THE BATTLE OF MORGARTEN
 For a few years the Swiss had peace, but when the Emperor
Henri died the Duke of Austria, who was now called
Leopold, tried to make the Princes choose him as the
next Emperor. But Albrecht had been hated so much that
the Princes would not choose an Austrian as Emperor.
That made the Swiss very glad, for they greatly feared
another Austrian ruler. The new Emperor was called
Louis, and he was king to the Swiss, as Henri had been,
and gave them new letters saying that they were a free
Duke Leopold of Austria was very angry that he had not
been chosen Emperor, and his anger made him hate the
 than ever. Like Duke Albrecht, he resolved to fight
against them and conquer them. "The wretched
peasants!" he said; "I will yet tread them under foot."
Duke Leopold gathered his army and set out for Schwytz,
which he meant to conquer first. He was so sure of
victory that he took with him a cartload of ropes with
which to bind the prisoners.
But when the Swiss heard that Duke Leopold was coming,
they made ready to fight, strengthening their towns as
best they could, and keeping watch for him day and
Duke Leopold was a fierce and terrible man, but he was
also tall and handsome. He looked very splendid and
knightly as, dressed in glittering armour, he rode at
the head of his troops. Behind him were the greatest of
Austria's knights and nobles, followed by twenty
thousand gallant soldiers in shining armour.
 And this great host came marching against only six
hundred mountain peasants. There seemed no doubt as to
how the fight must end. But Duke Leopold little knew
what wonderful deeds these peasants could do when
fighting for their country and their freedom.
When the men of Schwytz heard that Leopold's great army
was near, they sent to Uri and Unterwalden for help.
They did not send in vain, and on the fourteenth of
November, as the sun was setting, four hundred men of
Uri arrived, led by Tell and Walter Fürst. At midnight,
as they sat round the watch-fires, Arnold Melchthal
came from Unterwalden bringing with him three hundred
more. The whole army numbered now thirteen hundred men.
Round the camp fires the leaders held a council of war.
"Brothers," said Stauffacher, "once more we are
gathered to protect our country against Austria. With
 help we will once more succeed. Even among the
Austrians we are not without friends. Yesterday this
arrow was shot into our camp," he went on, holding up
the arrow so that all might see it. "Fastened to the
shaft is a piece of parchment, and written upon it the
words, 'Beware of Morgarten.' That is surely meant for
"What does it mean?" asked some one.
"Are you sure it is a friend and no traitor who sends
"I know the writing. It certainly comes as a friendly
"Whose is it?"
"It is the writing of the Count Henri of Hunenberg. He
is our friend although he is an Austrian."
"Yes, yes," said every one, "we may trust him, he is
just and good."
Then a very old man rose and seemed about to speak, and
every one was silent to listen to him. He was so weak
 that he could not fight, indeed he could hardly walk.
But still he had come with the army, for although his
body was bent and worn with age, his mind was bright
and keen, and he was very wise. He loved his country,
and the people were glad to listen to his counsels.
"The letter is the warning of a friend," said this old
man. "It means that you must stay upon the heights of
Morgarten. Duke Leopold will lead his army through the
valley below. When his knights and horsemen are close
packed in the narrow pass between the mountain and the
lake they will be at our mercy. You can then rush down
upon them from above, and they will not be able to
The leaders resolved to do as the old man advised, and
after everything was arranged for the coming battle,
they lay down to rest till dawn. But scarcely had they
done so that the camp was roused again. In the
 still night the sound of the tramp of feet could be
"Who goes there?" called the sentinel.
"Friends," came the answer, "we would speak with the
captains of the army."
Dimly through the darkness could be seen the forms of a
small company of men. They were soon surrounded, and
their leaders were brought before Tell and the other
"Who are you, and what do you want?" asked Tell.
"We are outlaws," replied the men. "For our misdeeds we
have been banished from the land. But we are sorry for
the evil that we have done, and we have come to beg you
to give us a chance to win again the place which we
have lost. There are fifty of us. We come to offer our
lives for our country. Let us fight with you against
the Austrians. We ask nothing better than to die for
 "Go away a little," said Tell, "until we talk of this
matter. What think you?" he added, turning to his
fellows as the outlaws moved away.
"They may not fight with us," said the others. "We
cannot trust them." So after a little more talk the
outlaws were told that they could not be allowed to
fight in the Swiss army, and that they must go away.
The fifty men were very sad because the Confederates
would not let them help in the fighting. They went
sorrowfully from the Swiss camp, but they did not go
far. A little way off there was a ledge of rock above a
steep precipice. There they lay down to wait for the
enemy, for, although they were not to be allowed to
fight in the army, they had made up their minds to die
for their country. They had no arms nor weapons of any
kind, but somehow or other they meant to help.
Soon the first streaks of dawn turned the snow-topped
mountains pink. The camp
 was all astir, and in the early morning light the Swiss
were drawn up in fighting order. They wore little
armour, and besides their bows and arrows their chief
weapon was what was called a "Morning Star." This was a
heavy club, the head of which was thickly covered with
sharp iron points, so that it looked like a star. And
although it had such a beautiful name, it was a very
When the Swiss were ready for battle, they fell upon
their knees, as their old custom was, calling upon God,
as their only Lord and Master, to help them that day.
