Battle of Nancy

Battle of Nancy
Part of the Burgundian Wars
RenéDeux.jpg
"Rene takes the town of Nancy", by Pierre Jacobi (1519)
Date5 January 1477
Location
Outside the walls of Nancy, France
ResultDecisive Lorraine victory, Death of Charles the Bold, end of the Burgundian Wars, and dissolution of the Duchy of Burgundy
Belligerents
Bandera de Borgoña.svg Duchy of BurgundyLorraine Duchy of Lorraine, Early Swiss cross.svg Swiss Confederation
Commanders and leaders
Philip the Good Arms.svg Charles the Bold  

Lorraine Arms 1473.svg René II, Duke of Lorraine

Swiss mercenaries
Strength
2,000-8,000 men[1]Lorraine 10,000-12,000 men
Swiss 8,000-10,000 men[2]
Casualties and losses
Unknown, presumably near totalUnknown

The Battle of Nancy was the final and decisive battle of the Burgundian Wars, fought outside the walls of Nancy on 5 January 1477 by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, against René II, Duke of Lorraine, and the Swiss Confederacy.

René's forces won the battle, and Charles' mutilated body was found three days later.

Background

Charles was besieging the city of Nancy, capital of Lorraine, following its recapture by the forces of René II in 1476. Despite the harsh winter conditions, Charles was determined to bring the siege to an end at all costs as he was well aware that sooner or later René would arrive with a relieving army when the weather improved.

By late December René had gathered some 10,000-12,000 men from Lorraine and the Lower Union (of the Rhine). A Swiss army of 8,000[2]-10,000 men arrived to help out. René began his advance on Nancy early in January 1477, moving cautiously through the snow-covered landscape until they reached Nancy early on the morning of 5 January. Charles finally learned that René's army was indeed close by and drew up the bulk of his army in a strong defensive position south of Nancy on a heavily wooded slope behind a stream at the narrowest part of the valley down which he knew the Swiss would have to advance. The exact numbers available to Charles are hard to judge, but contemporary observers put the numbers between 2,000 and 8,000,[1] for even his household troops were by this stage well below strength, while most of the Ordonnance companies were at best only 50% of their theoretical strength.

Charles, as usual, deployed his troops to a precise battle plan despite the short notice he received of the approach of René's forces. The infantry companies and dismounted gendarme formed up in a large square formation with some 30 field guns in front at the top of the slope, while on either flank were mounted knights and coutilliers.

If Charles suffered from a lack of scouting, which had cost him so dearly at Morat (Murten) six months earlier, the same could not be said for the Allied army. Despite the driving snow cutting visibility to a few yards, the Allied scouts soon recognized that a frontal assault on the Burgundian position would be disastrous. The largely Swiss vanguard of 7,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry were instructed to attack from the right, while the principal thrust would come from the 8,000 infantry and 1,300 cavalry of the center, which was dispatched on a difficult circuitous march round the left flank, over thickly wooded snow-covered slopes out of view of the waiting Burgundians. The small rearguard of 800 handgunners acted as reserve.