The practice, proceedings, and lawes of armes described out of the doings of most valiant and expert captaines, and confirmed both by ancient, and moderne examples, and præcedents, by Matthevv Sutcliffe.
Sutcliffe, Matthew, 1550?-1629.
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ALthough (my good Lord) discour∣ses of armes in this time of peace and securitie may seeme vnseaso∣nable to some kinde of men, that mislike nothing more, then to haue their eares grated with the sound of drummes, & rumors of warres: yet to such as foresee those stormes that hang ouer our heads, and see that there is no other sheltre, but in the practise of armes: I doubt not, but they will be both pleasant and acceptable. The beginning of all good successe, is good counsell and direction: the ac∣complishment is expedition. in counsell nothing auay∣leth more, then to followe good examples of expert and wise men. If then we would eyther reforme the disorders of our proceedings in warres, or settle the discipline of armes among our souldiers which is slenderly knowen, or practised by them; what course is better then to viewe, consider, and followe the doings of most famous war∣riours both of former, and late times? this argument therefore I haue chosen as most worthy my labour, and most necessarie, and profitable for this state; and as I could haue finished the same.

We heare of our enemies preparatiues against vs, and know their pride and malice, nay we haue seene and felt their attempts. admit the warres are not at our doores, yet wee may easily perceiue, that they are very neere vs: and howe neere we knowe not. why then doe we not a∣wake? nay why doe we not prouide and arme, seeing the Page  [unnumbered]Spaniard by sending ouer such swarmes of trayterous and seditious priestes and Iesuites among vs, hath giuen vs such cause of an alarme? already he is come into Britaine, that confronteth all the westerne coaste of England: and shall we doubt whether he meaneth to come neerer vs? and not doubting, why are we so slowe in taking armes?

What prouision is to be made, and how it is to be em∣ployed, howe warres may be for causes enterprised, and howe with honour and good successe prosecuted and at∣chieued, so that neither the enemie shal haue cause to re∣ioyce or hope, nor we cause to lament or feare: finally how we may reforme disorders, and auoide future dan∣gers, of compassion of my louing countreymen, and fel∣lowes, whereof some still followe the warres, and mere loue to my deare countrey, and no respect of gaine or glory (God is my witnesse) I haue in this discourse ensu∣ing done my best endeuour to declare: and I trust not al∣together out of season. for if we haue warres, what more conuenient, then to reason and talke of warres? and if we are in expectation of warres, yet do I not see what reason we haue to keepe silence in such doubt and expectation of warres. but were it, that neither we had warres with the Spaniard, nor others, nor stood in doubt of their at∣temptes or forces: yet can we not continue many yeeres without warres. Greatacountries and states cannot rest. if they haue no enemies abroade, yet restles heades seeke worke at home. therefore can no time be thought vnseasonable, for to discourse of these matters. if we enioyed peace, yet can we not assure vs of it without armes: if we doubt our ene∣mies practises, there is no safer course then to arme. Hebthat desireth peace, he must prepare for warres. and longcpre∣paratiues of warre made in time of peace, giue speedy victorie in time of warres. men doe not easily prouoke or attempt warres Page  [unnumbered]againct aanation or countrey, that is ready to resist, & prouided to prosecute iniuries. contrariwise the peaceable and in∣consideratiue are a spoile, and praye to their neighbors. The careles and peaceable people ofb Laish were easily oppressed by the children of Dan. so seely foules are a praye vnto the egles and rauening birdes. suppose we should yeeld vnto ouer enemies any thing, which in rea∣son they can desire: yet is that no meanes for vs to ob∣teine peace. for those thatcendure one iniurie, doe but giue courage vnto their enemies to offer an other. and oftentimes thedenemie desireth somewhat to be yelden to him, that the same may be a steppe to further matters. the bitch that desired of the shepheard (as it is in the apologue) a couch where to litter; when her whelpes were growen great, began not onely to defend that place as her owne, but also to en∣croche more, and to offer diuers iniuries vnto the shep∣heard. the best therefore is to resist betime, and though we doe not resist, yet it is wisedome to be prouided: for no time ought to be spent of wise gouernours in delights of peace, before that matters be setled for the execution of warres. It was one of the greatest commendations that Liuy giueth to Philopoemen, that riding by the way,*and in common talke, his most common argument was vpon matters of warre: which made him so skilfull in those matters. much more therefore ought wee to consult and prouide for wars, being heretofore openly defied & inuaded, & now very hardly threatned by the Spaniard. his nauie came in hostile maner vpon our coast; his commissions giuen to his captaines declare, that he holdeth vs for enemies: his subiectes haue exercised diuers actes of hostilitie in taking our goodes, imprisoning, and ransomming our persons. neither doth any Spaniard thinke, but that such, as are by the Popes bull excommunicat for heretikes, are Page  [unnumbered]open enemies, and may be inuaded without other defi∣ance. And if we did not likewise account the Spaniards to bee our enemies, why haue wee sent our shippes to spoyle their countrey? why haue we taken their persons and their goodes? why doe wee assiste the enemies of Spaine, and withstand the Kings proceedings wherein we may?

