Uncategorized

DAYS OF DESTINY

CANNAE

AUGUST 2, 216 BC

 Hannibal

The late afternoon sun was sinking to the west, casting long shadows across the Commanding General’s tent. Hannibal Barca looked up from the map that was spread on the field desk, rubbed his beard and said,

“Hasdrubal, have you secured our left flank along the river?”

“Yes, General. Our infantry is deployed to the river’s edge; no one will turn our flank tomorrow.”

“Good,” replied the General, and continued,

“How about our cavalry?”

An older man, still wearing his full armor and the clock of a senior officer leaned against a tent pole and replied,

“All in place,” replied Gisgo. “Hano’s Numidian’s and Mago’s Iberians are hidden on our right flank.”

“Speaking of Mago, has he returned from his reconnaissance yet?”

“He has. He’s currently questioning two Roman officers that he captured, and should join us shortly.”

The Carthaginian Army had been in Italy for over two years, and had handed the Legions of Rome two resounding defeats. After destroying the Army of Tiberius Longus at Trebia in the winter of 218 BC, Hannibal and his generals all but annihilated another Roman Army that was led by Gaius Flaminius at Lake Trasimene the following June. They had spent the time since Trasimene plundering the countryside and rebuilding their strength. Now, another Roman Army was approaching, and tomorrow would bring still another battle.

Mago came into the tent covered in dust and sweat. He removed his helmet, and saluted Hannibal. The General smiled and said,

“Come Mago, have a seat, pour a cup of wine and tell us your news.”

The tall young man poured the wine then said,

“It is much as we expected. The Romans have raised another army, this time with well over 100,000 men. They are in camp just over the hills to our front, and are sleeping on their shields. We can expect them to attack in the morning.”

“Were you able to determine their order of battle?”

“To a great degree, especially with the help of the two officers we captured. I would say that they have close to 80,000 heavy and light infantry, and maybe 6,000 horsemen.”

“Any idea how they’ll be deployed?”

“According to the prisoners, they plan to mass their infantry on a narrow front, but with heavy depth. The cavalry is unimportant; we can sweep them from the field at our pleasure.”

“And who will be in command tomorrow?”

“It appears to be Varro’s turn.” replied Mago.

Hasdrubal laughed and said,

“Only the Romans could come up with alternating command of an army on a daily basis. Today Paullius, and tomorrow Varro. At least we don’t have to guess who’ll be leading the Army of Carthage, do we General?”

“Not if the God’s allow me another day,” Hannibal said with a smile, and then added,

“I find it interesting, and somewhat surprising, that they plan to mass their infantry on a smaller front. It must be their intent to use the additional mass to break our middle. What do you think Hasdrubal?”

“I can’t come up with any other explanation, but it just doesn’t make any military sense. They have a two-to-one advantage in infantry, and by massing their men on a narrow front, they allow us to play on an even field. They should come at us with a wide front, and engage us where we are weakest.”

“I agree,” said Gisco. “By massing their infantry, they make it much easier for our cavalry to envelope them. You’d have thought they’d learn something from Lake Trasimene.”

“Gentlemen, let’s bear in mind the severity of our position. We’re deep in Rome’s home country. A thousand miles of mountains and hostile tribes separate us from our base. The Romans can afford to continue to lose battles, and ultimately win the war. We can slaughter their legions, but they can easily replace them with new legions, while every man we lose cannot be replaced. They will win a long war of attrition.”

“We must stick to our basic strategy. We must continue to raid and plunder their outlying provinces, and weaken and destroy the intricate web of alliances that hold their empire together. We must fight only when given no choice, and we must defeat them decisively. Tomorrow we have the opportunity to destroy another Roman army. Our infantry are all veterans, and we have the best light and heavy cavalry the world has ever seen. Tomorrow won’t be a battle, as much as a slaughter. I wish we had our elephants, but alas we only have the one, and I’ll be riding him”

“General, will we advance on Rome after our victory tomorrow?” Mago asked.

“I doubt it. The Romans are brave and patriotic men, poorly led, but individually valorous. We do not want to back them into a corner, defending their homes and families. No, we will continue hacking away at their allies in Italy. Already, over twenty five tribes have defected, and after tomorrow, there will be more. Rome must sue for peace, because we cannot defeat them militarily. Does anyone have any questions?”

Gisgo raised his hand and said,

“General, the only thing that bothers me is their vast numbers.”

Hannibal smiled and replied,

“Another thing that has escaped your notice, Gisgo, is even more amazing—that although there are so many of them, there is not one among them called Gisgo.”

The group of officers broke into gales of laughter’

The next morning, the Roman army attacked the center of the Carthaginians, just as expected. Hannibal led a controlled retreat, and spread his infantry to each flank. When his cavalry swept the Roman horsemen off the field, he engulfed the entire Roman army in a giant pincer movement, and his cavalry systematically destroyed the Romans. It has been estimated that 600 legionnaires were killed every minute until sundown, some 70,000 Roman’s died, and 10,000 were taken prisoner. Less than 3,000 managed to escape and return to Rome.

 

Bust of Hannibal is licensed under CC By 4.0 — linked to en.wikipedia.org

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Categories: Uncategorized

16 replies »

  1. Tom: I thought that this was absolutely superb perhaps because I know so little of the history and strategy of war during the Roman Empire! Congratulations on coming up with a truly unique article!
    Warren

    • Richard you are right on target about the Kudu that Tom has adopted. Fortunately it is a Greater Kudu which is not a threatened species: the Greater Kudu’s nearest relative is the Lesser Kudu which is approaching the threatened species list. Tom uses the Horns of his Greater Kudu to make Shofars for his Jewish friends during Rosh Hashanah. Although the meat of the Greater Kudu is quite savory, Tom spares the life of his G. Kudu which is quite admirable given his affinity for edible delicacies.

      • Yes, I recall Richard (Dickie) Moore. He was a superb dancer especially if his partner was Lynn Orkin; unfortunately, great dancers are often not very knowledgeable about Greater & Lesser Kudus. I believe Richard displayed his lack of understanding of the Kudu family when he used the generic word Kudu rather than Greater or Lesser. Richard should probably stick to the dancing and stay out of the kudu stuff! What do you think, Thomas?

    • Thomas and Richard: I have just returned from a multitude of errands and have discovered that Richard continues to display a rather dramatic lack of knowledge about Kudus and their prized horns used for Shofars. Thomas disappoints me in that he now confesses to having eaten the Kudu for lunch-more than likely the Shofars were also consumed. Thomas more than likely will publish his recipe for Kudu Stew in some future blog which will attribute the recipe to some catfish restaurant in Hunger, MS. Obviously I shall not contribute any future Kudus to Thomas’ works and yes, anyone can look spiffy while dancing with Ms. Orkin!

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