The politicke and militarie discourses of the Lord de La Nouue VVhereunto are adioyned certaine obseruations of the same author, of things happened during the three late ciuill warres of France. With a true declaration of manie particulars touching the same. All faithfully translated out of the French by E.A.
La Noue, François de, 1531-1591., Aggas, Edward.

The fiftenth Discourse.

That the auncient manner of aranging the horse in haie or file, is now of smal vse. Also that it were necessarie they should take the vse of squadrons.

THe Frenchmen, who are verie readie to em∣brace * nouelties, and to abandon olde things, haue not alwaies so obserued that rule, but that they haue continued steadfast in some auncient customes which they haue accounted ineete to be retained. But growing to a more diligent examination, it appeareth that as in some they Page  185 haue left the worse to embrace the better, so in others, it semeth they haue contemned that which was rather to bee receiued, than the same whereto they haue tied themselues. As also it hath fallen out that in one selfe thing they haue be wrayed their good & bad iudge∣ment. For when they might make some thing both profitable, faire, and easie, they haue bene contented with the first, and in liew of the other two haue intruded vncomelinesse and difficultie. Whereof * I will alleadge an example, in matters of armes. For where they had some reason in respect of the violence of harquebuzes & dagges to make their armor thicker and of better proofe than before, they haue now so farre exceeded, that most of thē haue laden themselues with stithies in liew of clothing their bodies with armour. Lyke∣wise all the beautie of the horseman, is conuerted into deformi∣tie. His head peece resembleth an ron pot. On the left arme hee weareth a great gantlet vp to his elbowe, and on the right a poul∣dron, that shal scarce couer his shoulder: and ordinarily they weare no Tases: also in liew of Cassockes, a Mandilion, and no Speare. Our men of armes in ye time of K. Henry made a farre fayrer shew, wearing their Sallet, Pouldrons, Tases, Cassocke, Speare, and Banderol, neither was their armour so heauie, but they might wel∣beare it 24. houres, where those that are now worne are so waigh∣tie, that the peize of them will benumme a Gentlemans shoulders of 35. yeres of age. My selfe haue seene the late Lord of Eguillie, and the knight of Puigreffier, honourable old men, remain a whole daie armed at all assaies, marching in the face of their companies, where now a yong Captaine will hardlie continue two houres in that state.

But hauing determined to treate of the order of horse, I haue * dwelt too long vpon this point. I saie therefore that the order he∣therto obserued in the aranging of them woulde be left, to the ende to take another which reason willeth vs to followe, as beeing the better. But I doubt some will controule this proposition, saying that olde customes are not rasly to be altered: also that when the men of armes most flourished, this was their manner of fight. Like∣wise that sith the late Duke of Guise or the late Lord Constable, who were so excellent Captains, made no innouation therin, it see∣meth that it should be still so vsed. For if alterations in matters of state (as Plutarke sayth) be dangerous: like wise the thanging of martiall orders, bringeth inconueniences. But when a man hath by proofe found the profit arising by the new order, and the defects Page  186 of the olde, is it not high time to forsake the one and laie holde of the other? The Romaines, who may be sayde to haue ben soueraigne masters in the art of war did many times y like. Moreouer, because the men of armes haue had good successe when they were ra••ged in a haie, doth it followe that now they should so range themselues? No, for many things haue since happened, that may compell vs to change our fashions: as we haue done in fortifications since the in∣uention of Artillerie.

Froissart who in his Historic treateth at large of the French warres, dooth greatlye commende the horsemen of his time, which was fortie yeres before the erection of the Ordonances. And by his discourse it seemeth that they fought in file: hee there descri∣beth thē to be well armed, mounted vpon mightie iades, & hauing strong speares, whereby they might giue a great push. I doe also suppose that they chose this order, because the same horsmen con∣sisted onely of Gentrie, so as euerie man woulde fight in front, and neuer continue in the last ranke, euerie one esteeming himselfe to be in valour no lesse than his companion: as also it is to bee presu∣med that in those dayes other Nations obserued the lyke order. Af∣terward when ye men of armes were erected they follow the same, & so continued vntil the middest of the raigne of king Henrie the se∣cond, with much happie successe. But toward the end of his raigne our losses taught vs, that in parte they proceeded of the weaknesse of our saide order, and the firmenesse of that of our enimies. Then did the squadrons of speares growe into credite, who (as I haue heard) were so aranged by the Emperour Charles, who meeting our files of men of arms did easilie ouerthrow them, which also the squadrons of Rheitres haue sometimes done: neither is it much to be meruailed that it came so to passe for natural reason sheweth it, which willeth that the strong carrie awaie the weake: Also that sixe or seauen ranks of horsemen ioyned together ouerthrow one alone.