That warres are not proclaimed, it skilleth not. For warres (saithaTullie) are eyther proclaymed, or made without proclamation. Neither can it passe for payment, that some distinguish assistance from confederacie, and colour all our doings at sea vnder the name of reprisals. if the king of Spaine shall euer bee able to requite vs, hee will well let vs vnderstand, how litle our distinctions will helpe vs, and will vse vs as enemies.

Perdicca King ofb Macedonia, although associate with the Athenians, yet for that vnder hand hee ayded their enemies, bought it deare, as soone as his doubling came to be e∣spied. neither doe I thinke, that wee shall escape better cheape, if (which God forbid) the Spaniard shoulde at any time be iudge. Wherefore seeing there is no other way to escape his malice, but by force and armes, let vs consider what course is best for the enterprising, and pro∣secuting of warres. which being helde of the Romanes at the first byccustome, at length grew to Art, & was administred by certaine precepts: by which they grew victorious not only ouer their neighbors, but also ouer the greatest part of the worlde. by obseruance whereof diuers ancient, and later Captaines haue wonne to themselues perpetuall fame; and which if it might be recalled, would nowe also worke the same effectes.

Some percase will mislike this treatise, as all other of like argument, for that they suppose, that skill in armes Page  [unnumbered]is rather to be learned by practise, then rule; and that all such discourses, are vaine conceites and supposalles, of men more able to speake, then performe. and true it is, that as in all other things: so in this especially, specula∣tion is nothing worth without practise. among the Ro∣manes, theayouth did learne the Arte of warre by practise, and labour in the field. but what notorious follie is it to condemne Arte and reason, because practise doth manie things oft times without reason, or Arte? and what man that liketh the effectes, can iustly condemne the causes? now then seeing as practise dependeth vpon certaine reasons, and rules, and is often vncertaine, by reason that the same hath not the same groundes at all times: let no man condemne rules and the reasons of warrelike proceedings in respect of his owne experience, and knowledge. for although a man shoulde be trayned vp in warres from his infancie; yet can hee not knowe all the reasons of warre by his owne experience.

Wherefore admit a mans experience bee neuer so great, yet shall hee learne much by reading of Military discourses, more then euer his owne experience could teach him. therefore did Scipio, and Caesar, and other famous captaines spend much time in reading of anci∣ent deedes of Armes. and Tully reporteth ofb Lucullus, that albeit his practise in Armes was not great, yet by rea∣ding and questioning with those that had skill, he grew in short time to be most skilfull. if Xenophon had not learned more by reading then practise, hee coulde neuer haue per∣fourmed so many duties of an excellent Captaine, as hee shewed in leading of the Greekes so long a iourney, and deliuering them from so many assaultes of their ad∣uersaries, in their returne from their voyage with Cy∣rus.

