Battle of Garigliano (1503)
The Battle of Garigliano was fought on December 29, 1503 between a Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 army under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba known as The Great Captain, Duke of Terranova and Santangelo, Andria, Montalto and Sessa, also known as Gonzalo de Córdoba, Italian: Gonsalvo or Consalvo Ernandes di Cordova was a Spanish general fighting in the times of the Conquest of Granada and the Italian Wars...

 and a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 army commanded by Ludovico II
Ludovico II of Saluzzo
Ludovico II del Vasto was marquess of Saluzzo from 1475 until his death. Before his accession ar marquis he held the title of Count of Carmagnola....

, Marquis of Saluzzo
Marquisate of Saluzzo
The Marquisate of Saluzzo was an historical Italian state that included French and Piedmont territories on the Alps.-Marquisate territories:The Marquisate of Saluzzo occupied parts of the provinces of Cuneo and Turin, and at times areas now under French control. However, Saluzzo was historically...


Preliminary phase

In the mid-November 1503, the French and Spanish armies were separated by the Garigliano river, some 60 km north to Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

. Both armies camped in a marshy and unhealthy area. The Spanish had tried several times to cross the river using a makeshift bridge, but always in vain. The French, based at the rivers' mouth near the ruins of Minturnae (Traetto), enjoyed the advantage of an accessible supply-base in the nearby port of Gaeta
Gaeta is a city and comune in the province of Latina, in Lazio, central Italy. Set on a promontory stretching towards the Gulf of Gaeta, it is 120 km from Rome and 80 km from Naples....


While the Spanish commander hesitated as to whether to attack or to retreat, he received reinforcements from Naples led by Bartolomeo d'Alviano
Bartolomeo d'Alviano
Bartolomeo d'Alviano was an Italian condottiero and captain who distinguished himself in the defence of the Venetian Republic against the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian.-Biography:...

 and Orsini. He then decided to move some units in order to convince Ludovico that he was retreating towards the Volturno
The Volturno is a river in south-central Italy.-Geography:It rises in the Abruzzese central Apennines of Samnium near Rocchetta a Volturno and flows southeast as far as its junction with the Calore River near Caiazzo and runs south as far as Venafro, and then turns southwest, past Capua, to...

 river. But Cordoba had devised a stratagem to cross the river using bridges made out of boats and barrels, which he had built in the castle of Mondragone
Mondragone is a comune or municipality in the Province of Caserta in the Italian region of Campania. It is located about 45 km northwest of Naples and about 40 km west of Caserta.-History:...

, 12 kilometers south to the Spanish camp.

The battle

During the night between 27 and 28 December, the Spanish brought the bridging materials to a place near the castle of Suio
Suio is a frazione of Castelforte, a municipality in southern Latium, central Italy.-Overview:It is located on the northernmost slopes of the Monti Aurunci, near the Garigliano river, and is composed of two villages: Suio Paese , situated on a hill with a medieval castle, and Forma di Suio, at the...

, in a position invisible to the French, some six kilometers north to the latter's camp. D'Alviano, commander of the Spanish vanguard, had the construction begin at dawn. By 10 AM some 4,000 Spaniards had crossed the Garigliano.

The 300 Norman
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 crossbowmen in Suio did not notice the move, so Gonzalo de Cordoba was also able to cross the river with 2,000 more, including 200 horsemen led by Prospero Colonna
Prospero Colonna
Prospero Colonna , sometimes referred to as Prosper Colonna, was an Italian condottiero in the service of the Papal States and the Holy Roman Empire during the Italian Wars.-Biography:...

. He then ordered an attack on the French bridge. When d'Alviano troops reached Suio, the crossbowmen fled towards Castelforte
Castelforte is a town and comune in the province of Latina, in the Lazio region of central Italy. It is located at the feet of the Monti Aurunci massif.-History:Castelforte was founded most likely before the year 1000 AD...

, where they met 300 French troops. These also fled to Traetto, allowing d'Alviano to occupy Castelforte. Gonzalo de Cordoba spent the night in that town.

The French had numerous ill soldiers in their Traetto camp, so they were unable to send reinforcements. French captain Alegri then decided to destroy the bridge and to order a general retreat to Gaeta, abandoning all the sick soldiers and nine cannons in the camp.

Informed about the French retreat, Gonzalo decided to continue the advance. Colonna and his horsemen made contact with the French at Scauri, but a courageous defence of a bridge by Bernardo Adorno allowed the French a safe retreat. After a series of minor clashes, the French took position near a bridge in Mola where they were able to push back Colonna's attempt to surround them. However, the arrival of the rest of the Spanish forced the Marquis of Saluzzo to order another retreat.

After some days of siege in Gaeta, the French surrendered. Spain had therefore gained a total supremacy over the Kingdom of Naples that would last several centuries.

See also

  • Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard
    Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard
    Pierre Terrail LeVieux, seigneur de Bayard was a French soldier, generally known as the Chevalier de Bayard. Throughout the centuries since his death, he has been known as "the knight without fear and beyond reproach"...

    , the French knight who reportedly single-handedly defended the bridge of the Garigliano against 200 Spaniards.
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