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A Nobleman Lives for War, Plunder, and Adventure – Götz von Berlichingen (1480-1562)

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That is what happened. I rejoined my captain, and we rode to the lazar house [before Nuremberg] to see how things lay and what the Nurembergers intended to do, for Sir Paul von Absberg knew well what he was doing. But, you see, the Nurembergers were already mobilized in a large force with a cannon, and they fired at us once or twice. Then Sir Paul, and we with him, moved back as if we were retreating, for we wanted to hurry away, for we would not fare well in the forest. But the Nurembergers were already upon us with their cannon and wagon fort, and it happened that some of us did not linger, for not everyone can bear the rumble of approaching battle. And so we came to the place where the margrave had placed his force and formed into battle order, infantry and cavalry, to wait and see whether the enemy would pursue us, for we were quite near the city and not far inside Nuremberg Forest, which stood between them and us. And we had around 700 cavalry, 300 of the margrave’s militia, and 300 Swiss.

When the time was right, the Nurembergers moved against us with cannon, wagon fort, and cavalry, as many as they possessed, and not without skill ordered their wagon fort, cannon, and cavalry [for battle]. Just before the battle we and our captains sent to Margrave Casimir to ask that His Princely Grace should move forward to us, for if we gave way, they would come upon him, so he should move without delay. His Princely Grace replied that, in God’s name, we should go forward, and he would come to us and be there soon – as a proper prince should. So we went forward in God’s name, but the margrave’s rural levy immediately took flight, except for the Kitzingen company. We had about 300 lansquenets and 300 Swiss left, plus all the cavalry, with whom we moved against the enemy. Their cannonade was so heavy that we couldn’t see the troops for the smoke.

When we got as far as the wagon fort, they were trying to close it up. They almost pulled it off, for the teamsters were truly skillful and brave. My pounding heart told me, God put it into my mind, and my own reason saw the need, so I speared the leading teamster from his horse. I did so to prevent the wagon from advancing and to make the others halt. And with God’s help I stood my ground, without command or orders from my captain, so they could not close up the wagon fort, though they came very close to accomplishing the deed. And so my action brought our greatest advantage and was doubtless not unimportant to our victory and good fortune. Otherwise, I don’t know what might have happened, for they were too strong for us, and they would have faced us with the cannon and the wagon fort. But they were stopped, and we were exhausted.

[ . . . ]

The Peasants’ War

Many people know well that in this region a great peasants’ uprising took place, such as was never before known. My late brother, Hans von Berlichingen, wrote to me at the Hornberg that I should join him. Many peasants had assembled at Schöntal, and I should help him make sure they didn’t overcome him. Acting as a loyal brother, I joined him and convinced their captains to leave him in peace. Then the Deutschmeister (8) needed my service in the Weinsberg valley, so as a loyal neighbor I went to honor His Princely Grace and do his will, for I was very worried. I told His Princely Grace and his castellan in the Hornberg what I had learned, that the rebels had no cannon, not a single gun, with which to fire on our walls. Then I saw to it that Horneck was put in better order by some folk who held the house for me. Many people in this land know what the peasants did at Weinsberg (9). Next, the rebels moved down toward Horneck and took it without resistance. Although I was no longer in Palatine service, I wanted to serve His Electoral Grace (10) in this matter, so I wrote to [Palatine marshal] Wilhelm von Habern that he should give instructions as to what I should do, for I feared that the peasants, being so near, would attack me. I was also concerned for my wife, who was pregnant, and my children.

(8) Commander of the Teutonic Knights in the Empire – trans.
(9) On Easter Sunday (April 16) 1525, Weinsberg Castle in northern Württemberg surrendered to the peasant army of Jäcklin Rohrbach. Count Ludwig von Helfenstein, son-in-law to the late Emperor Maximilian I, and a number of other nobles in the garrison were made to run the gauntlet in lansquenet style. The “Weinsberg massacre,” as it was called, became the most notorious act of bloodletting committed by the rebels of 1525 – trans.
(10) Elector Palatine Ludwig V – trans.

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