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a Alphonsus a king of Spaine confessed,*that by bookes he lear∣ned both the practise, and lawes of armes. Yea Selim the bar∣barous Emperour of Turkes (as their histories witnesse) was much conuersant, and skilfull in Caesars commenta∣ries translated into Arabicke; and read diligently the hi∣stories conteyning the famous deedes of his ancestours. he must be very arrogant that would say, that the reading of Frontinus, Vegetius, Liuy, Caesar, Xenophon, and other an∣cient histories and discourses of deedes of armes, both of Greekes and Romanes could profite nothing, nor adde any thing to his owne experience. and meere follie it is, where men may haue rules to followe, there to rush in at all aduentures. La Noue his discourses are much estee∣med of men well experimented in armes. but double commendation had he deserued, if as he hath set downe certeine pointes of his knowledge, so he had deliuered all the orders and proceedings of warres, and confirmed the same with examples of famous captaines and rea∣sons of art, rather then with such 〈◊〉 examples, as he vseth.

Neither is it reason, that the labours of all shoulde be measured by the presumption of some, which write of matters, of which they neuer had experience, as Nicholas Machiauell, and Robert Valturius a certaine Italian pedant, which neuer had seene the field; and some others, which spend whole bookes in talking of the diuers formes of battels, some like starres, some like sheares, some like sawes, and some like winde-mill sailes, which neuer haue vse but in mosters; and leaue the most necessary points of warre, in preparing for the warres, choice of souldiors, marching, encamping, fighting, retiring, besieging, or defending of townes, ambuscades, stratagemes, and such like necessary factions of armes. Wherfore, seeing I nei∣ther Page  [unnumbered]commend speculation, without practise; nor tread in the steppes of others, but therein make supply where they are defectiue; I trust my labours shall haue fauoura∣ble reading. the rather for that they are not gathered by vaine speculation, but proceede from him, that hath had but too much experience in the disorderly warres of our time: and hath no other respect, then the redresse of disorders, and the honour of his country.

It may be these rules should haue had more weight, if they had proceeded from some great commaunder, or man of auctoritie. for of all men they deserue most cre∣dite that are both writers, and doers themselues. in which respect I do aboue all honor Caesar among the Romanes, and Xenophon among the Greekes; and of late writers Francis Guicciardin, a man employed in great matters. as for Iouius, and Sabellicus, and some others, that I will not name, for that they were al ignorant of matters of warre, they make many very improbable & ridiculous reports, which no man of iudgement coulde allowe. but what if men of authoritie haue not, or will not, or percase for their manifold distractions, and busines cannot: will not those that knowe not things themselues heare the same reported by others? great wise men in time past haue not disdained to followe the aduise of simple men.a Marius by the aduertisement of a common souldiour wanne a strong ca∣stle in Numidia.b Xenophon did not except the time of his re∣fection, or when he tooke his rest, but admitted euery man, that could giue him any important intelligēce, to his speech. Charles the last Duke of Burgundy refusing to heare a prisoner that craued audience,cfell into the traps of Campobacho his treason; and doing all things vpon his owne head, without admitting any relation, or councell of others, was defeated by the Switzers, and by them miserably slaine at Nancy. And if the Page  [unnumbered]chambers of some great commaunders in our time had not beene so straitly kept; they could not haue beene so ignorant of the state of the enemy and of their owne for∣ces, and all addresses of warres, as they were. wherefore seeing I doe neither speake by speculation or heare-say, nor rest vpon mine owne opinion, nor desire any thing of mine to be beleeued, further then the same is confir∣med by the example of those, against whom no excepti∣on can iustly be taken; I trust that these either rules or ad∣uertisements of mine, shall not lightly be regarded.

