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Frisian, Stedinger, or Dithmarschen 1106-1500 AD

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 5 months ago

Frisian, Stedinger, or Dithmarschen (IV-13 A)


Author: Duncan Head



Many would agree that the famously complicated Medieval German list (IV-13) is in dire need of revision and restructuring. The northern peasant republics known in the list as the "Free Cantons" fare especially badly in this list, because it is not possible to form an army consisting solely of Free Canton troops – hence it is not really possible to represent the armies of the Stedinger wars, Staveren or Hemmingstedt – and because the earthwork field fortifications on which they heavily relied are not included. The Free Cantons, however, did not participate as frequently as other types of German state in political and military alliances, so their armies are easier to separate out than others would be. This proposal therefore puts forward a new list for these Free Cantons.


I am very aware that this isn't really my period, that I've used few original mediaeval sources, and that with the exception of a few websites I've been working only with material available in English. I hope that others, particularly those with access to German, Netherlands and Danish sources, will be able to provide more information – because, whatever issues there might be with interpretation in what I have written below, I think the main weakness is still – even after the valuable input we've had since the first draft - lack of raw material.


This second version of the proposal was posted to the TNE email list as message 5120 on 11 November 2004! It never seems to have been uploaded to the website until 2007. Further updating will no doubt be necessary.


This proposal has also not yet taken account of Eric ter Keurs' article "‘Met spere ande skeld’ Building a medieval Frisian army for DBM" in Slingshot 241.


Since the first version, Karl Heinz has helped with information from:


- W Lammers, Die Schlacht bei Hemmingstedt: Freies Bauerntum und Fürstenmacht in Nordseeraum, Neumunster 1953



Proposed list:


Frisian, Stedinger, or Dithmarschen 1106 AD – 1500 AD

Cold {DBMM Cool}.

Ag 0.

WW, Rv, H(S) {DBMM SH}, H(G) {DBMM GH}, Wd, E, RGo {DBMM BF, SF}, _M_, Rd, {DBMM PR,} BUAf

Nominal list scale: One element = 250 men (normal scale) for Friesland; one element = 125 men (half normal scale) for Stedinger and Dithmarschen.


C-in-c, as pikemen - Irr Pk (F)/Ax (X) @13AP 1

Sub-generals, as pikemen - Irr Pk (F)/Ax (X) @ 13AP 0-2

Replace sub-general with ally-general of the same nationality – Irr Pk (F)/Ax (X) @ 8 AP any


Pikemen – Irr Pk (F) in DBMM, Irr Ax (X) in DBM @ 3AP 48-120

Youths with javelins – Irr Ps (I) @ 1AP 0-12

Archers and crossbowmen – Irr Ps (O) @ 2AP or Irr Bw (I) @ 3AP 8-20

Upgrade crossbowmen in mail – Irr Bw (O) @ 4AP 0-6


Ditch and bank entrenchments – TF @ 2AP 0-36

Upgrade TF section to gate - @ 4AP 0-2

River and canal boats, Irr Bts (O) @ 2AP {Ps, Ax (O), Bw} 0-2


Only Friesland:

Replace Bts with cogs, Irr Shp (O) @ 3 AP {any foot} Any


Only Friesland or Dithmarschen:

Replace generals with local knights – Irr Kn (I) @ 13AP if ally, 18AP if other general any

Local knights - Irr Kn (I) @ 8AP 0-4


Only Dithmarschen in 1148-1227:

Danish leidang allies – List: Norse Viking and Leidang; or German feudal (Holstein) allies – List: Medieval German (or son of...)


Only Dithmarschen in 1182-1474:

German clerical allies (Bremen) – List: Medieval German (or son of...)


Only after 1240:

Upgrade cogs as having towers and/or artillery – Irr Shp (S) @4AP {any foot} Any


Only Friesland or Stedinger before 1300:

Replace non-general pikemen with javelinmen – Irr Ax (O) @ 3AP 1/6-1/3


Only after 1400:

Light guns - Reg Art (I) @ 4AP 0-4

Regrade archers/crossbowmen as handgunners – Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP or Reg Art (X) {DBMM Reg Sh (I)} @ 5AP 2-12


Only Dithmarschen before 1450:

Replace pikemen generals with spearmen – Irr Ax (S) @ 9AP if ally, 14AP others All

Replace non-general pikemen with spearmen – Irr Ax (O) @ 3AP All

Upgrade Ax(O) spearmen as armoured – Irr Ax (S) @ 4AP 0-1/10


Only Dithmarschen from 1450:

Replace non-general pikemen with halberdiers – Irr Bd (F) @ 5AP 0-1/5


Only Dithmarschen in 1500:

Mercenary pikemen – Reg Pk (O) @ 4AP 0-12

Mercenary shot – up to half crossbows Reg Bw (O) @ 5AP, the rest handgunners Reg Ps (S) @ 3AP or Reg Art (X) {DBMM Reg Sh (I)} @ 5AP 0-4

Verlorene haufe detached mercenary halberdiers – Reg Bd (F) 0-1


Rules considerations:

{In DBM: H(S) must have all slopes gentle, and the only covering permitted is brushy RGo.}


Any command containing Friesland or Dithmarschen "local knights" must have its general upgraded to "local knights". Local knights may dismount at any time, as Bd (O) until 1150 or Bd (S) thereafter. Bremen and Danish or Holstein allies may not be used together. TF gate sections must be used where TF cross a road, as long as purchased gate sections are available.