Some make this obiection. That when a companie is so stret∣ched forth, they doe all fight, whereas being in squadron scarce the * sixt parte doe ioyne, viz. so much as in the fore front. Hereto I an∣swere, that in the aranging of a troupe, we must not care so much, that euerie one at the meeting strike one blow with his speare: but rather that it may bee able to ouerthrowe all that come agaynst it, which is much brauelyer done when it is in the squadron? It may lykewise bee replyed that the squadron cannot ouerthrowe aboue fifteene or sixteene horse at the most of the troupe that standeth in a Page  187 haie, which is true, but those shall be about the Ensigne, where the Captaines and best men are placed: which being carried awaie, al the rest shaketh, and although that parte that hath not bene touch doe close vp the flankes of the squadron, yet doth it small harme, in that it cannot enter vpon the men that are thus in a heap vnited to∣gether: who likewise in their shockes doe strike those as well as the first, and breake them.

Yea, although three or foure troupes of horse be araunged in a haie one at anothers heales, yet shall a squadron ouerthrow them all almost as easilie as the boule doth many rankes of scailes: So that there must be one force to withstand another. If a Captaine hauing one thousand Corcelets to set in battayle araie shoulde not make past two or three rankes of them, euen the souldiours would laugh him to scorne, because by reason euerie battaile must haue his conuenient thicknesse.

The like consideration almost is to bee had of the horse, and I wonder it hath no sooner beene spied: For if the two nota∣ble Captaines aforenamed, had liued, they woulde peraduen∣ture haue taken order for it. It is not vnknowen to those that were in ye kings armie at Vallenciens that there were nere 10000 French speares: also that comming before the forte where the im∣periall were intrenched, I noted that a bodie of three hundred men of armes aranged in file, tooke almost 1000. paces in length, & the rest of the horses kept an infinite ground. But if the sayd 300. men of armes had bene set in 3. squadrons, they would not haue occu∣pied aboue sixe score paces in length, and the order had bene far bet∣ter: for to the end to archieue some notable feare, the men must bee close, and the better to helpe each other, they must not be so sca∣red a sunder. Our men of armes haue in our ciuill warres well perused the forces of the Reisters squadrons: for notwithstan∣ding they alwayes gaue the onset couragiously, yet could they neuer breake them, for they are so thicke that there is no meanes to get through them. At S. Quintaines and Graueling they were throughly: taught what great squadrons of speares are able to doe, by whom they were easilie ouerthrowen. All which proues may be sufficient to induce our great ones to correct the imperfec∣tions of our orders.

Yet one example more I wil allege the better to dis••se thē ther∣to: namely the battel of Montcontour, where ye kings horse being brought into squadrōs of speares, at their ioynis wt the protestāts, Page  188 who were ordered in a haic and without speares, might see how ea∣sily they were ouerthrowen.

