Camp distance to the battlefield

By Christopher Prest

In light of the lockdown, I decided to look around my neighborhood for inspiration, and see if I could find an area that I could represent on my tabletop.

As part of the narrative, I wanted to find a suitable place for each army to camp.

I am running a Biblical-era battle, where each army is fielding an army of around 2,000 mounted (chariots and cavalry), and close to 20,000 infantry.

From what I can see, these armies would need a considerable amount of space for their camps, and also a large source of fresh water, etc.

There is a river about 2.5km away from the area that I will be modeling for the battle, and I think this river would be a great place for one of the armies to camp.

From what I know, the average person can walk 5km/hour and thus the army should be able to to take about 30 minutes to get from the area near the river to the battlefield.

Would this be considered an acceptable distance for an army to march to get to the battlefield?

Thank you in advance for any replies.

This entry was posted in Current projects, Periods - Ancient, Solo wargaming. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Camp distance to the battlefield

  1. jimr says:

    Christopher,

    I hope someone else can answer your question because it is out of my scope. To my simple mind, it seems like you are trying to model a very large area. Perhaps too large(?). A battlefield requires room for the units to maneuver during the battle. Including the camps might be asking too much. Instead, armies enter at the edge of the table and the camp does not need to be shown, only assumed. Travel time from the camp affects when the unit is allowed to appear at the edge of the battlefield. The only reason I can see to show the camp is if the camp is the site of the battle. Perhaps someone else can give a response based on more experience than I can offer.

    • Nangwaya says:

      Thank you jimr, for replying.

      You are right, it would be a huge area to represent on my tabletop, and the only way I could do it would be to really scale down.

      The tabletop will be representing an area about 2.5km long and 1.3km wide.

      The scale is 1:1,500

      The camps will not be on the table.

      I just wanted to add some narrative to the battle, of where the armies might camp, and I thought the river that is 2.5km from the area that I am using as the battle site, might be a good spot for a large army.

      I don’t know why it took me so long to look around my neighbourhood, and come up with spots to represent on my tabletop, for battles. It is enjoyable to go by these areas, and visualize chariots and exotically dressed troops zipping about!

      • james rohrer says:

        Christopher, yesterday after replying to you I was perusing Neil Thomas’ Ancient and Medieval Wargaming book and sure enough the Hittites attacked an Egyptian camp. So I am sure you can work camps into your scenarios.

        • Nangwaya says:

          james, yes, the battle of Kadesh!

          I find it ironic that I have read about it a few times, and it completely left my mind when thinking about the upcoming battle on my tabletop.

          Just did another quick read, and I find it interesting within the wiki entry, it is mentioned that the Egyptian camp was so large, that it actually slowed down the Hittite attack.

          I wonder if the account of this battle, is the earliest surviving record of a camp being looted?

  2. Peter R Barkworth says:

    Hello Christopher
    This is an interesting question. You posted it on 29th of last month and it intrigued me enough to go and check some battles over the last few days. I looked at Plataea, Cannae, Baecula and Pharsalus. It’s quite amazing how close some armies were camped to each other (presumably to cramp the enemy’s foraging activities). At Cannae both sides had a camp on the same side of the river. At Pharsalus, Pompey fought the battle drawn up about a mile infront of his camp and Caesar about two miles. So what you state in your question seems from my reading to be fine. Remember, of course, that 30 minutes to get from the area near the river to the battlefield is one thing, but it would take several hours to actually draw up a whole army. I do hope this helps.

    • Nangwaya says:

      Thanks Peter.

      I am glad to see that I am on the right track.

      I do not have much knowledge of the logistics involved to run an army and all that.

      I was thinking that if the distance from the river (and possible site of one of the camps), to the battlefield was too long, then perhaps the army would use some kind of supply train from the river to the battlefield?

      I also wondered if the troops would be tired after having to travel for about 30 minutes, and if this would benefit the other army, that is waiting for them.

      Do you know of any writings that pertain to logistics of armies going on campaign or preparations that went on before battle commenced?

      Thanks again!

  3. Peter R Barkworth says:

    Christopher, you wrote “I also wondered if the troops would be tired after having to travel for about 30 minutes, and if this would benefit the other army, that is waiting for them.” In lots of battles, the cavalry and light troops get there first so as to screen the army’s deployment – they, in effect, buy time for the heavier troops to get in position. At Plataea, the Persian cavalry try to “pin” the retreating Greeks while their infantry leave the very large camp, cross the river Asopos and hurry up to bring their archery to bear. In the Punic Wars, the light troops of each side screen the whole front of the armies and this would also cover deployment of the heavy infantry.
    You also asked “Do you know of any writings that pertain to logistics of armies going on campaign or preparations that went on before battle commenced?” You might want to look at “Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army” by Donald W. Engels and “Battles of the Bible” by Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichon. Perhaps get them from the library first to see if they are what you want before you buy. Also the Old Testament is crammed with information, but you’ll have to read between the lines to pick out the bits you need. Lastly, the more battle accounts you read from original sources, the more your ideas on this will develop.
    Good luck
    Peter R. Barkworth

Comments are closed.