Caesar, a History of the Art of War among the Romans down to the End of the Roman Empire, with a Detailed Account of the Campaigns of Caius Julius Caesar - Vol. 1

By Theodore Ayrault Dodge | Go to book overview

XII.
CASSIVELLAUNUS. SPRING AND SUMMER, 54 B. C.

NOT satisfied with his first trip to Britain, Cæsar prepared to cross again. This time he took better precautions, though there in little to justify either invasion from a military point of view. In all he had eight hundred craft, carrying eight legions and four thousand horse. The balance of his force he left on the Gallic coast under Labienus, to protect his base. He set sail in July, landed safely, and marched inland to attack the Britons. Once more a storm damaged the fleet. Cæsar returned, hauled up the fleet on the beach, intrenched it, and again set out. After several engagements with the Britons, he forced a passage of the Thames near Kingston. Cassivellaunus, who commanded the Britons, opposed him ably, but Cæsar marched as far as St. Albans, for many tribes deserted the national standard, and Cassivellaunus was unable to do much to check him. When Cæsar was at a distance, the tribes in the rear attacked the fleet camp and compelled his retreat. Cæsar recognized that there was nothing for him to gain by subduing the island. He had seen what manner of land and people there were in Britain. He retired, having accomplished much as a traveler, nothing as a soldier, and returned to Gaul in two embarkations without accident.

CÆSAR had not yet satisfied his curiosity with regard to Britain. When leaving for Italy to attend to political affairs after the campaign of the preceding year, he commanded his lieutenants to construct as many new vessels as possible during the winter, and to have the old ones well repaired, purposing to cross the Channel a second time. He planned the new ships himself, making them somewhat broader, so as better to accommodate the cavalry and other burden, and with lower sides, so as to be more easily loaded and unloaded. They could also be more readily drawn up on the beach. These, as described by Cæsar, were for a similar purpose substantially imitated by Napoleon, in 1804, showing

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