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 second Paradoxe.

That 2500. Corcelets and 1500. Harquebuziers may more easely retire three French leagues in a plaine fielde then 2000. Speares.

AMong all militarie actions accompted notable, this * hath the first place as one of the most difficult, as also it is a great testimonie of the sufficiencie of the. Cap∣taine that can compasse it. And as there are fewe willing to vndertake it, for feare of fayling: so perad∣uenture shall we finde fewer that will beleeue that it may be done, because it is a thing that happeneth so sieldome. Neither would I reproue their opinion if they ment that in the weakenesse wherein our infantery now cōsisteth it were vnpossible to attaine to yt effect. For hauing no vse of the pike & voyd of discipline, I do not thinke that 10000. harquebuziers taken frō thence durst shew themselues in the plaine before 600. speares. But with the 4000. men of whō I meane to speake, all of our owne nation and of no other, reduced into good order and obedience, and in their auncient armes, I will vphould that the retraict propounded may be performed.

Such as will gainsay (of whome there are many) will pro∣pound * an argument gathered of experience, saying, that no Histo∣riographer setteth downe any such example, at the least none of those that haue written of the warres happened since the yeere 1494. hetherto, which haue bene very notable: also that these proofes appeared only in the time of the Romaines. Whereto for my aunswer, sith they beate me with experience, I will defend my selfe by the same and say, that it maketh no more against me, then with me. For regarding what is past, we may note such happes as Page  204 verifie my proposition not to bee vnpossible. First I will alleadge * the braue retraict of Don Aluares of Sande in Afflicke. He had, as I haue heard, 4000. Spanyards, souldiers of great valour, and to come where he purposed, he was to passe a plaine of foure or fiue miles, which (trusting to his men) he aduentured to doe. But he was not so soone set forward, but eightéene or twentie thousand horse of the Moores were at his heeles, who coueted to catch him in this bad aduantage. He then hauing ordered his battaile and ex∣horted his men, went forward on his way where all these horse did fiue or sixe times set vpon him, but he bare their brunt and so braue∣ly repulsed them, that with the losse of 80. men at the most he brought the rest into safetie, and slew seuen or eight hundred of the enemies. Some will say, that they wanting armour did not pearce so sharply as do the Christian horsemen, who doe farre passe them in courage. I graunt ours are more valiant, but theirs did not as∣saile very slackly, or els they had not lost so many. And by this ex∣ployt it appeareth, that footmen resolute and well led may passe a∣ny where. Guicciardine also in his historie reporteth a gallant re∣traict * of 2000. Spanyards after the Frenchmen had broken their armie at Rauenna: for being ioyned againe into their bodie, al∣though the horsemen did follow and charge them, yet did they saue themselues, yea and slewe Gaston de Foix the conquerour that pursued them.

In these retraicts here do appeare great determinatiō but small * arte, which neuerthelesse is very necessarie in such affayres: wherto I will also adde the instruction of the souldiers. For when all these three things shall concurre in one troope, I doubt not but it may worke greater meruailes then the former. Some will say, that the Frenchmen can at this day hardly helpe themselues with the pike, which is true, neither do I merueile thereat: for in deliuering both it and the corcelet to any man, men looke to no more, but whe∣ther he hath good shoulders, as if it were to carie some coffer like a moyle: and as for the gentrie they haue quite giuen it ouer. This is the reason why I wish the restoring of martiall discipline, as al∣so that they would againe practise the pike, wherewith to fight at hand and open, and to leaue to the youth and poore Souldiers the handling of the harquebuze, because that therewith they ordinarily fight a farre of and in couert: for the one is farre more honorable then the other. Captaines in ould time, venturing vpon some dif∣ficult enterprise, wished to haue their Souldiers not only well or∣dered, Page  205 but also old beaten warriours, because their assurance is the greater. For it were but an ouersight to attempt any perillous ad∣uenture with newe men. Now will I come to Instruction, which is (as I haue sayd) merueilously requisite in extraordinary mat∣ters. And yet we now see that the Souldier contemneth it: and the Captaine careth not for it. But admit a Souldier bee valiant, and that wheresoeuer he be placed he will doe his duetie: thinke you he will not doe it much better, or that he will not fight more resolutly, when before he hath by good reasons bene perswaded that the horse cannot force a battaile in the face: likewise that for the flancke they must vse such fortification as I will hereafter set downe, then if he were vtterly ignorant and wist not what might happen? I thinke no man will denie it: for certainly ignorance is in parte cause of the feare that many men of warre doe oftentimes conceiue: For that seeing the enemie in their faces, they thinke they should, ac∣cording to the prouerbe, euen eate yron charets. I know that prac∣tise teacheth to knowe the true from the false, but there is much time spent therein, vnlesse it bee holpen by familier and ordinarie documents, which those captaines that seeke to haue the best com∣panies doe diligently giue to their souldiers.

