Defending fencers overwhelmed at the Battle of LaRochelle
Photo by Master Phillip the Pilgrim
By: Lord Nicodemus Thorne, Rapier Correspondent
Early Saturday morning, while the ground was still wet with dew, the fencers of the Known World assembled in front of the Fort for one of Pennsic’s favorite rapier battles, the Battle of la Rochelle. Sides were taken, twice the gates were stormed, and twice those inside died to the last man in defense of the castle. The defending teams held on for 13 minutes 28 seconds the first time and 13 minutes 12 seconds the second time.
As exciting as it was to see how the defenders used the gate, the towers and the stairway to hold the castle, it was what happened next that really stood out. It all came down to an oversight on the part of the Marshal-in-Charge, Maistre Anton du Marais of the Midrealm. He had informed the Pennsic Book to use the same description as in previous years which had stated that at the end, the castle would be defended by those who held their kingdom's terminal rapier award.
Shortly after 10 am, the fencers of the Known World exited the castle to form up for the assault. Alone and apart from them stood eleven fighters who would hold the castle or die trying. These were the Society's Masters of Defense. Even Maistre Anton put down his marshal's staff to take his place among them. Knowing that they did not have the numbers to hold the gate they did not even try.
It was together in the eastern tower that they made their stand, lining the tower’s interior walls to form a pocket of blades that their attackers would face. It was only in the last moment before the assault began, and at the suggestion of the marshals, that the Masters called upon their companions still waiting vigil for elevation into the order to join with them, but only a few were present to answer that call.
The battle began, and nearly 80 fencers swarmed through the gates and toward the tower. With only the entryway to the tower in which to fight, the attackers were not able to fit many of their numbers in the front line at the same time. Accommodation was made so that as they entered the castle, a smaller unit took the lead and were the first to face the Masters inside the tower.
In the minute and a half that the battle lasted, over 20 of the attackers fell before the Masters were overwhelmed. Finally, those with a grant level or equivalent rapier award were called to join the Masters for one last round. With their numbers fortified, the defenders were able to man the western tower as well as the eastern one and held out for around six minutes.