Nevertheless, little or nothing was done to make good defects in the years that followed. The dishonesty of the officers and the indiscipline of the men in Ireland was past all belief; but it was only with extreme difficulty that Elizabeth was induced to remedy the evil, which brought untold misery and oppression upon the forlorn Irish, by the simple process of paying her soldiers their wages. It was not until 1567, when the movements of Philip the Second gave the alarm of invasion, that a corps of arquebusiers, four thousand strong, was formed for the defence of the coast towns from Newcastle to Plymouth, and prizes were given for the encouragement of marksmanship with the new weapon. Even so, practice with the bow was still enjoined upon the villagers, as
though no better arm could be discovered for them.
Then came the rebellion, which but narrowly missed a most serious character, of the Catholic nobility in the North. Disloyalty was widespread in Yorkshire, and it was proverbial that the Yorkshire levies would not move without pay; but Elizabeth was too economical to send the train-bands from London to nip the insurrection in the bud, and only at the last moment consented to provide money for the payment of the troops on the spot. The difficulties of the commanders were frightful. The numbers that came to muster were far short of the true complement; horsemen were hardly to be obtained by any shift, and the footmen that presented themselves came with bows and bills only, there being but sixty firearms, and not a single pike, among two thousand five hundred infantry.
The rebels, on the other hand, were very well equipped, and had a force of cavalry armed after the newest pattern of the Reiters. “If we had but a thousand horse with pistols and lances, five hundred pikes and as many arquebuses,” wrote Elizabeth’s commanders, “we should soon despatch the matter”; but even so trifling a contingent as this could not be produced except after infinite difficulty and delay.
For all this Elizabeth was responsible; but the peril was so great that it stirred even her avaricious soul. From this year bows and bills began slowly to make way for pikes and firearms; and a manuscript treatise in the State Papers shows that the reform was brought under the immediate notice of the Royal Council.
An alarm of invasion by the French in the following year led also to a general stirring of the sluggish forces of the shire. The French ambassador reported that one hundred and twenty thousand men could take the field in different parts of the country; and the muster-rolls showed the incredible total of close on six hundred thousand men. Yet when we look into these muster-rolls we find simply a list of able-bodied men and of serviceable arms in each shire without attempt at organisation. In truth, throughout the long reign of Elizabeth we feel that in military matters one effort and one only is at work, namely, in Carlyle’s words, to stretch the old formula to cover the new fact, to botch and patch and strain the antiquated web woven by the Statute of Winchester and newly dyed by the Statute of Philip and Mary to some semblance of the pattern given by the armies of France and Spain.
But when we turn from the Queen to the people we perceive the energy of a very different force. The English army indeed was not created by a sovereign or a minister; it created itself in despite of them. The superior equipment of the northern rebels over that of the forces of the Queen was typical of the whole course of English military progress in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The army was conceived in rebellion, born in rebellion, nurtured in rebellion. Protestantism all over Europe went hand in hand with rebellion; and Elizabeth, always irresolute and incapable of conviction, was distracted between a political preference for Protestantism and a natural abhorrence of disloyalty. For years she struggled by the most contemptible trickery to be true to both these opposing principles, and for a time, by the help of extraordinary good fortune, she attained the success which only a false woman could compass. But long before she could make up her mind, the people had taken matters into their own hands, and thereby begun the creation of our present army. It was on May Day 1572, four years later than the first rising of the Low Countries against Spain, that the army took its birth from a review of Londoners before the Queen at Greenwich. In the ranks that day were many captains and soldiers who had served in Scotland, Ireland, and France, and were now adrift without employment on the world. Subscriptions were raised by sympathetic Protestants in the city, and three hundred of them were organised into a company and sent to fight for the Dutch under Captain Thomas Morgan. From this beginning we must presently trace the history of the English regiments in the Low Countries to the eve of the Civil War; and for the next seventy years therefore our story must flow in two distinct streams—the slender thread that runs through England itself, and the broader flood which glides on with ever-increasing volume in the Low Countries, on the Neckar, and even in distant Pomerania. And since at every great national crisis the two streams for a time unite, the lesser tributary may be dismissed forthwith by a brief review of the progress of the military art in England to the close of the sixteenth century.
London as usual led the van of military improvement. In the year following the departure of Morgan’s company, three thousand men of the train-bands were formed into a special corps, which was mustered three times a week for exercise, and having been armed with weapons of the newest pattern was regularly drilled by experienced officers on the once famous ground at Mile End. William Shakespeare, it is evident, was one of the spectators that went from time to time to see them, and no doubt laughed his fill at the failings of the recruits. These were sometimes not a little serious. Thus one caliverman left his scouring-stick in the barrel, and accidentally shot it into the side of a comrade, whereof the comrade died; so that the whole body of calivermen gained the enjoyment of a military funeral in St. Paul’s Churchyard, whither they followed the corpse with trailing pikes and solemn countenances, and at the close of the ceremony fired their pieces over the grave.
