Ulrich Ziegler was born near Innsbruck, Austria in 1495 as the only son of Rudolph and Johanna Ziegler. He labored as a brickmaker until his 18th birthday, when he joined Heilegensturm Fahnlein. Since then, he has marched with the Fahnlein and fought against Italians, French, Swiss, Rebel Germans and Ottoman Turks. He currently holds the rank of Feldwebel, who is responsible for command of the soldaten in battle. The campaign in which he fought most recently was the relief of the city of Vienna, which was besieged by the Turks. Frequent heavy rainfall and dedicated landsknecht defenders wore down the Turks, who retreated before Winter set in. He now performs recruitment efforts to restore the strength of Heiligensturm Fahnlein.
Chapter I, Venice
Ulrich Ziegler was born just south of Innsbruck in the year of our Lord 1495, only son to Rudolph Ziegler and his wife Johanna. In his youth, he labored as a brick-maker as his father and forefather did before him. He did this until just after his sixteenth birthday, when an opportunity arrived to work as an apprentice to the maille-maker of the newly built Armory of Innsbruck. He always admired the armor that his father kept from his service to the Emperor in Bohemia and Venice, so the prospect of creating war-goods excited him. In truth, however, the task of making the finely detailed tools required for such work was too difficult for Ulrich to master. In April of the year 1512, his apprenticeship ended and Ulrich begrudgingly returned home to become a brick-maker once again.
In early July, on a hot summer day, the Hauptmann Dietrich von Schoenwortz marched his Heiligensturm Fahnlein through Austria, recruiting troops to reinforce the Imperial army in Italy. Their goal was to claim the territory in the Veneto that was once pledged to the Emperor, now in the hands of the Republic of Venice. In the looming shadow of Ambras Castle, the muster drums sounded well within earshot of the Ziegler family. The conversation between parents and son was brief, heavy, and decisive: Ulrich would join the army. Wearing his father's breastplate and maille collar, he presented himself to the Hauptmann and his officers and swore an oath to meet the army in the Veneto. For this, he received one gold coin, for the sole purpose of more properly equipping and clothing himself for the war. The image of the Hauptmann and his men in their richly colored clothes and thick gold jewelry made an impression upon the young brick-maker... However, the steel of the marred plate armors and blade-notched halberds shining in the midday sun stained the awe in his mind with dread... This was no game he was about to play. Dozens of Innsbruck men, young and old alike, took their oaths as well... and promptly took their guilder to the armory, swordsmiths and tailors... of course they took the leftover silver to the beer halls. In short time, hundreds of Austrian and German men were marching south in bands to join the Imperial Army and fight against the forces of Venice.
Soon, Ulrich had his own set of garishly colored and slashed clothing to wear beneath his armor, a pike, a short Katzbalger sword, and some silver left to pay for food and lodging while traveling south through the Brenner pass. Ulrich took stock of the men who were to march beside him as the amount of travelers grew. Many men were similarly equipped with armors, helmets and swords from past campaigns, and quite a few chose not to buy armor at all, keeping their purses filled with silver... Or not, as it fell to some soldiers to enjoy the pleasures of the brothels and taverns while yet they still lived. Others still had armor that was made recently, for men who took to war as a means of living. These men, and the women with them, had a hardened look accompanying the fine clothes and blades at their sides.
Before the end of September, thousands of soldiers from Germany and Spain had gathered together to reinforce an Army north of Venice, commanded by the Spaniard Ramon de Cardona. The commander of the Landsknechte among them was a Swabian knight of great renown, Herr Georg von Frundsberg. At least 3,000 Germans and Austrians had gathered and formed into the Fahnlein to which they had sworn themselves. Ulrich found the flag of Heiligensturm Fahlein, was paid another 3 guilders, and was assigned to a Rotte with 9 other men. This unit was directed by a Webel to issue orders to the soldiers in battle and encourage them to keep formation. After some time organizing and training new recruits, the army marched to Venice, and began a bombardment of the city. The cannons did little damage to the walls, and there were too few means to cross the lagoon surrounding the city. By October, the siege was ordered to be lifted and the army was to march back into Lombardy. At this time, Heiligensturn and other Fahnleine were ordered to go into the countryside and sack the villages, towns and farms of the Veneto. The looting not only added provisions to the army, but served to draw the Venetian commander, named D'Alviano, out of his nest... Along with the flower of Venetian Nobility to reinforce his army, which now outnumbered the Imperial forces.