"Lord God of heaven and earth, look upon their pride
and our lowliness. Show that Thou forsakest not those
who trust in Thee, but bring them low who trust in
themselves and glory in their own strength." Then they
rose from their knees and stood waiting for the enemy.
They had not long to wait. The first
 beams of the winter sun fell upon helmet and
breastplate, on glittering shield and spear. Soon, as
far as the eye could reach, the valley was full of a
slowly moving mass of men and horses, their banners
fluttering in the wind, their weapons and armour
gleaming in the sunlight.
Never before had the Swiss seen such an army. On they
came, first the knights and men on horseback, behind
the foot-soldiers, until the valley between the
mountain and the lake was close packed. And above them,
on the mountain-side, the Swiss stood quietly watching
Meanwhile the fifty outlaws had not been idle. They had
gathered great heaps of huge stones and boulders and
brought them to the edge of the precipice. Now they
felt their time had come. The mountain road was
slippery, and the Austrian horsemen moved slowly and
carefully, but the foot-soldiers behind pressed on so
 the ranks were broken and thrown into disorder. At this
moment the outlaws, uttering wild shouts, rolled the
huge stones which they had gathered down upon the
struggling mass of men and horses below. As the stones
came crashing upon them, the Austrian soldiers, already
in some disorder, were thrown into utter confusion.
Riders were overthrown and trampled underfoot; horses
wild with terror galloped madly among the close-drawn
ranks; and always the soldiers from behind, not knowing
what was happening in front, kept pressing on.
The panic and rout seemed complete, when down the
mountain-side came the Swiss, charging in perfect
order. For although the slope was steep, their iron
spiked shoes gave them firm hold upon the rocky crags.
Swinging their morning stars about their heads, they
fell upon the Austrian host.
In the narrow pass between the mountain and the lake
there was great slaughter.
 Knight after knight fell dead under the blows of the
terrible morning stars. Hundreds were crushed and
trampled to death by their fellows. Hundreds more
sprang into the lake, hoping to save themselves, and
Fearless and foremost among the Swiss fought Tell and
his friends. As Tell with great blows clove a path
through the Austrian ranks, two knights fell upon him.
"Die, traitor," they cried, as their swords flashed in
the sunlight. But Tell avoided the blows, and swinging
his morning star, brought it crashing down upon the
head of one of the knights, while with his dagger in
his left hand he kept off the other.
The first knight fell, and as he fell his helmet rolled
off, so that his face was seen. It was the face of
Gessler's son Dietrich.
The second knight now attacked Tell fiercely. But very
soon he too lay dead beside his brother. For he also
was a son of
 Gessler. The two brothers had hoped to avenge their
Landenberg also, in spite of his promise never to
return to Switzerland, was with the Austrian army. But
he too fell upon the field.
In less than an hour and a half, before nine o'clock in
the morning, the Swiss had gained a complete victory.
It is said that fifteen thousand men fell in this
battle. All the pride and the glory of the Austrian
army had perished. For many years chivalry was rare in
the countries around, for all the bravest and best
knights lay dead upon the field of Morgarten.
Duke Leopold himself hardly escaped with his life. He
was led almost by force out of the battle by a soldier
who knew the mountain passes, and pale as death, broken
and sad, he arrived late that evening at a place of
Duke Leopold tried no more to take away the freedom of
the Swiss. After this battle
 a peace was signed, and year by year it was renewed.
Yet although by this battle a great blow against
Austria had been struck, the struggle was not at an
end. It was not until nearly two hundred years after
Tell's great shot that the Swiss were entirely free.
But never again did such dark and terrible days come
upon them; never again did they suffer as they suffered
when Gessler and Landenberg ruled the land.
In gratitude for the victory of Morgarten, the Swiss
built a chapel upon the battlefield. The walls of it
are painted with pictures of the fight, and to this
day, every year on the fifteenth of November, the day
on which the battle was fought, a service of
thanksgiving is held.
Tell lived quietly for many years in his house at
Bürglen, happy with his wife and children. In the year
1354 there was a great
 flood which carried away many houses and did much harm.
Many people were drowned, and William Tell, who was now
an old man, was among them.
But Tell still lives in the memory of the Swiss. They
love him still and honour him as the saviour of their
country. Where his house at Bürglen stood there is now
a chapel. On its walls are written, in German, these
"Here, where this holy church doth stand,
The saviour of his fatherland
Great William Tell erstwhile did live.
He made our freedom truly live,
And him to thank and God to praise,
This church upon the spot we raise.
Ah, comrades dear, think well thereon
What God and our fathers for us have done."
There is also a chapel upon the spot where Tell sprang
from Gessler's boat. The place
 is called Tell's Platte, and to this day, once a year,
a solemn service is held there, and the people, dressed
in their best, come from all sides in a gay procession
of decorated boats to do honour to the memory of their
At Küssnacht too, on the spot where Gessler died, a
chapel was built. After hundreds of years that chapel
fell into ruins, but another was built which still
Perhaps some day you may go to Switzerland and see all
these interesting places.
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