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Marching camp construction
#1
Hello,

Just a quick question on the layout of marching camps. I’m interested to know who would have been responsible for overseeing the construction of the camp, I understand that the size of the camp had to conform to the lay of the land and the numbers of men and animals that had to be quartered in the camp but how was the size of the camp measured. Was there a specific person tasked with the job of marking out the camp prior to construction. I’m always impressed by the straight lines and curves of these camps. Given that many of these camps were built in hostile environments and would have needed to have been built quickly, I’m guessing that every soldier would have been responsible for their own section of camp construction. In a nutshell, how did they keep the lines of the outer defences so straight and how was it done?
Many thanks.
Stug50
Dave..Stug50
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#2
(01-09-2019, 11:27 AM)Stug50 Wrote: Hello,

Just a quick question on the layout of marching camps. I’m interested to know who would have been responsible for overseeing the construction of the camp, I understand that the size of the camp had to conform to the lay of the land and the numbers of men and animals that had to be quartered in the camp but how was the size of the camp measured. Was there a specific person tasked with the job of marking out the camp prior to construction. I’m always impressed by the straight lines and curves of these camps. Given that many of these camps were built in hostile environments and would have needed to have been built quickly, I’m guessing that every soldier would have been responsible for their own section of camp construction. In a nutshell, how did they keep the lines of the outer defences so straight and how was it done?
Many thanks.
Stug50

Looking quickly at "Roman camps of Britain", I can only see the term "surveyors" being referred to. The only thing that can be added, is given that the first cohort was what I call the "engineering cohort" - they would very likely be in this cohort.

<snip>
(I've deleted most of my post which was far too long)
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#3
I am currently thinking on how its done.
as Roman agrimensor and Proffesional surveyor it has my interest.
As fas as I know the surveyor had 1/10 of the troops at his disposal and went in front of the main body of the legion.
He would get his info from scouts and the auxilary which would go even before him.
he had to make the decision where to camp by that info.
AgrimensorLVCIVS FLAVIVS SINISTER
aka Jos Cremers
member of CORBVLO
ESTE NIX PAX CRISTE NIX
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#4
(01-10-2019, 08:21 AM)agrimensor Wrote: I am currently thinking on how its done.
as Roman  agrimensor and Proffesional surveyor it has my interest.
As fas as I know  the surveyor had 1/10 of the troops at his disposal and went in front of the main body of the legion.
He would get his info from scouts and the auxilary which would go even before him.
he had to make the decision where to camp by that info.

Although it's not been my main interest, given the topic is about setting out a camp, I started trying to work out what likely happened when troops arrived and therefore the priorities. I won't go into the detail but the key points are:

  1. The first priority is to work out where the defences are going. If terrain permits, this is a simple rectangle, otherwise it's as close as they can get given the terrain, but we get all different kinds of shapes, but usually four sided. The defences need to be marked by reference points. I think the most likely point is at the inner limit of the defences because everything outside of this can get disturbed as the defences are being built. It also means that troops can "muster" along the inside of this line as they arrive. Here they are out of the way of people building/surveying the camp and in a position to protect the camp as they form of human shield and ready to start working on defences.
  2. The next key point is the headquarters - which is where unit commanders go when they arrive (even if HQ just a bloke with a "clipboard"). On a four sided shape this could be located by the point where diagonals from the corners cross, or if there is a defined road through the location, it may have just been marked out to sit beside this "via principalis". This probably gets a very prominent marker and is quickly occupied by HQ staff even before there is any shelter for them.
  3. The next component needed is the "via principalis" which marks one side of the various HQ buildings, praetorian, hospital, granaries, etc. It's also the principle road so locates the main gates.
  4. The next priority is to mark the opposite side of the HQ which forms one side of another street, and then to mark out the area of each "barrack" (or tent equivalent) and then the streets between them
This rough grid quickly defines the defences, the intervallum space and principle streets, which in turn locate the four gates. This marks out the principle components of the camp and creates a basic set of "arteries" that need to be kept unclogged to allow troops and equipment to move through the camp.
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#5
(01-10-2019, 01:36 PM)MonsGraupius Wrote:
(01-10-2019, 08:21 AM)agrimensor Wrote: I am currently thinking on how its done.
as Roman  agrimensor and Proffesional surveyor it has my interest.
As fas as I know  the surveyor had 1/10 of the troops at his disposal and went in front of the main body of the legion.
He would get his info from scouts and the auxilary which would go even before him.
he had to make the decision where to camp by that info.