Hauing thē the num∣ber of Footmen afore * mentioned, readie tray∣ned and instructed, they should be arāged in this maner. I would make two battailes of them each of 1250. corcelets, & 750. Harquebuziers: If any man aske why two rather then one, I say, to the ende the one to fauour the other, as may bee seene in the fi∣gure hereto adioined for the better cōprehending thereof.

[illustration]

The ordering of the footmen asorenamed to withstand the hotse in the fielde.

Page  206 For marching but 80. paces asunder and coasting each other, it followeth that the head of the battaile marked A can hardly bee charged, because the side of the battaile marked 3 doth flancke it, as likewise the sayd head doth as much for the sayd flancke: by the same reason also one of the heads of the battaile marked 2. and the flancke of the other marked D doe also succour each other by their harquebuziers, so as it is very daungerous for the horse to assayle in such places which enterflancke each other. But may some man say, although the two battailes cannot be assaulted but each vpon two sides, why is it not as good to make but one onely, which cannot be assailed in any more places? For it seemeth the resistance would bee more gallant, because that force vnited is much greater then deuided. I am of opinion that in these actions, it is not so re∣quisite to looke to the greatnesse or smalnesse of the battailes, as to the difficultie and hinderance when they finde themselues assay∣led on euery side. For it is a great aduenture but there will growe some disorder when one bodie must make defence in foure places: but when they neede not to looke but to two sides, the men doe frame themselues thereto with greater ease and much better order. This reason shall content me for the verifying of my speech, not∣withstanding I could alleadge others.

Concerning the ordering of the battailes, I would wish euery * rancke to conteyne fiftie Corcelets, whereof there should be seauen at the head, which would make three hundred and fiftie, then tenne ranckes of harquebuziers, and in the middest of them the rancke of Ensignes, afterward for the tayle sixe ranckes of Corcelets, which in all make sixe hundred and fiftie Corcelets and fiue hundred har∣quebuziers placed in foure and twentie rankes. For the flanckes, wherein al the difficultie doth consist, they should be ordered in ma∣ner following. I would neuer place there any harquebuziers as hath hetherto bene vsed, but make sixe rankes of three hundred Corcelets, in each fiftie men which should serue to make head on those sides. The enemies being néere, they should march otherwise then the rest, namely close and carying their Pikes vpright leaning against their shoulders, which is now sufficiently in vse. Whereas at the heads of the battaile, when any thing is to be done, in their march they trayle them, which maketh much distance betweene their rankes,

Now, these sixe ranckes when the charge is offered, after they stand shall doe nothing but make halfe a turne, and so continue in Page  207 their array with their face to the enemie, and by my aduice, they should take but threescore common paces in length, which properly should bee the same which the battaile being closed to fight, may haue open by the flanckes. Thus should they bee armed to with∣stand the horsemen, which cannot bee well done but with Pikes: for the harquebuze shot without couert wil easely be ouerthrowne. There remaine yet two hundred and fiftie harquebuziers to bee placed in the battaile, counting the Muskets whom I would wish to bee distributed into foure partes, in each threescore and some∣what more to stande as it were loose before the Pikes, and at the charge to arange themselues vnder those of the first ranckes on the foure sides of the battaile.

Some will mislike I should make the heades so weake and * only of sixe ranckes of Corcelets, thinking them too fewe to beare the brunt of a whole hande of horse. To whom I may say, that if there were tenne it were the better, but I haue cut my coate after my cloath: howbeit, I thinke such frontes sufficient to resist the horse, which may easely bée done, if the men haue courage and will be sure to stand strongly, and fewe battailes haue wee seene ouer∣throwne by any assault of the horse at the head. As for the flankes which I haue described in such sorte as before, they be as strong as the heades, so long as they can keepe their order. And this order I would wish them to keepe in their fight. First, while the horse were farre of, it were good the battailes did goe forwarde, but seeing them readie to charge, to stay to the ende the better to settle themselues in order and with good footing to beare their first brunt.

The first rancke of Corcelets to plant the endes of their Pikes * sure in the ground, and not to stirre though a horse should goare himselfe thereon: also to hould them about the middest, and vnder the foreends should the threescore Muskets and Harquebuzes ap∣poynted, arange themselues, with one knee on the ground to shoote the surer, as also to be somewhat defended. The other ranckes of Corcelets to stande vpright almost close with the first rancke and to make the bodie of the battaile. Then the horsemen comming to charge, I doubt not but they shall finde themselues shrewdly a∣noyed by the Harquebuziers, which shooting within twentie pa∣es, iust in the face of the horse, in my opinion will mayme the whole first rancke of the squadron: but if any thinke them in small suretie there; I will aunswer, that they can no where bee better Page  208 placed at the head then here: for they must bee where they may anoye at the first brunt, and although the Speares or breastes of the horse doe ouerthrowe some foure or fiue on a side, it were but a small losse. For it is most certaine that when a Squadron of horse shall see nine or tenne horse fall downe at the first comming, such as followe will haue an eye to their consciences. Thus after the Squadron shall haue borne this sharpe welcome, it must like∣wise strike vppon the Pikes of the first rancke, or els moderate the first heate, as also because the first gored horses shall bee forced to stande, and so stay the rest that followeth. And although this defence might somewhat yeeld, yet should they still finde the bo∣die of the battaile readie to beare their brunt, wherein consi∣steth the principall force. And in trueth I should thinke it vnpos∣sible (if the Souldiers would not bee afeard) to ouerthrowe such a barre: for we must thinke that though the horses runne with great force, yet a small thing letteth them, the smoake and noyse of the Harquebuziers scarreth them, hurtes stoppe them, mens conceiued feares doe make them to pull backe, and the crye of the battaile hath some effect, notwithstanding the greatest of all pro∣ceedeth of the resistance of the Pikes. Besides all this, some rancke of Harquebuziers placed in the middest of the battaile might likewise shoote ouer the heads of the Pikes, who bending themselues to the fight doe somewhat stoope, whereby parte of the horsemans bodie may be seene.

