DISPOSITION OF THE CAVALRY
The line of infantry being formed, the cavalry are drawn up in the wings. The
heavy horse, that is, the cuirassiers and troopers armed with lances, should
join the infantry. The light cavalry, consisting of the archers and those who
have no cuirasses, should be placed at a greater distance. The best and heaviest
horse are to cover the flanks of the foot, and the light horse are posted as
abovementioned to surround and disorder the enemy's wings. A general should know
what part of his own cavalry is most proper to oppose any particular squadrons
or troops of the enemy. For from some causes not to be accounted for some
particular corps fight better against others, and those who have defeated
superior enemies are often overcome by an inferior force.
If your cavalry is not equal to the enemy's it is proper, after the ancient
custom, to intermingle it with light infantry armed with small shields and
trained to this kind of service. By observing this method, even though the
flower of the enemy's cavalry should attack you, they will never be able to cope
with this mixed disposition. This was the only resource of the old generals to
supply the defects of their cavalry, and they intermingled the men, used to
running and armed for this purpose with light shields, swords and darts, among
the horse, placing one of them between two troopers.
The method of having bodies of reserves in rear of the army, composed of choice
infantry and cavalry, commanded by the supernumerary lieutenant generals, counts
and tribunes, is very judicious and of great consequence towards the gaining of
a battle. Some should be posted in rear of the wings and some near the center,
to be ready to fly immediately to the assistance of any part of the line which
is hard pressed, to prevent its being pierced, to supply the vacancies made
therein during the action and thereby to keep up the courage of their fellow
soldiers and check the impetuosity of the enemy. This was an invention of the
Lacedaemonians, in which they were imitated by the Carthaginians. The Romans
have since observed it, and indeed no better disposition can be found.
The line is solely designed to repulse, or if possible, break the enemy. If it
is necessary to form the wedge or the pincers, it must be done by the
supernumerary troops stationed in the rear for that purpose. If the saw is to be
formed, it must also be done from the reserves, for if once you begin to draw
off men from the line you throw all into confusion. If any flying platoon of the
enemy should fall upon your wing or any other part of your army, and you have no
supernumerary troops to oppose it or if you pretend to detach either horse or
foot from your line for that service by endeavoring to protect one part, you
will expose the other to greater danger. In armies not very numerous, it is much
better to contract the front, and to have strong reserves. In short, you must
have a reserve of good and well-armed infantry near the center to form the wedge
and thereby pierce the enemy's line; and also bodies of cavalry armed with
lances and cuirasses, with light infantry, near the wings, to surround the
flanks of the enemy.
THE POST OF THE GENERAL AND OF THE
SECOND AND THIRD IN COMMAND
The post of the commander-in-chief is generally on the right between the cavalry
and infantry. For from this place he can best direct the motions of the whole
army and move elements with the greatest ease wherever he finds it necessary. It
is also the most convenient spot to give his orders to both horse and foot and
to animate them equally by his presence. It is his duty to surround the enemy's
left wing opposed to him with his reserve of horse and light infantry, and
attack it in the flank and rear. The second in command is posted in the center
of the infantry to encourage and support them. A reserve of good and well-armed
infantry is near him and under his orders. With this reserve he either forms the
wedge to pierce the enemy's line or, if they form the wedge first, prepares the
pincers for its reception. The post of the third in command is on the left. He
should be a careful and intrepid officer, this part of the army being difficult
to manage and defective, as it were, from its situation in the line. He should
therefore have a reserve of good cavalry and active infantry to enable him
always to extend his left in such a manner as to prevent its being surrounded.
The war shout should not be begun till both armies have joined, for it is a mark
of ignorance or cowardice to give it at a distance. The effect is much greater
on the enemy when they find themselves struck at the same instant with the
horror of the noise and the points of the weapons.
You must always endeavor to get the start of your enemy in drawing up in order
of battle, as you will then have it in your power to make your proper
dispositions without obstruction. This will increase the courage of your own
troops and intimidate your adversaries. For a superiority of courage seems to be
implied on the side of an army that offers battle, whereas troops begin to be
fearful who see their enemies ready to attack them. You will also secure another
great advantage, that of marching up in order and falling upon them while
forming and still in confusion. For part of the victory consists in throwing the
enemy into disorder before you engage them.
MANEUVERS IN ACTION
An able general never loses a favorable opportunity of surprising the enemy
either when tired on the march, divided in the passage of a river, embarrassed
in morasses, struggling with the declivities of mountains, when dispersed over
the country they think themselves in security or are sleeping in their quarters.
In all these cases the adversaries are surprised and destroyed before they have
time to put themselves on their guard. But if they are too cautious to give you
an opportunity of surprising or ensnaring them, you are then obliged to engage
openly and on equal terms. This at present is foreign to the subject. However
military skill is no less necessary in general actions than in carrying on war
by subtlety and stratagem.
Your first care is to secure your left wing from being surrounded by the enemy's
numbers or attacked in flank or rear by flying platoons, a misfortune that often
happens. Nor is your right to be neglected, though less frequently in danger.
There is only one remedy for this: to wheel back your wing and throw it into a
circular position. By this evolution your soldiers meet the enemy on the quarter
attacked and defend the rear of their comrades. But your best men should be
posted on the angles of the flanks, since it is against them the enemy make
their principal efforts.
There is also a method of resisting the wedge when formed by the enemy. The
wedge is a disposition of a body of infantry widening gradually towards the base
and terminating in a point towards the front. It pierces the enemy's line by a
multitude of darts directed to one particular place. The soldiers call it the
swine's head. To oppose this disposition, they make use of another called the
pincers, resembling the letter V, composed of a body of men in close order. It
receives the wedge, inclosing it on both sides, and thereby prevents it from
penetrating the line.