The armies formed battle lines outside of a town called Schio on October 7th, where the Venetians launched their assault upon the German-Spanish army. The Cavalry and Infantry from both sides clashed, and Ulrich, deep in the battle formation, held his pike ready to take his place in the lines... A time that never came. The heavily armored, halberd- and sword-wielding Doppelsoldner at the front lines ravaged the Italian host, as the soldaten behind the wall of steel wet their pikes on any Venetian man foolish enough to climb over the bodies of his dead neighbors. In less than an hour, the Venetian Infantry broke and fled, their Cavalry quickly behind them. Many Italians were cut down at the walls of Schio under the cries of Frundberg's men: "Viel Feind, Viel Ehr,"... "Much Enemy, Much Honor."
Chapter II, Germany, Picardy, and Milan
From that moment on Ulrich would follow Obrist Georg von Frundsberg, and Hauptmann Dietrich von Schoenwortz. In his time serving as a soldat of Heiligensturm Fahnlein, Ulrich would march all over Europe. The small wars in Venice and Naples would continue for some time, until in 1519 when Georg von Frundsberg traveled back into Germany to help drive Duke Ulrich von Wurttemburg from his Dutchy for his numerous crimes against the Emperor and other Imperial Nobles. After the Duke was defeated and driven from Wurttemburg, von Frundsberg brought his army into Germany to help sway the Elector-Princes to choose next Holy Roman Emperor: the grandson of the late Emperor Maximillian, Karl von Hapsburg. In 1520, to the great celebrations of the lands of the Empire, Karl was elected and became Holy Roman Emperor Karl the Fifth, Ruler of Germany, Austria, Spain, Milan, Sicily, Burgundy and the Netherlands. Ulrich had pride to be part of a nation under which the Sun never seemed to set.
Georg von Frunsberg attended the Imperial Diet in Worms in 1521. By this time, Ulrich had earned enough gold to purchase new armor, a helmet, and a two-handed schlachtschwert. He had earned the rank of Doppelsoldner, and now joined his Hauptmann in the front of the formation in battle. It was during this time that Ulrich sought further instruction in the art of combat, and found in the army a low-born Noble named Kristof von Augsburg, who had been a Marxbruder in Frankfurt. This man would teach Ulrich "Der Kunst der Fechten" of Master Liechtenauer, and he learned from him how to properly fight with a two-handed sword, a dussack, and how to wrestle with a dagger. Later that year, Heiligensturm traveled with Frundsberg to Picardy to make war against the French, where Ulrich made good use of his training. However, the French King Fancis I arrived with a huge army to defend his homeland, and so the Imperial commanders made the prudent decision to return to German lands.
After withdrawing from France, Frundsberg and his companies marched again into North Italy, where an Imperial army under the Spaniard Prospero Colonna gathered to wage war against France and their Venetian allies. From Bologna, the army maneuvered against a combined French and Venetian force, losing and gaining ground until November when the French army withdrew into Milan. The Imperials stormed a weak point in the city defenses, and forced the French to flee into Venetian territory in mere hours. The Imperial army quartered there for the Winter, until March of the next year when the French and Venetians, along with a large contingent of Swiss Reislaufer, laid siege to Pavia. Rather than confront the French in combat, Colonna cut off their supply line, so the French commander Lautrec broke off the siege on Pavia to pursue the Imperials. In April, 1522, the Spanish-German army fled north of Milan, to a fortified camp near the manor house called La Bicocca.