Some peraduenture will scorne hereat and say, that all these * small obseruations were more fit to bee practised in Dances and Maskes rather then in the warre, likewise the ould custome haue alwaies bene best, though wee trouble not our selues with so ma∣ny impractiseable nouelties. But I am not of their mindes, for they put me in remembrance of many of our fathers that laughed at so many inuentions for the fortifying of the Houlds, tearming them Italian deuises, affirming that one good great Rampier would suffice to warrant men from the force of the Canon, vp∣pon the which they might defende themselues Pike to Pike. And yet experience hath taught vs that then townes were taken within eight daies, where now we cōsume almost a whole season, so often must wee fight before wee can winne a Raueline, then the ditch, then the Rampier, then the inwarde trench. For if in the should there bee one ingenious person and a Souldier withall, such a one as was Captaine Bastian in Maistrict, he maketh them Page  209 that are without to sweate water and blood. I would thinke that that which I require in our battell, should not be so hard to practise, sith our newe Souldiers when wee traine them, doe make many more turnes and returnes for pleasure. Why then should not the olde Souldiers labour to learne any thing that may breede their honor and safegard.

Two other obiections may yet be here made. The first: that the * flankes of the battell shall still be much weaker then the heads: be∣cause the couer that I haue giuen them, consisting in so difficult an order, it is easie to bee disordered. I confesse that the saide flanks should be too weake to assaile, because the battelles doe still march forwarde and not sideling: but strongly to beare a brunt I thinke that obseruing the same which I haue set downe, they shall be able to doe it, as well as the heades. To the ende likewise the conduct may be the better, I would wish to each flanke two Capteynes, with the pike; and of the notablest souldiers. The second obiection is that the fower corners of the battell, though closed, doe yet re∣maine somewhat open and weake, as it were for the space of seuen or eight steppes, where the horse may get entrie. Truely this con∣sideration is not amisse, and for the remedie hereof it were requisite in these corners to place seuen or eight of the brauest Harquebu∣ziers, who should not discharge but vpon great necessitie, as also to appoynt the Corcelets of the 4. 5. and 6. rankes that should be née∣rest thereto to turne their Pikes that way to beare the brunt when they see the enemie approach. The greatest daunger to all the sayd footmen consisteth in the two first charges of the horse, which it is to be presumed, will bee braue: but being borne out, they may con∣ceiue great hope, in that they haue quenched the first heate of the e∣nemie, and so march forward ouer the field, casting forth some lose mosquets to keepe the horsemen a loofe, but when they see it come vpon them then wholy to close. And bearing themselues thus, I am verely perswaded they may make a gallant retraict.

The better to comprehende this matter, the Colonels who in * their regiments haue many Pikes, should sometimes proue in fay∣ned things how this order standeth with reason, and peraduenture they shall finde them selues the better satisfied, when they see a pic∣ture and liuely representation thereof concurre with that which they may haue imagined, according to this reporte. Some man will replye that the horsemen may so vndiscreetly assaile the foot∣men, that they may indeede saue themselues before them, but if Page  210 they would charge them in small troopes (namely of one squadron of 300. to make 3. each of 100. which might followe one after an other) it would much shake the battaile. For the Harquebuzery ha∣uing discharged vpon the first (as it cannot bee denyed, but it will greatly endomage them) the two other squadrons following shall haue great aduantage, in being exempt from that daunger, and so there is some likelihoode that they may shake them. Truely this kinde of charge is very good, but it may be prouided for: for some of those Harquebuziers that should lye vnder the first rancke of the Pikes, may haue charged againe before the second troope commeth vpon them, also from the two sides that are not charged, or from the one, the harquebuzers may be brought to succour that which may bee in daunger, as also some of those in the middest may like∣wise shoote which being handsomely performed, the Corcelets shall still haue succour from their Harquebuzerie▪ for without this their defence would be but colde. To conclude, I rather feare that wee shall want occasion to attempt so braue a retraict, either that wee shall scarcely finde any Captaine that will be the first to proue it, then that I doubt but it may be put in execution.