Proposed list notes:

This list covers the autonomous peasant republics or "free cantons" of the marshy North-west German coastlands – Friesland (1106-1498), the Stedinger (1106-1234), and Dithmarschen (1144-1500). Friesland had long been independent, governed by its own council, but had to resist attacks by the Counts of Holland; one expedition was defeated in pitched battle by Frisian infantry at Staveren in 1345 and another in 1396, after an initial victory, retired without success. Friesland was subdued by a largely-mercenary army fighting for Albrecht of Saxony at the battle of Laaxum in 1498. The Stedinger were settlers, mostly from Holland, who opened up marshy land next to Friesland, on the Weser. For refusing to pay tithes to the Archbishop of Bremen, a crusade was preached against them and they were wiped out in 1234. The Dithmarschen of the lower Elbe were autonomous after the people killed the last count of the house of Stade in battle in 1144. The Archbishops of Bremen and the Counts of Holstein (and hence the Danish crown) then both claimed overlordship. When the Danes fought a North German alliance at Bornhöved in 1227 the recently-subdued Dithmarschers decided the battle by defecting from the Danes, attacking them in the rear. They then defeated several Danish-Holstein attempts at reconquest, notably at Hemmingstedt in 1500, only being subdued in 1559. These armies all fought as lightly-armed peasant infantry. From the 12th century the Frisians used four-metre pikes, which doubled as vaulting-poles for leaping over ditches. They also, at least in the 12th-13th centuries, used javelins. Stedinger and Dithmarschen infantry seem to have been much the same, though the Dithmarschen may have initially used shorter spears and shields, adopting long pikes only in the 15th century. Friesland and Dithmarschen had local knightly families, without the power of feudal lords elsewhere. Field fortifications were important in many battles, though defenders would sometimes leave them for swift attacks on enemy disordered by crossing terrain. The Frisians used handguns in 1498, the Dithmarschen used artillery and mercenaries in 1500 (though the latter were dismissed before Hemmingstedt).





Friesland -

Friesland was "a community set apart since the ninth century", governed by a tribal council with a seal inscribed "Universitas Frisonum". "The inhabitants did no military service to outsiders, and it was an understood convention that anyone who helped a foreign overlord would be thrown into the North Sea" (Du Boulay p.97). However in 1249 the Frisians aided Count William II of Holland, elected German king (or anti-king), to besiege Aachen (Enc.1911 s.v. Frisians; Haverkamp p.258) and he confirmed their privileges; nonetheless they revolted in 1254 and William died in 1256 trying to subdue them. Some western Frisian regions were absorbed into Holland but those further east remained free, though divided into factions and petty lordships (Enc.1911 s.v. Frisians). Some among the Frisians called in Count William IV of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault to govern them in 1338, though it is not clear who among them made the decision (DeVries p.146) – in 1396 the Frisian leader and "knights" could propose a certain course in assembly but be over-ruled by the majority of the ordinary people (Froissart pp.553-554). They soon repudiated this decision and in 1345 William mounted a major expedition against them which was defeated at Staveren, when Frisian pikemen left their entrenchments and counter-attacked disordered Hollander cavalry (DeVries pp.148-150). In 1396 Duke Albert of Bavaria, who was also Count of Holland and Hainault, launched another expedition: the attackers forced a landing against Frisian opposition and defeated the main Frisian army which was defending a ditch and rampart, but although the Hollanders took several towns they suffered from Frisian guerrilla resistance and had to retire "without having made any conquest" (Froissart pp.548-555). When Holland was inherited by Philip the Good of Burgundy he claimed rule over Friesland but this was never enforced. This changed when Maximilian of Habsburg inherited of the Burgundian Netherlands. After returning to Germany as King of the Romans, he made his governor-general in the Netherlands, Albert of Saxony, the hereditary governor of Friesland. Albert's army, under Willibrord von Schaumburg, crushed those Frisian factions who did not accept his rule at the Battle of Laaxum in 1498, when artillery shot down the Friesian pikemen (Enc.1911 s.v. Frisians; Fryske Akad.; Ward in CMH; "De gebeurtenissen...").


North Frisians –

The North Frisians lived (and still live) around the Eider river in western Schleswig. They are first mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus (writing in the early 13th century), and may be descended from Frisians who fled the Frankish conquest of Friesland in the 8th century (Enc.1911 s.v. Frisians). They provided a contingent to the Danish army at Bornhöved in 1227, at which period they had only recently been conquered by the Danish crown (info from Karl Heinz). Whether they fought in the style of their kinsmen in Friesland, or like their Danish neighbours, is unclear and I have made no provision for them in this list so far.


Stedinger -

The Stedinger lived next to Friesland, in marshy country in the Weser and Hunte valleys. They are sometimes described as Frisians (Lingham p.48), but rather seem to have been originally settlers, mostly from Holland, who modelled their community on the institutions of their Frisian neighbours (Schumacher; Dirks). The first settlers may have arrived in 1106, though dates in the 1140s are also cited (Schumacher). The archbishops of Bremen and the Counts of Oldenburg claimed jurisdiction over them. When these lords increased their tax demands on the increasingly prosperous peasants, and tried to convert the freeholds that the original settlers had been granted into leases that would make them manorial dependents, the Stedinger refused to pay (Haverkamp pp.317, 337). They were therefore excommunicated, and when this failed to cow them a crusade was preached against them in 1232, on the grounds that they were excommunicate, had attacked churches, and were devil-worshippers; some have interpreted this last as a persistence of ancient paganism, some as mere widespread peasant superstitions. In 1233 the Stedinger killed Count Burchard of Oldenburg in battle, but in 1234 they were defeated at the battle of Altenesch by a "crusading" alliance of feudal and clerical states led by the Duke of Brabant, and wiped out (Haverkamp pp.316-7; Lingham pp.48-49; Verbruggen pp.278-9).