It was an excellent place to defend, with a marsh on one side, a drainage canal on the other, and a sunken road in front, which was fortified with well placed cannons. The Swiss were the first to launch the attack against the Imperial fortifications, and were shot to pieces by the artillery and Spanish musket. By the time the survivors of the Swiss reached the top of the ramparts, the German landsknechte were waiting and prepared for the assault. The Swiss were bloodied and disorganized, and Ulrich had little difficulty in sweeping aside their pikes with his war-sword. As he and others in the front disabled the weapons of the Swiss, his German and Austrian brothers would attack with their own pikes and plunge them into the arms, bodies and heads of the enemy. The ragged Swiss fled and returned to the French line, just as the Imperial Cavalry rebuffed the French Cavalry who had tried to cross a bridge over the canal. After this failed attack, the French commander had the good sense to retreat, rather than sacrifice his men to the slaughter. The next day, the Swiss returned to the Alps. The next week, the Venetians dissolved into the Veneto. Within a fortnight, the French would march westward back into their Homeland, and Milan would finally return into the fold of the Empire. Genoa was sacked not long after, leaving behind a Governor loyal to Emperor Karl V.
Chapter III, Pavia
Heiligensturm Fahnlein returned to Germany with Georg von Frundsberg, recruiting new soldaten for the next action that the Emperor required them to take. By late 1524, the French had renewed efforts to capture Milan with a huge army, consisting of French troops and artillery, Swiss Reislaufer and even traitorous Landsknechte who had refused their orders of recall to return to Imperial service. King Francis had retaken Genoa, Milan, and was laying siege to Pavia where a small Imperial garrison barely held the castle of the walled hunting park. Georg von Frundsberg and his army arrived in Italy in January 1525, and joined the Imperial camp at Lodi. Soon after, the Imperial army marched to Pavia to help relieve the siege.
Early morning on February 24th, Heiligensturn Fahnlein was one of several landsknecht companies that followed Frundsberg through a hole made in the walls of the park, and through the morning fog came a combined Swiss and French force, emboldened by a bloody victory against Imperial cavalry mere hours before. To their hubris, German and Austrian halberds and pikes ravaged their lines and struck many of them dead. The Swiss fled, and as the landsknechte pursued, a messenger arrived from the Spanish, asking for Frundsberg's aid in fighting to the north. Heiligensturm answered the call, and with several other Fahnleine rushed to face the French host there. Through the mist and gun-smoke the distinct pattern of the red and black slashed clothing of the Black Company, the traitorous landsknechte under Francis' command, could be seen. Heiligensturm fell upon them with fury, and the noose around the French King became too tight to escape. They ground the traitorous landsknechte into the bloody dirt, few managed to escape, if any. The call among the men rang out that Francis had been captured, and the remaining French troops fell into full route. The landsknechte who had pursued the Swiss to the south drove many of them into the icy Ticino river, where those Swiss and French fought down to the last man. Before even 10 in the morning, Ulrich was happily looting silver, gold, clothing, and wine from the baggage train of French Nobility.
Chapter IV, Austria
The spring and summer of 1525 were spent back in Ulrich's homeland of Austria. Peasants all throughout Germany had been rising against their lords in great bands, sacking towns and murdering Nobility. Now an uprising near Salzburg required the attention of Georg von Frundsberg and his army. Heiligensturm Fahnlein was among the many groups of soldiers that accompanied the "Father of the landsknechte" into Austria with the intent on putting down the rebellions. While this was not the first time Ulrich had fought against rebellious members of the Empire, this was the first time he had to raise his sword against folk who well could have been his neighbor, a friend or family member, or worse: his own father. Many of the rebels were former soldiers, trained in the landsknecht way of war. It was often enough for the peasants to have veterans among their ranks, as the professional armies of the Empire repeatedly failed to fully crush the rebels. One named Michael Gaismair led a great force of peasants which had to be slowly ground down over the year of 1526 until Gaismair finally fled from Salzburg in early summer. By the Grace of God, Ulrich never met with his father, however he was unable to return to his home before Frundsberg's army was recalled to Italy. He had a message written for him by a fellow soldat, who had grown up as a monk and knew his letters, and sent it with a messenger bound for Innsbruck. Ulrich still waits for the response.