The saw is another disposition formed of resolute soldiers drawn up in a
straight line advanced into the front against the enemy, to repair any disorder.
The platoon is a body of men separated from the line, to hover on every side and
attack the enemy wherever they find opportunity. And against this is to be
detached a stronger and more numerous platoon.
Above all, a general must never attempt to alter his dispositions or break his
order of battle during the time of action, for such an alteration would
immediately Occasion disorder and confusion which the enemy would not fail to
improve to their advantage.
VARIOUS FORMATIONS FOR BATTLE
An army may be drawn up for a general engagement in seven different formations.
The first formation is an oblong square of a large front, of common use both in
ancient and modern times, although not thought the best by various judges of the
service, because an even and level plain of an extent sufficient to contain its
front cannot always be found, and if there should be any irregularity or hollow
in the line, it is often pierced in that part. Besides, an enemy superior in
number may surround either your right or left wing, the consequence of which
will be dangerous, unless you have a reserve ready to advance and sustain his
attack. A general should make use of this disposition only when his forces are
better and more numerous than the enemy's, it being thereby in his power to
attack both the flanks and surround them on every side.
The second and best disposition is the oblique. For although your army consists
of few troops, yet good and advantageously posted, it will greatly contribute to
your obtaining the victory, notwithstanding the numbers and bravery of the
enemy. It is as follows: as the armies are marching up to the attack, your left
wing must be kept back at such a distance from the enemy's right as to be out of
reach of their darts and arrows. Your right wing must advance obliquely upon the
enemy's left, and begin the engagement. And you must endeavor with your best
cavalry and infantry to surround the wing with which you are engaged, make it
give way and fall upon the enemy in the rear. If they once give ground and the
attack is properly seconded, you will undoubtedly gain the victory, while your
left wing, which continued at a distance, will remain untouched. An army drawn
up in this manner bears some resemblance to the letter A or a mason's level. If
the enemy should be beforehand with you in this evolution, recourse must be had
to the supernumerary horse and foot posted as a reserve in the rear, as I
mentioned before. They must be ordered to support your left wing. This will
enable you to make a vigorous resistance against the artifice of the enemy.
The third formation is like the second, but not so good, as it obliges you to
begin the attack with your left wing on the enemy's right. The efforts of
soldiers on the left are weak and imperfect from their exposed and defective
situation in the line. I will explain this formation more clearly. Although your
left wing should be much better than your right, yet it must be reinforced with
some of the best horse and foot and ordered to commence the acnon with the
enemy's right in order to disorder and surround it as expeditiously as possible.
And the other part of your army, composed of the worst troops, should remain at
such a distance from the enemy's left as not to be annoyed by their darts or in
danger of being attacked sword in hand. In this oblique formation care must be
taken to prevent the line being penetrated by the wedges of the enemy, and it is
to be employed only when the enemy's right wing is weak and your greatest
strength is on your left.
The fourth formation is this: as your army is marching to the attack in order of
battle and you come within four or five hundred paces of the enemy, both your
wings must be ordered unexpectedly to quicken their pace and advance with
celerity upon them. When they find themselves attacked on both wings at the same
time, the sudden surprise may so disconcert them as to give you an easy victory.
But although this method, if your troops are very resolute and expert, may ruin
the enemy at once, yet it is hazardous. The general who attempts it is obliged
to abandon and expose his center and to divide his army into three parts. If the
enemy are not routed at the first charge, they have a fair opportunity of
attacking the wings which are separated from each other and the center which is
destitute of assistance.
The fifth formation resembles the fourth but with this addition: the light
infantry and the archers are formed before the center to cover it from the
attempts of the enemy. With this precaution the general may safely follow the
above mentioned method and attack the enemy's left wing with his right, and
their right with his left. If he puts them to flight, he gains an immediate
victory, and if he fails of success his center is in no danger, being protected
by the light infantry and archers.
The sixth formation is very good and almost like the second. It is used when the
general cannot depend either on the number or courage of his troops. If made
with judgment, notwithstanding his inferiority, he has often a good chance for
victory. As your line approaches the enemy, advance your right wing against
their left and begin the attack with your best cavalry and infantry. At the same
time keep the rest of the army at a great distance from the enemy's right,
extended in a direct line like a javelin. Thus if you can surround their left
and attack it in flank and rear, you must inevitably defeat them. It is
impossible for the enemy to draw off reinforcements from their right or from
their center to sustain their left in this emergency, since the remaining part
of your army is extended and at a great distance from them in the form of the
letter L. It is a formation often used in an action on a march.
The seventh formation owes its advantages to the nature of the ground and will
enable you to oppose an enemy with an army inferior both in numbers and
goodness, provided one of your flanks can be covered either with an eminence,
the sea, a river, a lake, a city, a morass or broken ground inaccessible to the
enemy. The rest of the army must be formed, as usual, in a straight line and the
unsecured flank must be protected by your light troops and all your cavalry.
Sufficiently defended on one side by the nature of the ground and on the other
by a double support of cavalry, you may then safely venture on action.
One excellent and general rule must be observed. If you intend to engage with
your right wing only, it must be composed of your best troops. And the same
method must be taken with respect to the left. Or if you intend to penetrate the
enemy's line, the wedges which you form for that purpose before your center,
must consist of the best disciplined soldiers. Victory in general is gained by a
small number of men. Therefore the wisdom of a general appears in nothing more
than in such choice of disposition of his men as is most consonant with reason
books I, II and III by Flavius Vegetius Renatus
handles about sieges and naval combat)