But (may some reply) what do the examples of the an∣cient Romanes, and Greekes, and their proceedings in wars cōcerne vs, whose practise, & stile in wars is so farre different? these men imagine by reason of the vse of ar∣tillery lately inuented, that the reasons & rules of armes are changed, and that the Romanes if they liued in our times, would be new to seeke. but they are much abused. for the generall rules are alwayes the same. there is, and alwayes hath beene but one order of prouiding, procee∣ding, marching, fighting, retiring, encamping, besieging and defending of places. and I doe not thinke but if any could recall, or woulde practise the reasons, and rules which the ancient Romans vsed, hee should greatly pre∣uaile. if there be any speciall difference, the same shal be noted in his proper place. if then the ancientaRomanes thought it their best course in their most dangerous warres, to returne to their old discipline of armes; and ifb Scipio coulde not ouercome the Numantins; norc Metellus Iugurtha; nord Corbulo the Parthians, before they had setled their gouerne∣ment according to the ancient practise of armes: let vs not dis∣daine to follow the examples of such great captaines, and wise men in reforming of present errours, and disorders according to the true and loyall practise of armes.

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Hard, I know, it will be to returne backe. for customes inueterate are not easily rooted out; and desire of money hath corrupted many mens mindes. without pay & pro∣uision the souldier is starued, the warre is slacked, and what hope haue souldiers either of better prouision, or pay? without these things how can the souldier march, fight, or keepe other orders of warre? who wil aduenture, without praise, or reward? who will serue his countrey when he seeth in most countries those aduāced soonest, that spoile their country most to enrich themselues? for this cause some vnworthy the name of Captaines make gaine of their places, and souldiers refuse all extraordi∣nary labour, and valiant captains and souldiers are slen∣derly considered, and lawes of armes lie silent, for that there is none to execute them, and few that know them. for this cause and such like, I had almost beene discoura∣ged from writing this discourse, and among others, that keepe themselues for better times, and liue an obscure life determined to settle my selfe. for what hope could I haue of better, seeing in all places all things bend to worse? many seeke to enioy the pleasures of peace. none maketh any prouision for warre, souldiers neglect discipline of armes, no reckoning is made in any place of braue souldi∣ers, captaines are employed onely for necessitie, rewards come slowly, & only those are esteemed that haue mony.

The only hope that susteineth me, and hath thus farre in these my endeuours auanced mee, is grounded vpon that expectation, which all this nation hath of your he∣roical actions. God hath placed your Lordship as it were on a high stage in this estate. neuer man had greater fa∣uour of the beholders, nor was more likely to obtaine a singular applause of the people. all mens eyes are fixed vpon you, to see what effectes will follow those vertues, Page  [unnumbered]and noble partes, the which already haue made your name honourable. as others choose ease, so your Lord∣ship hath folowed the wearisome trauailes of warres. by your owne experience in the seruice of the Low Coun∣tries, of Portugall, and France, you both vnderstand the practise of armes, and the wants of the souldiors. the ge∣nerall hope of al souldiors, nay of al that loue their coun∣trey is, that your Lordship which so wel vnderstandeth the common disorders of the warres, and the great im∣portance of them, and hath so great fauour and meanes by reason of your auctoritie to correct them; wil one day be a meane to see them in some part redressed. all those parts which are required of a sufficient generall, do seeme to florish, and shew forth themselues in your doings, and promise these things in your behalfe.

