Thursday, February 5, 2009

Army Composition and tactics, Part I

In my second post, titled "the past and the future", I discussed the tactical options that many commentators overlook, and how we can examine the face of battle by examining these things. My purpose is two fold: First, I want to show that the Book of Mormon text adequately describes the various functions and contains snippets of detail that provide solid evidence for its ancient origin. Second, I wish to examine those pieces of data to provide a better picture of the composition and activities of an ancient army, which I hope will help other war historians.

These goals involve a two step process and necessarily entails a certain amount of skepticism, since the brevity of the text allows for often nothing more than implications. And we can then deduct what tasks the average soldier would be required of the soldier to achieve the description in the text.

Here are some of the options that I have come up with:

Courier: Letters are exchanged between military commanders (Alma 52:10), between commanders and the central government(Alma 59:1-3), commanders and the local government (Alma 58:4), and the leaders of separate nations (Alma 54). There is also "requests" to fight in certain places (Alma 52:20), or diplomatic negotiations (Alma 57:1-3). Of note is that in some places the courier had to travel past the capital with a letter containing a question about the capital. (Alma 58:34) Since a coup at the capital was partially the cause of the letter, the fact that a courier could travel from one side of the land to the other suggests a significant amount of information control in the Capital by the usurpers. It could suggest a degree of interference imposed on those couriers as well, and connotes physical dangers with the job above the basic requirement to move fast.

Alma 54:4 suggests that the courier was a dedicated position (At least dedicated until the return trip was finished). There is no word on what material this was written on and if that matched Mesoamerican trends. Given the warm climate, any paper records would be transitory. But, the fact that Mormon is quoting from this letter over 400 years later suggests letters were in another material or the Nephite's had depository for paper as well as metal records.

Spies: This section is related to the notion of information control associated with the previous section. It seems the army included numerous spies. Ross Hassig (Aztec Warfare) shows that merchants and refugees were one type of human intelligence. The text in Alma 52 and 57 suggest that the term spy refers more to "scouts." When the scouts/spies were cut off the Lamanite armies fell victim to tactical battle ruses. Alma 50:30-31 suggests that Moroni was willing to trust and exploit human intelligence, similar to the harlot at Jericho for Joshua.

From the text there is a good deal of evidence suggesting that spies associated with the army were more like scouts. And often faced the chance of being killed by counter intelligence, and subject to being "cut off" by the enemy.

Labor: Alma 56:16 mentions fighting valiantly by day and toiling by night to maintain the city. This implies a last ditch effort to fortify the city and an effort to keep the city, or keep the enemy away from the city. The scene could involve fighting around their limited fortifications, and then trying to raise them high enough during the night to repeat Alma 49. Alma 53:7 suggests than the entire army could be used for food harvest and distribution. This may seem one of the safer occupations, but the stronger soldiers would also be required to perform labor and the labor was often military related and done under the threat of attack.

Coming up soon: Skirmishers,heavy infantry, prison guards, Garrisons, and Body Guards.

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