Battle of Castagnaro

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Battle of Castagnaro
Battle of Castagnaro, 1387 - Original Painting.jpg
An aerial perspective of the battle, showing the Paduan army, commanded by Sir John Hawkwood, outflanking and defeating the Veronese.
Date11 March 1387
Result Paduan victory
Flag of Verona.svg Army of Verona Flag of Genoa.svg Army of Padua
White Company
Commanders and leaders
Giovanni Ordelaffi (POW)
Ostasio da Polenta (POW)
Giovanni dell'Ischia
John Hawkwood
Francesco Novello da Carrara
≈ 11,000-16,000 men with ( 12,000-16000 reserves, mostly peasants)[1]

Total: ≈ 7,000-9,200 men

  • Soldiers brought by John Hawkwood
    • ≈ 600 cavalry
    • ≈ 500 archers
  • The army of Padua and their other condottieri
    • ≈8,000 men
Casualties and losses

(4000-7000 total casualties)

  • 716 killed
  • 846 wounded
  • +4,000 men captured along with the entirety of the Veronese artillery and both Ordelaffi and da Polenta

The Battle of Castagnaro was fought on March 11, 1387 at Castagnaro (today's Veneto, northern Italy) between Verona and Padua. It is one of the most famous battles of the Italian condottieri age.

The army of Verona was led by Giovanni Ordelaffi and Ostasio II da Polenta, while the victorious Paduans were commanded by John Hawkwood (Giovanni Acuto) and Francesco Novello da Carrara, the son of Francesco I, lord of Padua. John Hawkwood brought 1,100 of his own condottiere (600 cavalry and 500 archers, or vice versa depending on the source) to supplement the Paduan forces of 8,000 men (Giuseppe Marcotti places the number dismounted condottiere at 6,000 men, along with a reserve of 1,600 horse.[2] He also goes on to say that there were 1,000 native footmen of Padua, and 600 crossbowman guarding a river bank.)

Castagnaro is hailed as Sir John Hawkwood's greatest victory.[3] Following a Fabian-like strategy, Hawkwood goaded the Veronese into attacking him on a field of his own choosing, by laying waste to the Veronese lands nearby.

Drawing his forces up on the far side of a canal, and anchoring his right flank on a patch of woods, Hawkwood waited until the Veronese had committed to attacking across a ford of fascines piled up in the canal. Once so occupied, Hawkwood sprang his trap.

Hawkwood had left a copy of his standard behind his forces, then had led his cavalry into the woods to his right. At a given signal — supposedly, a flaming arrow — the copy of his standard dropped, and Hawkwood's cavalry burst from the woods on the Veronese left, with his real standard in front. At the point of impact, Hawkwood is said to have cast his commander's baton into the Veronese ranks and ordered his men to retrieve it for him.

Per Trease, it is said that Hawkwood's battle cry that day was a grim play on the Paduan war-cry of Carro! ("Cart!", from the coat of arms of the House of Da Carrara) — in Hawkwood's rendition, it became Carne! ("Flesh!").

Curiously though, the Florentine reserves under Ischia stood their ground against Hawkwood's terrible onslaught. They could do nothing to turn the tide of battle since the Hawkwood's men were all heavily armed, whilst the peasants were not.


  1. ^ closed access Rogers, Clifford J., ed. (2010). "Castagnaro, Battle of". The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. 1. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195334036. OCLC 645185716. (Subscription required (help)).
  2. ^ Leader, John Temple; Marcotti, Giuseppe (1889). Sir John Hawkwood (L'Acuto) story of a condottiere. London, UK: T. Fisher Unwin. pp. 200–201. OCLC 309807316. Retrieved 2014-03-10.
    Later republished: Leader, John Temple; Marcotti, Giuseppe (2005). Sir John Hawkwood (L'Acuto) story of a condottiere. Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Pub. ISBN 9781578984961. OCLC 263302508.
  3. ^ Geoffrey Trease, The Condottieri, 1971