The Battle of Scherpenzeel

Last year I have done a lot of reading and searching on the battle of Scherpenzeel and the days leading to this battle. For this moment, I will skip the political landscape, and focus on the scenario I think is most plausible at the moment.

The battle of Scherpenzeel was part of the Sticht (Utrecht) Civil war in 1481-1483. It took place in the beginning of this period. It started with a conflict between cities and the Bischop, which was the ruler of the province.

Around September an army contingent from Holland visited Wijk bij Duurstede, the city where the Bishop, David van Burgundy, housed. After some festivities there were plans made to pillage the country around Amersfoort, which was one of the revolting cities.

The route to the Battle of Scherpenzeel. In blue the 4 days of march, with the distances in km. Also some nearby castles which were present around those days.

One of the sources speak about a 4-day trip. They started at Wijk bij Duurstede, and went north over the road in direction of Amersfoort. The army was build up:

  • Jean van Salazar (Biscay noble, leading the army)
  • 34 Biscay crossbowmen (Well trained, as the number is very specific, a force to be reckoned with)
  • Around 50 man on horse back (Unclear if the bowman are included)
  • 300 other armed man under Jean van Salazar
  • 300 knights from the army of David of Burgundy
  • 300 men at arms from the army of David of Burgundy

The total army was around 1000 man. It is unclear if the Bishop himself joined the raid, or had his troops lend to Jean.

I expect that they went to “Huis ter Eem” a small castle, defending the river Eem. It is located close to Amersfoort. The house was besieged around September 1481, and destroyed by a canon. It is unclear if this was done before or after the raid around Amersfoort. The raid was either a counter action, or the reason why the house got besieged, as it might have happened after the raid.

But as you can see from the map, the distance from Wijk bij Duurstede to Amersfoort is around 37 km. Which is a long day of marching, but I think is feasible. The distance back and forth is certainly to long, to do in a single day, making the 4 day raid plausible. The army had to stay somewhere during the knight, and the castle was owned by the Bishop.

The raiding happened to the north of Amersfoort, in the direction of Hoevelaken.

The modern day map of the same area as shown above. The villages and cities have grown a lot.

Raiding and burning houses will take some time, therefore I expect that they had to move to a next castle. I am not certain which castle this would have been, but there are multiple castles located just to the east of Amersfoort.

The next day I expect that they are planning to return to Wijk bij Duurstede. Multiple sources are stating that they pillaged up to 1500 animals, cows, sheeps and pigs. This is a very large number, and would not move quickly. Also costing a lot of manpower to guide. Therefore the people of Amersfoort, gathered in an army, hoping to pay back for raiding the countryside. The mayor of the city gathered around 400 man at arms. Unclear what experience they would have, but probably consisted out of some knights and the city militia.

Near Scherpenzeel both forces met. Numerical the two forces differ a lot, 400 man for the Amersfoorters and 1000 man for the Bishops army. But because of the booty, the forces which are capable to fight, will probably more in the range of 400 against 600.

Still the battle was lost by the Amersfoorters. Somewhere between 100 and 200 people got killed, and another 100-200 were taken hostage. This had a large impact on the city defense of Amersfoort, and they called Utrecht to send some troops, as almost all men had died or where in hostage.

The location of the battle was near the village of Scherpenzeel. Hence the name of the battle. The village was located next to the road to Wijk bij Duurstede. I expect that the battle took place here, because there is a river running close by, and the road was going through a fordable place. This would make some kind of bottle neck, slowing the forces down. Resulting in the Amerfoorters catching up with the Bishops forces.

A battle will take some time, and expect that the Bishop forces would have taken some rest. Scherpenzeel does have a small castle, but it is unclear on which side this was, and a lot of damage was done to the village. As the taxes was allowed to be not paid for the next three year, due to the damage.

Geography of the battlefield

In the map included I have used the same geographical historical background, only projecting some extra information on top. The reason to use this, is to make an assumption how the route of travel would have been. Peat areas would have been swampy and diffcult to travel, especially with 1000 man and 1500 animals. Also river crossings will steer in a certain direction. That is the reason how I ended up in the current route as drawn.

In the future I hope to look more detailed into this, to investigate were the battle around Scherpenzeel took place. In the village itself, or close to the ford, or maybe somewhere to the north of Scherpenzeel, as that is the most dry area. There is only one mention of terrain data on the battlefield mentioned in the sources I have read. That is of a large hedge, either used to cover one flank or the rear of the Amersfoorters.


Next I hope to create some wargaming scenario using the above story. This so I can play it, parallel to the further research on the historical accounts, as I now mostly have used second hand sources.

I hope to play the scenario using the Sword&Spear rules, and 2mm figures. So I have to create some army lists, and starting conditions. Probably I will create multiple scenarios, to check if the troop strengths can be made more competitive if needed.

To be continued

Geography of a Battlefield – “The origin of the Dutch landscape”

The origin of the Dutch landscape

In this post I hope to provide a quick overview of the history of the Dutch landscape.

Dutch Landscape ~1500BC

The Netherlands before the Roman occupation was partly sand and partly a marchy, swampy peat landscape. The southeastern parts (in light yellow and ochre) is higher and mostly consist of sands. The west and north is mostly covered in peat (reddish brown) with some swampy areas and streams (light blue and light green). Historical there is not much known on this area. There are some hunter gatherer communities, as found from archeological digs. But there is not much recorded on what actually happened.

