Passage of Thames—Submission of clans—Storm of Verulam—Last patriot effort in Kent—Submission of Caswallon—Romans leave Britain—“Caesar Divus.”
G. 1.—Caswallon, however, and his immediate realm still remained to be dealt with. His first act, on resolving upon continued resistance, would of course be to make the passage of the London tide-way impossible for the Roman army; and Caesar, like William the Conqueror after him, had to search up-stream for a crossing-place. He did not, however, like William, have to make his way so far as Wallingford before finding one. Deserters told him of a ford, though a difficult one, practicable for infantry, not many miles distant. The traditional spot, near Walton-on-Thames, anciently called Coway Stakes, may very probably be the real place. Both name and stakes, however, have probably, in spite of the guesses of antiquaries, no connection with Caesar and his passage, but more prosaically indicate that here was a passage for cattle (Coway = Cow Way) marked out by crossing stakes.
G. 2.—The forces of Caswallon were accompanying the Roman march on the northern bank of the stream, and when Caesar came to the ford he found them already in position [instructas] to dispute his passage behind a chevaux de frise of sharpened stakes, more of which, he was told, were concealed by the water. If the Britons had shown their wonted resolution this position must have been impregnable. But Caswallon’s men were disheartened and shaken by the slaughter on the Kentish Downs and the desertion of their allies. Caesar rightly calculated that a bold demonstration would complete their demoralization. So it proved. The sight of the Roman cavalry plunging into the steam, and the legionaries eagerly pressing on neck-deep in water, proved altogether too much for their nerves. With one accord, and without a blow, they broke and fled.
G. 3.—Nor did Caswallon think it wise again to gather them. He had no further hope of facing Caesar in pitched battle, and contented himself with keeping in touch with the enemy with a flying column of chariot-men some two thousand strong. His practice was to keep his men a little off the road—there was still, be it noted, a road along which the Romans were marching—and drive off the flocks and herds into the woods before the Roman advance. He made no attempt to attack the legions, but if any foragers were bold enough to follow up the booty thus reft from them, he was upon them in a moment. Such serious loss was thus inflicted that Caesar had to forbid any such excursions, and to content himself with laying waste the fields and farms in immediate proximity to his route.