The Essays of Montaigne/Book I/Chapter XLV

The Essays of Montaigne by Michel de Montaigne, translated by Charles Cotton
Chapter XLV. Of the battle of Dreux.

Chapter XLV. Of the battle of Dreux. Edit

[December 19, 1562, in which the Catholics, under the command of the
     Duc de Guise and the Constable de Montmorenci, defeated the
     Protestants, commanded by the Prince de Conde. See Sismondi, Hist.
     des Francais, vol. xviii., p. 354.]

Our battle of Dreux is remarkable for several extraordinary incidents;
but such as have no great kindness for M. de Guise, nor much favour his
reputation, are willing to have him thought to blame, and that his making
a halt and delaying time with the forces he commanded, whilst the
Constable, who was general of the army, was racked through and through
with the enemy's artillery, his battalion routed, and himself taken
prisoner, is not to be excused; and that he had much better have run the
hazard of charging the enemy in flank, than staying for the advantage of
falling in upon the rear, to suffer so great and so important a loss.
But, besides what the event demonstrated, he who will consider it without
passion or prejudice will easily be induced to confess that the aim and
design, not of a captain only, but of every private soldier, ought to
regard the victory in general, and that no particular occurrences, how
nearly soever they may concern his own interest, should divert him from
that pursuit. Philopoemen, in an encounter with Machanidas, having sent
before a good strong party of his archers and slingers to begin the
skirmish, and these being routed and hotly pursued by the enemy, who,
pushing on the fortune of their arms, and in that pursuit passing by the
battalion where Philopoemen was, though his soldiers were impatient to
fall on, he did not think fit to stir from his post nor to present
himself to the enemy to relieve his men, but having suffered these to be
chased and cut in pieces before his face, charged in upon the enemy's
foot when he saw them left unprotected by the horse, and notwithstanding
that they were Lacedaemonians, yet taking them in the nick, when thinking
themselves secure of the victory, they began to disorder their ranks; he
did this business with great facility, and then put himself in pursuit of
Machanidas. Which case is very like that of Monsieur de Guise.

In that bloody battle betwixt Agesilaus and the Boeotians, which
Xenophon, who was present at it, reports to be the sharpest that he had
ever seen, Agesilaus waived the advantage that fortune presented him, to
let the Boeotian battalions pass by and then to charge them in the rear,
how certain soever he might make himself of the victory, judging it would
rather be an effect of conduct than valour, to proceed that way; and
therefore, to show his prowess, rather chose with a marvellous ardour of
courage to charge them in the front; but he was well beaten and well
wounded for his pains, and constrained at last to disengage himself, and
to take the course he had at first neglected; opening his battalion to
give way to this torrent of Boeotians, and they being passed by, taking
notice that they marched in disorder, like men who thought themselves out
of danger, he pursued and charged them in flank; yet could not so prevail
as to bring it to so general a rout but that they leisurely retreated,
still facing about upon him till they had retired to safety.