Dutch Landscape ~100AD

During the roman occupation, or annexation, the cultivation of the land was started. They dried out the peat areas, to create farmland and to obtain fuel. this started around the bigger streams and rivers. As these were used as way of transport. And where the ancients highways. Most roman forts are found next to the rivers. The drying can be seen in the peat areas which are getting smaller.

Dutch Landscape ~800AD

Up until the medieval times, the cultivation continued and the large peat areas were getting smaller. The additional effect was, that the land was getting lower. When peat dries, it will shrink. Also it will start to rot, reducing the height level of the land. This is important in the next few ages, as it will increase the risk when a flood happens.

Dutch Landscape ~1500AD

After multiple floods (between 1000-1200 AD) the sea has reclaimed some lands. The zuiderzee (southern sea, nowadays mostly called Ijselmeer) has increased in size, and the northwestern part of the Netherlands is a lot smaller. To reclaim the land of the sea multiple projects are started to make polders. This will continue the next centuries, with hightpoint around the 17th century. But also the modern day Flevoland has been reclaimed from the Ijsselmeer, as shown in the above map, with the projected contours.

The next step will be to focus on the Gelderse vallei again. Located in the middle, just below the Ijselmeer. Some large peat areas are still present, providing some economical interest.


Quite recently I have been listening some podcast about the Dutch history. This quite interesting with a lot of information, and gives a quick overview of how the swamp land had grown into the Netherlands.

See their website or check on spotify


Vos, P. & S. de Vries 2013: 2e generatie palaeogeografische kaarten van Nederland (versie 2.0). Deltares, Utrecht. Op 07-11-2019 gedownload van

Geography of a battlefield – “Modern day Gelderse Vallei”

In my research on the Battle of Scherpenzeel and the Stichtse oorlog from 1481, I have recently digged into the topic of geography. If you want to wargame this war, you need terrain, and it would be nice to know how it would have looked. Because this already quite long ago more than 500 years, it is quite complex and difficult to determine. Therefore some basic research is needed, and probably some estimated guesses.

I have not written before on the battle of Scherpenzeel, but I hope this post (and the following with similar topic) will give a good bit of background information, to place the different events and actions on the map. My primary research will focus on the Battle of Scherpenzeel. Later on I will also dig into other area’s, but that will require new research.

Gelderse Vallei

Scherpenzeel is one of the villages in the Gelderse Vallei. Translated the valley of Gelre. Gelre the is the province or region. To start off, the modern day map of Scherpenzeel and surroundings. Also showing some other important places from this battle.

Modern day map of the Gelderse Vallei and surroundings. In the Southern part is the Rhine visible, with on the left Wijk bij Duurstede. The Red line is the current day province border between Gelderland and Utrecht. The position of Scherpenzeel is quite easy to spot, as it surrounded on three sides by the Utrecht province.

When looking to this map, and thinking of the Battle of Scherpenzeel, there are a couple of places which will become important for this battle

  • Wijk bij Duurstede, the place were the Burgundian troops departed
  • Area between Bunschoten and Hoevelaken, the place where they started raiding.
  • Amersfoort, the origin of the Amersfoort Army
  • Scherpenzeel, the place which did give the name to the battle.

Don’t forget that the Army did march between those points, so the routes become important to.

The next map will show why this area is called the Gelderse Vallei. This is the modern day height map of the area. In green the heigh, the darker the color the higher the area is. The red line is still showing the province border, and Scherpenzeel is laying in the middle. To the left you see the dark area which is called the Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Hill ridge) On the right side the large higher plains are the Veluwe area.

In the northern end of the map you can see two different colors. The reddish color, which is Flecoland. This is reclaimed land, and is below sea level. This did not exist before the 1950’s. The pink areas are polders, next to the river Eem. These areas where the place which were raided before the battle of Scherpenzeel. Part of the research will be, when these polders were actually dried up, and what the impact was on the landscape.

In the next post on geography I hope to focus more on the history of the Dutch landscape in general, and the influence of humans on this. After that I will focus on what the landscape of the Gelderse Vallei consisted off. Laying the bases to make an estimated guess on the map of those days.


Data used is been made available by PDOK, an open dataset of the Dutch goverment. ( The map has been created with QGIs. (

Book Review: Mercenaries and their Masters: Warfare in Renaissance Italy

Pen and Sword

A while ago this book was part of an discount of ebooks bij Pen and Sword. I bought and downloaded it, hoping to have some 15th century warfare stories inside. So I would have a better period feel for the 15th century projects. I am not really interested in the Italian wars, but it is part of Europe, and even in that period soldiers (and mercenaries) could already travel for long distances. So these soldiers could also fight in the other wars closer to the Netherlands.

The book itself does tell the story of Italian warfare, diving into the political aspects. Also the intrigues and conflicting city states. Naming a lot of companies and there commanders. It does occasionally describe some battles but only in general matters, focusing on the outcome and impact on the development of the mercenaries systems, and rise and fall of the different companies.


The book did focus on a different subject than I was interested in, and did not include the detailed descriptions on tactics and fights with mercenary groups I hoped for. If interested in the Renaissance Italian wars, this book is probably better suited, but cannot tell how well this is compared to other books. Probably not a very helpful review for others.