Although it's not been my main interest, given the topic is about setting out a camp, I started trying to work out what likely happened when troops arrived and therefore the priorities. I won't go into the detail but the key points are:

  1. The first priority is to work out where the defences are going. If terrain permits, this is a simple rectangle, otherwise it's as close as they can get given the terrain, but we get all different kinds of shapes, but usually four sided. The defences need to be marked by reference points. I think the most likely point is at the inner limit of the defences because everything outside of this can get disturbed as the defences are being built. It also means that troops can "muster" along the inside of this line as they arrive. Here they are out of the way of people building/surveying the camp and in a position to protect the camp as they form of human shield and ready to start working on defences.
  2. The next key point is the headquarters - which is where unit commanders go when they arrive (even if HQ just a bloke with a "clipboard"). On a four sided shape this could be located by the point where diagonals from the corners cross, or if there is a defined road through the location, it may have just been marked out to sit beside this "via principalis". This probably gets a very prominent marker and is quickly occupied by HQ staff even before there is any shelter for them.
  3. The next component needed is the "via principalis" which marks one side of the various HQ buildings, praetorian, hospital, granaries, etc. It's also the principle road so locates the main gates.
  4. The next priority is to mark the opposite side of the HQ which forms one side of  another street, and then to mark out the area of each "barrack" (or tent equivalent) and then the streets between them
This rough grid quickly defines the defences, the intervallum space and principle streets, which in turn locate the four gates. This marks out the principle components of the camp and creates a basic set of "arteries" that need to be kept unclogged to allow troops and equipment to move through the camp.

Thanks for responding, your thoughts on this are very interesting. I had initially wondered if during a march through a hostile area a decision would have been made to locate a camp whilst on route, (a sort of snap decision, here will do) it strikes me that sending out an advanced party to scout for a potential marching camp site would have been an extremely risky business, if for example the scouting party were spotted in a particular area, it could be an obvious sign that the main body of the army was heading in that general direction, another issue that I think would have been a problem is the distance between the chosen camp site and the main body of the army. If the camp is set too far away from the main force then that offers up the potential for an enemy to choose the best area for a sneaky attack. 
Im pretty sure that your description of planning and setting out the camp is spot on but it does all sound very time consuming, given your list of components required to complete the camp I imagine that the outer defences would have been of vital importance and would have been the first thing to be constructed, the rest would have been marked out and completed as time permitted.
 There must have been lookouts placed some considerable distance from the camp to give early warning of potential threats especially whilst the men were preoccupied with the construction of the camp. I suppose that we mustn’t forget that the Roman army were masters at moving through hostile territory and they would have had marching camp construction down to a fine art.
I wonder how many marching camps are yet to be discovered, I know through my own research that the Second Legion Augusta made their presence felt here in my home County of Somerset, they were responsible for forcibly moving a few tribal communities from their hillforts. Yesterday I visited the hill fort at Queen Camel and according to some sources the tribe that occupied that hill fort were attacked and removed by legion Augusta, I expect that somewhere, not to far from that hill fort there would have been a marching camp, the area that the legion would have travelled through to attack the hill fort was allegedly a stronghold for the Dobunni tribe.

(01-10-2019, 08:21 AM)agrimensor Wrote: I am currently thinking on how its done.
as Roman  agrimensor and Proffesional surveyor it has my interest.
As fas as I know  the surveyor had 1/10 of the troops at his disposal and went in front of the main body of the legion.
He would get his info from scouts and the auxilary which would go even before him.
he had to make the decision where to camp by that info.