Through disorder of some, & ignorance in others, to speake nothing of pinching & false reckonings, hitherto her Maiestie hath not bene resolued to bring into the field a sufficient armie: and those small forces, if I may so call such smal troupes, that haue bene employed in diuers ser∣uices, haue wanted much of their necessary prouisions: not that the charge is so great that it could not be borne, nor for that her care was lesse then is conuenient. (for if the same order were abroad that is at home, why may not this countrey mainteine thirty or fourty thousand a∣broad, that mainteineth so many millions at home? men do not spend more, nor eate more abroad, then at home:) but the reason why a sufficient army is hardly maintei∣ned, is because there wanteth good directions, and or∣ders, and punishment of bad dealing. some impute the fault to griedy mens insatiable couetousnes, which like a goulfe wil neuer be filled: but that is not all, nor the grea∣test disorder. others thinke it impossible for this Realme Page  [unnumbered]to beare the infinite charge of an army. but why should not this whole kingdome be able to mainteine 30. thou∣sand in pay, when as the citie of Rome, the territory being not past ten miles in breadth, in that warre which the same had with thea Latins sent forth ten legions which being full at that time, amounted to 40000. foote beside horsmen? but what should I speake of Rome the mistres of the world for warlike discipline, when as the Cities of Athens, and Sparta, nay the townes of Thebes, Corinth, Argos, and diuers other in Greece, & Italy, mainteined great armies, both at home & abroad vpon their owne charges? who seeth not then, that the cause of these calamities and disor∣ders is want of militarie knowledge, and not want of meanes; and that as disorder, want of reward, and punish∣ment is cause, that our enterprises are so easily dissolued, and vanish of themselues; so order and gouernement in ancient times were causes of their happy successe, and would also make our affaires succeede the better? I neede not seeke farre to finde examples for proofe of this mat∣ter: seeing the good gouernment of Edward the first, that so long warred in Scotland, of Edward the third, and Hen∣ry the fift, and eight, that were so victorious in France, a∣forde vs such store. if then the griedines of some were re∣streined with sharpe punishment, & men of heroical spi∣rits, not tainted with the base desire of gaine, were allured with honor, & preferment to take vpon them the charge of matters; if such were chosen for commanders, as haue nothing before their eyes, but honor and the enlarge∣ment of the commonwealth; and all men were resolued to bestow more in iron and steele, then in silkes and vel∣uets and golden coates: and most things were gouerned by lawe and order of warre, and not by fauour and parti∣alitie, or (which is worse) by money; in summe, if true and Page  [unnumbered]ancient discipline of armes were either restored, or setled among souldiers; I would not doubt but that this Coun∣trey would be able not onely to mainteine a sufficient strength of men, but that we should also recouer the an∣cient glory of the English nation spread farre abroad in France, Spaine, and other countreys in time past, & now blemished only with some mens misgouernment.

Wherefore seeing it hath pleased God, not only to make your Lordship acquainted, but also partaker of the common calamities of souldiers, and giuen you fauour and accesse to her Maiestie in whom it lyeth to reforme these abuses; as you haue hitherto employed your person and goods in the seruice of her, and your countrey, so I beseech you cease not, vntill such time, as you haue ac∣complished the redresse of these disorders. these are they that without any one stroke of the enemie, haue broken our enterprises. it is not the courage of the Spaniard, nor force of the Dutch, nor brauerie of the French, that hath frustrated our late attemptes; neither doeth force so often ouerthrow armies in fielde, as daliance, irresolution, and delay; then through niggardise, and good husbandry, want of pay, and necessarie furniture; thirdly, presumpti∣on, and want of strength and sufficient force; and lastly, those abuses which through want haue crept into armies of late time, & for pitie could not be corrected. for what conscience is it to punish those that spoyle and wander abroad, when if they should not thus doe, they should sterue for hunger? if a Generall haue sufficient force and prouision, it is his fault, if he doe nothing: if he want ei∣ther force, or pay, then it is their fault that should haue sent him foorth better prouided. many doe great wrong to our Generals in the Portugall expedition, when they impute the fault to them. God knoweth that with such Page  [unnumbered]slender prouision, nothing could be done more. others that are more deepely to be charged for breaking that enterprise, yea and famishing of many poore soules lye hid, and I thinke meane not to answere, vntill such time as God shall call them before his tribunall seate, there to answere once for all.

If any meanes could bee deuised, that abuses of im∣prests, and false musters and accounts taken away, loyall captaines might be chosen, and poore souldiers be well furnished, and that matters might proceed with speede, and resolution, and more force bee ioyned together: I would then hope, there would be some seruice done. without forces cōuenient, what reason hath any to hope for better? for as a little water sprinkled on the fire doth make the same more to flame, and sparkle; so small sup∣plies doe rather kindle, and nourish warres, then ende them, or exstinguish them. The onely meanes to redresse both these, and all other disorders consisteth in the resto∣ring, and by sharpe punishment mainteining of true mi∣litarie discipline, and orders. Without this, as a discra∣zied body is easily dissolued without outward force; so an armie though neuer so great, without one blow of the e∣nemie is broken, and scattered without doing any effect. With exercise of armes and obseruance of true disci∣pline of war great enterprises most happily are atchieued.

