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 siege of Poictiers.

MAny enterprises doe men attempt in the * wars, which were neuer premeditated, as also they giue ouer others long be∣fore thought vppon, which proceedeth of the alterations which time bringeth foorth: and as it is a signe of valiante well to execute, so is it also a token of wisedome well to deliberate, both which partes are necessarie in a Captaine: al∣beit there be none so perfect in this art, but that sometime they erre and stumble, especially in ciuill warres: which may the rather ex∣cuse the errour that the Protestants are sayd to haue committed in besieging Poictiers. Thus stood the case. After the departure from Page  439Roch-labelle either armie both needed and were alike desirous to refresh themselues in some fatter Countrie than Limofn, to which generall disposition their Captaines were forced to yeelde (for in ciuill warres some time the cart goeth before the horse) and therefore recoiled drawing toward those quarters that had not ben eaē. The Lordes Princes and Admiral considering that in their absence the Countie of Lude had assayled Nyort (which through the diligence of the Lord of Thelignie, who transported his forces thether, was rescued) and being grieued that anie man shoulde come to molest their Prouince from whence they had all their commodities, which was to them of as great importance as to drie vp their milch cowe, did determine to purge it and seaze vppon Saint Maixant, Lusig∣nen, and Mirebeau (making as then no mention of Poictiers) to the end the sayd Prouince might monethlie yeeld them 60000. franks, all garrisons paide, besides the profits of the sea, which also amoun∣ted to a great deale: the same to serue for the straungers who cryed continuallie for money. This performed they went to take Sau∣mur, which standeth vpon the riuer of Loire and is verie weake. The same did they purpose to fortefie to the end stil to haue one pas∣sage assured, and the rest of Summer and Autume to transport the warre toward Paris which they supposed woulde neuer encline to peace vntill she felt the scourge euen at her gates. Being returned into their Countrie they thought that Lusignen which was but a castle would not so long withstand them as Saint Maixant, wher∣in was an old regiment vnder the conduct of Onoux: besides their desire to haue sixe Canons which the Lord of Lude had left in the sayd Castle, did the rather inuite them to assault it, as they did, and in few dayes caryed it awaie. The towne of Poictiers, hearing the ordinance walke so neere, furnished it self with men: yea, the Lords of Guize and Maine came in with fiue or six hundred horse, rather as it was sayde, to molest the Protestants armie, then thinking to be besieged.

The Protestants about the same time chaunced to surprise the * towne of Chastelleraut, which cheered their hearts and caused ma∣ny to encline to the siege of Poictiers, for that on the most daunge∣rous side, the same couered those that should besiege it. Two mee∣tings were there for resolution, & sundry misliked yt assailing ther∣of, namely the L. Admirall who wished them to prosecute his first platforme: alleadging that it was too well furnished with men of calling, that ordinarily such great cites are but sepulchres to theyr Page  440 armies: and that it were best to returne to Saint Maixant, which might be forced in eight daies. But the chiefe Lords and Gentle∣men of Poictou laboured them earnestlie as well in the counsayles as else where, not to loose so braue an occasion, affirming the towne to be verie weak: that the more people therin, the more bootie: that they should not want artillerie: that taking it, they should fully ob∣taine all that rich Prouince, and put the Catholike Gentrie, which by continuall roades troubled all that we possessed there, from their place of retreate. To this opinion did the chiefe of she counsaile condescend, who peraduenture had not sufficientlie considered that euerie man is not onelie affectionate, but also passioned to set his owne Countrie free: as also it was added yt the taking of the Lords of Guize and his brother, two great Princes, and rediest to molest vs, would be a braue prise. To be briefe, in this deliberation were at large set downe whatsoeuer the fruites redounding of such a con∣quest: but of the inconueniences which, insuing hereof, we should encur there was no mention, as in deed that string is sarch touche when men will not be diuerted from their purposes. Afterwarde they sent with all speed to Rochell for pouder and shot, and so de∣parted to close vp Poictiers. This siege being at large described by other historiographers, I will not stand vppon to recite: onelie I will note a few particularities which peraduenture shall not be su∣perfluous.