Something therefore had at least been learned from the landsknechts, and other changes were coming fast. The old white coat and red cross seems to have disappeared abruptly at the beginning of the reign, and coats, or, as they were called, cassocks, generally red or blue, were provided by shires and boroughs in their stead. Once, indeed, these bright hues are found condemned as too conspicuous for active service in Ireland, and some dark or sad colour, such as russet, is recommended in its stead,—a curious anticipation of our modern khaki. Again, to turn to smaller changes, the word petty captain had dropped out of use since 1563, to yield place to the title of lieutenant, and the word ensign seems to have been accepted generally at about the same time. Sergeant had been the title of the expert at drill since 1528, but in 1585 there is a distinct order that the men appointed to instruct the bands of the shires shall be called corporals. Two years later we find officers of higher rank asking for a new denomination, and proposing that they may bear the title of colonel and the officers next below them that of sergeant-major, or, as we now call it, major. It was indeed time, for the word regiment came likewise into use at the same period, and a regiment without a colonel is naught. Before the end of the century the term infantry had also passed into the language, while the flags of the infantry, from their diversity of hues, had gained the name of colours.
But far more striking than these superficial changes is the sudden deluge of military pamphlets which burst over England from the year 1587 onwards. The earliest military treatise, so far as I have been able to discover, that was delivered to the English in the vulgar tongue is The Ordering of Souldiours in battelray, by Peter Whitehorn, which was published in 1560. This book produced, no doubt, some effect in its time, but it is of small import compared with those that follow. The earliest written by an Englishman, though not published until four years after his death, was 佛山桑拿论坛浦友 the work of one William Garrard, gentleman, who had served with the King of Spain for fourteen years and died in 1587. It is a remorseless criticism of the existing English military system. The author sweeps away bows and bills in a single contemptuous sentence, and lays it down for a dogma that there are but two weapons, for the tall man the pike and for the little nimble man the arquebus. But in the matter of equipment, he notes that the English are lamentably deficient. As good an arquebus could be made in England as in any country, but the armourers had already learned to make cheap and nasty weapons for common sale to the poor men of the shire. Again, other nations carried their powder in flasks or metal cartridges, but the English actually carried theirs loose in their pockets, ready to be kindled by the first spark or spoiled by the first shower, and in any case 广州佛山桑拿论坛 certain to suffer from waste. Such slovenliness, says the indignant Garrard, is fit only “for wanton skirmish before ladies”; it is impossible for such arquebusiers to attain to the desirable consummation of “a violent, speedy, and thundering discharge.” The pikemen, again, instead of a light poniard carried “monstrous daggers like a cutler’s shop,” fitter for ornament than use. Moreover, the dress of both was open to objection. Colour was a matter of indifference, though some fine hue such as scarlet was preferable for the honour of the military profession, but all military garments should be profitable and commodious, whereas nothing could hamper the limbs more than the great bolstered and bombasted hose that were then in fashion. I cannot resist the temptation of transcribing Garrard’s picture of the march of the ideal soldier, and the delicate appeal to the soldier’s 佛山桑拿一条龙 vanity.
“Let the pikeman march with a good grace, holding up his head gallantly, his face full of gravity and state and such as is fit for his person; and let his body be straight and as much upright as possible; and that which most important is that they have their eyes always upon their companions which are in rank with them and before them, going just one with another, and keeping perfect distance without committing the least error in pace or step. And every pace and motion with one accord and consent they ought to make at one instant of time. And in this sort all the ranks ought to go sometimes softly, sometimes fast, according to the stroke of the drum…. So shall they go just and even with a gallant and sumptuous pace; for by doing so they shall be esteemed, honoured and commended of the lookers on, who shall take wonderful delight to behold them.”
Earlier in appearance though not earlier composed than Garrard’s was a 佛山桑拿上门服务电话 shorter work by one Barnaby Rich, which appeared in 1587, and wherein the writer had the courage to condemn the practice of emptying the gaols into the ranks; but the great military book of the year was a translation from the French of La Noue, one of the noblest and ablest of the Huguenot commanders. Though written of course for Frenchmen, the soundness of doctrine in respect of discipline and equipment and the commendations of the Spanish system were of value to all; while of still greater import to England was the impassioned advocacy of the missile tactics of the Reiters for cavalry. But perhaps most striking of all in the light of later events is the deep note of Puritanism to which every page of the treatise is attuned. In La Noue’s Huguenot regiments there were no cards, no dice, no swearing, no women, no leaving the colours for plunder or even for forage, but stern discipline at all times and public prayers morning and evening. It is difficult to suppress the conjecture that this book had been read and digested by Oliver 佛山桑拿按摩一条龙服务 Cromwell.
