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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
Quote:do you think we could start to sumarise the evidence/speculation as 9 pages on this thread is really getting too much to follow
It is very long, yes, and has a slightly maddening circular quality Confusedmile: - but fun too, I think... Obviously, none of us are going to produce a definite site without a lot of hard proof, but in keeping with Mike Bishop's original post (which was more about the strategic shape of the campaign, I think, than the actual site), we could summarise our respective positions.

Most of the considerations, of course, involve Paulinus's direction of retreat. I still believe that a northern route would have been preferable (I did favour the Virginia Water site to the west, but it appears a bit too moist!).

So, withour further ado, here's my ten-point summary of the benefits of a northern direction in general, and the Dunstable location in particular:

1) Security. Arriving at London after his march south, Paulinus was faced with a native uprising of unforeseen scale and effectiveness. His first priority would be to take his troops and the refugees in his train to a strong defensive position. The closest of these was the chalk upland of the Chilterns - and the quickest way of getting there was a two day march back up Watling Street...

2) Intelligence. With rebellion all around him, Paulinus could not be sure of any local support. It has been suggested that he might fall back on the lands of Cogidubnus to the west - but while we know that Cogidubnus was loyal (because Tacitus tells us so), Paulinus couldn't be so sure at the time. And even if the king was loyal, what of his people? By marching his troops west, Paulinus would be putting them in open country, in the midst of a native population that could throw in their lot with the rebels at any moment, and depending on the loyalty of a vassal king. The only ground that Paulinus could be certain of was that which he had seen very recently with his own eyes - the line of Watling Street. By withdrawing north, he could maintain his strategic independence and keep his army secure from local threats.

3) Reinforcement. We don't know where II Augusta were, or even where they started from (Exeter? Gloucester?). If they were on the road anywhere near Silchester, Paulinus could have waited for them in London. If they were further west, or stationary at home base, then setting out blindly westwards in the hope of meeting them somewhere on the road would be folly. However, by redirecting their march north-east up the Iknield Way, II Augusta could have come up behind Paulinus's static position at Dunstable. Also, of course, the line was open for reinforcement from the north down Watling itself - the rest of the twentieth and the ninth. Cerialis had escaped his own rout with his cavalry intact: quite possibly he fell back on the Neronian fort at Great Chesterford, only thirty miles north-east of Dunstable. Paulinus could therefore have been reinforced from three directions; no other location gives him this possibility.

4) Morale. Troops tend to become demoralised when retreating. This is true - but Paulinus was certainly retreating whichever way he went! The men of the fourteenth had been based at Wroxeter for (probably) over a decade: they had comrades there, a supply depot, many of them would have had families there, and they would have regarded it as home. By guarding the line of the Chilterns, keeping his army between the rebellion and the road to Wroxeter, Paulinus could keep his troops on ground they knew - a road they had marched many times - and they wouldn't feel they were abandoning their route home either. A march west, on the other hand, into unknown tribal lands that most of his men would never have seen before, would definitely seem like running away!

5) Containment. Paulinus marched south 'through a hostile population'. So there was insurgency brewing in the Midlands - by leaving the area Paulinus would leave this insurgency to erupt into open rebellion, cutting the country in half and threatening his bases in the north. By keeping a force in the Chilterns he could effectively oversee and threaten the hostile natives of the Midlands, containing the spread of further rebellion.

6) Blocking. As an agricultural people, the Iceni and Trinovantes would have had to return to their lands towards the end of summer to plant crops for the winter. So Paulinus knew that they'd have to move north at some point. His 'delay' ('until another season', says Dio - the autumn planting season perhaps?) could have reflected this. By holding a position around Dunstable he could intercept the tribal horde moving up Watling to join the Icknield way, or move eastwards along the Chilterns to block any north-eastern route there.

7) St Albans. Tacitus isn't clear about whether St Albans was destroyed before or after London, but since the rest of his account is chronological and he mentions St Albans second, we'd need some reason to suspect it wasn't destroyed second! Paulinus could have fallen back on St Albans from London, and then moved ten miles further into the Chilterns as the British approached from the south.

8.) Fabius Cunctator. As an educated Roman, Paulinus would have a thorough knowledge of the deeds of past generals. His tactics seem to indicate an appreciation for Fabius Maximus 'Cunctator', whose delaying tactics against Hannibal so resemble his own against Boudica. In fact, if Paulinus actually did destroy London himself (as I've suggested), this would fit with a Fabian 'scorched earth' strategy. But the Fabian delay tactic only works if a general keeps his force in close proximity to the enemy, enabling him to threaten their flanks, maintain intelligence on their strength and block their movements. Marching off into the distance, hoping the enemy will come trailing in pursuit, does not fit with this strategic model. By keeping relatively close to London, on the high ground of the Chilterns, Paulinus could block the enemy and strike at their flanks and rear if they tried to move west.

9) Supply. The burnt Roman grain in the destruction layer in London proves that there were supplies there when Paulinus arrived. He would have taken as much as he could carry when he departed - and, I believe, destroyed the rest himself. So his army would be provisioned, albeit for a short while. He had no immediate need to fall back on native allies (even if he could be certain of them!). Water is more of a problem - but if Paulinus was based around Dunstable he could probably have watered his animals and supplied his men on the low wet ground to the north-west, only moving up to his position on the dry chalk upland when he had firm intelligence of the approaching British.

10) Marching speed. Not Paulinus's but Boudica's, in this case. The British tribal horde was vast and disparate, comprising a number of peoples and probably a number of subordinate leaders. They would have moved very slowly, and possibly not in a straight line either! Colchester, and then London, gave the British firm strategic objectives. After that, Boudica's army was in danger of splitting apart. We know that Paulinus defeated them en masse, so they were still a cohesive force at that point. To suggest a battle location anywhere beyond 50 miles or so of London (at least five days journey for the British) is, I believe, to imagine an unrealistic unity and motivation in the British horde.

:grin:

- Nathan
Nathan Ross
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Messages In This Thread
Re: Calling all armchair generals! - by Ensifer - 03-11-2010, 03:13 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-18-2012, 06:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 12:02 AM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 02:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 05:40 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 11:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 05:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 09:42 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 10:10 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:25 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 08:36 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-26-2012, 02:57 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-27-2012, 01:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Nathan Ross - 04-28-2012, 03:08 AM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 08-05-2012, 02:24 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-07-2014, 02:18 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-08-2014, 01:50 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-11-2014, 02:03 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-18-2014, 07:54 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-20-2014, 02:37 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-25-2014, 08:29 AM

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