Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Action, Accounting and Assessing Risk....

The Campaigning Continues:

Have been doing some pre-battle "bookkeeping" for the ongoing campaign......
One of the things about running a campaign (as opposed to gaming one-off fights) is the "shock" of how QUICKLY your army gets whittled away - not so much in battle, which one expects, but with the allocating of troops to protect lines of communication, garrisoning salient points and the drip-drip-drip of desertions (and SO far I've managed to keep my guys fed & watered.....).



Apropos; I was looking through the pre-battle "Order of Battle" for Burgoyne's army at Saratoga the other week (like you do..) and was (yet again) stuck by the comparison with the "paper strength" of his regiments and the réalité of the "effective strength"... These ranged from an average of just over half the paper strength to just over a quarter (!!!) in one case....


My legions haven't degraded THAT much (yet), but I'm watching the figures - and the relatively small portion of the map "dealt with" so far - and thinking Ummm..........


Meanwhile, back on the map....




Sepporis has fallen after a only week's seige (Yielded on terms. We can still afford to be generous). The next week is taken up with:


A cavalry probe towards (hostile, fortified) Arbela, which comes face to face with a blocking force - and swiftly comes scurrying home without engaging (Clever boys..).

Little Garis turning out to be friendly - but the settlement will need a garrison (no pun intended) to keep it safe from raids from Arbela.
More probing.. On the road to (as it turn out, hostile, fortified) Tiberias the patrol of horse are ambushed... Except where...? The nearer one gets, the flatter the country.... Help me Mr. Google....





There is an indecisive skirmish (the enemy have no horse and the ground is a bit "Meh"...).
The above is followed by a day or two of Strategic thinking (Council of War), loss assessment, redistribution of garrisons etc....

A decision has been reached that Tiberias - with its direct road connections to garrisoned Scythopolis and Garis, plus the threat it poses to friendly Pella, Gadera and Hippias - HAS to be the next target.

This being so, a plan to march a legion and supports force via Ptolemais to Bersabe to push into Galilee from the north, in concert with the two legion push from the south, in order to speed things along, has been put on hold....

One of the frustrations of campaigning... I turned my back for a moment while sorting a logistic issue and having a "Council of War" and raiders from the "soon to be besieged" Tiberias raided friendly Pella. THEN, once I got them moving, my columns ran into bad weather before they got any further in closing down this danger point... Frustrating, yes; but "real".... Chess this ain't..

The army moves. besieging Tiberias (another 8 days lost) then on to Tarichaeae (another nine days). Losses are minimal but keeping my army together is eating up the weeks.
Having taken Tiberias and Tarichaeae the army moves to Beersabe, which surrendered after three days.
Here is the balance problem: a large army can scare the enemy into surrender or subdue a town by sheer presence/numbers in a siege situation. However, this will always take at least a week (plus clear up). I can deal with more towns at a time by splitting my force, but each individual siege will likely take longer, use more supplies, leave those columns more vulnerable to ambush and could result in losses in manpower I cannot afford... Hmmm.....


Titus and the Vth have been left at Beesave. Meanwhile, Vespasian and the rest of the army retrace their steps, to Tarichaeae, then move to deal with hostile, fortified Arbela. An ambush is triggered..... 


Again, I get Google Maps up and running. The short distances involved flummox me once more...The approach from the Sea of G. is flatish - until it starts rising to the mounts, where there is a suitable looking "ambush me" gully..








However, thanks to this wonderful resource (Streeview & the 3D tool), I can see where the sources (which are so bloody vague sometimes) suddenly fit the geography...



"Arbela" seems to cover the mount itself and possibly the nearby jebel, both of which look riddled with caves, as described/hinted at in some sources, which Josephus seemingly protected with walls..





Given the small distances involved, assuming I beat off the ambush, this might turn into an interesting a "follow-up and assault" on the table, rather than a siege. Looks have to dug out me old cork bits for this one...




Meanwhile: From the Annual Annals of
Crun the Elder:

"And Vespasian, with all his arméd might, did march from Tarichaeae even unto Arbela, and on first sighting this fell hold of his enemies gathered unto himself his Legates and spoke unto them, saying  "What the frick..??!! I was expecting a town, not a bloody rock..."



Honestly, sometimes being ambushed en route is a positive relief...




4 comments:

  1. Wow! I actually thought the 2nd to last pic was real.
    The numbers on paper and the actual numbers engaged Point. When I was into ancient Romans I really got into the Varus battle. (My Avatar is a clue to that) Bought the books, visited the site, ate the chocolate etc. One Thing that really annoyed me was the "20,000 Romans soldier died during the battle" Claim. Sometimes put out as "up to 20,000" but still 20thou. There are excuses like "3 legions with all their attached auxillaries, Baggage etc" to bump the numbers up but I tend to think they were way less..max 10,000 and possibly less than that. Why? The reasons you give. Also, being already stationed in Germania and not brought in for purpose, they would have left a Portion of each legion behind before they set out in order to protect thier home bases (nope..not the Hardware stores :-) ) Also...was a legion ever full strength? Is an army ever full strength?



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  2. Cheers... Am part way though the (first) Arbela battle (my working week started today, so "Worked stopped Play" - ho, hum..).

    Yep; the paper strength v effective strength thing is SO basic, yet lost on so many people ("Indoor-bound Historians: I'm looking at you").

    Luckily a lot of practical groundwork, in terms of pacing-out genuinely identifiable battlefields ("You can't FIT that many men on this ridge!!") and archaeology, provide a leavening of common sense and reality..

    I was leafing though the Vindolanda letters last year (stumbled across a remaindered copy at a re-enactment event) and in particular chuckling over No. 154 - the Strength List of the 1st Coh. Tungrians, an Auxiliary Cohors Milliaria.

    First there is the actual total strength "on the books" of 752.. BUT taking out "deductions" in the form of men on detached service (including a large number of guys at Corbridge - more than at Vindolanda itself) or sick the number of actual troops left for garrison duty at the unit's base falls to a mere 265... "Yay!! I've got an auxiliary unit of a thousand to hold of those pesky Picts!! Oh. Wait.... A little over a quarter of that.. DOH!!".

    It is reasonably clear that the idea of a 5,000 fighting strength for the legions is likely VERY wishful thinking - especially when you look at the somewhat ad hoc way the Romans had to replace losses..

    Apropos; I was reading something the other year suggesting that the (much beloved) "double sized First Cohort" under the Empire was actually the same fighting strength as the rest, with the "extra" troops attached to that unit administratively being all the non-combatant admin. and specialists (ok. even in a modern army the cooks and the pay-clerks have to sometimes pick up a rifle, but....) on the basis that they had to come from somewhere....

    All I CAN say for certain is that if my legions finish this campaign at much more than half paper strength I will be VERY surprised...

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