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For some time past a great coolness had existed between Louis XII. and the Swiss; still, impelled by necessity, the prince, before crossing the Alps to reduce the rebel city of Genoa, had asked the confederated cantons for 10,000 infantry. But these troops were so slow in making their preparations, and so greedy after their pay, that the King of France, who was naturally passionate, was on the point of having them attacked by his gendarmes. At last, when an assault was to be made, the Swiss bluntly refused to advance, saying that they had come to fight in the open plain, and not to climb up rocks. The king had to do without them, and this led to the formation of a vigorous infantry, which, during the remainder of the Italian war, was daily augmented, by receiving into its ranks dismounted or ruined gendarmes, the broken lances, and lanze spezzate (hence Lanspesades), as the Italians called them.
With the renaissance, war ceased to be a mere brutal employment of strength; it became a science, rendered difficult of acquirement owing to the various nature of the knowledge demanded, and the proper employment of all those elements which may aid in gaining battles. This new mode of regarding matters greatly augmented the soldier's value; the gentlemen gradually displayed in the foot service a grandeur and selfdenial hitherto unknown, and perceived that while, on a multitude of occasions, the cavalry were nearly impotent, the infantry had always and everywhere a brilliant part to play. The chivalrous prejudices so long rooted in the nobility grew weaker, and a number of cadets could be seen enlisting in the bands to carry the pike, and gain their promotion by discipline and promptitude. The contact with these young noblemen reacted on the citizen soldiers, who, feeling justly proud at seeing the children of that caste, which stood so high in public opinion, mingled with them, acquired self-esteem, and distinguished themselves by their bravery. Events soon gave them opportunity for displaying their qualities, and at Marignano the French infantry received a remarkable honour. At the most critical moment of the fight Francis I. dismounted, seized a pike, and placed himself at the head of a battalion, shouting, "Who loves me, will follow me!" On that day the infantry took an immense step, for they conquered the Swiss. It was not without difficulty, though, that these redoubtable mountaineers were driven back; and Marshal Trivulzio, who had been present at seventeen pitched battles, called them child's play by the side of Marignano, which he declared to be a combat of giants.
The necessity in which Francis I. found himself in 1521 of opposing the enemy upon all the frontiers at once, produced remarkable changes in the military organisation of France. Surrounded by the vast possessions of Charles V., this prince recurred to the idea of Louis XI., and divided his state into four governments. He had thus four armies to make head simultaneously towards the Low Countries, Germany, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. From these four divisions gradually issued the four oldest regiments of France-Picardy, Champagne, Piedmont, and Navarre.
The infantry were divided into bands of 500 to 2000 men, led by a captain, who had under him one or two lieutenants and an ensign; and in the field they were collected into brigades, of from 4000 to 10,000 The system was also adopted of forming these brigades of bands
belonging to the same government. The only difficulty was in equalising the bands without offending the private captains, who were always too well disposed to refuse obedience to the captain-general. On his return from Madrid, in 1526, the king certainly issued a decree reducing all the bands to a strength of 300 men; but it remained a dead letter. How, in fact, in the moment of danger, was it possible to refuse the services of a captain who brought in one, two, or even ten thousand men? The gravity of succeeding events threw everything into confusion, and it was found necessary to employ every means, whether good or bad. Fortune, in fact, seemed to abandon the French: the Imperialists, the Flemings, and the English invaded Champagne and Picardy; the king had been obliged to evacuate Italy, and Provence was menaced by the troops of Charles V., led by the traitor Constable of France. In this urgent necessity, instead of improving the train-bands, a retrograde step was taken; recourse was had to adventurers, and with them the free archers were reestablished. The king only employed them, it is true, in extreme circumstances, and at any other moment readily allowed any one who pleased to attack these ruffians with impunity; but the re-establishment of the free archers entailed consequences too sad for us to pass them over.
Louis XI. allowed this militia to decay after the battle of Guinegate; but he was not the king to abolish at the same time the tax which the services of the free archers entailed on the parishes. Charles VII. had already rendered the tax permanent, which all the citizens were expected to pay during war; and Louis XI., on dismissing the free archers, tripled this impost, and the parishes had to pay a "tax of fifty thousand men," as it was termed, in lieu of sixteen thousand. Its product was supposed to be applied to the maintenance of the permanent troops, and as it had become a regular impost, the king, under difficult circumstances, could make a new appeal to his faithful subjects, and demand a war contribution in militia or money, or in both. This is what Francis I. did. In 1523, he called out the parish soldiers, and they were called, as before, free archers. In the following sad years it was found impossible to disband them, and they fared the same as did, at a later date, the militia called out by Louis XIV. during the war of the Spanish succession, and the National Guards mobilised during the wars of the Revolution.