Thank you, if you have any ideas or information on how the camp was marked out I’d be interested, any idea on how long it took to construct a marching camp?
Dave..Stug50
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#6
(01-10-2019, 04:00 PM)Stug50 Wrote: Thanks for responding, your thoughts on this are very interesting. I had initially wondered if during a march through a hostile area a decision would have been made to locate a camp whilst on route, (a sort of snap decision, here will do) it strikes me that sending out an advanced party to scout for a potential marching camp site would have been an extremely risky business, if for example the scouting party were spotted in a particular area, it could be an obvious sign that the main body of the army was heading in that general direction
Thanks for asking the question.

I totally agree with what your saying about the risk of moving. I ended up writing a massive reply, but I thought when I looked at it, it didn't address your question and was over the top so I cut it.

Like you I am having problems reconciling the idea of the ruthless invincible fighting machine  on the battlefield - with the extremely vulnerable long thin line of people moving from one camp to another. It's so obvious that all an enemy has to do is wait for the Romans to attempt to move from one camp to the next (unbuilt) one and given the line is so vulnerable its game over for the Romans.

(01-10-2019, 04:00 PM)Stug50 Wrote: .... setting out the camp is spot on but it does all sound very time consuming, given your list of components required to complete the camp I imagine that the outer defences would have been of vital importance and would have been the first thing to be constructed, the rest would have been marked out and completed as time permitted.
I've surveyed 1km x 100m piece of woodland, and even though it was quite overgrown, it isn't as difficult as you might imagine once you've worked out the system.

The basics are this:

You place two flags on the "line". Then you walk into the wood as far as you can (50m?) and put in another flag in line with the first two. You then repeat to make a line as long as you like. It's normally within a m over 1km which is good enough. Then you set out lines at right angles - aligning one side of a right angle along the initial line - and marking the perpendicular with another flag. When practised, you can place flags almost as quickly as you can walk. A camp 600x400 has 2km of earthworks. So it can probably be set out in 0.5-1hour (depending on the density of vegetation).  

(01-10-2019, 04:00 PM)Stug50 Wrote:  There must have been lookouts placed some considerable distance from the camp to give early warning of potential threats especially whilst the men were preoccupied with the construction of the camp. I suppose that we mustn’t forget that the Roman army were masters at moving through hostile territory and they would have had marching camp construction down to a fine art.
It hadn't occurred to me to place lookouts! (LOL)

I used to play Rome Total war and always wondered why anyone with bother with light calvary in an army as they were almost useless in a battle. However, as a result of your question, I'm now seeing more and more uses for light cavalry. I suggested sending out small units the day before the move to travel around 90miles (30miles out, 30miles Scouting, 30miles back). They need to go out in all likely directions the enemy may come from. They can't go out each day, so if you assume a 4 groups of 3 ,on two days that's 24. If you then also have them posted as look outs on the day, that might be another couple of dozen. If you're also using them as messengers, and you're actively spying on enemy strongholds  ... the numbers soon start mounting up.

Thanks for the question. I think I've been misled by the Rome Total war experience where you only play the battle itself and you can see everything clearly on a map. But the bit it misses out: the logistics of moving from one camp to the next are really complex.
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#7
One thing that I want to know is if they constructed fortified camps for detatchments of soldiers.
Say a small detatchment of a cohort or century is sent out and they need to stop just for a night, is it even worth setting up fortifications for such a small group. I thought being so small and mobile, they would not need to do this. Perhaps if they were in a somewhat civilised area still on the borders of the empire they could stop in a town?
Can anyone explain this?
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#8
(01-10-2019, 09:03 PM)Jason Micallef Wrote: One thing that I want to know is if they constructed fortified camps for detatchments of soldiers.
Say a small detatchment of a cohort or century is sent out and they need to stop just for a night, is it even worth setting up fortifications for such a small group. I thought being so small and mobile, they would not need to do this. Perhaps if they were in a somewhat civilised area still on the borders of the empire they could stop in a town?
Can anyone explain this?

A very good question.

We get camps of all sizes from less than an acre to over 100. But we have no idea if this is the rule, or the exception. It could be that every unit of soldiers, no matter the size and no matter the state of the local tribes, if they could not lodge in permanent defences, built their own. Or, it may be that such camps were very very rare and only built when the unit was directly threatened by enemy troops.

