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Taejang
02-15-2016, 09:34 PM
I've been doing some research and having trouble finding details on the smaller, traveling forts used by Roman soldiers, known as castra. TO BE CLEAR: My story has medieval-era technology, not Roman. I do not care about being strict to Roman methods. My study of castra is simply a reference point, as I can't find as much detail about any temporary army camp in the middle ages.

1) How far did a Roman army march before stopping to set up their temporary camp?
2) How many palisade stakes did each soldier carry?
3) I've seen one source state it took a Roman legion 5-6 hours to build their nightly castra, square, 1,000 feet on a side. Is this accurate?
4) If the army had to cut and shape their palisade stakes (because they couldn't carry any from their previous location), how much extra time would that add?
5) Is there another historical example of a traveling fort that would scale better to smaller groups (3-6 people)? What about medium groups (15-40)?
6) Is there any good information on similar nightly forts used from 700-1400 AD?

Jack Judah
02-16-2016, 01:58 AM
1) How far did a Roman army march before stopping to set up their temporary camp?

An average march came to anything from 10-25+ modern miles, depending on terrain, weather, the size of the column, the size of the baggage train, the general in command, and lots of other tactical and strategic considerations. The smaller the number of troops involved, the faster they could move.

2) How many palisade stakes did each soldier carry?

The standard for Marius' Mules was for each man to carry one stake. There's some debate as to whether that standard was maintained consistently, however.

3) I've seen one source state it took a Roman legion 5-6 hours to build their nightly castra, square, 1,000 feet on a side. Is this accurate?

How long it took depended upon the nature of the situation. A legion at war would probably dig deeper, pile higher, and generally expend more energy on their fortifications than a legion at peace would. Also, there are the natural factors of weather, terrain, and the training/condition of the men. All that being said, six hours seems on the long side. Assuming a standard strength of around 4,500 hundred men, half of whom would be working while the rest stood guard, that's a LOT of manpower. 2200 guys should be able to pitch camp, dig four thousand feet of trench, pile up the earthworks and hammer in some stakes with relative ease. It was work, but not impossible. Especially when you consider it was second nature to all but the rawest recruits.

4. If the army had to cut and shape their palisade stakes (because they couldn't carry any from their previous location), how much extra time would that add?

The likely situation would be one in which more than the standard palisade was required. It could be quite a project. You'd need woodcutting parties, complete with armed escorts, to cut the trees. Then you'd need to sharpen them. So, at least a couple hours. Assuming suitable wood was even readily available.

5. Is there another historical example of a traveling fort that would scale better to smaller groups (3-6 people)? What about medium groups (15-40)?

I doubt 3-6 people would literally "fort up" with entrenchments and palisades. The advantage to small parties is the flexibility of being able to rely on natural defenses. Once you get into the dozens, then some form of actual fortification begins to make sense. I know Roman maniples (roughly a 100 men) on detached duty would often employ a scaled down version of the standard camp. Can't think of any specific examples of smaller forces doing the same.

Taejang
02-16-2016, 02:12 AM
Fantastic information. Still curious about other examples of large groups doing something similar in the middle ages, but I think you answered all the other questions I had, and gave some details besides, such as the tidbit about maniples and that half a Roman legion would work while the rest guarded.