Second Battle of Seminara December 1502

During the Italian Wars, there were three battles at Seminara, in toe of the Calabrian peninsula. Most sources talk about the two Battles of Seminara on 28 June 1495 (Spanish loss) and 21 April 1503 (Spanish victory). Mallet and Shaw (2014) have an account of the battle of Seminara in late 1502 where the Spanish lose disastrously to the French. The Mallet and Shaw account mentioned Spanish reinforcements, like the 21 April 1503 battle, so I got terribly confused and thought this was an alternative version where the Spanish lose. Eventually I realised Mallet and Show are describing another battle entirely, fought in late November or December 1502, but at Seminara like the other two. In fact, I just had to turn the page and Mallet and Shaw explicitly called this encounter the “second Battle of Seminara” and a later battle the third. Other sources table about a similar encounter about this time but at Terranova (Prescott, 1962, 2016b) and the two may be the same battle. In fact the encounter at Terranova is more plausible as an account given it just involves reinforcements not the “combined Spanish forces”.


Battle

I guess the the date of the battle is December 1502. Mallet and Shaw (2014) refer to the reinforcements that arrived in late November 1502. They also mention what Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba does after the battle, “in the New Year” (p. 64). That kind of points to December.

Bernard Stewart, Lord d'Aubigny

Bernard Stewart, Lord d’Aubigny

Mallet and Shaw (2014) have little to say about the Second Battle of Seminara so I’ll include it all (p. 63):

D’Aubigny caught up with the combined Spanish forces at Seminara. Heavily outnumbered by the French and baronial men-at-arms, the Spanish men-at-arms were soon overcome, and their infantry, already struggling against the assaults of the Swiss, Gascon bowmen and the light horse, could not withstand the French heavy cavalry when they joined the attack. Many of the Spanish infantry were captured, although much of their cavalry did manage to escape.

This seems to reflect the account of the First Battle of Seminara (28 June 1495) although no mention is made of the Neapolitans present in the first battle. The trouble is nobody else mentions this battle. To all other authorities the Second Battle of Seminara was the one fought on 21 April 1503. And if Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, known to history as the Great Captain (El Gran Capitán), was present with the “combined Spanish forces” I suspect we’d know about it.


Encounter at Terranova

23 km from Seminara, by road, is a place called Terranova Sappo Minulio. Prescott (1962) does not mention a battle at Seminara in late 1502 but does mention a similar encounter at Terranova. This encounter has Bernard Stewart, Lord d’Aubigny, “Grand Constable of Naples”, and captain of the King’s Scottish Archers, with a large French force defeating a much smaller band of Spanish reinforcements. Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba was not present.

This is was Prescott (1962, p. 220) has to say:

At this time he [Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba] received the unwelcome tidings that a small force which had been sent from Spain to his assistance was surprised by D’Aubigny near Terranova, and totally defeated. This disaster was followed by the reduction of all Calabria, which the latter general, at the head of his French and Scottish gendarmerie, rode over from one extremity to the other without opposition.

Prescott (2016b) has slightly more to say about this:

At this time he received the unwelcome tiding that a small force which had been sent from Spain to his assistance, under Don Manuel de Benavides, and which had effected a junction with one much larger from Sicily under Hugo de Cardona, was surprised by D’Aubigny near Terranova, and totally defeated.

Prescott cites a number of sources for this which I should look up some time:

  • Zurita, Hist. del Rey Hernando, tom. i. lib 5 p. 294.
  • D’Auton, Hist. de Louys XII., part. 2, chap 22
  • Chronica del Gran Capitan, cap. 63

Of course I have no clear evidence that the encounter at Terranova is the same as the “Second Battle of Seminara” in Mallet and Shaw (2014). However, linking the two actions reduces the defeat from catastrophic (“combined Spanish forces”) to problematic (small force not under Gonsalvo’s direct command). I like to think when Mallet and Shaw talk about the combined Spanish forces they mean the combined reinforcements from Spain and Sicily.


Map


Order of Battle

Mallet & Shaw (2014), citing Sanuto, IV, 372, provide a detailed list of troops in the kingdom of Naples, from late November 1502.

French in the Kingdom of Naples Autumn 1502

In late November 1502 the French had the following in the Kingdom of Naples (Mallet & Shaw, 2014):

  • around 1,200 lances
  • 3,000 mounted archers
  • 6,000 infantry

Nemours, responding to a request for help from the Calabrian Barons, also sent D’Aubigny with reinforcements (Mallet & Shaw, 2014):

  • 100 lances
  • 1,500 Swiss Infantry

That gave D’Aubigny a combined force at the Second Battle of Seminara, including both French and Neapolitan Barons, of (Mallet & Shaw, 2014):

  • 400 men-at-arms
  • 600 light horse
  • Over 5,000 infantry

Spanish in the Kingdom of Naples Autumn 1502

The Spanish had a lot of men in the Kingdom of Naples in the Autumn of 1502 (Mallet & Shaw, 2014):

  • 420 men-at-arms
  • 170 mounted crossbowmen
  • 250 light horse
  • 5,000 infantry

In addition the Spanish received reinforcements through autumn and early winter from Spain, Sicily and Rome (Mallet & Shaw, 2014):

Spanish Reinforcements

  • 200 men-at-arms
  • 300 light horse
  • 3,000 infantry

Conclusion

Mallet and Shaw (2014) say the “combined Spanish forces” were at the Second Battle of Seminara. This can’t be true as Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba had the majority in Barletta. I’m inclined to believe Prescott (1962) observation, about an encounter of a similar time and nature and probably second Seminara, where the Spanish had just a “small force” comprised solely of the reinforcements. That would give the French roughly twice the number of men, in all arms, and would explain the disastrous results.


References

Mallet, M., & Shaw, C. (2014). The Italian Wars 1494-1559: War, State and Society in Early Modern Europe. London: Routledge.

Prescott, W. H. (1962). History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic, of Spain. New York: The Heritage Press. [Originally published 1837].

Prescott, W. H. (2016b). History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic, of Spain- Volume 2. Wallachia Publishers. [Originally published 1837].

2 comments to Second Battle of Seminara December 1502

  • Julian Donohoe

    lovely bit of research here, your efforts are much appreciated. Will you attempt to game this with your Tilley rules?

  • Steven Thomas

    Glad you like it Julian.

    We have been using DBA-RRR for the Great Italian Wars. Admittedly I’m become more and more disillusioned with them and have been contemplating doing my own DBA variant for the Italian Wars.

    Tilly’s Very Bad Day is designed for the Thirty Years War. Having said that Richard (doctorphalanx) has been encouraging me to bring the start date for these rules forward so we can play the Battle of Nieuport (1600) in the mid period of the Eighty Years War. Which is a slippery slope to going back even further to the early 80YW where Burgundian Gendarmes and Landsknecht pike blocks featured. And they also featured in the Italian Wars. so …

    But one step at a time.

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