One of the big problems of interpretation is that larger camps are a lot easier to find. I know this because I can trace out lines of large camps, I have sometimes found smaller camps that appear to be part of one line (but usually many are missing) and I have occasionally found pairs of small camps that might be part of one troop movement.

At a very rough guess, we may have found 80-90%of the very largest camps, but only say 1? to 10% of the smaller ones (and perhaps none of the very smallest if they existed). Worse, we have absolutely no historical records to match to the smaller camps. And because its impossible to date camps to the nearest day, because we have no texts saying how they were being used, we have no way of working out the time between occupying sites. And I know of no evidence saying they were built every night by small units.

So, lets fall back on my own experience. We used to go on touring camping holidays with a car. So there was little physical exertion moving camp. However, it was very tiring trying to move camp each day. Things get broken, food needs securing, plans need making.

It may be theoretically possible to move every day, but the reality even with modern equipment and transport is that you can't keep it up. if you then add building defences, mending clothes, repairing shoes, wagon wheels, shoeing horses, building ovens, drying clothing etc., to what needs to be done at each camp it really is impractical to move every day. If you also have to scout ahead for signs of the enemy and to find a route , then it becomes impossible in my view. But troops don't go places for absolutely no reason. So they probably also had some kind of mission (searching for metal ores?)

It is safe to say, that wherever possible, you would try to cut down the work. Using already built forts or other accommodation would then allow time for repairs perhaps avoiding a day's stop. If as well you don't need to carry grain and then grind it, but can buy bread and pay for new clothes or others to do repairs, then it may well be possible to keep moving every day. And there would be a judgement call as to how much defence was needed. And we must remember, that if the unit is small enough, they can effectively hide in the landscape in a way that a larger unit cannot.
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#9
Again, very interesting. A small unit of men probably wouldn’t have the need to build fortifications, they wouldn’t need to because they could move swiftly if threatened, it kind of makes sense why for the most part only large camps are found, a large force is unable to hide and so defences are needed, also a large force is likely to be assaulted by an enemy force of equal size or perhaps even larger. 
Skirmish groups or reconnaissance units will travel lightly and if they need to set camp for a while they have the luxury of choosing a good defensive position.
Dave..Stug50
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#10
(01-11-2019, 10:32 AM)Stug50 Wrote: Again, very interesting. A small unit of men probably wouldn’t have the need to build fortifications, they wouldn’t need to because they could move swiftly if threatened, it kind of makes sense why for the most part only large camps are found, a large force is unable to hide and so defences are needed, also a large force is likely to be assaulted by an enemy force of equal size or perhaps even larger. 
Skirmish groups or reconnaissance units will travel lightly and if they need to set camp for a while they have the luxury of choosing a good defensive position.

When I've seen very small camps, I've always assumed it was a bunch of quintessential Roman soldiers marching with shields. But speaking to you, I realised that - as you say, they travel lightly and unlike the the typical Roman infantry who are slow and so had to stand fast and confront the enemy - these small camps, which I think shows they are in enemy territory, had to have speed on their side so they can run away from trouble.

But if you are taking equipment to dig fortifications - you're carrying a lot of equipment which makes you slow - so they have got to be mounted.

Addendum
I spent the day thinking about this and the more I thought about it, the less likely my original model started looking (which I had already removed from previous comment above). I like your idea of lookouts and scouts. Great question, it's really making me think. (I now have a page headed "Rethink")
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#11
MonsGraupius
(01-11-2019, 10:32 AM)Stug50 Wrote: Again, very interesting. A small unit of men probably wouldn’t have the need to build fortifications, they wouldn’t need to because they could move swiftly if threatened, it kind of makes sense why for the most part only large camps are found, a large force is unable to hide and so defences are needed, also a large force is likely to be assaulted by an enemy force of equal size or perhaps even larger. 
Skirmish groups or reconnaissance units will travel lightly and if they need to set camp for a while they have the luxury of choosing a good defensive position.

