He called one of his lieutenant generals to the spot, explained somewhat of his design to him, and then asked him to go and choose from the cavalry and the infantry, a hundred each, the best soldiers he could find. This two hundred were then assembled, and Hannibal, after surveying them with looks of approbation and pleasure, said, “Yes, you are the men I want, only, instead of two hundred, I need two thousand. Go back to the army, and select and bring to me, each of you, nine men like yourselves.” It is easy to be imagined that the soldiers were pleased with this commission; and that they executed it faithfully. The whole force thus chosen was soon assembled, and stationed in the thickets above described, where they lay in ambush ready to attack the Romans after they should pass the river.
Hannibal also made arrangements for leaving a large part of his army in his own camp, ready for battle, with orders that they should partake of food and refreshments and keep themselves warm by the fires until they should be called upon. All things being thus ready, he detached a body of horsemen to cross the river, and see if they could provoke the Romans to come out of their camp and pursue them.
” Go,” said Hannibal, to the commander of this detachment, “pass the stream, advance to the Roman camp, assail the guards, and when the army forms and comes out to attack you, retreat slowly before them back across the river.”
The detachment did as it was ordered to do. When they arrived at the camp, which was soon after break of day,-for it was a part of Hannibal’s plan to bring the Romans out before they should have had time to breakfast, Sempronius, at the first alarm, called all the soldiers to arms, supposing that the whole Carthaginian force was attacking them. It was a cold and stormy morning, and the atmosphere being filled with rain and snow, but little could be seen. Column after column of horsemen and of infantry marched out of the camp. The Carthaginians retreated. Sempronius was greatly excited at the idea of so easily driving back the assailants, and, as they retreated, he pressed on in pursuit of them. As Hannibal had anticipated, he became so excited in the pursuit that he did not stop at the banks of the river. The Carthaginian horsemen plunged into the stream in their retreat, and the Romans, foot soldiers and horsemen, together, followed on. The stream was usually small, but it was now swelled by the rain which had been falling all the night. The water was, of course, intensely cold. The horsemen got through tolerably well, but the foot soldiers were all thoroughly drenched and benumbed; and as they had not taken any food that morning, and had come forth on a very sudden call, and without any sufficient preparation, they felt the effects of the exposure in the strongest degree. Still they pressed on. They ascended the bank after crossing the river, and when they had formed again there, and were moving forward in pursuit of their still flying enemy, suddenly the whole force of Hannibal’s reserves, strong and vigorous, just from their tents and their fires, burst upon them. They had scarcely recovered from the astonishment and the shock of this unexpected onset, when the two thousand concealed in the ambuscade came sallying forth in the storm, and assailed the Romans in the rear with frightful shouts and outcries.