrote to the commissaries, desiring them to avoid an engagement, as
    Niccolo could not remain much longer in Tuscany. These instructions
    coming to the knowledge of Piccinino, and perceiving the necessity of
    his speedy return, to leave nothing unattempted, he determined to
    engage the enemy, expecting to find them unprepared, and not disposed
    for battle. In this determination he was confirmed by Rinaldo, the
    Count di Poppi, and other Florentine exiles, who saw their inevitable
    ruin in the departure of Niccolo, and hoped, that if he engaged the
    enemy, they would either be victorious, or vanquished without
    dishonor. This resolution being adopted, Niccolo led his army,
    unperceived by the enemy, from Citta di Castello to the Borgo, where
    he enlisted two thousand men, who, trusting the general's talents and
    promises, followed him in hope of plunder. Niccolo then led his forces
    in battle array toward Anghiari, and had arrived within two miles of
    the place, when Micheletto Attendulo observed great clouds of dust,
    and conjecturing at once, that it must be occasioned by the enemy's
    approach, immediately called the troops to arms. Great confusion
    prevailed in the Florentine camp, for the ordinary negligence and want
    of discipline were now increased by their presuming the enemy to be at
    a distance, and they were more disposed to fight than to battle; so
    that everyone was unarmed, and some wandering from the camp, either
    led by their desire to avoid the excessive heat, or in pursuit of
    amusement. So great was the diligence of the commissaries and of the
    captain, that before the enemy's arrival, the men were mounted and
    prepared to resist their attack; and as Micheletto was the first to
    observe their approach, he was also first armed and ready to meet
    them, and with his troops hastened to the bridge which crosses the
    river at a short distance from Anghiari. Pietro Giampagolo having
    previous to the surprise, filled up the ditches on either side of the
    road, and leveled the ground between the bridge and Anghiari, and
    Micheletto having taken his position in front of the former, the
    legate and Simoncino, who led the troops of the church, took post on
    the right, and the commissaries of the Florentines, with Pietro
    Giampagolo, their captain, on the left; the infantry being drawn up
    along the banks of the river. Thus, the only course the enemy could
    take, was the direct one over the bridge; nor had the Florentines any
    other field for their exertions, excepting that their infantry were
    ordered, in case their cavalry were attacked in flank by the hostile
    infantry, to assail them with their cross bows, and prevent them from
    wounding the flanks of the horses crossing the bridge. Micheletto
    bravely withstood the enemy's charge upon the bridge; but Astorre and
    Francesco Piccinino coming up, with a picked body of men, attacked him
    so vigorously, that he was compelled to give way, and was pushed as
    far as the foot of the hill which rises toward the Borgo d'Anghiari;
    but they were in turn repulsed and driven over the bridge, by the
    troops that took them in flank. The battle continued two hours, during
    which each side had frequent possession of the bridge, and their
    attempts upon it were attended with equal success; but on both sides
    of the river, the disadvantage of Niccolo was manifest; for when his
    people crossed the bridge, they found the enemy unbroken, and the
    ground being leveled, they could manœuvre without difficulty, and the
    weary be relieved by such as were fresh. But when the Florentines
    crossed, Niccolo could not relieve those that were harassed, on
    account of the hindrance interposed by the ditches and embankments on
    each side of the road; thus whenever his troops got possession of the
    bridge, they were soon repulsed by the fresh forces of the
    Florentines; but when the bridge was taken by the Florentines, and
    they passed over and proceeded upon the road, Niccolo having no
    opportunity to reinforce his troops, being prevented by the
    impetuosity of the enemy and the inconvenience of the ground, the rear
    guard became mingled with the van, and occasioned the utmost confusion
    and disorder; they were forced to flee, and hastened at full speed
    toward the Borgo. The Florentine troops fell upon the plunder, which
    was very valuable in horses, prisoners, and military stores, for not
    more than a thousand of the enemy's cavalry reached the town. The
    people of the Borgo, who had followed Niccolo in the hope of plunder,
    became booty themselves, all of them being taken, and obliged to pay a
    ransom. The colors and carriages were also captured. This victory was
    much more advantageous to the Florentines than injurious to the duke;
    for, had they been conquered, Tuscany would have been his own; but he,
    by his defeat, only lost the horses and accoutrements of his army,
    which could be replaced without any very serious expense. Nor was
    there ever an instance of wars being carried on in an enemy's country
    with less injury to the assailants than at this; for in so great a
    defeat, and in a battle which continued four hours, only one man died,
    and he, not from wounds inflicted by hostile weapons, or any honorable
    means, but, having fallen from his horse, was trampled to death.
    Combatants then engaged with little danger; being nearly all mounted,
    covered with armor, and preserved from death whenever they chose to
    surrender, there was no necessity for risking their lives; while
    fighting, their armor defended them, and when they could resist no
    longer, they yielded and were safe.