The strong opinions expressed in these books of course provoked controversy. Sir John Smyth, knight, an officer of some repute, boldly took up the cudgels on the other side, and undertook to prove even in 1591 that the archer was more formidable than the arquebusier and the arrow than the bullet, which was an argument only too welcome to old-fashioned insular Englishmen. On the other hand, he enters minutely 佛山桑拿按摩论坛07 and intelligently into points of drill and man?uvre, condemns the bombasted hose as vehemently as Garrard himself, and prescribes a more serviceable dress for the soldier. From him we learn our first knowledge of the manual exercise of the pike, how it should be advanced and how shouldered with comely and soldierlike grace, and how men should always step off with the right foot. From him also we obtain sound instruction for the shock attack of cavalry, and some mention of the Hungarian light horsemen, called “ussarons”; and from him finally we gather information of the extraordinary inefficiency even at the close of the reign of the shire-levies of England, of the neglect of the arms and the corruption of the muster-masters.
Roger Williams, whom I have already quoted, also entered the lists at this time with an account 佛山桑拿会所上门服务 of the Spanish organisation, and combated warmly for the superiority of the lance over the pistol as the weapon of cavalry; and a translation by Sir Edward Hoby from the Spanish of Mendoza (1597) also upheld the cause of shock-action. Hard upon these followed a version of the striking work of Martin du Bellay, with its complete scheme for what we now call the short-service system; and in the same year (1598) appeared a dialogue by one Barret, which sought to close the whole controversy. A conservative gentleman who upholds bows and bills is utterly demolished by a captain who pleads for pike and musket, would abolish the shire-levies bodily as useless, and would substitute a reorganised force on the favourite model, already once adopted in France, of the Roman legion. But Barret knew his countrymen and expected little. “Such as have followed the wars,” he says, “are despised of every man until a very pinch of need doth come”; and military reform then as now could not be pushed forward except under pressure of a scare of war.
So matters drifted on to the close of the sixteenth century and beyond it. The military spirit was abroad, and the military pen busy beyond precedent. The character of the old soldier became a favourite with beggars and vagabonds, and was rewarded so freely at the hands of the charitable that it was necessary to suppress the imposture by special statute. Yet in spite of all this simmering and seething nothing was done in England for the English army. Soldiers who wished to learn their profession sought service elsewhere than with the Queen; even in Ireland the value of a company sank to fifty pounds; and the most conspicuous type of warrior that was to be found at home was the worst. Shakespeare, who saw everything and into the heart of everything, marked these impostors and reproduced them with such genial satire, such incomparable humour, that in our delight in the dramatist we overlook the military historian. Yet he is as truly the painter of the English army in his own day as was Marryat of the navy in later years. Falstaff the fraudulent captain, Pistol the swaggering ensign, Bardolph the rascally corporal, Nym the impostor who affects military brevity, Parolles, “the damnable both sides rogue,” nay, even Fluellen, a brave and honest man but a pedant, soaked in classical affectations and seeking his model for everything in Pompey’s camp—all these had their counterparts in every shire of England and were probably to be seen daily on the drill ground at the Mile End. Not in these poor pages but in Shakespeare’s must the military student read the history of the Elizabethan soldier.
The arrival of the first English volunteers, under Thomas Morgan, in the Low Countries was, as fate willed it, most happily timed to synchronise with the movement that laid the foundation of Dutch Independence. In April 1572 an audacious enterprise of the fleet of Dutch privateers under the Count de la Marek had led to the surprise and capture of the town of Brill, a success which at once fired the train of revolt in the seven provinces north of the Waal and shook the hand of Spain from town after town first in Holland and Zealand, and later in Friesland, Gelderland, Utrecht, and Overyssel. The incident, which time was to prove so far reaching in its results, was a curious commentary on the latest phase of Elizabeth’s policy. She had just reconciled herself with Alva and forbidden De la Marck’s privateers to enter English ports: the sea-rover’s reply was to beard Alva in his own stronghold and deal Elizabeth’s friend a blow from which he never recovered. The whole island of Walcheren, excepting Middelburg, fell into the hands of the insurgents, and Alva, who was a splendid soldier, whatever his other failings, lost no time in attempting to recover the port of Flushing. By the irony of fate Morgan’s volunteers arrived in the very nick of time to save it, and in the sally which brought them first face to face with the dreaded troops of Spain they made a brilliant beginning for the new British Army. Of the three hundred, fifty were killed outright in this action, the first of fifty thousand or twice fifty thousand who were to lay their bones in Holland during the next seventy years.