Yet will I better examine these matters, beginning with a squa∣dron * formed of a companie of fiftie men of armes compleat. Hee that list to make seuen ranks, his foremost shal containe at the least fifteene speares. Now is it like that those whom wee set foremost are choice men, and the second doe wel second them in valour: and it is a miserable companie that hath not at the least 25. good men in it. As for the rest whō I presuppose not to be so valiant, they be pla∣ced as it were in couert vnder the shadow of the former, which ma∣keth them to followe the more cheerefullie to the charge, as know∣ing that the head must beare all the daunger and hurt, which if it breake the enimie, they shall be partakers of the same honour. So that it is a notable signe of cowardlynesse, when a troupe sobrdered dare not ioyne. Considering that the valour of the first should vrgè them to the onset, and the assurance of the last to follow and thrust in. But when a troupe is set in a wing, although the good, which ordinarily are the smallest number, do march cheerely to the onset, yet the rest that are not so willing to bite, (which faine to bleede at the nose, to haue a broken stiroppe, or to haue their horse vnshooed) doe staie behinde, so as within two hundred paces of waie, we shall see glasse windowes in that long file, & great breaches wil appeare therein, which greatly incourageth the enimie: and many times a∣mong an hundred horse, scarce 25. doe enter in: who afterwarde knowing themselues to haue no supporte, when they haue broken their staues and stroke one blowe with the sword, (if they be not o∣uerthrowen at their first comming,) do retire. And this sheweth what difference there is betweene one kinde of fight and another. When I consider of what maner of people the companies of other nations do consist, and of what people ours are full, I wonder that wee passe them not in goodnesse. For if we marke the Burguini∣on men of armes, which are in great reputation, we shall not finde much gentrie in their companies. In the Italian and Spanish troupes, which at this daie are the best, there be fewer: True it is there be verie good souldiours. But in one of our bandes of Ordi∣nance of fiftie speares which should containe about an hundred and fiftie horse, we shal finde notwithstanding the corruption creapt in, aboue 60. Gentlemen, who respecting their honours ought to doe better than others of meaner calling: not that I will affirme this rule to be alwaies true, though for the most part. Now the meanes Page  189 thereby to furnish out our men of armes with Gentrie, consisteth in maintaining it as in time past: also to make it inuincible, is to vse it to fight in suadrons. And for my part I suppose that 100. varlets armed, manned, and guided, keeping this order, will ouerthrowe 100. Gentlemen fighting in haie.

Some doe thinke it to be a hard matter to bring our Nation to * vse this order, which is true in respect of great Lordes and wilfull Gentlemen, for that euery man coueteth to be formost in the march and fight: But in one of the companies of Ordinance the Captain doth purchase obedience, either by loue or force. And when this ma∣ner hath bene a little practised, euerie one wil frame himselfe ther∣to. One thing we must note, that men when they come to fight wil neuer keepe their rankes well, vnlesse they be first vsed to it in their ordinarie march, for from the lesser men grow to the greater, and he that is perfecte in one is the readier to acquite himselfe in the o∣ther. We see the Reisters and their varlets, who haue no more de∣uotion than our French Gentlemen, religionsly obserue this order. And to saie the truth, this manner of march is verie commodious, and our selues doe commend it in them. But endeuouring to prac∣tise it, as a nouelty it doth by & by grieue vs, as being too solemne. Which riseth of our impatience, that neuer leaueth vs one quarter of an houre in one state. But this may the Captaines authoritie in time remedie. Some will saie that three hundred speares in file, maketh a greater shew than three squadrons of the like number, which cannot be denied. But for the fight (whereat we must chiefe∣ly aime) they are of no such effect. And this is it that should be well beaten into warriours heads. For the Captaines ought by instruc∣tions to make them halfe souldiours, and by experience to perfect them.

Let vs now see whether the auncient order bee in these dayes no whit to be practised. I think it may be vsed in two occasions. First when we send forth twentie or thirtie speares, for that troupe being so small may better fight in haie, where it maketh most shew. Se∣condly, when wee come to charge the footmen, it is good to diuide a squadron into many small troupes in file, which may assayle in sundrie places. But except these two occasions, I would wish the horse alwayes to keepe this order of squadrons. Besides, if we con∣sider how meanely many are in these dayes mounted, and how vn∣coward at the speare, we wil be ashamed to put them into a simple bodie, which were as much as to set them to bee beaten for the Page  190 nonce. Now let all such as haue had experience of the warres iudge whether the fore that I haue propounded, which the Spaniards, Italians, Burguinions, and Germaines doe vse, be not better than the olde. Many other questions might be demaunded, as how ma∣ny rankes should make a squadron, what number it should contain, & whether 2. squadrons of 250. speares a peece would counteruaile 300. as good as one of you? Concerning the ranks, I would order thē after the valour of the men: which the greater it were, the fewer would I make, and the lesse the more. As for the number conueni∣ent for a squadron, we must in part haue regarde to our enimies or∣der. For if theirs be great, ours must not be small, and in my opini∣on, except against the Turkes three hundred speares will suffice. And the third question is easily decided. For two meane troupes hauing good corespondence, & charging in season, are, in my mind, of more importance than one great.