    This battle, from the circumstances which attended and followed it,
    presents a striking example of the wretched state of military
    discipline in those times. The enemy's forces being defeated and
    driven into the Borgo, the commissaries desired to pursue them, in
    order to make the victory complete, but not a single condottiere or
    soldier would obey, alleging, as a sufficient reason for their
    refusal, that they must take care of the booty and attend to their
    wounded; and, what is still more surprising, the next day, without
    permission from the commissaries, or the least regard for their
    commanders, they went to Arezzo, and, having secured their plunder,
    returned to Anghiari; a thing so contrary to military order and all
    subordination, that the merest shadow of a regular army would easily
    and most justly have wrested from them the victory they had so
    undeservedly obtained. Added to this, the men-at-arms, or heavy-armed
    horse, who had been taken prisoners, whom the commissaries wished to
    be detained that they might not rejoin the enemy, were set at liberty,
    contrary to their orders. It is astonishing, that an army so
    constructed should have sufficient energy to obtain the victory, or
    that any should be found so imbecile as to allow such a disorderly
    rabble to vanquish them. The time occupied by the Florentine forces in
    going and returning from Arezzo, gave Niccolo opportunity of escaping
    from the Borgo, and proceeding toward Romagna. Along with him also
    fled the Florentine exiles, who, finding no hope of their return home,
    took up their abodes in various parts of Italy, each according to his
    own convenience. Rinaldo made choice of Ancona; and, to gain admission
    to the celestial country, having lost the terrestrial, he performed a
    pilgrimage to the holy sepulcher; whence having returned, he died
    suddenly while at table at the celebration of the marriage of one of
    his daughters; an instance of fortune's favor, in removing him from
    the troubles of this world upon the least sorrowful day of his exile.
    Rinaldo d'Albizzi appeared respectable under every change of
    condition; and would have been more so had he lived in a united city,
    for many qualities were injurious to him in a factious community,
    which in an harmonious one would have done him honor.

    When the forces returned from Arezzo, Niccolo being then gone, the
    commissaries presented themselves at the Borgo, the people of which
    were willing to submit to the Florentines; but their offer was
    declined, and while negotiations were pending, the pope's legate
    imagined the commissaries designed to take it from the church. Hard
    words were exchanged and hostilities might have ensued between the
    Florentine and ecclesiastical forces, if the misunderstanding had
    continued much longer; but as it was brought to the conclusion desired
    by the legate, peace was restored.

    While the affair of the Borgo San Sepolcro was in progress, Niccolo
    Piccinino was supposed to have marched toward Rome; other accounts
    said La Marca, and hence the legate and the count's forces moved
    toward Perugia to relieve La Marca or Rome, as the case might be, and
    Bernardo de Medici accompanied them. Neri led the Florentine forces to
    recover the Casentino, and pitched his camp before Rassina, which he
    took, together with Bibbiena, Prato Vecchio, and Romena. From thence
    he proceeded to Poppi and invested it on two sides with his forces, in
    one direction toward the plain of Certomondo, in the other upon the
    hill extending to Fronzole. The count finding himself abandoned to his
    fate, had shut himself up in Poppi, not with any hope of assistance,
    but with a view to make the best terms he could. Neri pressing him, he
    offered to capitulate, and obtained reasonable conditions, namely,
    security for himself and family, with leave to take whatever he could
    carry away, on condition of ceding his territories and government to
    the Florentines. When he perceived the full extent of his misfortune,
    standing upon the bridge which crosses the Arno, close to Poppi, he
    turned to Neri in great distress, and said, "Had I well considered my
    own position and the power of the Florentines, I should now have been
    a friend of the republic and congratulating you on your victory, not
    an enemy compelled to supplicate some alleviation of my woe. The
    recent events which to you bring glory and joy, to me are full of
    wretchedness and sorrow. Once I possessed horses, arms, subjects,
    grandeur and wealth: can it be surprising that I part with them
    reluctantly? But as you possess both the power and the inclination to
    command the whole of Tuscany, we must of necessity obey you; and had I
    not committed this error, my misfortune would not have occurred, and
    your liberality could not have been exercised; so, that if you were to
    rescue me from entire ruin, you would give the world a lasting proof
    of your clemency. Therefore, let your pity pass by my fault, and allow
    me to retain this single house to leave to the descendants of those
    from whom your fathers have received innumerable benefits." To this
    Neri replied: "That his having expected great results from men who
    were capable of doing only very little, had led him to commit so great
    a fault against the republic of Florence; that, every circumstance
    considered, he must surrender all those places to the Florentines, as
    an enemy, which he was unwilling to hold as a friend: that he had set
    such an example, as it would be most highly impolitic to encourage;
    for, upon a change of fortune, it might injure the republic, and it
    was not himself they feared, but his power while lord of the
    Casentino. If, however, he could live as a prince in Germany, the
    citizens would be very much gratified; and out of love to those
    ancestors of whom he had spoken, they would be glad to assist him." To
    this, the count, in great anger, replied: "He wished the Florentines
    at a much greater distance." Attempting no longer to preserve the
    least urbanity of demeanor, he ceded the place and all its
    dependencies to the Florentines, and with his treasure, wife, and
    children, took his departure, mourning the loss of a territory which
    his forefathers had held during four hundred years. When all these
    victories were known at Florence, the government and people were
    transported with joy. Benedetto de' Medici, finding the report of
    Niccolo having proceeded either to Rome or to La Marca, incorrect,
    returned with his forces to Neri, and they proceeded together to
    Florence, where the highest honors were decreed to them which it was
    customary with the city to bestow upon her victorious citizens, and
    they were received by the Signory, the Capitani di Parte, and the
    whole city, in triumphal pomp.
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