Morgan, having rescued Flushing, at once wrote letters to England to point out the importance of the town which he held and to beg for reinforcements. In the autumn accordingly appeared Colonel Sir Humphrey Gilbert, with a regiment, the first of many English regiments that were to enter the Dutch service, of ten companies and fourteen hundred men, raw troops under a raw leader. Morgan would have been the better commander, but he was a modest unambitious man; Gilbert, on the other hand, suffered from fatal ignorance of his own incapacity. Sir Humphrey at once launched out boldly into complicated operations which he was utterly incompetent to direct, was outwitted and outman?uvred, fell back on swearing when things went wrong, and not only lost his own head but completely broke the spirit of his men. The new regiment in fact behaved very far from well. “I am to blame to judge their minds,” wrote Roger Williams, the ablest of Morgan’s officers, after Gilbert’s first defeat, “but let me speak truth. I believe they were afraid.” He adds elsewhere a gentle but telling criticism, that lays the blame on the right shoulders. “A commander that enters the enemy’s countries ought to know the places that he doth attempt: if not he ought to be furnished with guides.” So ignorant were even educated Englishmen of the alphabet of war. Gilbert, however, did not learn his lesson quickly. A slight success, wherein the English displayed conspicuous gallantry, heated his ambition once more to boiling-point; he essayed another adventure in the grand manner, failed utterly, and sailed home with the scanty remnant of his regiment, a sadder and wiser man.
Morgan meanwhile had gone home and raised ten more companies, with which however he could do very little. The men were not paid on their disembarkation in Holland, as William of Nassau had promised them, and they became discontented and insubordinate. Morgan naturally took their part, and the result was, that after some few petty engagements against the Spaniards, he took his departure in dudgeon and sailed with the seven hundred men that were left to him to England. He had done good work, and his name deserves to be remembered; for he was the first man who made perfect arquebusiers of the English, and the first who taught them to love the musket. Fifty years had flown since the Spaniards had shown the way, and the English were only just beginning to follow. Roger Williams on Morgan’s retirement took service with the Spaniards for a time, in order to learn his duty the better, and presently returned, without reproach, to wield the knowledge that he had gained against themselves. To such shifts were British officers reduced who wished to master their profession.
To follow the actions of sundry other corps of volunteers during the succeeding years would be tedious. I pass at once to the landing in July 1577 of a company of three hundred Englishmen under the command of John Norris, one of the first and most eminent of the new school of officers who were the fathers of our Army. He had learned his work first in Ireland, and later in France under a great disciplinarian, the Admiral Coligny. He too arrived at a critical time. A few months after his disembarkation, while he was still in garrison at Antwerp, Don John of Austria surprised the Army of the States at Gemblours, and not only defeated it but shattered it to fragments. Six months later Don John attempted to repeat the blow against a second Army of the States, a heterogeneous force of English, Scotch, and Flemings, under the command of the veteran Huguenot, De la Noue. Having but fourteen thousand men against thirty thousand of the finest troops in Europe, De la Noue took up a strong position at Rymenant, near Malines, and stood on the defensive. After trying in vain to draw him from his entrenchments Don John finally launched a desperate attack on the quarter held by the English and Scotch under Norris. Four companies of Scots bore the first brunt of the assault, but were presently reinforced, just in time, by Norris’s eleven companies of English; and then the struggle became as desperate as ever was fought by British soldiers. The Spanish troops were the flower of the army, the Old Regiment, which had not its peer in Europe; but with all their magnificent training and discipline they could not carry the position. Three times they forced the British back, and three times when success seemed assured they were met by a resistance that would not be broken, and were hurled back in their turn. The day was intensely hot, and the British, scorning all armour, fought in their shirt-sleeves, but they fought hard, and not only hard but, thanks to John Norris, in good order. Norris himself, always in the thickest of the fight, had three horses killed under him in succession, but never lost hold of his men; and at last the famous infantry of Spain drew back, beaten, and Don John abandoned the attack. It was a great day for old “Bras de fer” De la Noue, but a still greater for John Norris and his British. They had, by general admission, not only saved the day, but they had repulsed the most formidable troops in the world.
During the years that follow Norris and his companies were incessantly engaged, generally victorious, though once at least defeated with heavy loss; their gallant leader, though frequently wounded, reappearing always whenever work was to be done. Their highest trial was when they encountered the greatest General of the day, Alexander of Parma, and the whole Spanish army with him, in a rearguard action, and beat them off with such persistent bravery that the French volunteers after the engagement crowded to their colours and begged to be allowed to serve under them. Norris indeed was the Moore of the sixteenth century, alike as a teacher in the camp and as a General in the field.
Nevertheless, brilliant as his service was, he could not stay the victorious advance of the Spaniards. After ten years of fighting the Dutch States had lost almost the whole of Spanish Flanders except a few large towns and the sea-coast from Dunkirk to Ostend, and still Elizabeth would not move to help the Dutch insurgents in a task, no less vital to England than to them, which lay beyond their strength. At last the assassination of William the Silent forced her to make up her uncertain mind to the inevitable rupture with Spain. The United Provinces were in the utmost need; the strong hand of Alexander of Parma was at the throat of Antwerp, and unless its grip could be relaxed the city must inevitably fall. The States threw themselves upon the English Queen, entreating her even to make them a part of her realm, and at last, after much paltry haggling, Elizabeth consented to send them four or five thousand men, taking over the towns of Brill, Flushing, Rammekins, and Ostend as security for their obligations towards her. Elizabeth was always careful to look after the money.