Similar circumstances always lead to the same expedients. The militia of the great king became regiments, the National Guards of the republic formed semi-brigades, while those of the Empire were converted into cohorts; but, long prior to all this, Francis I. had changed the free archers into legions. This institution, which had but an ephemeral existence, contained, however, a few happy regulations, which introduced some homogeneousness among these confused elements. Thus the whole first legion was recruited exclusively in Normandy, and the other six raised in the same way in the various provinces. The soldiers were armed, some with arquebuses, others with pikes and halberds. Each of the legions had six captains, one of whom bore the title of colonel: he had the supreme command of the legion, and was appointed by the king, as were the captains. Each of the latter had under him two lieutenants, commanding five hundred men. Below these, again, were two ensigns, and there was a centurion to every hundred men. All these commissions were in the gift of the chief of the legion. One of the articles of the
decree deserving quotation, is that in which it is stated that those soldiers invalided by wounds were free from taxation for life, and served in the garrison with "dead pay," if able to do so. This was the idea that created the corps of veterans.
Francis I., who had studied the spirit and organisation of the Roman legion, which he wished to revive, instituted honorary rewards. The soldier who distinguished himself by a brilliant action received a golden finger-ring, and if again distinguished, he could attain a lieutenancy and be ennobled. Unfortunately, the French militia were too recently instituted, and had been too long in a state of moral inferiority, to understand the spirit of this decree, and ensuing events prevented any permanence. The legions, as Francis I. wished to recal them, only existed for two years, and the king was obliged to cashier them, owing to the insubordination of the men, and return to the system of companies of three hundred or four hundred men obeying a single captain. General Susane, who has written the history of the old French infantry, tells us on this head:
If this institution has to be reproached for anything, it is, before all, that it was too learned for the period when it was formed, and the king did not take into account the insubordination of the nation, while he, moreover, framed the lists of a size disproportionate to the real resources of France. In 1534 it was impossible to find and support 42,000 foot soldiers, in addition to the old bands. Indeed, we are led to believe, judging from the names of certain chiefs, or captains, of the legionaries, that some of these old bands served as a nucleus for the legions; but this measure, were it taken, must have contributed to accelerate the disorganisation, for the haughty train-band soldiers, such as contemporary writers describe them to us, could not long endure any connexion with men who possessed no military spirit, no honour, and but little courage, and who, as Maréchal de Vielleville says, were the worst disciplined in the world, and their captains all the same.”
Hence it was natural that, in 1536, the Dauphiné legion should be cashiered owing to the disorders and violence the men committed. In the same year fractions of the Champagne and Guienne legions were also disbanded and ignominiously expelled from Arles, the defence of which town had been confided to them. The king was not compelled to employ the same rigour with the other legions, but the wretched service they did caused their calling out to be gradually dropped, and on the death of Francis I., in 1547, the institution, though not abolished, fell into desuetude. The same had been the fate of the free archers sixtyeight years previously. By a very natural reaction the French trainbands profited by the discredit into which the legions more and more fell. All the young men who, at the outset, had solicited commissions in the legions, returned to the train-bands, while, on the other hand, the latter were enlarged by all the legionaries in whom a military temper had been developed.
At the period when Henry II. mounted the throne, these bands had attained the acme of their splendour, and France had never before appeared so formidable. She astounded Europe by the immensity of her armaments; she held Scotland at her sovereign disposal; she counted Corsica among her provinces; and, finally, she was projecting an establishment in Brazil, which would enable her to share in the treasures of
the New World. Her armies, excellently commanded, powerful, and disciplined, defended her frontiers on all sides. The Maréchal de Brissac had strengthened, by his victories, the authority of France in Piedmont. On the side of Germany the French army was ready to assume the offensive at a moment's notice, and the capture of the three bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, seemed to presage further victory in the struggle which Charles V. was again commencing with France. The peace of Cateau-Cambrésis (Aug. 3, 1559) allowed the king to occupy himself seriously with the organisation of his military forces, and to profit by the experience derived from long wars.
We see in succession the ranks of the army strengthened by the Reitres, the Pistoliers, and the Carabins, the first taken into the service of France on the strength of their reputation, the other two created by a decree in 1558. They were mounted corps necessary to complete the cavalry arm, which was still only formed of the old orderly companies, and these new troops, carefully selected though not numerous, did excellent service on various occasions. The dragoons were also one of the creations of Henry II., and were originally, as they now are, intended to fight on horseback or afoot, according to need: the Maréchal de Brissac formed the first corps of them during the war in Piedmont.
