Austro-Swiss War (1460)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Austria vs. Swiss Confederation
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Rhine region of Switzerland
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The Swiss Confederation
wanted to push the Hapsburgs north of the Rhine.
OUTCOME: For the most part, the confederation was
successful; the Hapsburgs retained a few small holdings
south of the Rhine.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
TREATIES: Peace of Constance, 1461
As a result of the OLD ZURICHWAR, the Hapsburg Austrians
were driven out of the Aargau in 1450. Nevertheless, the
Hapsburgs’ presence continued to loom over the Swiss cantons.
Hapsburg duke Sigismund (d. 1496) ruled the Tyrol,
while Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (1415–93), member
of a rival branch of the Hapsburg family, walked a thin
line between asserting his imperial rights in Switzerland
and maintaining his claims to Hapsburg power. Ultimately,
his decision was to side with rival Hapsburgs against the
Thanks to its success in the AUSTRO-SWISS WAR
(1385–1388), the Swiss Confederation was both powerful
and prestigious. Appreciating this, Frederick III made the
mistake no effective leader can afford to make: He threatened
war but repeatedly deferred action. Sensing weakness,
the Swiss Confederation assumed the offensive.
When Frederick’s man in the Tyrol, Sigismund, was
excommunicated in 1460 because of a dispute over papal
succession, the confederation found its pretext for launching
a war. Dispatching an army to the Rhineland, the confederation
occupied Frauenfeld, then laid siege against
Winterthur. The siege was soon broken, but the confederation
did wrest the canton of Thurgau from the grasp of
Sigismund. This gave the confederation a strong hand in
negotiating a favorable peace at Constance in 1461. By the
treaty hammered out there, the Hapsburgs relinquished
many of their holdings in the Swiss territories.
Further reading: Douglas Miller, The Swiss at War
1300–1500 (London: Osprey, 1998); William E. Rappard,
Collective Security in Swiss Experience, 1291–1948 (Westport,
Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1984).