This agreement being at last concluded the press-gang was at once set to work in England; four thousand men were raised and dressed in red coats, and within a fortnight after the signing of the Treaty they had crossed the North Sea, only to find that Antwerp was already in Parma’s hands and that they had come too late. Norris, however, at once took the force in hand, and was carrying on active operations with brilliant success when he was stopped by a peremptory rebuke from the Queen; the troops had been transported for the relief of Antwerp, and she would not have them employed on any other service. The States, naturally exasperated by this contemptible double-dealing, received the troops reluctantly into the cautionary towns and left them with no very good grace to take care of themselves. Elizabeth, as her nature was, had refused to send a penny of money or an ounce of supplies, and the soldiers, ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-lodged, began to melt away by hundreds through death and desertion.
In December, however, Robert, Earl of Leicester, was sent out as Commander-in-Chief of the forces in the Low Countries, and as he brought with him a reinforcement of cavalry, and also money sufficient to pay the arrears of the soldiers’ wages, it was hoped that matters would be placed on a better footing. But it was not to be. Elizabeth was not yet in earnest in breaking with Spain, and Leicester, gathering an inkling of her intentions from her refusal to provide him with additional funds, went very unwillingly to take up his command. On arriving in Holland he found things even worse than he had anticipated. The men were in a shocking state, dying fast of cold and hunger; they had not a penny wherewith to supply themselves; and their clothing was so deficient that for very nakedness they were ashamed to appear in public. Leicester with all his faults had evidently a genuine tenderness for his unfortunate soldiers; he wrote letter after letter pressing vehemently for money, but Elizabeth would not give a farthing. The natural consequences followed. By February half the men were dead, and the half that remained alive were in a state of suppressed mutiny. No good officer would accept a command in the army on such terms, and the companies fell into the hands of unscrupulous swindlers who sent their men out to plunder and did not omit to take their own share, rejoicing over every soldier who died or deserted for the money that would pass into their pockets when the long-deferred pay-day should come. There have been many sovereigns and many ministers in England who have neglected and betrayed their soldiers, but none more wantonly, wilfully, and scandalously than Elizabeth.
Nevertheless, as the spring of 1586 approached, it behoved Leicester to open a campaign of some kind. Parma was advancing along the line of the Maas, evidently bent on taking every fortified town on the river, and it was necessary if possible to check him. The Generals, however, were ill-matched; Parma easily brushed aside Leicester’s feeble opposition, and having secured the line of the Maas turned next to that of the Rhine. Meanwhile a large reinforcement of men, unarmed and untrained, had been sent from England; and Leicester concentrated his forces, summoning all the garrisons of the cautionary towns to join him at Arnheim. Philip Sidney came from his government at Flushing, Lord Willoughby came from Bergen-op-Zoom, John Norris and his brother Henry hurried up likewise, the veteran Roger Williams joined them, and lastly, in the retinue of Lord Willoughby, came a young man of greater promise than any, named Francis Vere. The plan of operations was soon determined; since Parma could not be checked on the Rhine, he must be called away from it by a diversion in the north on the Yssel, where the Spaniards still held the towns of Doesburg and Zutphen.
All turned out as had been expected. Doesburg was easily captured, and Parma no sooner heard that Leicester was before Zutphen than he abandoned his operations on the Rhine and marched north to relieve it. Halting on the evening of the 21st of September at some distance from the town, he sent forward a convoy of supplies towards it, protected by an escort of three thousand men under the command of the Marquis of Pescayra. The convoy was to start at midnight, and it was reckoned that it would be within a mile and a half of Zutphen by daybreak. Pescayra was then to halt at an appointed place, send a messenger into the town and concert arrangements with the Governor for a sortie to facilitate the entrance of the convoy.
Intelligence of Parma’s design was duly brought to Leicester, who, calling John Norris, ordered him to take two hundred horse and three hundred foot and lie with them in ambuscade by the road by which the convoy was expected to arrive. Norris readily picked out two hundred horse, ordered Sir William Stanley to follow them with three hundred pikemen, and before dawn of the 22nd had successfully taken up the position assigned to him. No force appears to have been detailed by Leicester to support the ambushed party, and no scouts to have been sent forward by Norris to give warning of the enemy’s approach. The morning broke with dense impenetrable fog, amid which the English could hear a distant sound of rumbling waggons and tramping men. Presently Norris was joined by all the adventurous gentlemen—Lord Essex, Lord Audley, Lord North, and many others—who were to be found in Leicester’s camp: they had not been able to resist the temptation of an action, and came galloping up with their retinue at their heels to see the sport. The sounds of the approaching convoy became more distinct, but nothing could be seen till the fog suddenly rolled away and revealed straight before them the three thousand Spaniards, horse and foot, marching by their waggons in beautiful order.