Ch V, Rome
Time spent at guard near Milan through the winter of 1526 and the spring of 1527 was a time of uncertainty. The Imperial Army in Italy was ordered to advance to Rome to intimidate the Pope, who had been siding with the French in war against the Empire. However, there had not been much gold or silver to pay the soldiers with for some time. It was common for there to be nothing to pay the soldiers with, and most Noble men of repute would find ways to keep their soldiers as happy and fed as possible. Ulrich was lucky to have Herr von Schoenwortz as his Hauptmann, who never allowed the men and women of Heiligensturm to go hungry. Ulrich had spent the majority of his loot from Bicocca and Pavia to keep himself in wine and relative comfort, but now had only a sparse few coins to show for his life of service to the Empire. His anger was shared by the vast majority of the soldiers, German, Spanish and Italian alike, who rose in revolt against their leaders near Modena. While Ulrich was enraged, guilt washed over him when he had heard the news that Georg von Frundsberg fell ill after an argument with some of his soldiers, as was not gaining back his strength. He was swiftly delivered to a nearby hospital, and Ulrich would never see him again. Command of the army was given to the former Marshall of France, Charles de Bourbon, who had turned to the service of the Emperor in years past, and had proven himself worthy at the battle of Pavia. The army continued it's course to Rome, feeding itself on whatever could be sacked from the countryside.
When the Imperials arrived at Rome in early May of 1527, ladders were quickly assembled to scale the walls of the city. Charles de Bourbon approached the city with a demand for 300,000 Gold Ducats, but returned with nothing... So it was decided that the army would attack in the morning. As the sun rose, the ladders were put into place and hundreds of Imperial soldiers fell to the guns of the defenders on the walls, and hundreds more were lost as they scaled the walls. The desire for treasures, as well as the prospect of revenge on the Catholic leader, fueled the fires of the Imperial forces, a blaze which began to burn out of control the moment that a bullet struck Charles de Bourbon, and killed the only man keeping command of the furious mob. Once the north walls of Rome were taken, the defenders took flight, and the savage looting began. The men of Heiligensturm Fahnlein stayed close to their Hauptmann, as he pursued the Swiss Soldiers that were dressed finely in the colors of the Medici Family, the Pope Clement's personal guardians. The Swiss stood their ground in the cemetery near the castle called Saint Angelo, where Heiligensturm fell upon them. The Swiss fought like lions, as they were the only thing standing between Clement and the noose of Herr von Schoenwortz. Ulrich was struck in the face during the fight, which broke his nose, and had his right arm wrenched from it's proper place, before his brothers-in-arms killed his assailants pulled him from the fray. Dozens of Heiligensturm men died fighting the Swiss in that passageway, all for naught, as the Pope was nowhere to be found. With the quest to hang the Pope failed, Heiligensturm then participated in the plundering of Rome. No inn, tavern, church, shop or home was safe, all manner of things of value were taken from their Roman owners, who allowed the looting or died trying to defend their goods. The plundering lasted for weeks, and Ulrich acquired plenty of gold and silver coins, chains, and rings, as well as enough wine to share with the entire Fahnlein for several days. Though his purse grew heavy, so did his soul, as the faces and cries of the men and women who resisted him did not leave his mind quietly... especially when the wine was gone. The looting only ended for Heiligensturm when word of Plague reached the ears of the Hauptmann, who would not risk his life or the lives of the people that march with him where there is pestilence. With no Obrist to give command, Heiligensturm followed Dietrich von Schoenwortz through lands that were previously victims of the Imperial locusts on their way to Rome, and so continued to move until well north of Florence. They soon learned that during the sacking of Rome, Venetian troops had seized Ravenna, so Heiligensturm ultimately quartered in Trient for the winter of 1527, standing ready in case Venice decided to claim more land.
