The progress of the Reformation attracted the attention of all Switzerland, but there was a strong opposition to it, especially in the five Forest Cantons: Lucerne, Zug, Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden; and the Zurichers felt it necessary to form a league in its defence.
According to him the men of Schwyz and of Unterwalden were the first to rise, those of Uri following suit much later But neither Justinger nor Hemmerli makes any allusion to Tell or his feat.
In the final recension of Tschudi's Chronicle (1734-36), which, however, differs in many particulars from the original draft still preserved at Zurich, we are told how Albert of Austria, with the view of depriving the Forest lands of their ancient freedom, sent bailiffs (among them Gessler) to Uri and Schwyz, who committed many tyrannical acts, so that finally on 8th November 1307, at the Riitli, Werner von Stauffacher of Schwyz, Walter Fiirst of Uri, Arnold von Melchthal in Unterwalden, each with ten companions, among whom was William Tell, resolved on a rising to expel the oppressors, which was fixed for New Year's Day 1308.
Unterwalden - in den Jahren1212-1315(Zurich, 1858); Alf.
In 1503 the French king ceded it to Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, which henceforth ruled it very harshly through their bailiffs till 1798.
We are told how, at a critical moment in the great battle of Sempach, when the Swiss had failed to break the serried ranks of the Austrian knights, a man of Unterwalden, Arnold von Winkelried by name, came to the rescue.
Among its members we find an Erni Winkelried acting as a witness to a contract of sale on the 1st of May 1367, while the same man, or perhaps another member of the family, Erni von Winkelried, is plaintiff in a suit at Stans on the 29th of September 1389, and in 1417 is the landamman (or head man) of Unterwalden, being then called Arnold Winkelriet.
Finally, we read the full story in the original draft of Giles Tschudi's chronicle, where the hero is described as "a man of Unterwalden, of the Winkelried family," this being expanded in the final recension of the chronicle (1564) into "a man of Unterwalden, Arnold von Winckelried by name, a brave knight," while he is entered (in the same book, on the authority of the "Anniversary Book" of Stans, now lost) on the list of those who fell at Sempach at the head of the Nidwalden (or Stans) men as "Herr Arnold von Winckelriet, Ritter," this being in the first draft "Arnold Winckelriet."
We find in the "Anniversary Book" of Emmetten in Unterwalden (drawn up in 1560) the name of "der Winkelriedt" at the head of the Nidwalden men; and in a book by Horolanus, a pastor at Lucerne (about 1563), that of "Erni Winckelried" occurs some way down the list of Unterwalden men.