Having rested eight days at Ruppin, of intention to have marched toward Silesia, to join with the army there, God that disposes all things by his providence for our best, provided that we went not; for the army there being beaten, and put to rout (whereof few escaped) the enemy after his victory following down to us-ward, and having crossed the Elbe behind us, our retreat towards the King's army in Holstein was hindered, the passages being all beset by the enemies' forces, so that there was no other passage free for our army to pass through, but only to retire towards the Baltic Sea, to patronize the Isle of Poel for our safety, till such time as shipping should be provided by his Majesty to transport us unto Holstein. Orders then were given to the whole army, to march with all celerity from Ruppin unto the rendezvous, being appointed at Perleberg, where having come together, we were near ten thousand strong of horse and foot, being sufficiently provided of artillery and ammunition answerable to the strength of our army. Our march in great haste, night and day, continues towards Wismar, being afraid of our enemies, we feared we should not gain so much time, as to put our army in assurance, within trenches, before the enemies' coming: but being more affrighted, than we had reason, coming there betimes, we intrenched ourselves within a close leaguer, before the Isle of Poel, a mile from Wismar: where we made a draw-bridge over the passage to the Isle, and fortified it with skonces and redoubts on both sides; where we lay five weeks, till his Majesty provided shipping for our transportation unto Holstein, and fearing contrary winds might keep us long on the Isle, it being in the harvest time, we provided the island with corn and cattle taken off the country about, sufficiently to have entertained us the whole Winter in necessity. In this leaguer we had abundance of flesh, and of drink, but we were slightly provided of bread and salt, where a soldier had but one pound of bread allowed him in ten days, if that he took it not off the field. Our Scottish Highland men called this leaguer the flesh leaguer, and justly, for the soldiers were so cloyed with flesh, that oxen flesh was let lie on the ground, the hides taken off by the soldiers, and sold for a can of beer a hide, the whole body left on the place untouched, and at last, the soldiers weary of mutton also, eating only the heads and feet, being boiled with wheat brought off the fields. In all this necessity, the town of Wismar did prove very discourteous unto us, in not suffering to help us, with anything they might spare for our money, but rather through their pride abused our officers and servants, that entered their town to buy necessaries.
The fifth Observation.
Where we have represented unto us, the mutability of human estates, and especially of wars, the wheel turning, we that looked to go forwards, were forced to retire, human affairs being opposed as a mark to all the shots of discontentment; so that we ought not to rejoice too much in a calm, or prove faint hearted in a storm. We read of a Roman captain, who did tremble being victorious, as being uncertain how long his good fortune might continue. And the Romans (as Scipio told the ambassadors of Antiochus) were not puffed up by victory, nor cast down by loss. And Augustine said, this life of ours, was doubtful, blind, miserable, made of a flood of humors, ebbing, and flowing.
Notwithstanding whereof, it is the duty of a wise commander to make use of the time, by diligent foresight, and wise deliberation, to save himself, and others so long as he may, and not to be dejected, at every buffet unconstant fortune doth give him.
As this old general his resolution at this time, having an enemy before him, was good, the enemy coming also behind him, took his march betwixt both, and did come fortunately to his wished forecast, putting himself and his army in assurance. This old general was of good experience, but not fortunate, neither were they fortunate whom he served, though of invincible courage, and of great understanding in wars: for, to give his Majesty of Denmark his due, no man breathing, I think, carries a stouter heart then he doth: Yet I have seen his Majesty far dejected in spirit, through great loss, and no wonder, as you shall hear more particularly set down in the seventh observation.
In this retreat we were not void of fear, but suspecting the worst, every man bethinking himself of his best safety, to eschew an apparent overthrow, a thing at all times most dangerous in an army. Our horsemen, being afraid of a retreat by water, and consequently the loss of their horses, for want of shipping, and which was more, they feared the loss of their goods, and their own imprisonment: but it was in vain they should torment themselves beforehand, for things without their powers to eschew. But they ought rather to have made use of the present, and to have foreseen the future so far as lay in them, resolving patiently against all crosses and to refer the event to God.
Here also I did observe the inconvenience that comes to soldiers, through eating much flesh without salt, or bread, which did bring diseases in the leaguer, so that many died of pestilence and flux: but of our nation fewest, for to speak truth, I never did see more durable men against all toil, travail and tediousness, than they were.
Likewise I did observe first here, that the towns of Germany are best friends ever to the masters of the field, in flattering the victorious, and in persecuting of the loser, which is ever well seen in all estates.
When we are happy in the spring-tide of abundance, and in the rising flood of plenty, then the world would be our servants: but when these pleasant waters fall to ebbing, then men look upon us, at a distance. Wherefore adversity is like Penelope's night, which undoes all, that ever the day did weave. And our misery is so, that we can never try a friend, but in the kick of malignant chance: so I confess he is happy, that finds a true friend, but he is happier that findeth not extremity to try him.