How a Commander or Generall must auoid Bat∣tell, and when accept of Fight.
THe wisedome of a Generall doth best appeare in the auoiding of Fight, and in the taking of opportunitie to fight; both of which are so necessarie in the Warres, that the one cannot be with∣out the other: but which of these for a time are first to be vsed, and for a time laid aside, resteth in the wisedomes of a wise Generall to determine.
Wisedome willeth you to begin with wars, when you see your selfe very strongly prepared, and your Enemies contrariwise altogether weake and vnpro∣uided.
And wisedome willeth you, as you begin well, so Page 39 to continue your warres wisely for your most com∣moditie.
In warres, if you either for lacke of knowledge, or by negligence, or else by pride let slip most apt occasions, you seldome after can get them a∣gaine.
To let slip a good opportunitie, bringeth both re∣pentance, shame and losse also.
Many haue felt this to their sorrow. Therefore let their losses admonish you to let nothing slip, that may either dispatch your warre quicke, or pro∣long it to your Enemies losse, and your owne ad∣uantage.
That you may be enabled to doe this, take these Rules for your direction.
* 1. If your Enemies be few in number, and raw Souldiers, ill furnished, ill willing for to fight, and not fortified by place: if you abound in number which are better Souldiers, you are to seeke the Bat∣tell. Vegetius, lib. 3.
2. When your Enemies aboundeth in all things, and therefore auoideth to fight, and where you want of prouision, and your Souldiers lustie, and desirous of Battell; there you may seeke Battell. Antony at Philippi against Cassius and Brutus.
3. Where you be determined to seeke the Bat∣tell, make good choise of your ground where you be to fight, and see your selfe in perfect order and direction, and yet seeke all aduantages you can by any meanes finde out. Prosper Colonno against the Frenchmen at Bicocca, and Bassan.
4. Though you abound in number, seeke not to Page 48 fight rashly, neither be very desirous of Battell, with∣out very good apparance of likelihood of victory: neither fight before you haue intelligence of your E∣nemies strength, pollicies, and orders, except ex∣treame necessitie compell you.
5. Auoide not to fight with one great Army, when you know, that if you stay, you shall short∣ly be compelled to fight with two great Armies.
This was well foreseene by Claudius Nero, and as well executed to his glory. Claudius Nero the Roman Consull, intercepting Asdrubals Letters (directed to his brother Hanibal, to meet him at Vmbra, to ioyne both their powers together, for the subuersion of the Romans) presently vpon the reading, left his fellow Consull in the night (vnknowne to Haniball) and with six thousand foot, and one thousand horse, came to Li∣uius another Roman Consull, who was to intercept As∣druball comming from the Mountaines into Italie, and there ioyning force with his, gaue Battell to As∣druball, ouercame him, and slew him before euer Haniball knew of his being in Italie. Haniball vp∣on this was much grieued, both for the death of his Brother, and the depriuation of his power, and re∣moued into the fields the Brutians. And for that hee had no power left him of men, to defend his Portres∣ses that hee held, being so farre off; hee gathered to∣gether all the Metapontancs, and the Lucanes, such as were his friends; and brought them all into the Countrie of the Brutians, where hee remained for a season, Counselling what were best for him to doe. Thus was Haniball brought to distresse by the wise∣domePage 49of one man, taking his time and opportunitie to fight.
Hauing showne you when to Fight; now let me shew you when to auoide it. Auoide Fight vpon these occasions:
* Where you by deferring the Battell are to finde all things in better case; and contrary, your E∣nemies are to lacke, and loose by the same victuals, wages, good will or friendship, you are to auoid Bat∣tell. Vegetius, lib. 3.
Where you abound in number and victuals, and other prouision, and your Enemy wanteth of your abundance, and therefore seeketh to fight, auoid you the Battell. Cassius and Brutus at Philippi, against Antony and Caesar.
Where the Enemy must needs dissolue his Ar∣my shortly, if he fight not with you; there you are to auoide the Battell. Pompey at Durazzo against Caesar.
Where you are in danger to loose a Realme, or two, if you loose the Battell, your Enemies are in danger onely to loose their present Army: Being no stronger then your Enemies, seeke not to fight. Hispani. Bell. Verona.
Where your Souldiers and Captaines be mar∣ueilously vnwilling to fight, seeke not to fight. Vege∣tius lib. 3. cap. 9.
* If your Enemies be poore and needy, beware of their necessitie; for alwaies necessitie makes men desperate, and causeth them to thinke there is no re∣medy but victory in fight.
If you be in any strong place, so planted that Page 50 your Enemy cannot fight with you, but with his great losse, seeke not to fight with him. Prosper Co∣lonno at Bicocca.
If your Enemy be so placed in a strong Campe, seeke not there to fight with your Enemy. Carolus Caesar in Germany.
Frenchmen are by long dalliance and time to be deluded, because they be hot, and desirous to fight when they be fresh, and eager to be put on in the be∣ginning of the warres; afterwards, when by long time they are wearied, they are tractable enongh: so will others be besides Frenchmen.
If you haue warres made against you by a number of confederate Princes or Magistrates (take Caesars counsell) deferre the Battell for a time, and weary them out by polliticke vsage. Keepe them from victuals; kill all such as goe for Forrage, or any other purpose; make many Alarams nightly vp∣on them in their Campe, and toyle them with watches and sodaine labours: By this meanes you shall make the warres seeme loathsome vnto them, and protract it the longer; whereby, they may fall into dissention one with another: for such a number of Confederates cannot long agree, but that some quarrels will fall out betweene them, or else some grudges; so that some may be deuided from the o∣ther by some kinde of perswasion or other, where∣upon you may, if you thinke good, giue Battell to the relinquished: or chase them (as the Imperials did the French out of Millan) with light skir∣mishes.
Page 51 For the better performance of these skir∣mishes, let all your Souldiers haue the perfect vse of their Armes. They may haue the perfect vse of their Armes quickely, if the Seriants doe but at vacant times plye and exercise them.