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Distance marching rates, infantry v cavalry
#1
There's a note in Nicasie's Twilight of Empire to the effect that, over distance, infantry could actually move faster than cavalry. The source is Junkelmann, although sadly I didn't copy the exact reference.

Nicasie says that when a march takes more than four days, infantry can match cavalry for distance. When it takes more than seven days, infantry can cover more ground.

This, I suppose, depends on the need for cavalry to rest their horses more frequently. But does anyone know more about Junkelmann's reasoning or calculation for this? It does seem strange, bearing in mind the supposed institution in the 3rd century of a central cavalry reserve, presumably to respond more quickly to crises. Taking Vegetius' marching speed for infantry (20 Roman miles, or 18 modern miles, a day), this means that if the crisis in question is more than 70-80 miles away, the Roman commander would be better off sending the infantry...
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#2
...or at least detaching the cavalry a day ahead, eh?
M. Demetrius Abicio
(David Wills)

Saepe veritas est dura.
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#3
Don't know the Junklemann reference (and would be interested to know too!) but a quick thought is potentially his supposition/argument is based on the logistics of cavalry - if you don't take fodder with you, you have to spend time gathering it or let the horses graze for a few hours; a handful of grain and nothing else isn't good for their digestion! And a fit horse eats quite a lot.

And water , of course...

Edit: there is always this thread - haven't the time to wade through it now...

http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat.html?fu...=entrypage
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
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#4
Quote:there is always this thread - haven't the time to wade through it now...

http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat.html?fu...=entrypage
Ah, thanks Moi - I'd missed that one! And it does indeed have the information that Junkelmann used for his estimate, courtesy of Robert Vermaat:

Quote:Marcus Junkelmann quotes the US Col. William B. Hazen who said that when a mixed force of cavalry and infantry goes on a march, for the first 3 days it's the cavalry that easily outdistances the footsoldiers. However, from the 4th day both reach camp together and from the 7th day it's the infantry that even needs to slow down to make it possible for the cavalry to reach camp before nightfall.
But surely this would depend on the size of the 'force', and I wonder if anyone's tried to work this out? I would assume that a single mounted man, or even ten men on horseback, would be able to outdistance the equivalent number on foot even at a walk over seven days or so, but how large would the force need to be before logistical problems would tip the balance and the cavalry start moving slower than the infantry?

This thread has a discussion on legionary marching speed (anything from 12 to 21 miles a day seems average), and there's Vegetius's estimate of 18-24 Roman miles in five hours (which is 18-21.5 of our miles). Does anyone have a figure for how fast cavalry were expected to move? Or can we just assume that they were expected to keep pace with the infantry and no more than that?
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#5
The problem we have, of course, is that even if the ancient sources give us the figures, the nature of the march is the main contributory factor.

Advance to contact?

Deliberate march with full administratvie support?

I've seen a reference somwhere (Hyland?) for cavalry doing up to 80km in a forced march (quite feasible) but I don't have my book to hand. I'll look it up later, but it's in her book Equus (off the top of my head).

I would suggest, however, that modern endurance horse races are not a direct parallel.
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
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#6
There are US Civil War manuals that cover this subject in some detail.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#7
Quote:.......... It does seem strange, bearing in mind the supposed institution in the 3rd century of a central cavalry reserve, presumably to respond more quickly to crises. ........

This element would, of course, make much more sense if we assume that the logistical restrictions didn't apply; ie, with your network of roads, forts, posts, wells and stored grains you can move a cavalry reserve over significant distances in a short time. On that basis it may be certainly reasonable to expect a purely cavalry force to cover at least 50 miles a day.

That said - is there good evidence to support the 'central cavalry reserve'? :wink: 'Central' perhaps, but just cavalry :?: - not that there isn't a significant cavalry element contained between the Praetorian Guard, Ala Singularis and the II Parthica just down the road at Albanum.....
Mark Hygate - yes, I really am!
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#8
It is interesting to read of later examples of cavalry vs infantry and their marching speeds but I do wonder if the Romans had a system that negated such disparaties. Surely we should not separate the cavalry from the legionary when discussing marching rates and durability? The legions needed cavalry for reconnaisance, messaging, flank control and on the battle field (and to carry the pampered, aristocratic, young officers!).

Having a need requires the supply of the means, i.e. the Roman army was designed to accomodate the needs of the cavalry. The problem for us is that the design is largely hidden because the ancient writers tended not to write about the mundane.

But there are couple of large clues -

1) Roman campaigning did not start until the grass-growing season (e.g. Caesar delayed the Belgae campaign in 57 B.C. until sufficient forage was available - Caes. BGall. 2.2.2; Lynn (1993) 12 and n. 3.)