When I've seen very small camps, I've always assumed it was a bunch of quintessential Roman soldiers marching with shields. But speaking to you, I realised that - as you say, they travel lightly and unlike the the typical Roman infantry who are slow and so had to stand fast and confront the enemy - these small camps, which I think shows they are in enemy territory, had to have speed on their side so they can run away from trouble.

But if you are taking equipment to dig fortifications - you're carrying a lot of equipment which makes you slow - so they have got to be mounted.

Addendum
I spent the day thinking about this and the more I thought about it, the less likely my original model started looking (which I had already removed from previous comment above). I like your idea of lookouts and scouts. Great question, it's really making me think. (I now have a page headed "Rethink")

Given that one of the purposes of marching camps was it’s use as a staging area it wouldn’t make any sense for a small scouting unit to expend the effort to build something similar. I’ve been in the army myself and when we operated at night, we would take minimal equipment, we wouldn’t want to leave any visible sign that we had been in the area. No fires, no lights and more often than not, we’d use ground sheets to make temporary shelters, we used the ground sheets to protect us from wind and rain    So that we could get a few moments rest. If we wanted to eat, we ate cold food and it was important that our food was odourless. I’m pretty sure that the same principles would have applied to those tasked with a similar job in the Roman army. I’m guessing that’s why we don’t find evidence of anything other than the large marching camps.

MonsGraupius
(01-11-2019, 10:32 AM)Stug50 Wrote: Again, very interesting. A small unit of men probably wouldn’t have the need to build fortifications, they wouldn’t need to because they could move swiftly if threatened, it kind of makes sense why for the most part only large camps are found, a large force is unable to hide and so defences are needed, also a large force is likely to be assaulted by an enemy force of equal size or perhaps even larger. 
Skirmish groups or reconnaissance units will travel lightly and if they need to set camp for a while they have the luxury of choosing a good defensive position.

When I've seen very small camps, I've always assumed it was a bunch of quintessential Roman soldiers marching with shields. But speaking to you, I realised that - as you say, they travel lightly and unlike the the typical Roman infantry who are slow and so had to stand fast and confront the enemy - these small camps, which I think shows they are in enemy territory, had to have speed on their side so they can run away from trouble.

But if you are taking equipment to dig fortifications - you're carrying a lot of equipment which makes you slow - so they have got to be mounted.

Addendum
I spent the day thinking about this and the more I thought about it, the less likely my original model started looking (which I had already removed from previous comment above). I like your idea of lookouts and scouts. Great question, it's really making me think. (I now have a page headed "Rethink")

Given that one of the purposes of marching camps was it’s use as a staging area it wouldn’t make any sense for a small scouting unit to expend the effort to build something similar. I’ve been in the army myself and when we operated at night, we would take minimal equipment, we wouldn’t want to leave any visible sign that we had been in the area. No fires, no lights and more often than not, we’d use ground sheets to make temporary shelters, we used the ground sheets to protect us from wind and rain    So that we could get a few moments rest. If we wanted to eat, we ate cold food and it was important that our food was odourless. I’m pretty sure that the same principles would have applied to those tasked with a similar job in the Roman army. I’m guessing that’s why we don’t find evidence of anything other than the large marching camps.
Dave..Stug50
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#12
(01-11-2019, 10:50 PM)Stug50 Wrote: Given that one of the purposes of marching camps was it’s use as a staging area it wouldn’t make any sense for a small scouting unit to expend the effort to build something similar. I’ve been in the army myself and when we operated at night, we would take minimal equipment, we wouldn’t want to leave any visible sign that we had been in the area. No fires, no lights and more often than not, we’d use ground sheets to make temporary shelters, we used the ground sheets to protect us from wind and rain    So that we could get a few moments rest. If we wanted to eat, we ate cold food and it was important that our food was odourless. I’m pretty sure that the same principles would have applied to those tasked with a similar job in the Roman army. I’m guessing that’s why we don’t find evidence of anything other than the large marching camps.

I was thinking today I would like to speak to someone who's been in the army! I'm having problems understanding the purpose and operation of "patrols".

