Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Appenzell War (1403–1411)

Appenzell War (1403–1411)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: The Swiss feudal district of Appenzell and the free town of St. Gall vs. the Abbey of St. Gall and Duke Frederick IV of Austria

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Modern-day Appenzell Canton, Switzerland

DECLARATION: None recorded

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: At issue were feudal obligations; the abbey and Duke Frederick wished to reimpose them, St. Gall and Appenzell to escape them entirely.

OUTCOME: Appenzell (and, by association, St. Gall) joined the Swiss Confederacy and became free of their former suzerain.




As the feudal economic order in Europe grew increasingly obsolete around the end of the 14th century and the social structures of feudalism began to collapse, vassal states found themselves under heavy pressure from their suzerains. Appenzell, a Swiss feudal district containing several legal and political communities, had been placed under the suzerainty of the Abbot of St. Gall by imperial decree in 1345. By the early 15th century, however, the free town of St. Gall, which had been granted the status of an imperial corporation because of its extensive textile trade, was financially independent of the feudatory district. Now the abbey, illegally demanded that St. Gall return to its former feudatory status and pay the assessments due under their old relationship. The town appealed to Appenzell for help, and in January 1401 eight communities agreed to ally themselves with St. Gall. The abbey immediately sought to punish both Appenzell and St. Gall, sending a monastic army against the alliance in 1403. At the defile of Speicher on May 15, 1403, the alliance, which had strengthened its position by welcoming numerous mountain peoples into the coalition, soundly defeated the forces of the abbey. The abbot appealed to Hapsburg duke Frederick IV of Austria (fl. 1380–1410),
who gladly sent troops to repress the “uprising.” Frederick’s troops and the abbey’s forces attacked St. Gall and Appenzell simultaneously in 1405. The alliance, with the support of the count of Werdenberg Heiligenberg, defeated the new attack just as handily as it had the previous, and in the flush of victory went on a violent spree against all feudal lords. King Rupert of Germany (1352–1410), annoyed by the inability of Frederick to handle the situation and alarmed by the reign of terror in the countryside, without any authority whatsoever in the region, ordered the rebels once again to accept feudal control by the abbey. The alliance ignored Rupert’s threats and in 1411 gained the support of the Swiss Confederacy. Under its protection the
alliance was in no danger from either Rupert or Frederick, both of whom were powerless to act against the confederacy short of launching a full-scale war.


Further reading: Charles Gilliard, A History of Switzerland (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978).

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