|Wooden figures found in the tomb of Mesehti: Egyptian army of the 11th Dynasty|
Photo by Udimu - Cairo Egyptian Museum. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons (Source)
|Reenacters portraying Roman legionaries of Legio XV Apollinaris.|
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons (Source)
The tramp of thousands of feet upon the ground, the clatter of hooves, the rattle of the siege equipment rolling forward. In later years, the sound of the artillery limbers and the guns themselves. The shouts of the officers and sergeants. That is the sound of an army on the march.
|The March to Valley Forge by William B. T. Trego (Public Domain)|
From the 11th Dynasty of Egypt to the invasion of Russia in 1941, a span of over 4000 years, armies marched to war, on foot and on horseback.
Long columns of men, horses and wheeled conveyances would stretch for miles, filling the air with dust in fair weather, churning the roads and nearby fields to thick, glutinous mud in rainy weather.
From Paris to Moscow is over 1750 miles, from Berlin to Moscow, a little over 1100 miles. Can you begin to imagine what it would have been like to travel that distance, on foot, carrying upwards of 60+ pounds of equipment, ammunition and rations? In all sorts of weather?
It boggles the modern mind. (At least it boggles mine!)
|Campagne de France by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (Public Domain)|
While many think of World War II as a fully mechanized war, it really wasn't, not for the most part.
The German Army of 1941 went into Russia much the same as their grandfathers did. Wearing a field pack loaded with their necessaries, brotbeutel with rations slung from their belt, steel helmet on head and a single shot magazine fed rifle in 7.92mm, the ubiquitous K98, virtually the same rifle their grandfathers had carried to the Marne back in 1914. (First fielded in 1898, the WWII version was shorter and lighter.)
|Confederate troops marching west on East Patrick Street, Frederick, Maryland, September 12, 1862 (Public Domain)|
To be sure, the 1940s saw the introduction of motorized transport and armored fighting vehicles, but those were relatively rare. German infantry divisions marched to war with horse drawn artillery, horse drawn transport and officers still on horseback. Take away the vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine and the Emperor Napoléon would feel right at home, even Pharaoh Mentuhotep I would recognize those marching columns. (Though no doubt Pharaoh would have considered the men overdressed for war in Egypt and Napoléon would probably wonder why the uniforms were so drab. He would probably appreciate the economy of a standardized uniform for the entire army. The Emperor was always looking to save a sous or two on his expenses!)
|British troops on the march in Mesopotamia, 1917. (Public Domain)|
|"Russland, Soldaten auf dem Marsch"|
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons (Source)
War has become more dispersed over the centuries, the weapons more deadly, the uniforms more drab, so as to blend into the landscape. But the purpose of war, the killing and the destruction have remained the same.
|Dak To, Vietnam|
(U.S.Army Signal Corps Photo)
How one gets to the fight is one thing.
How one survives to see the next day is another.
'Tis a rare soldier indeed who does not dream of the end of war. Who prays to see the next dawn, to someday get home. Wherever home may be.
One thing though has never changed...
And probably never will...
Plato knew it over 2000 years ago...
Only the dead have seen the end of war.
|Fort Snelling Looking Southeast|
Photo by Akoda1031 - Own work. Public Domain (Source)