The first touching the situation wherein we see one thing that * greatlie anoyeth the towne, and another that benefiteth it as much. The annoiance are the mountaines which in many places do inui∣ron it, and are so nere that a man can scarce be in couert, but that he shall be descried and hurt, as well in head as courtine, not onelie by the artillerie, but euen by harquebuze shot: for in some places they lie not aboue foure hundred paces of. The benefite are other moun∣taines within it which serue for large platformes, also the riuers that inuiron the wals: so as stil they haue that great ditch to passe, which is a verie sore let, & were it not for that, I had rather be with∣out with 4000. men to assault it, than within with as many to de∣fend it. In summe, it is a very bad place and worthie to honour the defender. The Protestants destruction was their small draught of artillery, munition, & pioners, for when they assailed it in one place, they were not able therby to prosecute the battery or other affaires, but giuing the Catholikes two or three daies respite, they prepared fit remedies: and then they must begin new batteries in other pla∣ces, where they had the like successe. In my opinion it were the P. Page  441 of Parmaes part to assaile forts & the Protestants to defend them: for so doe they oftentimes performe their partes most valiantlie. I wot not whether I shal be beleeued if I report a kind of assault and defence propounded by the besiegers and besieged when they beate vpon the Abbesse medow side. The Protestāts had won the breach in the wall, and the Catholikes had a verie smal trench within 300 paces of it, and behind them a great voide space of one thousand pa∣ces long and fiue hundred paces broad, all vnder the command of a mountaine. Our Captaines meant hauing with 400. Gentlemen and eight hundred harquebuziers, who might easily haue forced the ordinarie gard, driuen the Catholikes from that trench to haue sent after them two hundred horse vnder the Lord of Moüy to take the fielde, which they must needes passe before they came to the houses: then should also their main power led by the Lord of Briguemaud, Marshall of the campe haue followed. This counsayle was taken vpon a certaine aduice which they had that the Lorde of Guize had appointed 200. speares to that place there to fight: and alreadie in the former allarum, we had seene diuerse speares there: But this camisado was not performed by reason the daie came vpon vs, and so we were discouered. Howbeit howsoeuer the matter had fallen out, had it not bene wonderful in an assalt to see the horsemen fight among the footmen on either part? There also happened another matter contrarie to that which ordinarily chaunceth in townes not forced: that is, that they within lost more than they that were with∣out: neuerthelesse such as were lost it was with great commendati∣on, for we might plainlie see them come boldly, and assuredly pre∣sent themselues with the Canon and harquebuze shot.

In the ende Monsieurs armie did the Protestants greate ho∣nour, * in comming to assayle Chastellerault. For the same was to them a lawfull occasion to raise the siedge, with neuerthelesse they woulde haue raised, because they wist no longer of what wood to make their boultes, and I beleeue that the besieged were no lesse busied. Concerning the siege of this towne, thus much I will say, that the captaynes doe easily yeelde to any high attemptes, for ha∣uing great stomackes they aime at obiectes of the same nature: howbeit the surest way is to rely vpon the prouerbe, He that gri∣peth too much, straineth but little. The D. of Guize & his bro∣ther purchased great fame in kéeping so weake a hold, considering their youth. Some made no lesse accoūt of this act thē of yt of Mets Others said yt the Admiral he staied ther purposely to catch those▪ Page  442 Princes whome they presumed to be perticularlie his enimies: but himselfe hath often tolde mee that if the towne had beene taken, so farre woulde hee haue beene from suffering them to bee anie waie misused that contrarywise, he would haue caused them to haue bene honourablie intreated according to their dignities, as hee had done their vnkle the Marques of Elbeufe when he fell into his handes at the taking of the Castle of Cane, and my selfe do remember that at the capitulation he sent me, because I knew him, into the Castle to assure him from hauing anie harme, which was obserued. Mon∣sieur seeing our armie, fraught with spight, rise to come towarde him, hauing in vaine attempted one assault against Chatellerault where the Popes Italians, who were nothing slacke in their duties, were receiued according to that good affection that the Protestants doe beare to theyr maister, did retire. We folowed weening to haue constrayned him to buckle, but still hee kept a riuer in our faces to coole our heate. When an action tending to diuersion fayleth in the accessaries, and is executed in the principall, it is not to be com∣playned of: for the great fruit of the one dooth sufficiently recom∣pence the small losse of the other: as also we are to note that wee ought to study thrice or foure times before we vndertake to besiege any great towne once.