Dithmarschen -

Dithmarschen, on the right bank of the mouth of the Elbe in modern Holstein, is almost an island, isolated by sea, rivers and marsh, with only one practicable approach by a road along a dike. The higher inland region bordering on Holstein was called the Geest, the marshy coastal region the Marsch; this could be inundated by opening the dikes (Verbruggen p.115). The region became autonomous after the

people killed the last count of the house of Stade in battle in 1144. In 1147 Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony and the Count of Holstein led a punitive expedition to impose a new count (Verbruggen p115); it was unsuccessful and from 1182 Dithmarschen was incorporated into the see of Bremen (Enc. 1911 s.v. Dithmarschen). Some at least of the Dithmarschers welcomed Bremen's overlordship as a defence against the closer and more dangerous Counts of Holstein (Verbruggen p116); a "guardian", "advocatus", or "Vogt" represented the Archbishop and – at least nominally – had the right of "heerbann", the right to summon the army. However Dithmarschen was organised as a community, "Universitas terrae Dithmarciae", by 1283, under an elected council (Du Boulay p.97; Enc. 1911 s.v. Dithmarschen), and the power of the archbishop's representative was so slight that a 14th-century chronicler said "De Ditmarschen leven sunder Heren und Hovedt unde dohn wait se willen" – "the Dithmarschen live without lord and head, and do what they will". The authority of Bremen had presumably disappeared entirely by 1474, when the Emperor officially, though ineffectually, incorporated the country into the Duchy of Holstein (Du Boulay p.97; Enc. 1911 s.v. Dithmarschen). By the 13th century leading families provided a knight-like élite, the "advocati et milites" at the head of the "universitas" (Verbruggen p116), forming a council of 48 members (Enc. 1911 s.v. Dithmarschen; Isebrand). Such families grew prosperous on trade with the Hanseatic League, with which Dithmarschen became formally associated by an alliance with Lübeck in 1468 (Du Boulay p.134), and were "proud of believing themselves to be at once noble and peasant". Factions sought alliances with neighbouring powers – in the 13th century the Counts of Holstein (connected with Denmark), the Archbishops of Bremen, and the city of Hamburg. Dithmarschen was subdued by Valdemar the Victorious of Denmark early in 1227 (date from Karl Heinz) but when he fought a North German alliance at Bornhöved later that year the Dithmarschers decided the day by defecting from the Danes in mid-battle and attacking them in the rear (Blom/Gray p.14). The Dithmarschers defeated attempts at reconquest by the Counts of Holstein in 1319 and 1404 (Verbruggen p.117, Gravett p.8), and by a Danish-Holstein army at Hemminsgtedt in 1500, where a Dithmarschen army commanded by a Dutch immigrant, Wulf Isebrand, flooded the route along which the invaders were advancing, limiting them to one elevated road which was blocked by earthworks defended by artillery. The Dithmarschers were subdued in 1559.


Aggression -

The published German list has Ag 1, but the Free Cantons appear never to have attacked anyone (except that Verbruggen p278-9 says that the Stedinger had attacked neighbouring peoples; he is not more specific, but Schumacher mentions them attacking some neighbouring castles in 1212-14); 0 seems to be justified.


Terrain -

Difficult marshy terrain was very important to the peasant infantry armies (Verbruggen pp.115, 341); "the country was very strong, surrounded by the sea, and full of bogs, islands and marshes", "cut up with ditches and dykes" (Froissart pp.549, 553, of Friesland). I am reluctant to allow open fields (DBMM F) unless the defenders get the chance to flood them, as at Hemmingstedt – while the weather was bad, accounts do suggest that the fields were flooded deliberately.


A Holsteiner attack on Dithmarschen in 1404 was ambushed as it marched home through a forest (Gravett p.8) - presumably in the Geest rather than the Marsch.


H(S)/DH would seem to be out, but H(G)/GH a possibility. DBMM RH scrub-covered rough hills seem to be justified, at least in parts of the Dithmarschen Geest. For consistency the list should allow H(S) under DBM, but without DGo – so gentle slopes, covered partly or wholly with brushy RGo.


BUA feature in some battles; a church at Oldenwöhrden in the Holstein invasion of Dithmarschen in 1319 (Verbruggen p.341), the Abbey of Floricamp at Staveren (DeVries p.149).


I'm not sure whether roads in the region would have actually been paved, but for Hemmingstedt it's important that the road along which the Danes advanced remained passable when the flooded fields around turned into mud. This was probably because it was raised rather than paved, but paved roads (PRd) would give this effect in DBMM.