Chapter VI, Vienna
News of the Empire's wars in Hungary had made it's way south... News that the Kingdom of Hungary had lost in a war against the Ottoman Turks, and that their King swore allegiance to Turkish Sultan Suleiman. Ferdinand, brother of the Emperor and Archduke of Austria, led a host of soldiers east into Hungary and took much land there for the Empire, defeating the Hungarian King in battle. However, in spring of 1529, Sultan Suleiman marched a huge army westward, retaking Hungary like a tidal wave, committing atrocities on the people all the way. When the Hauptmann heard of this, he immediately marched the Fahnlein through Austria, Swabia and Bavaria, recruiting men to bolster the strength of the Fahnlein before going to war. In Munich, Heiligensturm reinforced the army of Niklaus von Salm, a man who was already old when he fought at Pavia, but a Herculean soldier nonetheless. Ulrich had been promoted to the position of Webel, and now carried the orders of the Hauptmann to the rest of the soldaten in the Fahnlein, as well as ensuring that those men did not flee the field while fighting.
The army then marched to Vienna, where a scant force of local Viennese and few hundred Imperial gunners held the city. Immediately, Herr von Salm ordered the army to begin reinforcing the city walls, to have the gates bricked shut, and ordered the setting of water barrels in every cellar along the city walls. Ulrich was rather amused to be working with bricks, reminding him of the career he had left so long ago to go adventuring, like his father before him... He hoped that the message he sent arrived with his family, so that they knew he was alive, at least then. The city larders were ordered stocked, and the wells were filled, all while an early winter storm soaked the countryside. The same storms would serve to bog down the Ottoman army, who had to abandon their largest cannons as they became stuck deep in Hungarian mud. When the Turk did arrive in October and surround the city, Vienna was ready.
The Turkish small cannons did little damage to the city walls, but the shots that went over the walls bounced off of the paved streets, causing great damage and panic. The order quickly went out to for the landsknechte to begin tearing up the city's roads, so the cannonballs would sink into the earth. Groups of landsknechte were sometimes ordered rush out to strike at the Turks, and try to eliminate their stores of gunpowder, but these attacks were rarely without great casualty. The water barrels Herr Salm ordered placed in the cellars performed their purpose, as the movement in the water revealed where the Turks were digging under the walls. The aim of the Turk was to place a large amount of gunpowder under one of Vienna's walls, and detonate it to bring the wall down. The Imperial army dug their own tunnels, and met the Turk under the earth. While many lansknechte died fighting down there, all attempts to bring down the walls of Vienna were defeated... All, except for one. A great explosion in the earth brought down a section of Vienna's wall, and the Ottoman soldiers above ground seized their opportunity and attacked the opening. It was said that when this happened, Sulieman said aloud that he "would eat his breakfast in Saint Stefan's Cathedral."
To the dismay of the Turk, Heiligensturm Fahnlein and many other landsknechte had already made their pike wall in the gap, and allowed none to pass. The Turk fell upon the pikes and attacked furiously, killing many, but retreated after less than an hour. It was after this attack that the defenders of Vienna sent a message to Sulieman the Magnificent: "Your breafast is getting cold."
On October 14th, in the year of our Lord 1529, the Ottoman army ordered a full assault and bore it's weight upon Vienna. However, the spine of Christendom did not break, and the Imperial army fought the Turk in a bloody battle which took it's toll on both sides. As Ulrich fought, he could sense that the Ottoman soldiers who stormed the breach had lost their spirit, their will to fight. Many of them were obviously sick, even the elite Janissary could not gain ground against the blades, bullets and points of the Empire. Unable to take the city, the Turk abandoned their assault again. Once back in their camps, the snows of winter began to fall. Snowfall, this early in the year, was hailed as a miracle by the defenders of Vienna. Unwilling to waste any more Ottoman lives, the Turk packed their camp and fled back into the east. Ulrich, and Heiligensturm Fahnlein, had succeeded in defending the heart of the Holy Roman Empire.
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