7 Small Armies That Devastated Larger Foes

Illustration of the battle of Morgarten in the Chronicle of Diebold Schilling

1315 AD – The Battle of Morgarten

There is relatively little known about The Battle of Morgarten, but what we do know is that on November 15, 1315, a dispute broke out over the border between lands controlled by Duke Leopold I of Austria and the nearby Swiss. Duke Leopold formed an army of around 3,000 men with the intention of subduing the Swiss peasants.

The Swiss farmers, numbering around 1,000, knew that the Duke’s troops were coming, so they created a bottleneck along a narrow road by Lake Ageri. They also built a wall to hamper their advance and laid in wait on a narrow wooded ridge for the Austrian troops to arrive. When they arrived, a group of Swiss rained down rocks on them while another group attacked with halberds, a staff weapon with an ax-like head. Around 1,500 Austrian soldiers lay dead when the dust settled, while the Swiss suffered minimal casualties.

This victory would be one of the crucial moments that helped in the formation of the Swiss state. Their success encouraged other small democratic rural communities to work together to form a confederacy and bolstered the reputation of the Swiss halberdiers, one that would continue for several centuries.

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