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.

CHAP. XIII. Of Stratagemes and Ambushes.

STratagems I call those deuises, whereby the Ge∣nerall doeth eyther hurte, or discourage the ene∣my, or helpe and incourage his owne men: so called because they proceede from the Generalles head and pollicie, whom the Greekes call 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Ambushes the Italians call emboscate, from whence both French and wee borrowe the worde. The reason whereof is, for that in woodes for the most part such trappes are laide. The Romanes doe better terme them insidias, and the Greekes〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for that wee doe not onely lay snares for our enemies in woodes, but also in hollow groundes, and also beyond hilles, and in val∣leis and villages, and townes, and behind walles, and wheresoe∣uer we can couer our men, in such sort that we be not espied vntil we come vpon the enemie vpon a sodayne. Stratagemes are infinite, and can not bee comprised within any certaine rules. For what can be so exactly saide, but that the wit of man is able to deuise more, and saie more? some I will set downe practised by famous captains in former time, that by them our Generalles of themselues may learne how to inuent others, and not alwayes kill the enemy with downe-right blowes.

One speciall and yet common Stratageme it is, to couer our counsels and enterprises by contrary pretenses. For by this meanes the enemy looking, or warding one way, is often taken and stri∣ken mortally in an other place, and by other meanes. Annibal taking his bedde, and giuing out, that hee was verieasicke, which rumour flying to the Romanes made them secure, in the night time led out tenne thousand men, and comming on a Page  193sudden surprised Tarentum. To the intent that his enterprise might not be discouered, before it tooke effect, he vsed diuers other pollicies. First he sent out diuers light horsemen to range ye countrey, & to kill such as they met, least any should escape, and giue notice of his com∣ming, and that the enemy seeing them might suppose, that they were only certaine outriders. hauing an intention to surprise Puteoli, he gaue out, that he went forth with his army to sacrifice at the lake ofaAruerne. But in the night hee turned toward Puteoli.bClaudius Nero caused a fame to flee abroade, that he went to the countrey of the Lucanians, when in deede hee went into the part of Gallia Togata, that is now called la Marca.

Vnder colour of treaty of peace, many practices of hostility are wrought. Scipio sending men to intreat with Syphax of peace, cau∣sed some to espy his campe.c Which gaue entrance to that enter∣price, which afterward he executed in the night vpon the same. Me∣tellusdtreating of peace with Iugurtha, did by fayre promises cor∣rupt most of his folowers. Both which practices the Spaniards of late time haue vsed against vs. When they entend any dangerous en∣terprise, then it is bruted, that either the king of Spaine or their chiefe Leader is dead, or sicke. Vnder pretence of warres against the Turke, An. 1588. he gathered great forces against vs, and nowe I vnderstand that newes is come of great preparatiues in Spaine a∣gainst the Turke: that our eyes may be bleared, and not see his pre∣paration against France, or vs. By the same deuise hee surprised the realme of Portugal after the death of the Cardinal king. Vnder co∣lour of parley of peace at Dunkirke hee brought his Nauy vpon our coast before we looked for it; and I may say before some were well prouided for it. These pretenses though false, yet make shewe, and are beleeued of some, and take simple people, before they be prepared. For when Scipio had put men aborde, and prouided many things, as for a siege:eSyphax beleeued, that as the brute went, he meant in deede to besiege Vtica, but being in the night inuaded, and see∣ing his campe all fired; hee learned with the losse of his army one point of warre, neuer to trust the enemy, when hee giueth out such reportes.

Some vnder colour, and during the treaty of composition haue wound them selues out of danger. Asdrubal being taken by the Ro∣manes at an aduantage promised, that if he might be assured to depart Page  194out of that place, hee would cary his army out of Spaine: but while the Romanes were secure, thinking that he would not stirre during the treaty of composition, the man by litle and litle had gotten out of the snare into a safe ground. The king of Macedonia sending messengers to treate with the Romanes for the buriall of his souldi∣ers, that lay slayne by their campe, in the meane time of the parley remoued his campe out of a strayt, and so escaped. The Massilians be∣sieged by Caesars souldiers began to treat of composition. But when by diuers dayes vaine talke they perceiued their negligence, and se∣curitie, they sallied vpon the sudden, and burnt their engins, & works, which cost them much labour.

