THE WAR OF THE MOLES: DIG OR DIE
“The shovel is brother to the gun.”
Carl Sandburg, American Poet and Spanish-American War veteranSoldiers hate to dig. Soldiers have
hated to dig. No doubtwhen the Roman Legions broke off their march early for the day todig and erect a defensive stockade, the legionnaires bitched aboutthat digging. But the Romans digging in every night in their
marching camps played a great part in their kicking butt across acontinent or too.The advantages of fortified marching-camps were substantial.Camps could be situated on the most suitable ground: i.e.preferably level, dry, clear of trees and stones and close tosources of drinkable water, forageable crops and good grazingfor horses and pack-animals. Properly patrolled, fortified campsmade surprise attacks impossible and successful attacks rare -in fact, no case is recorded in the ancient literature of a Romanmarching-camp being successfully stormed. The securityafforded by fortified camps permitted soldiers to sleep soundly,while animals, baggage and supplies were safely corraledwithin its precinct. If the army engaged an enemy near amarching-camp, a small garrison of a few hundred men wouldsuffice to defend the camp and its contents. In case of defeat,fleeing soldiers could take refuge in their marching-camp. After their disaster on the battlefield of Cannae (216 BC), some17,000 Roman troops (out of a total deployment of over 80,000)escaped death or capture by fleeing to the two marching-campsthat the army had established nearby, according to Livy.In more modern times, as our pal Burt Gummer says, dirt is “the bestbullet stopper there is.” And not just bullets. The trend in wars pasthas always been that shrapnel--from grenades, mortars, artillery,bombs, etc.--has inflicted many more casualties than small arms fire.