Battle of Willersthal

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Battle of Willersthal
Part of Conquest of Joanusterre
Battle of Willersthal.png
Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow and East Goths do battle
Date23rd of August 1458
LocationWillersthal
Present day Vollardie, Yonderre
Result Decisive Obsidian Sparrow victory; East Gothic leadership crippled
Belligerents
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Order of the Obsidian Sparrow
East Gothic Tribes
Commanders and leaders
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Joanus de Martigueux
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Guillaume de Houicourt
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Hubert de Banor
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Geoffroy de Mortain

Widukind of Weferlingen 
Hermann of Hörning 

Einhard of Donn [POW]
Strength

1,500

  • 1,200 Knights
  • 300 Men-at-Arms

~12,800

Casualties and losses
40-145 killed, unknown wounded
Unknown but heavy

The Battle of Willersthal was the first major engagement of the Order of the Obsidian Sparrow's Northern Crusades that lead to its subsequent Conquest of East Gothica. It was fought in and around the valley of Willersthal near the market village of Willing.

Two months prior to the battle, the Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow had entered Eastern Gothica largely unopposed, proselytizing and christening their way in-land. Widukind of Weferlingen, Chief of the Wölkish tribe, amassed in response a major force of Gothic warriors to repulse the invasion.

Despite their numerical superiority, the East Goths were ultimately outmaneuvered and outclassed by their opponents. The Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow sported far better training and equipment than the Gothic warriors, whose largely footslogging force quickly found itself overrun by the mostly mounted knights.

Contemporary accounts

The Battle of Willersthal is well documented by at least eight contemporary accounts, four of which were eyewitnesses. Burgoignesc scribe Gilles Arsenault was the first to write of the battle in his tome On the Obsidian Sparrows and their Conquest of Gothica in the Name of God. Arsenault was present at Willersthal during the battle as an observer from the Obsidian Sparrow's wagon train. Other accounts include an autobiographical text by Guillaume de Houicourt who led the Obsidian Sparrow's Northern flank. The only known Gothic account of the battle is courtesy of the learned man Franz of Koltz, whose account is based on that of a local hunter who observed the battle and recounted it.

Willersthal within the borders of modern day Yonderre

Campaign


Setting

Battlefield

The precise location of the battle is widely agreed to be in the valley known as Willersthal east of the market village of Willing in the modern day county of Vollardie. This is corroborated by contemporary maps and accounts using the placename "Willersthal", and more rarely "Talle de Villerre".

Willersthal is a valley surrounded on the North and South sides by the tall foothills of the Vollardic mountains. The valley served as a passageway between the well-established market village of Willing and villages further to the East. The site at which the battle took place was a narrow strip of flatlands 700 yards across.

Deployment of the Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow

The leadership of the Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow met on the morning prior to the battle to discuss tactics. Mounted scouts had reported a massive Gothic war camp at the mouth of the valley, and the Knights were now preparing for battle. Burgoignesc scribe Gilles Arsenault attests that the Knights split their force in four. A central formation of Men-at-Arms would fight on foot flanked by three formations of mounted knights. Two of these formations were deployed to the Northern flank while the third under de Martigueux deployed to the South.

Deployment of East Gothic Forces

Widukind of Weferlingen was in charge of the majority of the Gothic Forces' battleplan as he was percieved as their premiere tactician. Widukind arranged the forces under him in an arrow-like formation in an effort to split his enemies in half and overwhelm them with his numbers. To accomplish this he sought to exploit the Sleidar warriors' deserved reputation as tenacious fighters and placed them at the point of his army under the command of their Chief Hermann of Hörning. Widukind's Wölkish fighters would follow beind the Sleidar while the warriors of the other tribes would cover the flanks.

Terrain

Fighting

Opening moves

de Houicourt's knights feign routing, luring the Sleidar into a reckless advance

As the Gothic force began moving, the knights under de Houicourt rode forward to meet them. After a brief skirmish with the Sleidar, de Houicourt's knights feigned a rout and fell back to the Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow's battleline. Just as they had hoped, the feign had worked and caused the Sleidar to advance recklessly ahead of the Gothic line, opening a major gap behind them. This opening was exploited by the forces of de Banor and de Martigueux, both of whose forces now skirmished with the Gothic flank units. Meanwhile the Sleidar were met head-on by the footmen under d'Mortain, locking them in fierce mêlée

Flanking action of de Houicourt and Sleidar rout

The Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow assault the Sleidar from three sides, routing them

The knights under de Houicourt were once more committed to battle as they charged the northern flank of the Sleidar force. de Houicourt's men fought their way into the Sleidar formation, causing mass panic and the Sleidar troops to rout within minutes. In the disorderly flight that ensued, Sleidar Chief Hermann of Hörning was cut down. Meanwhile, de Banor's knights were fighting the poorly-equipped Södlingar, whose already low morale deteriorated at the sight of routing Sleidars.

Similarly, de Martigueux's knights faced off against the Brünyar, whose warriors were infamous for their heavy armours. The Brünyar soon found themselves overrun and outmaneuvered entirely by de Martigueux's force, and so they too broke, with their Chief Einhard of Donn being taken prisoner.

Wodar and Wölkar commit to battle

The Wodar move to flank d'Mortain's force but are intercepted by mounted knights as d'Mortain's and de Houicourt's forces meet with the Wölkar

The Wodar and Wölkar found themselves pushed together by the mass of fleeing warriors, causing their response to be delayed. When they finally were able to commit to battle the Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow had had time to reorganize and rearrange themselves into their battleline. The footmen under d'Mortain pushed up once more to meet the Wölkar. The Wodar, whose force had been split in two to act as flank security for the Wölkar, moved to assault d'Mortain's footmen, but were countered on both ends of the battleline by their mounted enemies.

The Wölkar met with the forces of d'Mortain and de Houicourt. The ensuing mêlée was the cause of the majority of casualties suffered by the Knights of the Obsidian Sparrow. However, the Wodar soon broke and joined those who came before them in their disorganized retreat, causing a repeat of the previous mêlée involving the Sleidar wherein the Wölkar soon found themselves becoming enveloped by the knights, and thus the Wölkar too routed and fled the field. At the very beginning of the Wölkar rout, Widukind of Weferlingen, Chief of the Wölkar and de facto High Chief of East Gothica, was slain by the Estian knight Rémy Devereaux.

The Wodar flee the battlefield as the Knights move to flank Widukind's Wölkish force

Aftermath

Numbers at Willersthal

Willersthal today

See also