"And inside my bodice, you handsome gallant, is my dagger!"Occasionally, when a would-be besieger was rather clever and his opponent clueless, a fortification or town could be taken completely and swiftly by ruse or surprise, saving the expense of a siege.  The Dutch especially liked using the unexpected.  They took Breda in 1590 by infiltrating the fort with 80 soldiers hiding in the bottom of a ferry boat.

The Dutch seized Ypres in 1578 when a wagon on its way to a wedding broke down right at the gate - as prearranged.  In that wagon was a rather hairy and husky 'bride' with 'her bridesmaids,' also hairy.  Amazing that weapons can be concealed underneath skirts.  Perhaps inspired by their enemy's ruse, Spanish soldiers, costumed as peasants, walked up to the open gate of Amiens in 1597, stalled a wagon in the gateway so it could not be closed and overpowered the guard.

The English lost their last toehold on the continent in 1558 when a French army led by the Duke of Guise suddenly appeared right in front of Calais, which was defended by a force of a mere 500 who were somewhat surprised by so many unexpected visitors.  Following a brief cannonade the night of January 5-6, the French waded the harbor, then assaulted the Calais Castle, last stand of the English.  After having every counterattack of theirs beaten back, the English gave up the following evening.

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© 2006, Barry L. Siler
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