Swiss Heroes - George Upton

The Battle of Granson

For a time it appeared as if the death of Hagenbach were to remain unavenged. His brother, it is true, made some attempt at retaliation and laid waste parts of the country, but the cities felt secure behind their walls, and laughed at the threats of the Burgundians. Charles himself was occupied with other matters and had no time to punish the judges of his faithful servant. With his whole army of sixty thousand men he lay encamped for nine long months before the town of Neuss on the Lower Rhine, wasting his time and his forces in a vain endeavor to reduce its brave garrison to submission. The Emperor meanwhile collected an army and, crossing the Rhine, advanced to meet him. But Frederick had no intention of fighting; after a few skirmishes he deserted his allies, the King of France, Duke Rene of Lorraine, and the Swiss Confederates, and made peace with the Duke of Burgundy. Possibly he was not unwilling to abandon them to Charles's vengeance; moreover, Burgundy would thereby acquire valuable additions to her territory; and Burgundy—so ran the treaty—was to be the inheritance of Princess Maria, betrothed to the young Archduke Maximilian.

Charles's first move was to take possession of Lorraine, after which he marched into Switzerland and laid siege to Granson. A large part of his court had followed him to the camp, where the utmost luxury and extravagance prevailed. The Duke's table was laid with massive gold plate, the costliest wines were drunk from golden beakers, and the Burgundian knights and nobles vied with one another in splendor of display.

Far otherwise was it in the beleaguered town, where the wretched fare and scanty rations grew daily less, and still the promised relief did not appear. The commander lacked firmness and decision, moreover, while the garrison, which consisted chiefly of the soldiers that had formerly revolted at Brisach, looked back longingly on the flesh-pots of the Burgundian camp. Meanwhile the Confederates were assembling their forces with a deliberation strongly opposed by the more sagacious leaders, but they were powerless against the obstinate independence of the free Swiss. When the army finally moved to the relief of Granson, and was but a day's march from the enemy, it was only to learn that the town had already surrendered, and that the entire garrison had been hanged, in direct violation of the terms of the capitulation.

Overwhelmed with shame and fury at the consequences of their delay, they swore vengeance on the Duke; and the next day a battle was fought, in which the Burgundians were totally defeated and driven out of Switzerland in confusion, leaving the camp and all its treasures with four thousand wagon-loads of provisions in the hands of the Swiss. The first duty of the victors, however, was to bestow honorable burial on the murdered garrison. By tens and dozens the Burgundians had hanged them to the branches of trees,—here father and son or brothers side by side, there friends and relatives together. In solemn procession the bodies were borne to the monastery of the barefooted friars and laid in a common grave, each with his arms beside him, according to an old custom.

On the following morning the spoils were divided; and great was the amazement of the Confederates at the richness and splendor that everywhere met their gaze. Here, piled in great heaps, was the massive plate that had adorned the Duke's board at Treves; there stood the silver chair heavily inlaid with gold, valued at eleven thousand florins, in which he was wont to receive foreign envoys; Charles's headpiece, and his magnificent sword set with priceless gems: all these treasures were tossed about by the rough hands of the Switzers. Curious throngs forced their way into the royal pavilion and marvelled at the costly hangings interwoven with gold and silver, upon which were depicted scenes from Roman mythology. Upon the wall gleamed Burgundy's escutcheon, emblazoned with the cross of St. Andrew, and above it the Duke's proud motto, "I Watch." Watched? Aye, and lost! was but too plain.

"Who wants tin plates?" cried an honest countryman, contemptuously. "I have plenty of those at home," and he sold the silver plates that had fallen to his share for two silver groschen apiece; while an archer proudly exhibited a shirt of mail he had just received in exchange for a jewelled diadem, saying, "What could I have done with such trumpery?"

There you were wise, my friend," declared the dealer, who had willingly made the trade, for the crown was worth thirty thousand thalers; "and if any others find these shining things somewhat heavy to carry, come to me. I will give you good round coin for them."

"So? Then mayhap we may strike a bargain," said a Strassburger. "Would ten florins be too much for these twelve bright goblets? They are much too heavy for gold, but any one not knowing would easily buy them of you for that."

After the capture of Castle Granson


The trader weighed the cups in his hand. They might have been worth eighty marks in gold. "Truly they are heavy enough," he said doubtfully, "and I dare not overload my cart, for who knows what profitable bargains are yet to be made? Yet I would not have your ill will, and since it is you I will do the best I can for you. Come, let us say half a guilder apiece."

The Strassburger looked doubtfully at his companions. "If they should be gold, though—"

"Nay, be not a fool, Thomas. You are not likely to have another offer as good as that. What if they be really gold? Gold is as cheap here as hazel nuts with us at Martigny." At this the Strassburger hesitated no longer, but gladly pocketed his six guilders, and the trader went on his way.

"'Tis like the masqueraders at carnival time," he said to himself as he met a group of cowherds with costly garments of velvet, silk, and cloth of gold flung over their smock-frocks.

"Look at Ruodi! Is he not fine?" gleefully shouted one, pointing to the leader of the band, who wore on his head a costly cap with waving plumes, while upon his breast gleamed the gold chain of the noble order of the Golden Fleece. In another part of the camp a party of victorious Switzers quarrelled and shouted over some casks of Burgundy which they were drawing into gold and silver flagons. "Will you hold your good-for-nothing tongues or shall I read you a text?" shouted one drunken fellow, waving aloft the Duke's own prayer-book, bound in red velvet.

"Give us a song, Werni," cried several voices, "that will stop their noise. Come, strike up!"

"'Strike up—strike up!' That is easily said," growled Werni; "for my part I would rather drink than sing." Nevertheless he felt flattered by the challenge, and without further protest began:

"Your camp with all its treasures rare

Has fallen to the Switzers' share:

Oh fie! Duke Charles, for shame!

Yes—fie! Duke Charles, for shame!"

all joined in rousing chorus.

"Should such disgrace not break your pride,

Come back, fresh armies at your side,

We'll serve you just the same."

"We'll serve you just the same,"

echoed the singers enthusiastically. Then others gathering about the rude minstrel took up the strain, till far and wide resounded the triumphant notes of the ballad of the battle of Granson. How every heart swelled as Werni, hoarse and weary, concluded:

"The Confederation, whate'er betide,

Doth ever fast and firm abide,

As this day well bath proven;

The fame of Granson's martial band

Shall ring triumphant through the land,

With praises interwoven."