The legionaries still continued to figure in the wars of the first years of Henry II., and one of the most unhappy day srecorded in the fasti of France even restored them a momentary importance. On August 10, 1557, the greater part of the old Picardy train-bands perished at St. Quentin, and the relics of this brave army were compelled to throw themselves into strong places, in order to arrest a victorious enemy who had already reached the heart of France. In such a desperate situation, Henry II. had only one course to take: abandon Italy, recal by forced marches the old bands from Piedmont, and seek to impose on the enemy by re-establishing the legions, and thus obtain a peace the least disadvantageous to himself. While the king spread far and wide the rumour of the 42,000 men he was about to stamp out of the ground, the Duke of Guise hurried from the foot of the Alps, in mid winter, with a part of the old Piedmont bands, picked up the rest of the Picardy band, and in the early part of January, 1558, at the moment when Europe believed France crushed, he recaptured from the English the town of Calais, which they had held for two hundred and twelve years. He proceeded thence into Champagne, and carried Thionville by assault. These prodigious exploits, performed by a handful of old soldiers, led to the treaty of Cambrésis, and, as we said before, enabled Henry II. to turn his attention to the regular army, while the legions fell more and more into the
When the troubles broke out in the reign of Charles IX. through religious interests and other personal motives, the legions, which through their constitution bore an eminently local stamp, followed the fortunes of the provincial governors, who had nearly all revolted against the royal authority, and gradually disappeared. A great number of the legionaries entered into the regiments raised by the various parties, but the majority were transformed into garrison companies, kept up for their own security by the cities and villages. The last mention of the legions we find is at the siege of Montélimart in 1585.
From the midst of the chaos into which France fell, it is a curious fact that the institution of regiments silently emerged, which the regular and military reign of Francis I. had been unable to effect. It is certain that there were no permanent regiments before 1560, and that ten years later, four, at least, of those old corps which survived to the Revolution began their lengthened career. Their existence, produced amid a frightful disorder, was hardly noticed: in the general mourning, people looked back to that year of peace which marked the end of Henry II.'s reign, and that well-organised army, whose absence was now more than ever regretted. In truth, when the King of France fell, mortally wounded, by Montgomery's lance, the country was at peace with the whole world; the future appeared radiant, and, in spite of the disbandment of the newlyraised bands, the army had an effective strength of 40,000 men thus distributed:
GUARDS OF THE KING.-Four companies of guards: two companies of 100 gentlemen; the company of the guards of the gate; the 100 Swiss; the 200 cross-bowmen.
INFANTRY.-The old train-bands, and those organised in 1530 under the name of the Legions of Picardy, Champagne, Provence, Dauphiné, Guienne, Normandy, Languedoc, and Vermandois; the free companies of infantry.
CAVALRY.-The orderly companies, or gendarmerie (heavy cavalry); the maréchaussée; the archers and cross-bowmen (light cavalry); the horse arquebusiers, or dragoons; the free companies of cavalry.
THE ARTILLERY.-Master gunners, engineers, sappers, and franes taupiers. The guard of the artillery was always confided to the Swiss.
The infantry had about ninety ensigns, giving, at 200 men each, an effective strength of 18,000 foot soldiers. The foreign corps, whose importance we shall presently show, formed a total of 12,000 men. They are not comprised in the strength of the royal army, nor are the garrison companies stationed on the northern frontier, and a few fragments of the Piedmont bands left by the Duke of Guise, who did not evacuate the places they occupied until the end of 1562. Not a morsel of this organisation remained intact when the civil war broke out on March 15, 1560, with the conspiracy of Amboise. The premature death of Francis II, nine months afterwards, only increased the complication, and everything was broken up, not excluding the army. The Colonel-General d'Andelot and the Prince de Condé, both Protestants, had carried over so great a number of men, that we can hardly estimate the royal army collected at Orleans upon the accession of Charles IX. at more than 8000 old troops.
In 1561 the Duke of Guise introduced the regimental system, borrowed from the Spaniards, but it only lasted for two years. The reformed chiefs, whose interests were compromised by its institution, demanded its abolition as the price of their services in recapturing Havre, which themselves had surrendered to the English in the previous year. After the capitulation of the English, the Guise regiments were disbanded and reduced to garrison companies, but Queen Catherine was far too cunning to let these fine troops slip from her grasp, and it was her policy to diminish the regular army, which gave confidence to the chiefs of the Protestant party; while, on the other hand, she reinforced