First battle of Seminara, 28 June 1495

The battle of Seminara (28 June 1495) saw the first appearance of the great Spanish general Fernández Gonsalo de Cordoba in Italy, and was a rare defeat for him at the hands of the French (First Italian War).

In 1494 Charles VIII of France invaded Italy in an attempt to enforce the Angevin claim to the Kingdom of Naples, encouraged by Ludovico Sforza, duke of Milan. The powerful French army brushed aside what limited opposition there was on the way south, and early in 1495 Charles entered the city of Naples in triumph. Alfonso II, king of Naples, abdicated as the French approached, and his son Ferdinand was forced to flee to the court of his cousin Ferdinand II of Aragon and Sicily.

The rapid progress of Charles VIII worried the Italian powers, and they responded by forming an alliance against him. This included the Emperor Maximilian, Venice, Spain and even Milan, where Duke Ludovico had realised that his own position was now threatened.

Charles realised that he was in danger of being trapped in the south of Italy, and was soon on his way home. He didn't abandon his position in Naples. Gilbert, Duke of Montpensier, was left as regent, with a large part of Charles's army, including a force of Swiss pikemen.

The French in Naples were soon faced with a Spanish army. Queen Isabella appointed Gonsalo Fernández de Cordoba to command the expedition, and accompanied by Ferdinand of Naples he landed in Calabria.

His route to Naples was blocked by a French force under Bernard Stuart, Seigneur d'Aubigny, with an army that included the Swiss pikemen.

The Spanish ran into the French at Seminara. Fernández de Cordoba's Spanish troops were mainly sword and shield men, experienced in the fighting in Granada, but they were unable to cope with the Swiss pikemen, and were defeated.

The French got very little benefit from this victory. Ferdinand and Cordoba decided to attack Naples from the sea, and in early July the city welcomed them in. At about the same time Charles was fighting his way past an allied army at Fornovo (6 July 1495), and by the end of the year he was back in France. Montpensier held out for another year, before surrendering at Aversa in July 1496, and the last French possession in Naples, the fortress at Gaeta, surrendered in November.

The most significant result of the battle of Seminara was that it probably triggered Cordoba's reforms of the Spanish infantry. By the time he returned to action in Italy in the Second Italian War, the Spanish infantry was a major battle winning weapon.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (12 August 2014), First battle of Seminara, 28 June 1495, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_seminara_1495.html

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