Chapter 3, 55 BC to 78 AD – Julius Caesar – Continued
Having embarked the infantry of two legions, the seventh and the tenth, numbering over twelve thousand men, on board eighty transports, he set sail on August 26, at ten in the forenoon, leaving orders for the cavalry, who were on board eighteen other vessels, weather bound in a port eight miles off, to follow as soon as they could. On reaching Dover, at noon, the cliffs were seen to be crowded by native warriors, who evidently intended to dispute the landing. For three hours the vessels lay to, awaiting the arrival of the cavalry, but as these did not appear, orders were given to sail along the coast, which was done for several Miles, and then preparations were made to land the troops on an open, flat beach, near to where the town of Deal now stands. The Britons had followed the ships, and crowded down to the shore with fierce actions and loud shouts, their horse soldiers dashing into the waves, and their chariots being driven about on the beach. Caesar confesses to the bold front assumed by the natives, and to the hesitancy of his own veteran troops, when ordered to land. The engines for throwing darts, stones, and other missiles, did considerable execution, and at length, the standard bearer of the tenth legion, after invoking the help and favour of the gods, called upon his fellow soldiers in these words, “Follow me, unless you will betray your ensign. For my part, I will perform what I owe to the commonwealth and my general.” He then leaped into the water, and was followed by the men of his legion, who were speedily engaged in fierce combat with the brave but undisciplined defenders of the land. After a short but severe struggle the beach was gained, and then the Roman arms and steady discipline prevailed over the untaught valour of the Britons, who were compelled to withdraw from the well contested scene. Their loss was not as great as it would have been but for the absence of the Roman cavalry.
After this defeat, the southern tribes again sent ambassadors and sought peace. The conqueror reproached them for their recent hostility, after they bad sent envoys to Gaul, and required that a considerable number of hostages should he delivered up to him. Four days after the battle, the cavalry transports appeared off the coast, but a violent tempest arising, they were dispersed, and most of them with difficulty returned to the port whence they had sailed. That very night, it being full moon, the tide rose higher than usual, and did great damage to some of the Roman galleys which were drawn up on shore, and washed some of the heavier transports from their moorings, causing them to gash each other to pieces. This spread alarm and consternation through the camp, as it was impossible for the army to remain on the island during the winter, and there were no available means of returning to Gaul. Suetonius says that during the nine years in which Caesar held the military command in Gaul, amidst a brilliant series of successes, he met with only three signal disasters, and this destruction of the fleet is reckoned as one of the three.
This disaster threatened to be most serious, if not fatal for the Britons who were negotiating in the Roman camp, perceived the extent of the damage, and the fear it had occasioned, and secretly withdrew, one by one to their native fastnesses, whence they sent to the neighbouring tribes, and formed a confederacy to crush their late victors. In this they were nearly successful, for the seventh legion, which had been sent out to forage, was suddenly surrounded by an overwhelming multitude of Britons, and was only extricated by the opportune arrival of Caesar himself with the other legion. Returning to his entrenched camp, he awaited another attack, in which he utterly put the Britons to the rout, inflicting great injury upon them, and compelling them again to sue for peace.
Chapter 3, Julius Caesar
First Visit 55 BC
Chapter 3, Caractacus
Chapter 3, The Romans Revenge
Categories: Book 1