Battle of Näfels
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|Battle of Näfels|
|Part of the expansion of the Swiss Confederation|
A commemorative plaque at the Battle of Näfels memorial near Näfels
|Old Swiss Confederacy||Archduchy of Austria|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Donat von Toggenburg
Hans von Werdenberg-Sargans
|400+ men||6,500 men|
|Casualties and losses|
|54 dead||ca. 1,700 dead|
The Battle of Näfels was fought on 9 April 1388 between Glarus with their allies, the Old Swiss Confederation, and the Habsburgs. It was a decisive Glarner victory despite being outnumbered sixteen to one.
The Battle of Näfels was the last battle of the Swiss-Austrian conflicts that stretched through most of the 14th Century. A few weeks after the Battle of Sempach on 9 July 1386, the Old Swiss Confederation attacked and besieged the Habsburg village of Weesen on the Walensee. The following year, Glarus rose up against the Habsburgs and destroyed Burg Windegg. Then, on 11 March 1387, the town council declared themselves free of Habsburg control.
In response, on the night of 21–22 February 1388, an Austrian army attacked the village of Weesen and drove off the Swiss forces. In the beginning of April, two Austrian armies marched out to cut off Glarus from the rest of the Confederation. The main army, with about 5,000 men, marched toward Näfels under the command of the Graf Donat von Toggenburg and the Knight Peter von Thorberg. A second column, with about 1,500 men under the command of Graf Hans von Werdenberg-Sargans, marched over the Kerenzerberg Pass.
Battle of Näfels
On 9 April 1388 the main army, under Toggenburg and Thorberg, attacked and captured the fortifications around Näfels. The garrison held out for a short time, but was forced to retreat. This force contained the local garrison, about 400 Glarner troops and a few dozen troops from both Schwyz and Uri. As they retreated, the Austrian army spread out to plunder the village and farms. They retreated into the nearby hill and as the Austrian army spread out, the Glarners marched back out into the snow and fog to attack the Austrians. The Austrians, disorganized while looting the town, and confused by the snow and fog were surprised by the Glarner attack.
Following a brief battle, the disorganized Austrians broke and fled toward Weesen. The collapse of the bridge over the Maag or Weeser Linth dropped much of the Austrian army into the river where they drowned. Seeing the destruction of the main column, Werdenberg-Sargans' army retreated to the village of Beglingen (now in the municipality of Mollis). The Glarner and Confederation army had about 54 men killed, who were buried at the parish church of Mollis. Habsburg losses are less well known, though are estimated to be between several hundred killed and 1,700. On 29 November 1389, the Abbot Bilgeri had about 180 bodies moved from the battle field and reburied at Rüti Abbey.
In 1389, a seven-years' peace was signed at Vienna, leaving the Confederation in undisputed possession of all the territory they had acquired in the recent war. In the same year, the first Näfelser Fahrt, a pilgrimage to the site of the battle was held. This pilgrimage, which still occurs, happens on the first Thursday in April and is in memory of the battle. The pilgrimage played an important role in the creation of the unified canton of Glarus.