Vnder colour of treaty of peaceaMarcellus espied the walles of Syracusae: and another time entred the towne of Salapia, seasing a gate. Nothing is more commodious for dressing of enterprises a∣gainst a towne besieged. The L.bGrey by the trechery of the French entring the trenches, and ditches of Guines during the parley escaped narowly a great danger.

Rumours of succours comming encourage our souldiers, discou∣rage the enemy. ThecRomane Consull giuing out a report at the time of the beginning of the battell, that another army was com∣ming to charge the enemy vpon the backe, made the enemy hea∣ring it to doubt, and his own souldiers to fight more courageously.

Vaine shewes doe often deceiue the enemy. Caesar mounting cer∣taine slaues, and horse boyes vpon cariage horses, and mules at Ger∣gouia, and causing them to shewe them selues a farre off, made thedenemy feare least a company of horsemen were comming vpon them to charge them vpon the backe. Which being practiced long before against the Samnites,emade them feare, & looke about. An∣nibal not being able to force the garde that kept ye passage of Calicu∣la, binding fagots on the heads of oxen & setting them on fire, driuing them toward ye place, what through wonderment, what through feare, made them to giue way. Martigues seeing the inconuenience of his lodging neerefPampron An. 1568. at the shutting of the euening caused all his company to displace, & went away safely, abusing the enemy with fires made, and peeces of matches tyed among bushes. which made the enemy suppose hee had bene there still. The which practice he seemeth to haue learned of Annibal, who fearing least he shoulde bee charged as hee remoued his campe, left diuers tentes Page  195standing toward the enemy, & some souldiers & armes, as if the rest had bin stil there, which long before had gained ground, & were gone.

Wordes making for vs comming to the enemies eares doe often strike a terror in them. Quintius theaRomane Generall crying out aloud, that the other corner of the battel of the Volscians fled, made that where he stood to flie in deede. Valerius Leuinus speaking a∣loud, & saying that he had slaine Pyrrhus with his owne hands, holpe to discourage ye enemy. Annibal causing one of his owne men in the Romane Generals name to command the Romanes to flee to ye hils next adioyning, had done them some hurt, but that the guile was per∣ceiued. I haue heard some say, that a certaine voyce raised in the eares of the Scots at Muscleborough field, how their company fled, made them both feare, and flie. False sounds also & signes doe often abuse those that are credulous. Annibal hauing slaine ye Romane Consul, with his ring scaled diuers forged letters, whereby he had deceiued some, if ye other Consul had not giuen ye cities round about warning of it. Hauing taken Tarentū, he caused one to sound an alarme after ye Romane note, which caused diuers Romanes to fal into his hands, and the Tarentines to imagine yt the Romanes meant to betray them. more harme it had done, but that the trumpet sounded vnskilfully.

Suborned messengers are dangerous, if credit be giuen vnto them. A certaine Lucanian while Annibal warred wt the Romanes in Ita∣ly, led Sempronius a famous leader among them into an ambush, promising him to bring him to ye speech of his countrymē, of whom he feined himself to be sent vnto him.bAnnibal causing them of Me∣tapontus to write letters to Fabius, as if they were purposed to deli∣uer vp their citie into his hands, had almost drawne him into an am∣bush, where with his army he lay ready to welcome him to the towne.

Men disguised like women, or like countrey people, orcarmed like the enemies entring within their strength doe now and then a∣buse them, and giue their felowes meanes of entrance. Ind these late troubles of France diuers negligent Gouernors haue by these practises bene surprised.

Enemies pretending friendship play many odious partes, & there∣fore not lightly to be credited. Before the battell of Cannae certaine Numidians suborned by Annibal, pretending discontentment, and seeming to reuolt from him, in the middest of the hurly burly char∣ged the Romanes vpon the backe, and greatly preiudiced them.

