A look back at one of your favorite submarine articles. “USS Scorpion SSN-589 Part 1”
A look back at one of your favorite submarine articles. “USS Scorpion SSN-589 Part 1”
I have received e-mails, texts, and phone calls from many of you asking “When is the next Cartaphilus book coming out?”
There were a couple of issues that were beyond my control. But – the book is now available in all e-book formats at your favorite retailer.
October 29, 2016 was the release date of the e-book format of “The Cartaphilus Saga: book #2 Passionis.”
If you pre-ordered it, the next time you log onto your favorite retailer it will automatically download.
If you haven’t ordered it yet, I have a special surprise for you. Retailers give you the first 20% of the book as a sample for you to download for free. I have set up two samples after the half-way point in the book. Here is the second sample you can read here after 5 November 2016. These two samples are not available anywhere else.
Agricola had all of modern day England and the lowlands of modern day Scotland. Up until that time we had been fighting individual tribes. Calgacus changed all of that. The tribes of the highlands united under him to drive us out. Calgacus refused to do battle his great army against ours. He used hit and run guerrilla tactics as the individual tribes had. But now the attacks were planned and coordinated. For almost a year prior to Mons Graupius it had been a war of maneuver, Calgacus always avoiding a head on confrontation. Once in a night raid the Caledonians almost wiped out the Ninth Legion which was saved by a quick response from reinforcements. But that was the year before. Now I was a replacement centurion leading the third cohort of the Ninth.
Agricola had had enough. He was under pressure from the emperor to quickly subdue the Caledonians. Agricola decided on a new tactic. It was late in the year and he would attack the food the Caledonians had set aside for winter. Calgacus was forced to confront us. The Roman ships brought us to the northeast shore of Caledonia. After we came ashore we marched inland before turning north.
One morning late in the summer we arose to see men gathering on a hill top two miles east of our marching camp. The troops were called into formation. Agricola gave a speech. I did not pay attention to his words, though now I wish I had. I had heard many speeches before many battles. My main concern was the readiness of my cohort.
When Agricola finished the troops let out a great roar and Agricola ordered the camp gates opened. The auxiliary light infantry were the first to march out the gates. The rest of us stood in formation waiting our turn to march forward. Even the horses were nervous and the cavalry, standing by their mounts, worked to keep them calm. There was a slight breeze and the temperature was slowly rising but still comfortable.
The Caledonians continued to pour out onto the hilltop with the sun at their back. They already had thousands of men in battle formation just below the summit. Still their first battle line spread across the hill as more men joined the formation. When they were all in final formation Calgacus would have more than thirty thousand men against us. We had over fifteen thousand men, two thirds of which were experienced auxiliaries including several cohorts of Britons.
When the light infantry, all eight thousand, had left the camp it was the turn of the auxiliary cavalry next. Three thousand men marched forward on foot leading their horses out of the camp gates. When they were finally outside the camp they swung up onto their mounts and took the flanks of the infantry, 1,500 on each side.
All the while we stood in formation waiting our turn to go forward. I could hear some of my men whispering in ranks. I could not hear what they were saying, but I knew what they were saying. I was nervous too, my mouth dry and my stomach queasy, but I had to stop them before fear had too strong a grip on them. I stepped forward and turned to address my men.
“The sun is warm on our faces, the birds sing in the trees, and I can smell the fear of our enemies on the easterly breeze. Today is a good day to die.” Then men were silent all eyes upon me, then I continued. “If you are a Caledonian.” The men broke into laughter which I let go on for a few moments before I stopped them.
“Silence!” I shouted. “Show some respect for our gallant foes on their last day of life.” I took my place back in line. It was bravado but it worked, the men settled down while we waited our turn.
The next out the gate was Governor Agricola on his horse with his staff and the First Tungrorum Cohort as his body guard. Now it was the Ninth Legion who marched through the gates. There is always that fear in your gut when you move forward into battle, but the waiting to move forward is even worse. There were about a half dozen cohorts from the Second and Twentieth Legions who were part of our army they followed the Ninth. The reserve cavalry were the last to leave the camp.
When we reached the battle site the first Caledonian battle line was on the flat plain at the foot of the hill with the rest of the battle lines stretching up the hillside. The Caledonian war chariots were maneuvering in front of the first battle line.
Our eight thousand auxiliaries were the first battle group with 1,500 cavalry on each wing. In the first battle line were six cohorts of Gauls with more than a dozen years hard fighting on the continent. Agricola, his staff and bodyguard were between the two groups of troops. The legions and reserve cavalry were directly behind our commander. Unlike some commanders, Agricola trusted the auxiliaries and always placed them in the first battle line.
The Caledonians were large men with red hair who wore neither helmets nor armor. By now they had well over thirty thousand men. They moved their chariots and cavalry to the ends of the ends of the first battle line.