List scale -

Froissart claims the Frieslanders outnumbered the Hollanders by 20:1 at Staveren; the Hollander numbers are unclear, though one source could imply 6-10,000 (DeVries p.148 – 12,000 at Utrecht, of whom "many" stayed there rather than going on to Friesland): 120,000 Frisians is absurd, but the exaggeration suggests that the army was thought to be a large one by the standards of the time. In 1396 Froissart describes the Frisians as 30,000 strong, in three equal divisions, of whom 6,000 contested the initial Hollander landing (Froissart p.554). The army defeated at Laaxum in 1498, drawn from only part of Friesland, is said to have been 15,000 strong ("De gebeurtenissen...").


The Stedinger are said to have mustered 11,000 men at Altenesch, that being every man capable of bearing arms, of whom 8,000 were killed (Lingham p.49).


Figures for Dithmarschen military strength are lower than those suggested for Friesland, but may be more reliable. Lammers cites a study of medieval Church records for a population of around 35,000 people (also in Verbruggen p.116). He also mentions various chronicles citing 6,000-7,000 men able to bear arms (300 men are said to have been lost at Hemmingstedt, reckoned as 5% of the troops in Contamine p.258). Ian Gray (Blom/Gray p.16) cites another 20th-century estimate of the Dithmarschers as fielding 6,000 men in 1500, which no doubt goes back to similar sources.


Ally-general -

Both Frisians and Dithmarschen were at times divided into rival factions. At Laaxum, part of the Frisian army attacked prematurely while another part stood off, leading to the conclusion that they had no overall command – or a weak one (Fryske Akad.). Optional allied generals can reflect this disunity – though it does not seem to have been a problem on all occasions, so I would not suggest making an internal ally compulsory.


Pikemen, javelinmen, halberdiers -

The existing DBM list has lightly-armed infantry Ax (O), presumably javelinmen, being replaced by Ax (X) with long spears or other long polearms in 1450. This now seems like a misinterpretation for Friesland, at least: pikes were in use in the 14th century and probably as early as the 12th. Suggestions that javelins may still have been used by the Dithmarschen in 1500 would imply that javelins and pikes or long spears were used alongside each other throughout the whole period, but this is less certain. The evidence I've so far found is as follows:



- In the 13th century "noted users of javelins (gavelocs or dards) during this era were the Frisians. Matthew Paris records that these wore linen tunics and light armour, Geoffrey de Visnauf adding that their javelins had thongs, presumably designed to make them spin in flight and thereby increase their penetration" (Heath p.101).


- However, "Frisian warriors from at least the twelfth century carried long pole-spears, over 13 feet long, with a spearhead at one end and a small thick disc at the other. These performed a double function; they acted as weapons, and were used as poles to leap over the ditches and watercourses which criss-crossed their land. The disc was to prevent the pole from sinking into the mud when it was used to vault over ditches" (Nicholson p.101: the footnote refers to Johannes A Mol, "Frisian Fighters and the Crusade", in "Crusades", 1 (2003), 89-110. Nicholson p.105, again footnoted to Mol, adds that Frisians were lightly armoured, often lacking a helmet).


- At Staveren in 1345 the Frisians are described as fighting well with "very large and heavy pikes, their long swords and axes and falchions" (DeVries p.150 quoting the contemporary "Récits d'un bourgeois de Valenciennes").


- DeVries notes that the third redaction of Froissart describes Staveren, but I do not have that version. Froissart does describe the Frisians' light armour in his account of the campaign of 1396 – "they were in general badly armed; many had no other defensive covering than their waistcoats made of coarse thick cloth, scarcely better than horse cloths; some were armed in leather, others with rusty jackets of mail, which seemed unfit for service; some, however, were perfectly well armed"; and "they are a lusty race, though very badly armed, and some of them without even shoes or stockings; nonetheless, they made an obstinate defence" (Froissart, pp. 554, 555). Though he makes no mention of what weapons they used, the light armour of most of them matches with earlier sources. They do seem to have been vulnerable to knights in the open, since when some Hainaulter mounted knights found a way round the Frisian defensive position the Frisians, leaving the fortification to meet this outflanking move, were dispersed by a vigorous charge.


- The long pike is said to have been the main Frisian weapon at Laaxum in 1498 (Fryske Akad.). A 16th-century picture of a Frisian shows him as an unarmoured pikeman, the disc on the butt end of the pike still visible.


- At http://www.bauer-und-bonde.de/english/bewaff.html is a quote from a chronicle that, although used as evidence for the Dithmarschen, actually describes Frisian pikes: "…den die in dem lant gar viel und vier schuech lenger spis, den die unsern lantsknecht, haben, heissen sie schotten, haben am undern ort scheuben, damit sie in die mosigen gräben setzen wen sie überspringen das si nit besteken" – "…for in that land they have many pikes four feet (literally, "four shoes") longer, than those of our landsknechts. They call them schotten ("Scots"?). These have at the lower end discs, to set them in the marshy ditches when they jump over them so that they do not get stuck" – according to a chronicle published in 1859, cited at http://www.bauer-und-bonde.de/english/bewaff.html (many thanks to Karl Heinz for help with this passage).



- A contemporary-looking picture from the "Sächsischen Weltchronik" shows unarmoured, bareheaded, shieldless Stedinger spearmen fighting against fully-armoured dismounted men-at-arms. The most clearly seen Stedinger holds his spear in two hands, butt by the foot in the classic position for pikemen receiving a mounted charge (although his opponents are on foot). The spears are shown little more than man-high, but that could be for reasons of space: he certainly looks as if he might be using a pike - http://www.andurg.kn-bremen.de/stedinger/index.html



- The spear or pike – speer, peke, spis – was the main Dithmarschen weapon in the 15th-16th centuries - http://www.bauer-und-bonde.de/english/bewaff.html Some Latin chronicles call it "contus".