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Ambiorix vnder colour of friendly counsell trayned Titurius Sabi∣nus out of his strength, and taking him at aduantage flew him, and most of his company. Such wasaSinons counsell, who as Poets feigne betrayed Troy. To auoyde these traps, these rules are to be obserued: first nob counsell is to be trusted that proceedeth from the enemy: for who can beleeue that he will counsell vs well, that see∣keth onely to doe vs hurt? secondly if any reuolt from the enemy, yet is he not to be trusted, nor suffered to remaine among vs armed, especially if he may hurt vs.

Sometime the enemy by a feined retrayt is drawen into blinde trenches set with sharp stakes, and couered with earth, boughs, & hur∣dles, or vnder walles, or banks where our shot lieth ready for him, or els into any place of disaduantage, which was the ruine of Cyrus his army by Tomyris Queene of Scithia, and diuers others, that like blinde men folow where their enemies leade them.

In summe, whatsoeuer tendeth to deceiue, and abuse the enemy, or to incourage, & giue aduantage to our own souldiers; the same ought wise leaders to deuise, & practice. Prouided alway, that they neither breake othe, nor promise nor offend against piety, or the lawes of nati∣ons. Let such vile facts be practiced of Turks, & Spaniards, that hire wicked men to kill Princes, and mainteine no othe or promise fur∣ther then their profit requireth. Such, Histories doe feinecAnnibal to haue bene; and diuers of the Carthaginians; anddLysander a∣mong the Greekes, that tooke pleasure in deceiuing of men with great othes, as some take ioy to deceiue children with small toyes. The proceedings of the Romanes were farre otherwise. They dis∣alowed his fact, that would haue betrayed Falisci, and sent him bound to Pyrrhus, yt for money promised to empoyson him. Neither dideCepio the Romane winne any credit, by hyring the Lusitani∣ans to kill their Captaine Viriat. This practice of killing, the Spa∣niards learn of certaine bastardly Italians, a degenerate ofspring and race issuing of ye vagrant natiōs of Lombards, Gothes, & Vandales, and offPerseus, that had murtherers hyred for wages to kil whom he should appoint, & would haue practiced his trechery vpon ye Romans: a man of a base disposition, and vnworthy so noble a kingdome.

Those stragegemes commonly take effect, that are practiced in matters least feared. That which no man careth for, is neglected, and least can that begauoyded, which is least feared, as Page  197sayth. Cyrus by diuerting the riuer, entred Babylon a way that no mā looked for him: & Scipio passing the lake, tooke new Carthage.

Great are the effects that are wrought by deuises and surprises, but they are discreetly to be gouerned, least going about to deceiue the enemy, we be our selues abused, & intrapped by double practice, as theaItalians cal it. So wasbGuerchy, and his company ouertaken in the practice about the towne of Bourges, where diuers braue men lost their liues, while the enemy that knew the practice, was ready to receiue them to their losse. King Edward the 3. vnderstanding of a plot layd by the captaine of S.cOmar, for ye recouery of Calais new∣ly by him wonne, turned ye same vpon the heads of those, that should haue executed it, & surprised those that would haue surprised others.

Those therefore that in stratagemes & politike surprises folow the example of others, let them see that their case be like, & their strength equall, & that the matter be handled cunningly, & executed presently. And that ye times be wel measured, that they come neither too soone, nor too late; in which case their enterprise vanisheth to nothing.

dAmbushes likewise well placed, and managed woorke the enemie great displeasures, not onely in cutting off straglers, and such as go on forraging, but also in troubling an army marching or fighting. Annibal in passing the Alpes lost diuers of his souldiers by the incursions of the people of the Mountaines rising out of their holes, & charging his army vpon aduantages. Sempronius as hath bene shewed drawne into an ambush was slaine with his company. The like happened to Marcellus the Consull going to view the side of a hill not farre off. But of this point I haue already brought ex∣amples sufficient, where I discoursed of the danger of those that marche in the enemies countrey, without diligent discouery.

