Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.

E. 12.—­But whoever these “prisoners” were, their information was so important, and in Caesar’s view so trustworthy, that he proceeded to act upon it that very night.  Before even entrenching his camp, leaving only ten cohorts and three hundred horse to guard the vessels, most of which were at anchor on the smooth sea, he set off at the head of his army “in the third watch,” and after a forced march of twelve miles, probably along the British trackway afterwards called Watling Street, found himself at daybreak in touch with the enemy.  The British forces were stationed on a ridge of rising ground, at the foot of which flowed a small stream.  Napoleon considers this stream to have been the Lesser Stour (now a paltry rivulet, dry in summer, but anciently much larger), and the hill to have been Barham Down, the camping-ground of so many armies throughout British history.

E. 13.—­The battle began with a down-hill charge of the British cavalry and chariots against the Roman horse who were sent forward to seize the passage of the stream.  Beaten back they retreated to its banks, which were now, doubtless, lined by their infantry.  And here the real struggle took place.  The unhappy Britons, however, were hopelessly outclassed, and very probably outnumbered, by Caesar’s twenty-four thousand legionaries and seventeen hundred horsemen.  They gave way, some dispersing in confusion, but the best of their troops retiring in good order to a stronghold in the neighbouring woods, “well fortified both by nature and art,” which was a legacy from some local quarrel.  Now they had strengthened it with an abattis of felled trees, which was resolutely defended, while skirmishers in open order harassed the assailants from the neighbouring forest [rari propugnabant e silvis].  It was necessary for the Seventh legion to throw up trenches, and finally to form a “tortoise” with their shields, as in the assault on a regularly fortified town, before the position could be carried.  Then, at last, the Britons were driven from the wood, and cut up in their flight over the open down beyond.  The spot where they made this last stand is still, in local legend, associated with the vague memory of some patriot defeat, and known by the name of “Old England’s Hole.”  Traces of the rampart, and of the assailants’ trenches, are yet visible.[105]


Fleet again wrecked—­Britons rally under Caswallon—­Battle of Barham Down—­Britons fly to London—­Origin of London—­Patriot army dispersed.

F. 1.—­It was Caesar’s intention to give the broken enemy no chance of rallying.  In spite of the dire fatigue of his men (who had now been without sleep for two nights, and spent the two succeeding days in hard rowing and hard fighting), he sent forward the least exhausted to press the pursuit.  But before the columns thus detailed had got out of sight a message from the camp at Richborough changed

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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