- Blom describes Dithmarscher infantry in 1500 using "poles to vault over field ditches and cast javelins against the Landsknechts..." and (others?) attacking the Danish knights' horses with spears (Blom/Gray p.15). Lammers confirms that Dithmarschesn spears were used as jumping-poles like the Frisian ones.


- Karl Heinz notes that Lammers seems to think pikes were new for the Dithmarschen in the 15th century, while earlier Dithmarschen infantry were more like ancient Germanic warriors; that other Holsteiner infantry used spears (these might be "feudal heerbann Sp (I)" in terms of the published list); and that there is also a late, and so possibly apocryphal, anecdote that the Dithmarschen signalled their defection at Bornhöved in 1227 by turning their shields upside-down. This suggests that the Dithmarschen didn't correspond to the "Friesland" pattern of using pikes early on. I therefore revert to Ax (O) before 1450, for the Dithmarschen only.


- Karl Heinz notes that Lammers, unlike Blom, doesn't appear to mention javelins. Ian Gray has noted that Blom is describing the younger members of the Dithmarschen force skirmishing against the Danes' flanks, so the javelins may have been in the nature of improvised weapons for ill-armed youths.


- The halberd is described as a "typical" Dithmarschen weapon, though it seems largely on 16th-century evidence, at http://www.bauer-und-bonde.de/ausruestung/mordaxt.html - various swords and axes are also mentioned, but these may have been secondary weapons, as was the "tsake" long knife.


- A late 16th-century picture of Dithmarschers shows them armed with axes, a polearm with a sword-like blade on a haft similar to those shown in pictures of Swedish infantry, and what may be the shaft of a long pike - http://www.monika-schmidt.com/ansichten/an_gross/bh_537.htm and http://www.geschichte.schleswig-holstein.de/vonabisz/dithmarschen.htm - but this is long enough after 1500 that it may not be very relevant.



The Frisians used a pike from the 12th century until the 16th, originally four metres long and by the end of the period descriebd as longer than landsknecht pikes. Alongside it, they used javelins – at least at first. What little evidence there is for the Stedinger also suggests early use of pikes or long spears. The Dithmarschen are described using long spears and possibly javelins in 1500, which suggests that the javelin may have remained in use throughout the whole period. However they may not have used the pike early on.


One question is whether the javelins and the pikes were carried by the same men, or by different groups. David Meyler, in a boardgame-oriented article available online, could be read to imply that the pikemen also carried javelins – "The lightly armed Frisians mostly comprised footmen armed with the `polstok' a kind of cattle prod that doubled as a pike during wartime, plus javelins and a few bows (the polstok could also be used as a pole vault to cross the numerous streams and canals in Frisia)" – but that may be reading too much into his words. Note that at Hemmingstedt Blom's wording implies that the men pole-vaulting over ditches were javelin-throwers; if their vaulting-poles are the same as the Frisians' dual-purpose pikes, it could be that the pikes and javelins are carried by the same men. But this is not certain from the article, and the javelins and spears do seem to be attacking different targets.


However carrying a four-metre pike in one hand and one or more javelins in the other doesn't sound very practical, so at the moment I have kept pikes and javelins separate. The Ax (X) classification used in the published list for the later spearmen seems fine for the pikemen throughout the whole period; armed with pikes but lightly protected, able to vault over ditches and operate in boggy terrain. They also seem a good fit for translation to DBMM Pk (F) – which not all Ax (X) are.


Contemporary bidet and Breton javelinmen in the current French lists are Ps (S), though it is not in fact clear whether they always carried the shields normally required for Ps (S) status. I had suggested Ps (I) for our Frisian, etc, javelins: there is no evidence that they carried shields, and unlike the bidets these are not professional mercenaries. However, Paris' Frisian "light armour" might suit Ax better than Ps; Ax (O) would also have the advantage of enabling re-use of existing figures, though the disadvantage of again implying shields. There was some feeling in response to my first draft that the current Ax (O) option should stay for these reasons. So what I now suggest is to class some Frisians as Ax (O) javelinmen in light armour before 1300 – since javelins are not mentioned at Staveren (1345) or later. I have restricted Ps (I) to the sort of youths with improvised weapons who may have been deployed harassing the flanks at Hemmingstedt.


I have also reverted to Ax (O), with a few armoured Ax (S), for early Dithmarschen infantry, though the evidence appears to be slight.


It is hard to be sure whether the evidence for halberds justifies Bd (F) halberdier elements in later Dithmarschen armies. At the moment the Ax (X) definition could include halberds as well as long spears or pikes, however they were deployed; but DBMM Pk (F) should probably only include halberdiers if they deployed as part of the pike-blocks, as landsknechte and late Swiss are assumed to do. We do not, of course, seem to know how the Dithmarschen halberdiers deployed. An option – replace up to 1/5 of Pk (F) with Bd (F) – might be the way to go, though given the low cost of Pk (F) this is going allow an army with quite a lot of blades.


Irregular status –

The Frisians were probably organised into companies by parish, since they marched behind crosses and banners taken from their churches (Froissart p.554). Beyond this basic militia organisation I have found no evidence for drill or training. The defeat of the Frisians in 1498 is ascribed to lack of control and discipline, because they could not form a proper battle order and had no command structure of officers and sergeants, "rodtmeisters ende weyflers" (Fryske Akad.). This strongly suggests they should be treated as irregulars.