2) Legionaries apaprently carried small sickles ( Josephus. BJ 3.55. Livy 42.64.3 reports soldiers using sickles to clean wheat ). These were used to gather human foodstuffs and, of course, fodder for mules and horses. And, the time taken to cut the fodder/hay would have been much less than the pasture time a horse or mule would need to eat the same calorific value of grass.

So, I see the legionaries and auxs. quickly gathering fodder for the cavalry as required (horses also fed hard grain carried on mules). Any gathered excess would be loaded on the mules. In this way the legions are the food store and provider for the cavalry; the cavalry has to stay close to the legions to maintain its pace. But, the Romans probably did not see the issue as legionaries vs cavalry, instead the legion is THE unit and this included a cavalry contingent that had to be catered (sorry, pun intended) for by design. After all, why create a system to keep the legionaries marching 29km/day and not do the same for the cavalry?

So, the cavalry were tied to the legions when on campaign. The cavalry could move tactically faster than the legionaries (reconnaissance etc.) but strategically the two would have moved at the same rate (average 29km/day). In this sense the cavalry are the electrons to the legionary nucleus.

Remounts would be required but, as far as I'm aware, we don't know how many. However, I expect that the majority of the remounts marched with the legionaries - probably with a nose-bag stuffed with grain! - and this negates the need for the patrolling cavalry to tend for the remounts.

In this model the cavalry was constantly quicker than the legionary but only because the legionary made it so. However, separate the cavalry from the legionary and the horse (fast-) food store is no longer available and the cavalry would, over a number of days, slow down.

Very practical chaps those Romans.

Regards, Steve
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#9
Quote:That said - is there good evidence to support the 'central cavalry reserve'?
I wondered if somebody would ask about that! I was aware that this is a bit of an assumption, but it's a commonly held one, I think. De Blois, in The Policy of the Emperor Gallienus is pretty sure about it, although the evidence comes from later sources: Cedrenus, who writes of Gallienus forming 'tagmata', and Zonarus who describes Aureolus as a 'hipparch' of the cavalry force. This force was supposedly drawn from legion and other cavalry units, and called equites (promoti, Dalmatae, etc) rather than the old alae.

One of the reasons I asked about this, actually, was my questioning of how effective an all-cavalry reserve would be - we might assume that they'd be able to speed off from their base in Milan to trouble-spots around the empire, much faster than an infantry force. But is this actually true? Is the idea of the all-cavalry reserve just based on a misapprehension of the travelling speeds of cavalry v infantry?

Quote:So, the cavalry were tied to the legions when on campaign. The cavalry could move tactically faster than the legionaries (reconnaissance etc.) but strategically the two would have moved at the same rate (average 29km/day)... In this model the cavalry was constantly quicker than the legionary but only because the legionary made it so.
That seems like a pretty good model! An unsupported cavalry force, therefore, would move steadily slower as it advanced, whereas presumably an infantry force could keep up a fairly regular pace (which explains the remark by Col Hazen, I suppose).

Here's a hypothetical situation though - say you're the Governor of Britannia Secunda, based at York. You have a legion and two cavalry alae in camp or nearby, and you hear of a barbarian group approaching Hadrian's Wall. You need to reinforce the troops at the projected crossing point, which is about 90 miles away. If you sent the cavalry on ahead of the infantry, would they actually arrive first, or would the distance counter their speed and both bodies of men would arrive about the same time? (this sounds like one of those annoying questions in mathematics exams, but hopefully the context is more picturesque!)
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#10
Quote:I wondered if somebody would ask about that! I was aware that this is a bit of an assumption, but it's a commonly held one, I think. ................

One of the reasons I asked about this, actually, was my questioning of how effective an all-cavalry reserve would be .............
........................
. You need to reinforce the troops at the projected crossing point, which is about 90 miles away. ........

The 'cavalry reforms of Gallienus/Diocletion or xxx' are often mentioned, but, and I've asked here before and looked for primary sources of information (and will indeed cover it in passing in the 'little treatise' I still plan to write and post), but it just doesn't seem to exist. Were 'new' cavalry units formed, yes they were, but so were new infantry units - all created as part of the 'central reserve'.

I'm also of the opinion that cavalry was much less numerous than many have been lead to believe - in which case, however, and pre-supposing interior lines of communication with infantry forces already on-site at the other end, as well as logistical support - then using an all cavalry reinforcing force becomes quite viable.
Mark Hygate - yes, I really am!
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#11
Quote: Remounts would be required but, as far as I'm aware, we don't know how many. However, I expect that the majority of the remounts marched with the legionaries - probably with a nose-bag stuffed with hay! - and this negates the need for the patrolling cavalry to tend for the remounts.