I was trying to remember what activities occurred in a modern army in a "camp" in a theatre of war and I started thinking of all the films I've seen in the hope they have some realism. There's a film set, I think in Vietnam, where it's all fairly shambolic (I think some are on drugs), and part of the action is that they are asked to go out on patrol. When watching, it seemed the most stupid thing possible that they could do. It seemed to serve no purpose except to make them easy targets and I think the film did show the patrol getting virtually annihilated (which just re-enforced the view that they should have just stayed in the camp behind their defences). I think the film ends with the chopper taking off as the camp is being over-run.

This "patrol" is also a word that we used to hear in cowboy films with the cavalry going on "patrol". Again, these patrols were always ambushed, so I think I've got a very dim view of patrolling - it seems an open invitation to the enemy. However, clearly they have a military purpose. But what?

But thinking to WWII films and documentaries, these "patrols" seem to be totally absent. indeed, my only real concept of an advancing army comes from a bridge too far - where it just seems to be one long traffic jam, saving private Ryon, where there seems to be no front line at all and it seems totally chaotic and some film with Clint Eastwood and three sherman tanks where they try to raid a bank and it seems to be a combination of total chaos and a big traffic jam. So no camps, no patrols, just a "big push".

The problem I'm having is that, I've no idea whether these "patrols" are a routine thing or occur extreme infrequently. And this concept of advancing camp to camp seems to be unique to the Romans and not present in modern warfare.
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#13
From my experience, based on light infantry tactics, an 8 man section could be tasked with probing or scouting out an area, if you think back to the troubled times in Northern Ireland it was quite common for a platoon divided into sections to be tasked with patrolling a specific area, manning check points and setting up observation posts and more importantly supporting local law enforcement. Again these patrols were launched from a fortified position. Same thing during the Vietnam war. In fact the Vietnam war is a classic example of how patrols would be sent out from a fortified position to an LZ for either a search and destroy mission or reconnaissance, the U.S marines for example could spend weeks out in the field and it wasn’t unusual for the yanks to dig in and fortify an area strike camp and then move onto the next location. The American civil war also has quite a few examples of regiments and battalions marching from camp to camp and again reconnaissance patrols and scouting units being employed in advance of the main force. I’m reminded of the tactics of the Missouri guerrilla units (Quantrills raiders) no defensive camp so to speak of but they used their knowledge of the area to their advantage, occasionally they would stay in a friendly areas but when they were close to an enemy target they would choose an area that provided the best defensive position, in some respects those guerrilla units were doing the same thing as the Roman army, move, camp, strike and move. I’ve read that the Roman army would use the same marching camp repeatedly, it’s all about knowing the terrain.
Another good example can be found in 1879, think Isandlwana, a massive British camp with a small force a Natal troops, they set up a large camp and sent out patrols, unfortunately Lord Chelmsford underestimated the Zulu and his mistake resulted in a massacre. isandlwana is an extremely good example of why strong defences are needed.
Hope that helps.
Dave..Stug50
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#14
(01-12-2019, 01:01 PM)Stug50 Wrote: From my experience, based on light infantry tactics, an 8 man section could be tasked with probing or scouting out an area, if you think back to the troubled times in Northern Ireland it was quite common for a platoon divided into sections to be tasked with patrolling a specific area, manning check points and setting up observation posts and more importantly supporting local law enforcement. Again these patrols were launched from a fortified position. Same thing during the Vietnam war. In fact the Vietnam war is a classic example of how patrols would be sent out from a fortified position to an LZ for either a search and destroy mission or reconnaissance, the U.S marines for example could spend weeks out in the field and it wasn’t unusual for the yanks to dig in and fortify an area strike camp and then move onto the next location. The American civil war also has quite a few examples of regiments and battalions marching from camp to camp and again reconnaissance patrols and scouting units being employed in advance of the main force. I’m reminded of the tactics of the Missouri guerrilla units (Quantrills raiders) no defensive camp so to speak of but they used their knowledge of the area to their advantage, occasionally they would stay in a friendly areas but when they were close to an enemy target they would choose an area that provided the best defensive position, in some respects those guerrilla units were doing the same thing as the Roman army, move, camp, strike and move. I’ve read that the Roman army would use the same marching camp repeatedly, it’s all about knowing the terrain.
Another good example can be found in 1879, think Isandlwana, a massive British camp with a small force a Natal troops, they set up a large camp and sent out patrols, unfortunately Lord Chelmsford underestimated the Zulu and his mistake resulted in a massacre. isandlwana is an extremely good example of why strong defences are needed.
Hope that helps.