Dithmarschen probably had a similar system; those bearing arms met for an annual review. On occasion, the community paid them for their service in war. There were only two levels of pay, 2 Gulden for rankers and 4 for the leaders. That there were only two grades, with only a small difference between them, implies a simple organisation (Karl Heinz). Some of their leaders in 1500, notably Isebrand, were

veterans of mercenary service, but there is no hint that they imposed a full-scale regular organisation, and unlikely that they would have been able to.


Archers and crossbowmen –

These armies seem to have used relatively few bows or crossbows. It is inconceivable that none were used; but the Hollanders in 1396 forced an opposed landing "from the advantage of their bows and crossbows", which suggests the Frisians had relatively few archers. Given that some Frisians did have mailshirts, it is quite possible that some crossbowmen might be well enough equipped to qualify as Bw (O).


In 1500 Lübeck supplied Dithmarschen with two tons of arrows (crossbow bolts?). A Dithmarschen muster in 1532 fielded 721 arquebuses and 200 crossbows (Karl Heinz, from Lammers). Given a total strength of 6-7,000, this suggests about 15% of soldiers were missilemen. On the assumption that the spread of the arquebus in the 16th century did not cause numbers of missile-troops to fall, but if anything to rise, we can take this proportion as a maximum.


Entrenchments -

Defensive earthworks were used at most major battles, if not all:


– According to Dirks' website, the Stedinger built fortifications to protect themselves from their feudal neighbours and "The roads were protected by fortified gates and trenches". Prior to the final battle at Altenesch, one of these fortified gates was forced by the attackers.


– In 1319 the Dithmarschers erected obstacles to cut the retreat of an invading Holstein army (Verbruggen p.341).


– At Staveren in 1345 the Frisians deployed behind fortifications - ditches and embankments – though they abandoned these and attacked when seeing the enemy cavalry disordered by an advance across ground cut up with ditches and dikes (DeVries p.149)


- In 1396 the Frisians initially defended dikes, then fell back to a deep ditch and a head-high earthen bank, clearly fortification prepared for the occasion since Froissart says they "had cast up the earth in front" (Froissart pp.554-555).


– Wulf Isebrand built an earthwork, the Schanze, to block the road along which the Danes advanced at Hemmingstedt (Blom/Gray p.14; http://home.t-online.de/home/Arnold-Heide/hlandweg.htm ; http://www.isebrand.com/Hemmingstedt.htm )


Possibly they should even be compulsory. I have not seen references to fortifications in the forest ambush of the Holsteiners in 1404, or Laaxum 1498, but then I have only brief references.


As for the gates along the Stedingers' roads, in general it seems that any TF given in army lists can be upgraded to gates without needing to be mentioned in the lists (though I have never found this wholly clear), cases like Duke William's prefab castle being an exception. It seems worth mentioning these ones explicitly, though we can hardly make it a rule that gates should be used on roads when gate sections have to be bought before anyone knows what roads will be on the table.


Other obstacles that were already in place, field boundaries and drainage ditches and so forth, are often mentioned and can be represented by E and/or RGo terrain pieces.


Frisian and Dithmarschen "local knights" –

Both Friesland and Dithmarschen had, or developed, a class of local knightly and petty noble families, although this nobility was relatively weak compared to genuinely "feudalised" areas.


Some Frieslanders were regarded by contemporaries as "valiant knights" and some as "perfectly well armed" (Froissart pp.553, 554). Hellqvist says that one of the coats-of-plates from the Visby battle-site on Gotland (1361) can be identified by the heraldic escutcheons it bore as belonging to a younger son of a noble Frisian family (http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?threadid=2898&s= - drawing on Bengt Thordeman's work on the Visby armour). Whether or not the gentleman in question was in fact serving at Visby as a mercenary, as suggested, this confirms that some richer Frisians wore heavy, up-to-date armours.


David Meyler says that "A small number of richer Frisians had horses and armour but usually fought dismounted"; his sources, however, are not stated. Frisian mounted troops are not mentioned in such accounts as I have seen of Staveren or the 1396 campaign, so that if these men did exist and were present, it does seem likely that they fought on foot. Note that Meyler says they "usually fought dismounted", though, which does suggest that they may occasionally have fought from horseback.


How should they be classified? I suggest Kn (I) largely to encourage dismounted fighting, as with their English counterparts. Furthermore, these seem to have been families of relatively modest means, living in country not conducive to mounted combat; it seems likely that not all would have good horses, or full or up-to-date armour, or much training and experience in mounted lance combat. When afoot, such men's full, or nearly-full, harness seems to rule out the Ax (X)/Pk (F) classification of the bulk of the infantry: such men couldn't move fast or vault over ditches. This suggests they might well have formed up separately. They might be heavier pikemen, but I am inclined to treat them as Bd like other dismounted knights - their social counterparts elsewhere in Europe. It may be too much to link them with the "long swords and axes and falchions" mentioned at Staveren – these could be the secondary weapons of pikemen – but given the tendency elsewhere to intermix pikes with polearms (such as Swiss halberds or Flemish godendags) it is tempting.


