1844 Old Suisse Confederacy Basel Schutzenfest Shooting Silver Medal “Fallen Hero at the Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs - 1444, 400th Anniversary”, Thaler 38 mm Mintage < 500.
1844 Old Suisse Confederacy Basel Schutzenfest Shooting Silver Medal “Fallen Hero at the Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs - 1444, 400th Anniversary” Mint. < 500! (Book Ref.: Richter 87-b) High Reliefs Great Condition Lovely Toned Crown-sized 38 mm. V. Rare!
The Old Suisse Confederacy Arnold Schick of Uri as the fallen hero at St. Jacob an der Birs holding on to his battle flag as he collapses on his shield.
- Inscription Reverse:
"DER SCHILD ZERBROCHEN. DAS SCHWERT ENTZWEI. DAS BANNER IN STERBENDER HAND TRIUMPH DAS VATERLAND BLEIBT FREI. GOTT SEGNE DAS VATERLAND."
"The shield broken. The sword, too. The banner in the dying hand- triumph of the Fatherland, it'll stay free. God bless the Fatherland."
- The Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs: -
The Battle of St. Jakob an der Birs was fought between the Old Swiss Confederacy and French (mostly Armagnac) mercenaries, on the banks of the river Birs. The battle took place on 26 August 1444 and was part of the Old Zürich War.
In 1443, the seven cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy invaded the canton of Zürich and besieged the city. Zürich had made an alliance with Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, who now appealed to Charles VII of France to send an army to relieve the siege.
Charles, seeking to send away the "écorcheurs", troublesome troops made idle by the truce with Henry VI of England in the Hundred Years' War, sent his son the Dauphin (later Louis XI of France) with an army of about 30,000 of these écorcheurs into Switzerland, most of them Armagnacs, to relieve Zürich. As the French forces entered Swiss territory at Basel, the Swiss commanders stationed at Farnsburg decided to send an advance troop of 1,300, mostly young pikemen. These moved to Liestal on the night of 25 August, where they were joined by a local force of 200.
In the early morning, they managed to surprise and rout French vanguard troops at Pratteln and Muttenz. Enthused by this success, and in spite of strict orders to the contrary, the Swiss troops crossed the Birs to meet the bulk of the French army of some 30,000 men, which was ready for battle.
Immediately the Swiss forces formed three pike squares of five hundred men each, and they fought well when Armagnac cavalry charged again and again and were repulsed.
Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (1405–1464, later Pope Pius II, until 1439 participant in the Council of Florence), described the battle in vivid detail, telling how the Swiss ripped bloody crossbow bolts from their bodies, and charged the enemy even after they had been pierced by spears or had lost their hands, charging the Armagnacs to avenge their own deaths.
The fighting lasted for several hours and was of an intensity evoking awed commentary from witnesses. Eventually, the Swiss pike squares weakened, so the commander ordered his men to retreat into a small hospital of St. Jakob. A small reinforcement from Basel was repulsed, and its leader, Henman Sevogel, was killed.
The Armagnac troops set their artillery to bombarding the hospital, inflicting heavy casualties on the Swiss. But the Swiss, as the offensive party, categorically refused to surrender and as the Armagnacs moved into the hospital, the remaining Swiss were pressed into the hospital's garden and killed to the last man within half an hour.
Even though the battle itself was a devastating defeat for the Swiss, and a major blow to Bern, the canton which contributed the force, it was nevertheless a Swiss success in strategic terms. In view of the heavy casualties on the French side, the original plan of moving towards Zürich, where a Swiss force of 30,000 was ready, was now judged unfavourably by the Dauphin and the French troops turned back, contributing to the eventual Swiss victory in the Old Zürich War. The actions of the Swiss was praised as heroic by contemporary observers and reports of the event quickly spread throughout Europe.
The Dauphin formally made peace with the Swiss Confederacy and with Basel in a treaty signed at Ensisheim on 28 October, and withdrew his troops from the Alsace in the spring of 1445. The intervention of the Church Council being held in the city of Basel at that time was crucial in instigating this peace: the Swiss Confederates were allies of the city of Basel, and so the Dauphin's war could also be construed as an aggressive act against the Council housed within its walls. Charles VII of France had implemented the reformist decrees of the Council of Basel in 1438, so it was important for the Dauphin not to appear to be threatening its members.
In terms of military tactics, the battle exposed the weakness of pike formations against artillery, marking the beginning of the era of gunpowder warfare.
While the sheer bravery or foolhardiness on the Swiss side was recognized by contemporaries, it was only in the 19th century, after the collapse of the Napoleonic Helvetic Republic, that the battle came to be stylised as a kind of Swiss Thermopylae, a heroic and selfless rescue of the fatherland from a French invasion.