The evidence we have is in the form of camps - usually large ones. But I've never been able to work out how an army could get from one to the next. I'm now beginning to think that the actual camp move was a relatively unimportant part of the activity and that the vast bulk of activity was various forms of reconnaissance and combat patrols. This means going back to the original question, I would suggest the army would gain control of the ground before they start surveying. This is very different from what I had been thinking so I'm trying to work out the implications.
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#15
(01-13-2019, 12:01 PM):MonsGraupius Wrote:
(01-12-2019, 01:01 PM)Stug50 Wrote: From my experience, based on light infantry tactics, an 8 man section could be tasked with probing or scouting out an area, if you think back to the troubled times in Northern Ireland it was quite common for a platoon divided into sections to be tasked with patrolling a specific area, manning check points and setting up observation posts and more importantly supporting local law enforcement. Again these patrols were launched from a fortified position. Same thing during the Vietnam war. In fact the Vietnam war is a classic example of how patrols would be sent out from a fortified position to an LZ for either a search and destroy mission or reconnaissance, the U.S marines for example could spend weeks out in the field and it wasn’t unusual for the yanks to dig in and fortify an area strike camp and then move onto the next location. The American civil war also has quite a few examples of regiments and battalions marching from camp to camp and again reconnaissance patrols and scouting units being employed in advance of the main force. I’m reminded of the tactics of the Missouri guerrilla units (Quantrills raiders) no defensive camp so to speak of but they used their knowledge of the area to their advantage, occasionally they would stay in a friendly areas but when they were close to an enemy target they would choose an area that provided the best defensive position, in some respects those guerrilla units were doing the same thing as the Roman army, move, camp, strike and move. I’ve read that the Roman army would use the same marching camp repeatedly, it’s all about knowing the terrain.
Another good example can be found in 1879, think Isandlwana, a massive British camp with a small force a Natal troops, they set up a large camp and sent out patrols, unfortunately Lord Chelmsford underestimated the Zulu and his mistake resulted in a massacre. isandlwana is an extremely good example of why strong defences are needed.
Hope that helps.

The evidence we have is in the form of camps - usually large ones. But I've never been able to work out how an army could get from one to the next. I'm now beginning to think that the actual camp move was a relatively unimportant part of the activity and that the vast bulk of activity was various forms of reconnaissance and combat patrols. This means going back to the original question, I would suggest the army would gain control of the ground before they start surveying. This is very different from what I had been thinking so I'm trying to work out the implications.

It would be unusual for any large military force to move through territory, occupied or hostile without sending out advanced reconnaissance. Varus for example allegedly made the mistake of detouring through unfamiliar territory without using reconnaissance, I suppose he decided that he had good enough intelligence based on information from Arminius the result of which ended in a massacre. 
I’ve read various reports that state that some of the Romans’ managed to set up a camp at night with hastily built defences which they were able to use with some limited success but they ran into trouble when they tried moving on from the camp. 
Of course this is all conjecture on my part but I would think that various contingency plans would have been the norm for moving such a large body of men and equipment. I’ll leave it to those with far better knowledge than myself to debate how the Legions were organised when moving from camp to camp.
I appreciate that Varus may not be a text book example of how such a large force would move through hostile territory but it does provide us with a good example of what happens when the legions are unable to move without any real semblance of order. 
I think common sense tells us that an army will never advance without knowing what they are advancing into. From my own point of view, I would suggest that reconnaissance was an extremely vital part of moving from one camp to another, also, I’d agree that prior to moving camp, every man would have been well versed in what was required of them, so in some respects it wasn’t that packing up camp wasn’t an important activity, it was probably just that it was well rehearsed and uneventful. As you have stated yourself, reconnaissance and combat patrols was the bulk of the work, especially if you think of just how long a column of legions and hangers on would be when moving, reports are that Varus led a column 12 miles long, talk about being vulnerable when moving. Anyone tasked with the logistical headache of moving men and equipment from point A to point B would have would want to do it as quickly and safely as possible.

