Military Wiki
Battle of Cascina
Date28 July 1364
LocationCascina, Province of Pisa, Tuscany, Italy
Result Florentine victory
Republic of Florence Republic of Pisa
Commanders and leaders
Galeotto Malatesta John Hawkwood
Hanneken von Baumgarten
15.000 (4.000 knights, 11.000 infantrymen)
Casualties and losses

The Battle of Càscina was an engagement between Pisan and Florentine troops on 28 July 1364 near Càscina, Italy. Florence's victory followed a recent defeat to Pisan forces that had enabled mercenary John Hawkwood, who was in command of the Pisan army, to travel the Valdinievole, Prato en route to looting Florence. Hawkwood and his army also looted the lucrative Mugello region and Pistoia before marching back towards Florence. Hawkwood fought alongside Hanneken von Baumgarten (Anichino/Annichino Bongarden/Bongarten) and had 3000 cuirassiers at his disposal.

Florence's defenses were organized by Enrico di Monforte. In addition to the city's garrison, Florence hired 11,000 infantrymen and 4,000 knights and placed them under the command of Galeotto Malatesta, as Pandolfo Malatestadisambiguation needed had recently been relieved of his command. Malatesta's forces engaged the Pisan contingent in the commune of San Savino to the southeast of Cascina, and gained a clear victory in the engagement.

Pisan forces incurred thousands of casualties in the battle and at least 2000 Pisan soldiers were captured. Malatesta's victory is credited[by whom?] to his flexible tactics and efficacious deployment of forces, including 400 crossbowmen under the command of Ricceri Grimaldi.

The dynamics

As reported in the chronicle of Filippo Villani, On 28 July, the Florentine army under the command of Galeotto Malatesta occurred outside of Cascina a few miles from Pisa. The road is free, but the temperature is unbearable. The armor of the warriors are a torture in the blazing sun, many remove them to get wet in the Arno river. The Captain is elderly and convalescing from fevers tertian and succumb to an afternoon nap, leaving the camp unguarded and the defense disorganized. Pisan spies refer the situation to his army led by the cunning John Hawkwood (Giovanni l'Acuto). But the Florentine camp is watched by Manno Donati and his friend Bonifacio Lupi, Marquis of Soragna. The fear of the approach of Hawkwood, make them give the alarm to the camp, until the Captain Malatesta, to continue its undisturbed rest, delegates the two fellows to organize any defenses. So Manno and Bonifacio prepare on the main road that goes to Pisa, in view of Abbey of San Savino, a group of armed Aretine and Florentine, flanked by 400 Genoese crossbowmen of Ricceri Grimaldi. Hawkwood in Florence taste the Florentine forces with three skirmishes to assess the direction of attack. Hawkwood, though, waits till the sun turns in his favor to dazzle the enemy and that the wind gets up from the sea to bring the dust of battle in the face of Florentine, but commits two errors that cost him the defeat: the distance of the road between the two armies is longer than calculated and the oppressive heat makes kilns of the his fighters' armor, mostly of English and German origins, not used to fighting at that temperature and makes them sluggish and slow in their actions.

At the time of the attack, the Pisan army has the attack front line composed by English knights, followed by Pisan infantry and then by the commander with the bulk of his cavalry, temporarily dismounted. The rapid assault brings the English in the Florentine camp without making possible to organize the defense. However, the Florentines contained the impact of the assailants and, while the mass of defenders resisted, Manno Donati and his companions leave the field and attacked the Pisans on the right flank. The German cavalry of Florence, led by Enrico di Monforte, slows down the attack and punched through the lines to the rear of Pisa and the victuals. On the other hand, the Genoese crossbowmen, lurking among the house ruins and the roughness of the terrain, target the Pisans. Hawkwood quickly realize that the surprise attack has failed and, to not suffer losses to his company, withdraws the bulk of his Englishmen up to the walls of San Savino. The mass of Pisan pawns is then suddenly left to itself, becoming the subject of violent counterattack of the Florentines. The surrounding countryside is the scene of a fierce of hunt of Pisan infantrymen, now fugitives and defenseless. The road to Pisa is cleared: the city is at hand. But Malatesta was not prepared for a so complete victory and despite being asked by many to continue for the conquest of Pisa, he prefers to stop. He gathers troops and collect the prisoners, while the Englishmen took refuge in the Abbey of San Savino, where many of them will die from wounds in the following days. The next day they seek the dead and wounded scattered in the countryside: they are everywhere, in ditches, in the vineyards, the fields, many bodies were seen floating in the Arno driven by the current towards Pisa. The day has given more than 1000 dead and 2000 prisoners, those foreigners are immediately released, but as custom the Pisan ones are taken to Florence.

Paintings on this battle

Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pier Soderini to complete a celebrative painting of the Battle of Cascina to be placed in the Florentine Room of the Great Council (or Salone dei Cinquecento) of Palazzo Vecchio while Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to complete another painting on the opposite wall to celebrate the equally successful Battle of Anghiari.

Both the first and the second pictures of Alyssa do not exist because Michelangelo never executed it and because the one by Leonardo was immediately and irretrievably ruined soon after being supplemented with an innovative technique, but wholly unsuited, by its author.

Michelangelo prepared his cartoons in a hospital room of the Sant'Onofrio Dyers after payment of a monthly salary. The subject is the battle of 1364 and more precisely the moment when the Florentine soldiers, intent on swimming in the Arno river heard the trumpet, which warned them of the imminent Pisan attack. In this scene, Buonarroti drew a crowd of naked bodies.[1] Unfortunately, the cartoon of the painting is lost, like that of the Leonardo painting of the Battle of Anghiari.

See also


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