Regards, Steve

Hate to be a bit nit picky but if you put hay in a bag under the horse's nose you'll probably suffocate it. Grain, yes; hay no. And I'm not sure if horses would eat on the march in this manner...but as they graze and chew there's no real reason why not. If they're hungry enough I'm sure they would!

As for a central cavalry reserve; it makes strategic sense to have a reserve or units on call which can provide the sort of rapid reaction force you are talking about. But as with your York to the Wall scenario, it isn't inconceivable. There would be remounts available from more local units and an unridden, led horse will be less tired than a ridden horse so you could take one with you, dropping off the tired one at a convenient mansio on the way through.
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
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#12
Quote:Here's a hypothetical situation though - say you're the Governor of Britannia Secunda, based at York. You have a legion and two cavalry alae in camp or nearby, and you hear of a barbarian group approaching Hadrian's Wall. You need to reinforce the troops at the projected crossing point, which is about 90 miles away. If you sent the cavalry on ahead of the infantry, would they actually arrive first, or would the distance counter their speed and both bodies of men would arrive about the same time? (this sounds like one of those annoying questions in mathematics exams, but hopefully the context is more picturesque!)

I think this needs an answer from Vindex but I'll give it a shot. 90 miles = 144km. Legion march rate = 29 km/day, therefore take 5 days to reach the Wall. Of course, it could force march and arrive in 4 days (or less if they strip themselves of some standard kit and the troop-train). The cavalry can march at upto 80km/day, i.e take 2 days. But the horses wouldn't be much use after that and the men would have to man the Wall (maybe that would be the intention). But - I think - fit, trained horses could sustain a rate of 50km/day over a distance of 144km and arrive, still fit for mounted combat, in just under 3 days. Of course, the cavalry would have pack-horses (possibly mules) carrying fodder and grain which would also be supplemented by stores along the route. Maybe the cavalry would deliberately 'burn up' their pack-horses and mules by force marching at a great rate on day one, knowing that the cavalry mounts could feed that night and then continue the force march the next day without the exhausted pack-train (of course, my assumption here is that the pack-train animals are not as capable of quick, sustained effort as the cavalry mounts).

Also, and if I remember correctly, there are examples of horses being force-marched for two days without feeding.

Of course, for a short period both men and horses are capable of marching close to 24hrs in a day. In this case we need to know the relative stamina of the horses and men to determine which arrives first - not that either would be much use having arrived.

So, my answer, based on little supporting evidence and leaving aside the more extreme measures, is that the cavalry would arrive on day 3 and the infantry day 4. Needless to say, these enhanced marching rates are only prudent if travelling from known point A to known point B: very imprudent if used while campaigning!

Regards, Steve
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#13
Quote: However, I expect that the majority of the remounts marched with the legionaries - probably with a nose-bag stuffed with hay!

Quote:Hate to be a bit nit picky but if you put hay in a bag under the horse's nose you'll probably suffocate it. Grain, yes; hay no.

About two hours ago, while staggering up an Exmoor hillside, I realised I shouldn't have written 'stuffed with hay' and that Vindex will pull me up! Quite right too.

Regards, Steve
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#14
Quote:It does seem strange, bearing in mind the supposed institution in the 3rd century of a central cavalry reserve, presumably to respond more quickly to crises.
Factoid alert! See "Coinage and Cavalry" in Ancient Warfare magazine II.6.
posted by Duncan B Campbell
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#15
Quote: About two hours ago, while staggering up an Exmoor hillside, I realised I shouldn't have written 'stuffed with hay' and that Vindex will pull me up! Quite right too.

Regards, Steve

:mrgreen:

Sorry. I should learn to sit on my hands...

(I am surprised you aren't canoeing up Exmoor!!! Flood warning for the South West tomorrow!)


Edit:

I have now found my Hyland reference as mentioned above. (Equus page 192ff) The 80km a day (50 miles) is associated with Gallienus' rapid strike force. (Note to self - check if it is Roman miles or standard miles which have been used in the calculation). Furthermore Gallienus' force at Milan was between 50 and 60 alae (Cheesman 1941) so 25,ooo troopers (that's a LOT of fodder and a massive muck heap for the horses!) to be dispatched as required.

I think to understand this force you have to look at it in the context of the "reform" and see where the threat was perceived. This many horses is not much use to you if Egypt started giving you trouble.

Is there any connection with the fact that it was cavalry officers who disposed of Gallienus???


As an aside, I think one should consider the effect on the enemy of the appearance of a fast moving reinforcement appearing when not expected. Not only suprise (one of the principles of war) and agility but also serious "fire" power if the force consisted of units with a mixture of weaponry.
Moi Watson

Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Merlot in one hand, Cigar in the other; body thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and screaming "WOO HOO, what a ride!
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