The English gentlemen threw all discipline to the winds at the sight: they never dreamed of anything but a direct attack, and one and all went at once, each in his own way, to work. Young Lord Essex called on his squadron of troopers to follow him, and couching his lance flew straight upon the enemy’s cavalry, overthrew the foremost man and horse, flung away his broken lance for his curtel-axe, and with his handful of men hard after him burst into a heavy Spanish column and shivered it to pieces. The routed Spaniards fled in disorder to the shelter of their musketeers, with Essex still spurring at their heels; and then Spanish discipline told. The musketeers fired a volley which brought down many of the English horses and compelled the rest to wheel about. Then the action became simply a series of furious personal combats. Sir Philip Sidney’s horse was killed under him at the first charge, but he mounted another and plunged into the hottest of the fight. Lord North, unable owing to a recent wound to draw on more than one boot, dashed in half-booted as he was and fought as busily as any. Sir William Russell swung his curtel-axe so murderously that the Spaniards vowed he was a devil and no man. Lord Willoughby was so beset with enemies that only great good fortune and immense personal strength served to pluck him out. Sir William Stanley’s horse was struck by seven bullets but found strength to carry him safe out of action. And meanwhile the drivers of the waggons had fled, and English and Spanish soldiers were tugging the heads of the teams this way and that with oaths and yells and curses; but still Spanish discipline told, and still the convoy moved slowly forward. Again and again the Spanish horsemen shrank before the English cavaliers, but the firm ranks of the musketeers always gave them shelter, and, charge as the English might, the waggons crept on and on till they fairly entered the town. Nothing was gained by the action. The attack, if supported, might have been fatal to Pescayra, but no support could be looked for from Leicester, and there was so little intelligence in the onslaught that no one seems to have attempted even to hamstring the waggon-horses. Zutphen therefore remains no more than one of the maddest of the many mad exploits performed by English officers of cavalry, and is remembered chiefly through the death of one of the noblest of them. Before the action, Philip Sidney had given the thigh-pieces of his armour to the Lord Marshal, Sir William Pelham; at its close he was seen riding painfully back, with the unprotected thigh shattered by a musket bullet. He lingered in agony for some days and then died. His body was brought back to England to be followed to St. Paul’s Churchyard by the London train-bands and laid to rest, as befitted a good and gallant soldier, under the smoke of their volleys.
Yet another scene of desperate valour was witnessed at Zutphen before the campaign came to an end. One principal protection of the town was an external sconce, which on a former occasion had resisted the troops of the States for a whole year, and was now carried by the English by assault. The breach was barely practicable, the footing on the treacherous sandy soil being so uncertain that the storming party could hardly mount it. Their leader, Edward Stanley, however, was not to be turned back. Dashing alone into the breach he caught the head of a Spanish soldier’s pike that was thrust out against him and tried to wrench the weapon from his grasp. Both men struggled hard for a time, while a dozen pikes were broken against Stanley’s cuirass and a score of bullets whistled about his ears. At last Stanley, without quitting his hold, allowed the Spaniard to raise the pike, used the purchase so gained to help him up the wall, scrambled over the parapet and leaped down alone into the press of the enemy with his sword. His men, redoubling their efforts, hoisted each other up the breach after him and the sconce was won. Stanley, marvellous to say, escaped unhurt, and received not only warm commendation in Leicester’s despatches, but a pension for life from Leicester’s own pocket, for the most daring act that is recorded of the whole of that long war.
The plot of the Spanish Armada now began to thicken, and the scene must be shifted for a moment to England. In the Low Countries Parma was looking about for a port of embarkation from which to ship his men across the North Sea. He fixed upon Sluys, and in spite of a desperate resistance from a handful of gallant Englishmen, led by Roger Williams, he succeeded in capturing it after a siege of three months. At the end of 1587 Leicester resigned his command and returned to England; and in the following year all the best officers, and many of the English companies, were gathered together in the camp at Tilbury. Leicester was in chief command, with John Norris for his second, and Roger Williams among others for assistant, but these officers were not on very friendly terms with each other; and, indeed, the less said of Tilbury Camp as a whole the better. Contemporary writers indeed aver that it was a pleasant sight to see the soldiers march in from the various shires, “with cheerful countenances, courageous words and gestures, leaping and dancing”; but such a display was a better indication of loyalty than of discipline, and sadly different from the pace, full of gravity and state, which had been enjoined by the best authorities. There was, moreover, great disorder and deformity of apparel; most of the men wore their armour very uncomely, and the whole army refused point-blank to use the headpieces issued from the Tower. Ammunition again was short, provisions were scanty, organisation was extremely defective, and the general confusion incredible. Four thousand men who had marched, pursuant to orders, twenty miles into Tilbury, found that they must go that distance from the camp again before they could find a loaf of bread or a barrel of beer. A thousand Londoners who were likewise in the march were ordered to halt unless they could bring their own provisions with them. Leicester might safely remark that “great dilatory wants are found upon all sudden hurly-burlies,” but there was no excuse for such chaos after the incessant warnings of the past thirty years. Elizabeth must bear the chief share of the blame. The woman who in her imbecile parsimony starved the fleet that went forth to fight the Armada could not be expected to show better feeling towards the army. It was no thanks to the Queen that the Spanish invasion was repelled.