As for Dithmarschen, Contamine (p.163, citing W Lammers, "Die Schlacht bei Hemmingstedt: Freies Bauerntum und Fürstenmacht in Nordseeraum", Neumunster 1953), says that the Dithmarscher militia at Hemmingstedt was "reinforced by 500 mounted nobles and some hired men". Since some of the more prosperous Dithmarscher families regarded themselves as "at once noble and peasant" (Du Boulay p.134), it is likely that these may have been local men, and hence not restricted to this campaign; certainly the opposition to the "hired men" suggests they are not thought to be mercenaries. They do not appear in any other account of the battle that I have seen, perhaps because they undermine the simple contrast between the heroic peasants and their oppressive noble and mercenary opponents! It seems simplest to treat them the same as the Frisians. However, note that Contamine doesn't provide a page reference to Lammers, and Karl Heinz hasn't found the passage and doubts that cavalry were present in any number, so these nobles remain slightly questionable and I'm not completely sure that the suggested treatment is correct.


I have found no reference to such a class among the Stedinger. Given their history, such a class had less time to develop.


Hordes –

I haven't included any, but given the desperate nature of some of the peasants' stands I wonder if they pressed inadequately-armed or untrained combatants into service. At the defeat of the Frisians in 1396 a woman "dressed in blue … like a madwoman" fought in their front ranks, dying pierced with arrows (Contamine p.242, quoting Froissart), but that sounds more like one individual in a "normal" unit. Stedinger women, children and old people are described as being massacred by the Crusaders, but not actually in battle (Lingham p.49). For DBR Ian Gray allowed some Hd (F) "farmers, women and children", including those who built the fortifications and opened the sluices at Hemmingstedt – though I am not sure that these need necessarily have been separate from the fighting-men (Blom/Gray p.16).


Gunpowder weapons -

The current list allows Art (I) light guns to Free Cantons, as other German armies, from 1320, and handguns from 1375. However no guns are mentioned in the Frisian army at Staveren nor in 1396 (Froissart pp.553-555). The Frisians did have arquebuses (haakbussen) in 1498, though the numbers are not known; however they apparently had little if any artillery, since large guns firing hailshot were one of the advantages of Albert of Saxony's mercenaries (Fryske Akad.). Scott Isebrand claims that some of the Dithmarschen soldiers at Hemmingstedt in 1500 "certainly" used handguns, and as noted above they had 700-odd in 1532. In 1500 they had artillery pieces, which opened fire on the head of the Danish column at a range of 100 paces. Ian Gray suggests that given this short range they should be classed as Art (I) in DBR, and the same argument would apply to DBM and MM (Blom/Gray p.16), as non-inferior artillery has a longer range under all these rulesets.


The Dithmarschen muster of 1532 lists 43 guns – "6 halve Schlangen, 15 Quarteer Schlangen, 2 Mörser, 20 Scherpentiener" – but some of these are probably drawn from the Danish pieces taken at Hemmingstedt (20, 27, 35 or 39 guns depending on which chronicle source is used), and some could have been bought or cast after 1500 (http://www.bauer-und-bonde.de/english/bewaff.html and Lammers via Karl Heinz). This all might suggest as many as 20-30 guns were already available at Hemmingstedt, mostly if not all light. The rules are a little vague about what an artillery element represents - one element is "2-6 heavy artillery pieces, 30 light bolt-shooters" but what number of light, or even medium, guns? However I suspect that 30 light guns, the likely maximum at Hemmingstedt, would be about 2 elements at normal DBM/DBMM scale, rising to 4 if the list is, as suggested, at half-scale for Dithmarschen.


Perhaps the Frisians and Dithmarschers were later in adopting gunpowder weapons than other richer, less remote German communities. I have therefore restricted both handguns and artillery to the period after 1400, subject to any further evidence.


Allies –

All of these are very tentative, as I haven't so far found any evidence of them actually providing allied troops (nor, conversely, of any of them except the Danes in 1227 receiving allied troops). Further information very welcome!


Danes or Holsteiners:

Danes in the published list, presumably to cover the Dithmarschen while sometimes allied with Holstein-Denmark until they deserted the Danes at Bornhöved. I've changed the opening date from 1144 to 1148, to start after the Holstein expedition of 1147. (Though the Free Cantons can currently have Danish allies from 1144, the corresponding Danish entry in the DBM Norse Viking and Leidang list allows Free Canton allies only after 1218. Karl Heinz said Dithmarschen was only conquered by Denmark in early 1227, the same year as Bornhöved, but of course they may have been allied or temporarly subdued from time to time before that.) How far Holstein or Danish troops actually assisted Dithmarschen armies in this period I don't know, but it seems reasonable to allow them. (In fact Danish armies in the area might be a mix of Danes and Holsteiners (German feudal), but allowing two separate allied commands does not seem warranted.)



The archbishop of Bremen's nominal suzerainty over the Dithmarschen is the reason that clerical generals can command Free Canton troops in the current list. The 14th-century chronicler quoted above gives reason to doubt whether the Dithmarschers would actually turn up if called, however, and suggests that if they did they should be regarded as potentially unreliable, hence an allied contingent. Whether the same applied in the 12th-13th centuries I don't know. As usual, whether Bremen actually provided troops to the Dithmarschen at any time I also don't know. I assume any Bremen "alliance" didn't survive the Emperor's assigning the territory to Holstein rather than Bremen in 1474; if a plausible earlier end date is available, it might be preferable.