Ambushes wel layd, that our souldiers may rise out of them, & sud∣denly charge the enemy on the back, or sides as he is fighting, are yee more dangerous, then those wherein he is charged marching, By ye same Romulus ouerthrew ye Fidenians: for placing part of his men in ambush in certaine thickets, and vnder certain hilles neere the town, & prouoking ye enemy to come forth of the towne; he drew him along after him vntill such time, as hee was against the ambush:cWhere turning backe vpon him, and causing those that lay in ambush to charge him on the sides, hee cutte many of the Fidenians in peeces. Annibal before he encountred the Romanes at Trebia, hid Page  198certaineahorsemen in the marishes, and bushes neere to the places where the armies were to ioyne. Whence rising vpon a sudden, as the army of the Romanes passed by them, they made a great tu∣mult, and slaughter, and were in part cause of the victory. With the like practice he entrapped the Romane army at the lake Thrasimene. Behind the hilles vpon the side of the place, where he saw the encoun∣ter would be, he placed diuers light armed: and beyond the playne he caused his horsemen to lurke in the valleyes. So that Flaminius was no sooner come to the charge, but he saw his enemy in front, on his sides, and on his backe.bPhilopoemen charging the enemy with his light armed, and afterwarde causing his men to flie backe, while the enemyranne disorderly after the chase, hee receiued his owne men within the distances of his armed men, and with them cut in peeces those that folowed. Demosthenes (not the Orator, but a Captaine that liued during the Peloponnesian warre) fearing lest the enemy, that in number farre passed him would compasse him round about, and charge him on the backe; in a certaine valley, and bushy ground nere the place where the enemy made shew to giue the charge, ranged both armed men, andearchers, which in the ioy∣ning of the battel rising out of their places should charge the ene∣my vpon the backe.dCaesar by taking the top of the hill where the Heluetians lay encamped with part of his force, had giuen them a greater ouerthrow, then hee did; but that the mistaking of his men, made him loose that aduantage.

It is the part of a wise leader when hee pursueth, or coasteth the enemy to take the aduantage of woods, valleys, hils, strayts, riuers, and in all places to lay traps for him, that hee may neither marche, nor fight, nor lodge without danger.

But yet in dressing of Ambushes he is to take great heede, first that ye enemy haue no notice of his purpose, & so prouide against him. For by this means traps thēselues are oft entrapped.cCorbey of Beauois lying in waite, where he supposed Caesars souldiers would come to seeke prouision, was himselfe and his company cut in peeces by a greater number then he looked for, which Caesar sent thither ha∣uing intelligence of the matter before hand.

Secondly those that lie in ambush must rise suddenly, and execute speedily and courageously, least the enemy putting himselfe in order, and gathering courage giue them more then they came for. Labie∣nus Page  199had placed certaine felowes in ambush, that should haue char∣gedaCaesars army, as the same passed by: but they came foorth so faintly, & irresolutely, that Caesars horsemen before they could doe any thing, had hewen them in peeces.

Thirdly let them beware least while they thinke to doe the feat, the rest of the enemies come on their backes, before they can dispatch. ThebDardanians had well hoped to haue executed a part of the Macedonian army which they charged vpon the backe, as it pas∣sed through the countrey; but before they were aware, they were them selues charged by them that folowed after, and were taken as they say betweene the hammer and anuill, and well beaten.

Fourthly when a part of the army is sent to lie in ambush, the rest of the army ought to haue correspondence with it: that as those yt rise vp in ambush doe charge the enemy one way, so the rest of the army may charge him another way, and alwayes be ready to succour their men. Which if they ofcBeauois had considered; they had not suffered their best men to haue bene cut in peeces without reliefe.

The reason that Ambushes doe preuaile so much are diuers: first the terrour that the same strike the enemies minde withall, comming vpon them vpon the sudden: secondly the disorder, and confusion that is in the enemies army surprised suddenly: and thirdly the vantage of ground, which they chuse, and the weaknes of the enemy where they charge him.

Therefore let all valiant souldiers to whom such executions are committed beware, how they protract time, or loose their aduantage, or by vntimely noyse, or stirre giue notice of their purpose to the ene∣my, or by stirring before the time cause the enemy to retire before he come within danger. By reason whereof I haue seen some my selfe, but haue heard of many more enterprises that haue come to nothing.