I shall not follow the veterans John Norris and Lord Willoughby on their expeditions to Corunna and Brittany in the following year. Far more important to us is the rise of a great leader, and the opening of a new era in the war of the Low Countries. On Leicester’s resignation of the chief command, there was appointed to succeed him a man whose name must ever be venerated in the British Army, Prince Maurice of Nassau, second son of William the Silent. Though but twenty years of age when selected as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the United Provinces, he had already made up his mind that if the War of Independence were to end in victory it must be fought not, as heretofore, with a mob of irregular levies, but with a trained, disciplined, and organised army. His own natural bent lay chiefly towards mathematics, which he cultivated as a means to the mastery of military engineering, and eventually reduced to practice by so sedulous a use of the spade in all military operations as to provoke many a sneer from soldiers of a more primitive type. But Maurice knew his own mind, and was not to be deterred by sneers. His principal assistant was his cousin, Louis William, Stadtholder of Friesland, an industrious student of classical antiquity with the rare faculty of adapting old systems to modern requirements. To his diligence was due the instruction of the army in drill and discipline, and to his influence must be ascribed Maurice’s admiration for the Tactics of ?lian. His new and elaborate man?uvres also elicited the scorn of the old school of officers, but he too was not easily discouraged; and the two cousins worked hand-in-hand, the one at the broader principles, the other at the hardly less important details, of their profession, until they raised up an army which supplanted the Spanish as the model for Europe. Not the least weighty of Maurice’s reforms was the regular payment of the men, and the stern repression of fraudulent practices among the officers. In a word, he appreciated the value of sound administration no less that of pure military skill and training in the conduct of a war.
The tactical organisation of the new army was not so perfect as, with the Spanish model before us, we might with reason have expected. The tactical unit of infantry was the company, and the regiment still consisted of an uncertain number of companies temporarily united under the command of a colonel. The composition of the companies again was uncertain. The normal strength was one hundred and thirteen men, which was later reduced to eighty, but colonels had double companies—some even double regiments—and there appears to have been no very great exactitude, probably because men could only be persuaded to serve under the captain of their choice. The officers of a company were of course captain, lieutenant, and ensign; the non-commissioned officers included two sergeants and three corporals, as well as a “gentleman of the arms,” who was responsible for the condition of the weapons. Lastly, there were two drummers, who, it should be noted, like the trumpeters in the cavalry, were not the mere signal-makers that they now are, but the men regularly employed in all communications with the enemy, and as such expected to possess not only discretion but some skill in languages. They received far higher pay than the common soldier, and if they did a tithe of that which was expected of them they were worth every penny of it.
Every company was divided into three corporalships, each of which was the peculiar care of one of the three corporals and of one of the three officers. In equipment there were at first three descriptions of arms—halberds, pikes, and muskets—of which however the halberds soon disappeared, leaving pikes and shot in equal numbers, but with an ever-growing tendency towards preponderance of shot. The normal formation of a company was in ten ranks; and the men were never less than three feet apart from each other, such open order being essential to the execution of the prescribed evolutions. To increase the front, the ranks were doubled by moving the even ranks into the intervals of the odd; to diminish the front, the files were doubled by the converse process. To take ground to flank or rear every man turned to right or left or about on his own ground, and it is worth remarking that the best men were always stationed in the front rank and the next best in the tenth, and that while the captain was posted in front of his company, the lieutenant, except in a charge, remained always in the rear.
The musketeers were usually drawn up in two divisions, one on either flank of the pikes; and the problem that eternally confronted the captain was how to handle the two elements in effective combination and yet contrive never to confuse them. In action the musketeers generally moved in advance of the pikes, firing by ranks in succession, according to Pescayra’s method, and filing to the rear to reload. Sometimes they were extended across the front of the pikes, but more often they kept their place on the flanks. Meanwhile the pikemen, heavily weighted by helmet, corselet, and tassets (thigh-pieces), moved stolidly on: as they drew nearer the enemy the musketeers fell back until they were first aligned with them, and then abreast of the fifth or sixth rank. If neither side gave way, matters came to push of pike and a general charge, wherein the musketeers ceased firing and fell in with the butt, a method of fighting which was peculiarly favoured by the English. To resist cavalry the musketeers fled for shelter under the pikes, generally in considerable disorder, and the outer ranks of pikemen, lunging forward, stayed the butts of their pikes against the hollow of the left foot.