Our centurions and optiones had all our troops in final position. Agricola dismounted and unsheathed his sword. His horse was led from the battlefield. Now we were ready for battle. For a moment it was as if the whole world stood still, even the birds stopped singing. The only audible sounds were the banners flapping and an occasional horse.
The Caledonians raised a huge noise yelling and singing. Our troops stood silently at attention. Next the Caledonian chariots raced forward. The passengers jumped down and threw their spears. The centurion’s in the first battle line gave the order and our first battle line let fly their spears. Agricola’s trumpeter sounded his horn. The cavalry’s horn answered and both wings of cavalry charged the Caledonian chariots.
Again Agricola’s trumpeter sounded his horn. From our front lines rose a battle cry as three thousand men of the Tungrian and Batavian cohorts charged across the field at the Caledonians. Their commander, a young Roman prefect, charged too far forward ahead of his men and was surrounded and isolated. The Caledonians dragged him from his horse and killed him. But his troops maintained their formation. They hit the Caledonians with their shields stabbing them in their faces and stomachs. They began to push the Caledonians up the hill. The trumpet sounded again and the rest of the first battle group charged forward, five thousand auxiliary light infantry.
As the rest of the infantry engaged the cavalry, having destroyed the chariots, joined the infantry in pressing the attack on the Caledonians. On the slopes the Caledonian resistance stiffened and our advance stopped. I could feel my men around me tensing. They thought Agricola would send in the reserves and it would be our turn. But the auxiliaries were not done, it was not our turn yet.
The sounds of the battle rose skyward blotting out all other sounds. The slope was rocky and the horses had trouble with their footing. Our cavalry could not push through. There were horses now charging about the field some riderless and some pulling empty chariots, they crashed into the swarm of men at the foot of the hill. The smell of blood, sweat, and fear hung over the battle field like a dense low fog.
The majority of the Caledonians were on the hill waiting their chance to engage. Calgacus sent them streaming down the hill. They swept around the flanks of the battle to envelope the auxiliaries and attack them from behind. Agricola ordered the reserve cavalry forward, all four squadrons. They galloped forward attacking the Caledonians from behind as they faced the rear of the auxiliaries. Many of the Caledonians did not see our cavalry coming up behind them. The cavalry killed and captured many men. When the Caledonians saw the cavalry attacking them they broke off and started to run from the battlefield.
The Caledonians to the front of our auxiliaries saw this and they began to break off and run from the battlefield. The auxiliaries gave chase as the Caledonians tried to make it to the protection of the woods. Agricola ordered the rest of the reserves to finish off the Caledonians still on the hill. It was our turn.
When we had crossed the few hundred yards to the scene of the battle all that remained were the dead and the dying. We put the sword to those Caledonians still alive and stripped the dead Caledonians. While we were charging forward Agricola went to join the auxiliaries.
Once in the trees the Caledonians regrouped, they killed the few troops foolish enough to follow them into the woods. When Agricola arrived he ordered the auxiliaries to surround the woods and sent the cavalry in to pursue the Caledonians. When night fell we returned to our marching camp.
Then men were in good spirits celebrating our victory and the booty they had carried away from the battlefield. I celebrated with my men for a while as I was expected too. Then I quietly retired to my tent. The other men I shared my tent with were still celebrating. I lay down weary from the carnage. I did not know how many men died, but I saw hundreds of dead auxiliaries and thousands of dead Caledonians. I found the body of the young Roman prefect, or what was left of him. Had he spurred on his horse to his own doom, or had the horse run away carrying him to his doom? Did he have a wife and children as I once had?
A slight breeze moved the flap on my tent. I leaned my head back and then I heard a faint sound above the celebrating in camp. At first I thought it was the moaning of the wind. As it grew louder I realized it was the wails of the living carried across from the battlefield on the wings of the breeze. How many must there be for me to hear them two miles away above the din of the camp. They searched through the night through thousands of dead, ours and theirs, looking for husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and friends. I know that pain.
The Next morning we went back to the battlefield. The air was still and the silence was oppressive. I looked to the sky and could see smoke spires drifting into the sky north of us. The hill and the area at the base of the hill were covered in the naked dead. Directly above us dark spots circled the battlefield. Not every country has lions, tigers, and elephants. But it seems every country has vultures.
We stayed in the area while Agricola sent out scouts looking for the Caledonians. Since I had been a scout I was given eight Caledonians who were part of our scouts and headed north in search of the retreating army. We passed several burning huts and villages, but did not see a living soul. It was late in the afternoon when my scouts jumped me, blind folded me, and tied me up. Now I would find what I had been searching for, but as their prisoner.
A look back at one of those submarine articles that also includes a discussion of Jules Verne. “Villeroi, Verne, The Alligator, and The Nautilus”