Here's the facts: this kingdom is divided in 5 duchies. Once upon a time one of them was a small indipendent kingdom itself, but was conquered and now it's a Duchy, part of the bigger kingdom with his own army (every Duchy has his own army, that added to the Royal Army form the main combat force of the Kingdom)

One day, the Duke, a descendant of the old King (when the duchy was still a kingdom) decides to rebel: The King, to suppress the rebellion, calls to war all the Dukes except one, who is left behind to ensure the safety of the region in case another kingdom decides to take advantage of the situation and attacks.

Kingdom Army: Each Duke has 2000 men and 200 knights and the King's army is 5000 men strong plus 500 knights. In total we have three Dukes and the King: 11.000 soldiers and 1100 heavy armored knights. It's a good army overall, every soldier has a shield and a sword and has got some protection, like helmets and medium armor. The morale is not very high. The kingdom army doesn't have siege weapons. The cavalry will be useless. We will see why.

Rebels Army: We have 5000 soldiers and 200 knights, led by the rebellious Duke. But they are not alone: a lot of peasants are supporting the rebellion. 5000 peasants wants to fight. The peasants are not armed like the soldiers, they don't have much protection and their weapons consists in longbows, clubs, rusty knives and swords and other crude weapons. Some of them have leather armor, but in general they have really light protection. But, they are ferocious, motivated and eager to kill the invasor. The morale is very high.

Scenario: The rebel army occupies a small fortress on one side of this river. The fortress is old, almost a ruin. On the other side of the river, we find the camp of the kingdom forces. The parts will meet in the early morning in battle. The river is dry, in the sense that the water isn't there. But, it rained a lot the last couple of days, and now is basically a river of mud. The mud's height is about 3.5 to 4 feet. So, the knights are forced to fight dismounted, they can't charge the enemy with all this mud. The King doesn't want to wait for the siege weapons: the rebels have to be crushed fast. On the other hand, the rebels have to fight, because if the kingdom army builds siege weapons, they will be forced to fight anyways, or the fortress will be taken down with them inside.

So, both parts will meet in open field, with only this river of thick mud separating them, in wich most likely the main part of the combat is going to happen.

How the rebellious army, with low armored but angry and motivated troops could win this battle?

P.S. Sorry for the bad english

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    $\begingroup$ Why does your king's army attack over that river giving them a disadvantage? Why doesn't your king's army have siege weapons? Why should cavalry be useless (there's sure to be places where they could ford the river; they could also raid villages and cut off supplies to the fort)? Why don't your peasants use pikes, staffs and other farming implements instead of crude clubs? To my understanding your scenario is hinged on the answers to the questions I pose you. Please take time to consider them and rethink your scenario. $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Jul 1 '17 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ The general who ordered the heavy cavalry and heavy infantry to attack a fortified position over a deep muddy ditch is to be shot for treason or dismissed for incompetence. Given that the rebels where conveniently reduced to a dingy fortress, the normal course of action would be to use the superior mobility of the army to ford the river some distance from the fortress, then encircle the fortress and wait for the rebellious rabble to surrender and put their fate at the mercy of the merciful king. It's not as if the lightly armed rebels could mount a successful sortie. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jul 1 '17 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ Your army of peasants should be armed with spears. Even if they don't have steel points and just hardened the wood in the fire. If your army is untrained, the reach it's an important factor: two or three peasants can knock down a heavy knight and someone with a mace or a dagger jump over him to finish him. Several agricultural tools are similar to spears, like forks, scythes or crude glaves (used to cut the fruits on trees) $\endgroup$ – Alberto Yagos Jul 2 '17 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ How does anyone (rebel or loyalist) walk through one meter of mud? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 9 '19 at 5:36

I think you are adopting silly restrictions and making the enemy (the King) extremely stupid in order to answer your own question and give yourself the mud battle you already wanted. The King is being unbelievably stupid by planning an attack that strips him of every natural advantage he has; in fact I don't think your readers will continue to suspend disbelief if you make "the enemy" a moron.

So two things: When rebels have inferior firepower, weaponry and protection, the best they can do against a superior force is geurrilla warfare. They don't engage in head-on combat. They find (or lure) isolated knights, snare them, kill them, and steal their weapons and horse. If the horse is well trained enough to refuse, they kill it, thus at least depriving the King of a horse.

Second thing: If what you want is a mud battle, it cannot be mud when the battle starts. Either have your rebels collapse a dam that floods the battle field in mud, in order to level their playing field, or have the mud appear more spontaneously by a deluge of a thunderstorm. The thunderstorm option is a bit of a deus ex machina, but less so if you work such storms into the story, twice, well before the battle. The third time makes a "pattern"; and sounds more plausible, and not just a cheat to help out the rebels.

I'd prefer to see the rebels pick the place of their final stand against the King's army on purpose and secretly, downstream of a big dam (could be a beaver dam, for example), that their own three men will breach and cause a flood the moment the King's horses are in the river bed.

Let the other rebels paint their bodies and go into the fight nearly naked; the King's men won't know why. The King's men think they are going to slaughter the rebels, unaware of what is about to happen, but the rebels all know a wall of water is going to be on their side in moments: they just need to avoid the swords long enough for the horses and knights to be floundering. Then their near-naked selves are not weighted down by wet clothing or by armor filling up with water. Their bare feet are not metal boots suctioned to the mud base. They club the King's men to death, and steal their armor, weapons and surviving horses in the bargain.

Don't make your villains stupid and easy to defeat. They can be tricked by the unexpected; do not let them walk into losses that are wholly predictable, it makes the story a thoroughly boring wish fulfillment fantasy.

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The Battle of Agincourt is an example of what happened when a smaller, lightly armed force with long bows and some men at arms met a larger, more heavily armoured force with cavalry that had to charge across a muddy field. The English army number 6-9 thousand the French 12-36 thousand depending on the estimates that believe.

The English took a postion between two woods that limited the ability of the French to outflank them and waited for the enemy to charge them. In order to do this they had to cross a newly ploughed field, after rain that became a muddy quagmire.

When the French did attack the English Longbowmen used volley fire to inflict casualties amongst the French Cavalry that was hampered by the heavy mud slowing their charging speed. This lead to a pile up of dead horses, French Knights, living Knights that became stuck in the mud the lighter armed English men at arms were able to move in a kill the injured and slowed French with some ease.

There are also descriptions of dismounted French knights walking through the mud becoming so tired that they fell to their knees before they reached the English troops.

When the battle end the English were thought to have had around 600 dead, the French casualties were around 7000-10000.

In your scenario the rebels could take up postion on one side of the river bank and wait for the impetuous Royalist troops to attack them by crossing the river bed and attack them as they cross. Even if they do not cross with horses the mud will make crossing the riverbed on foot in heavy armour energy sapping.

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Mud is the great equalizer here, your question contains the answer. Horses don't cope well if they sink away in the mud, and all that matters in a fight taking place in the mud is stamina and strength of will. This tends to be higher in those fighting for their homes compared to employed soldiers fighting away from home. This is enough to compensate for the deficit in gear.

Anecdotal evidence

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