(01-13-2019, 12:01 PM):MonsGraupius Wrote:
(01-12-2019, 01:01 PM)Stug50 Wrote: From my experience, based on light infantry tactics, an 8 man section could be tasked with probing or scouting out an area, if you think back to the troubled times in Northern Ireland it was quite common for a platoon divided into sections to be tasked with patrolling a specific area, manning check points and setting up observation posts and more importantly supporting local law enforcement. Again these patrols were launched from a fortified position. Same thing during the Vietnam war. In fact the Vietnam war is a classic example of how patrols would be sent out from a fortified position to an LZ for either a search and destroy mission or reconnaissance, the U.S marines for example could spend weeks out in the field and it wasn’t unusual for the yanks to dig in and fortify an area strike camp and then move onto the next location. The American civil war also has quite a few examples of regiments and battalions marching from camp to camp and again reconnaissance patrols and scouting units being employed in advance of the main force. I’m reminded of the tactics of the Missouri guerrilla units (Quantrills raiders) no defensive camp so to speak of but they used their knowledge of the area to their advantage, occasionally they would stay in a friendly areas but when they were close to an enemy target they would choose an area that provided the best defensive position, in some respects those guerrilla units were doing the same thing as the Roman army, move, camp, strike and move. I’ve read that the Roman army would use the same marching camp repeatedly, it’s all about knowing the terrain.
Another good example can be found in 1879, think Isandlwana, a massive British camp with a small force a Natal troops, they set up a large camp and sent out patrols, unfortunately Lord Chelmsford underestimated the Zulu and his mistake resulted in a massacre. isandlwana is an extremely good example of why strong defences are needed.
Hope that helps.

The evidence we have is in the form of camps - usually large ones. But I've never been able to work out how an army could get from one to the next. I'm now beginning to think that the actual camp move was a relatively unimportant part of the activity and that the vast bulk of activity was various forms of reconnaissance and combat patrols. This means going back to the original question, I would suggest the army would gain control of the ground before they start surveying. This is very different from what I had been thinking so I'm trying to work out the implications.

It would be unusual for any large military force to move through territory, occupied or hostile without sending out advanced reconnaissance. Varus for example allegedly made the mistake of detouring through unfamiliar territory without using reconnaissance, I suppose he decided that he had good enough intelligence based on information from Arminius the result of which ended in a massacre. 
I’ve read various reports that state that some of the Romans’ managed to set up a camp at night with hastily built defences which they were able to use with some limited success but they ran into trouble when they tried moving on from the camp. 
Of course this is all conjecture on my part but I would think that various contingency plans would have been the norm for moving such a large body of men and equipment. I’ll leave it to those with far better knowledge than myself to debate how the Legions were organised when moving from camp to camp.
I appreciate that Varus may not be a text book example of how such a large force would move through hostile territory but it does provide us with a good example of what happens when the legions are unable to move without any real semblance of order. 
I think common sense tells us that an army will never advance without knowing what they are advancing into. From my own point of view, I would suggest that reconnaissance was an extremely vital part of moving from one camp to another, also, I’d agree that prior to moving camp, every man would have been well versed in what was required of them, so in some respects it wasn’t that packing up camp wasn’t an important activity, it was probably just that it was well rehearsed and uneventful. As you have stated yourself, reconnaissance and combat patrols was the bulk of the work, especially if you think of just how long a column of legions and hangers on would be when moving, reports are that Varus led a column 12 miles long, talk about being vulnerable when moving. Anyone tasked with the logistical headache of moving men and equipment from point A to point B would have would want to do it as quickly and safely as possible.
Dave..Stug50
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