TheaRomanes did subdue the world by the exercise of armes, and their orders of encamping, and practise of warre. Neither did they excell thebGermanes and Danes in multitude; nor the Carthaginians, nor kings of Macedonia and Asia in wealth, but in strict obseruance of the discipline of armes. Nor could the Spaniards haue done such things as they haue of late, but that they excell others in the obseruance of militarie discipline. Neither were it possible that the Turkes should Page  [unnumbered]haue preuailed so much against Christians; but that they reward vertue highly, and punish disorders seuerely, and keepe a strict order in the gouernment of their campe, & armie. If then we either desire, or will hope for good suc∣cesse in martiall affaires, nay if wee meane to mainteine our state, and our reputation; of force we must obserue mi∣litarie and martiall orders: Which if once by your Lord∣ships meanes, I might see restored, which I doe hope; then would I not feare either the malice, or power, or riches of the Spaniard, or other forreine enemie of this state. This therefore is the thing which especially I commend to your care: which indeede is the cause of the whole coun∣trey, and ought to be the care of all that loue the honour, peace, and prosperitie of the same.

For confirmation of your Lordships iudgement, that well knoweth more then I can say, and for direction to such as be ignorant: I haue, as neere as I could, described the right course & true discipline of armes confirmed by ancient & later precedents of most expert warriors: and because it so pleased your Lordship, published the same: I haue likewise set downe not only the proceedings, but al∣so the causes and necessary prouisions of warres, without which all order is vaine, and all proceeding without ef∣fect. The same I haue consecrated to my countries ho∣nour vnder the fauour of your honourable name. Vouch∣safe therefore (my good Lord) to accept this my simple goodwil, not worthy the name of a gift. Yet is it all which I haue wonne not onely by long obseruation, but also by dangerous experience both in France, Italy, Flanders, and Portugall. It grieued me not a litle being in her Ma∣iesties seruice, to see such confusion among vs, but much more that our wants were such, that wee could not exe∣cute lawes. The causes I haue declared before. The re∣dresse Page  [unnumbered]I haue set downe in the discourse following after. The which, for that your L. seemed to like the same, and for that I doe thinke it may be profitable to my countrie∣men, and fellowes in armes that stil continue that profes∣sion; I thought it good vnder the shadow of your hono∣rable fauour to communicate to others.

Partly delayes and presumption, and partly disorder and misgouernment, and partly want of necessary proui∣sions doth more hurt oftentimes, then the enemies open force. Of all disorders the onely remedie and medicine is, as I haue saide, true discipline of armes, which I haue here to my vttermost skill and endeuour declared, and with diuers examples of most renowmed Captaines confir∣med. against whose doings many may percase repugne, but none can take iust exceptions.

I would once I might see the same put in execution vnder your Lordships gouernance: (for what auayleth knowledge of law without execution & practise?) if not, yet shall I wish all honour and good to those that shal en∣deuour to put orders in execution. If any good come of my labours, the same is wholly to be ascribed to your Lordship, whose singular fauour towards me both at home and abroade, gaue me first occasion, leisure, and meanes to write these discourses; if none, yet I trust in∣different men will accept my good meaning. My purpose was, if my experience, hauing nowe almost ceassed from all such wearisome trauailes, could doe others good, to affoord them all the helpe I could, and also to giue my countrey aduertisements, concerning such matters as are very important, & requisite to be generally knowen: that order may be taken in time.

The successe I commit to God, the care to your Lord∣ship, and others whom it concerneth: beseeching the Al∣mightie, Page  [unnumbered]that is Lord of armies, and gouern our of all our actions, so to direct the affaires of state vnder the gouer∣nance of our gracious Soueraigne, & to giue that fauour to your endeuours, that the glory of the English nation by your noble deedes may be increased, the blemishes of our proceedings in warres washed away, and all good or∣ders restored.

Your Lordships most bounden and willing Matth. Sutcliffe.