Dithmarschen became allied with Lübeck in 1468 (Du Boulay p.134) but whether Lübeck troops ever actually assisted Dithmarscher armies in this period I don't know. They did not do so in 1500, when Lübeck provided shiploads of supplies and ammunition, but not troops. Lübeck allies are therefore omitted, pending any further evidence.


Dithmarschen's mercenaries –

The "hired men" of Contamine p.163 (see above). Numbers unknown. These are common German mercenary types. This may be the thinking behind allowing Free Canton generals to command mercenaries in the existing list; the Hemmingstedt campaign is the only reference I have so far found to mercenaries, though, and even then they were dismissed before the battle (do we know why?).


Naval elements -

I originally didn't include any. Since then Ian Gray has noted that he included up to 8 elements of Bts (O) canal-boats in his DBR list in Arquebusier because of the network of canals centred on Heide, the target of the 1500 Dithmarschen campaign. Karl Heinz has noted that the Frisians were famous pirates, and it looks as if they even invented the cog, at a date before this list starts. However since we haven't yet found any evidence of naval elements intervening in land battles, I would be reluctant to allow too many. I therefore suggest two elements of boats, allowing Friesland only to replace them with cogs.



Impact on other lists


Impact on the main Medieval German list, IV/13 (or its replacements):

- Delete all references to Free Cantons

- Allow the following allies:


Only Clerical C-in-c (Bremen) in 1182-1474:

Dithmarschen allies – List: Frisian, Stedinger, or Dithmarschen

(See above for the end date.)


Only Feudal C-in-c (the anti-king William of Holland) in 1249:

Frisian allies – List: Frisian, Stedinger, or Dithmarschen

(Does an "anti-king" – elected King of the Germans, but by only a minority of electors (the three archbishops), when Frederick II is still on the throne – count as a feudal or an Imperial general?)


Impact on the Norse Viking and Leidang list, III/40:

Replace -

Only Danish Leidang after 1218:

Free Canton allies – List: Medieval German

with -

Only Danish Leidang in 1218-1227:

Dithmarschen allies – List: Frisian, Stedinger, or Dithmarschen


(The Danes need access to Feudal German troops for the Dukes of Holstein, but whether Holstein troops should be allies, incorporated into the main list, or under a sub-general would be worth further consideration.)





Arnold, Volker, "Ditmarschen Anno 1500" - http://home.t-online.de/home/Arnold-Heide/hemstart.htm


"Bauer und Bonde" re-enactors - http://www.bauer-und-bonde.de and

particularly http://www.bauer-und-bonde.de/english/bewaff.html


Blom, Carl – extract from "Bidrag til den Danske Krigsmasts Historie"

(1869), translation and commentary by Ian Gray as "The Ditmarschen

War, 1500" in "Arquebusier" XXIV/II (2000), pp.14-18


Contamine, Philippe, "War in the Middle Ages" (1980, English ed.

Blackwell, 1984)


DeVries, Kelly, "Infantry Warfare in the Early Fourteenth Century:

Discipline, Tactics, Technology" (Boydell, 1996)


"Die Stedinger" re-enactors - http://www.andurg.kn-bremen.de/stedinger/index.html


Dirks, Hans, "The Stedinger's fight for freedom" -



Du Boulay, F R H, "Germany in the Later Middle Ages" (Athlone Press,

London, 1983)


Encyclopedia Britannica (1911) at www.1911encyclopedia.org – entries

for "Frisians", "Dithmarschen" -



Froissart, Jean, "The Chronicles of England, France, and Spain"

(Everyman, J M Dent, London, 1906)


Fryske Akademy – summary of Johannes A Mol, `Het militaire einde van

de Friese vrijheid: de slag bij Laaxum, 10 juni 1498', Millennium 13

(1999) 3-20 at http://www.fa.knaw.nl/sjablonen/1/default.asp?objectID=390


"De gebeurtenissen omstreeks 1500 in friesland" at



Gravett, Christopher, "German Medieval Armies 1300-1500" (Osprey 1985)


Haverkamp, Alfred, "Medieval Germany 1056-1273" (1984; English ed.

OUP 1988)


Heath, Ian, "Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300" (WRG, 2nd edition,



Hellqvist, Björn, "The Battle of Visby, 1361" (1999) at



Isebrand, Scott, "Wulf Isebrand and the Battle of Hemminsgtedt" at



Lammers, W, "Die Schlacht bei Hemmingstedt: Freies Bauerntum und

Fürstenmacht in Nordseeraum" (Neumunster, 1953) – all points from

Lammers are courtesy of Karl Heinz Ranitzsch, to whom I am most



Lingham, R J, "The Witch Soldiers" in "Slingshot" 109 (September

1983) pp.48-49


Meyler, David, "Hundred Years War and Holland, a 100 Years War

Variant" at http://grognard.com/variants/100year3.txt


Nicholson, Helen, "Medieval Warfare: Theory and Practice of War in

Europe 300-1500" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)


Schumacher, Dirk, "Die Stedinger" at http://www.heh.uni-oldenburg.de/~dirks/die-stedinger.htm


Verbruggen, J F, "The Art of Warfare in Western Europe During the

Middle Ages" (English edition, Boydell, 1997)


Ward, A W "The Netherlands", Chapter XIII of "The Cambridge Modern

History, volume 1" (1903) at http://www.uni-mannheim.de/mateo/camenaref/cmh/cmh113.html

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