The cavalry was divided at first into lancers and carbineers, the former being fully covered with armour to the knee; but the lance, in deference to the fashion of the Reiters, was soon discarded for the pistol. The carbineers carried a carbine with a wheel-lock, and were trained to shoot from the saddle, the ranks firing in succession according to Pescayra’s system. The tactical unit was the troop or cornet, which, after many changes, was finally fixed at a strength of one hundred and twenty men, and divided, like the company, into three corporalships. Captain, lieutenant and cornet, three corporals, a trumpeter, a farrier, and a quartermaster made up the higher ranks of the troop, no such title as a sergeant appearing in the cavalry. Of artillery I shall say nothing, since the Dutch organisation was in this respect peculiar, and could not serve like that of the infantry and cavalry as a model for the English.
Concurrently with the rise of Maurice as Commander-in-Chief must be noted that of a new English General, whose name is bound up for ever with the actions of his countrymen in the Low Countries. Francis Vere came of the old fighting stock of the Earls of Oxford. The seventh Earl had fought with the Black Prince at Cre?y and Poitiers, the twelfth with King Harry at Agincourt, and succeeding holders of the title had distinguished themselves on the Lancastrian side in the Wars of the Roses. Francis, grandson of the fifteenth Earl, was born about 1560, came to Holland with Leicester in 1585, and after brilliant service at the defence of Sluys and elsewhere rose to be sergeant-major of infantry, a sure proof that he was not only a gallant man but an adept in his profession. Finally, in August 1589 he was appointed sergeant-major-general of the Queen’s forces in the Low Countries, where he was joined by two gallant brothers, Horace and Robert, who worthily upheld the honour of the name.
His task, as that of every officer who had to do with such a woman as Elizabeth, was at first no easy one. His force being very small required constant reinforcement, and was accordingly strengthened by five hundred of the “very scum of the world,” such being the description of recruit that Elizabeth preferred to supply. He took care, however, to procure for himself better material, and at the opening of 1591 had no fewer than eight thousand men under his command. But as fast as he trained them into soldiers Elizabeth required their services for her own purposes, and frittered them away in petty meaningless operations in France, filling their place with some more of the very scum of the world, which could be swept out of the gaols and taverns at a moment’s notice. The system was in fact that of drafting, in its most vicious form. Vere for a time bore it in silence, but at last he protested, and like all of Elizabeth’s best men was soundly abused for his pains. Still the Queen knew his value well enough to withdraw not only his troops but himself from the expedition to Cadiz, and the disastrous island-voyage to the Azores.
A far more serious difficulty was the corruption of departments and contractors at home and the vicious system of paying the men. The wages of a private at eightpence a day were reckoned for the year at ￡12 : 13 : 4, of which ￡4 : 2 : 6 was deducted for two suits of summer and winter clothing, ￡6 : 18 : 6 paid in imprests at the rate of 2s. 8d. a week, and the balance, ￡1 : 2 : 6, alone made over in money. Even in theory the allowance does not sound liberal, but in practice it was ruinous. The men drew their pay and clothing from their captains, and the captains received the money in uncertain instalments, the balance due to them being made good at the close of every six months. This in itself was wasteful, since it enabled the captain to put in his own pocket the wages of soldiers who had died or had been discharged in the interval. But apart from this the captains frequently withheld the clothing altogether, or served out material of uncertain quality, charging the men treble the just price for the same; or again they would make their own contract for victualling the men, of course to their own profit, in lieu of paying to them the weekly 2s. 8d. which was due to them for subsistence. How widely the practice may have obtained among officers it is difficult to say, but the system was presently altered to the advantage alike of the State and the soldier by the officials in London. The officers also had their complaints, not a whit less sweeping, against those officials, and they preferred them in uncompromising terms. Such representations were not likely to meet with encouragement. Elizabeth was not friendly to soldiers, and hated to be troubled with obligations towards men who had faithfully served her. An Act had been passed in 1593 throwing the relief of crippled or destitute soldiers on their parishes, and she could not see what more they could want. Bloody Mary had shown them compassion; not so would Good Queen Bess; she would not be pestered with the sight of the “miserable creatures.” As to the complaints of officers, she had heard enough of their ways, and would take the word of the Treasurer of the Forces against theirs. Still Vere and his captains persisted, and at last the shameful truth was revealed that the Treasurer himself was the culprit, and had for years been cheating alike his Queen, her officers, and her men.