1. Pyraeus
    Offline

    Pyraeus Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2012
    Messages:
    84
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland

    Too many men for an army?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Pyraeus, Feb 11, 2013.

    I've been vaguely outlining the events of my story and, having decided on a conflict between a Northern and Southern nation, I've been trying to decide just
    how large the armies would be. I recall reading somewhere - possibly here? - that the average army would have about 10,000 men, with larger ones probably having about 20,000. Anything above that would be a little bit of an exaggeration because of how much food etc. you would have to provide them with.

    Of course, I could have several different armies made up of about 20,000 each, but the main cause for my concern is that at one point in the story two different armies join together and number 42,000 men. I thought that it was far too much so I lowered down to 32,000 but I'm still stuck on another detail.
    Mainly that one of the two armies is the larger, up in the 20,000's while the other is smaller - 6,000 or something like that. They end up trying to cross a river but are attacked by an enemy army. A section of the army has made it across completely, another is wading through the water and the bulk is waiting to cross.
    When they're attacked a lot of the men at the front flee from the Northmen and end up running into the water and they all begin getting pushed together. It becomes a rout.

    There's still about 24,000 men on the bank waiting to enter the water and, when they see they mayhem, they decide it would be too costly to keep trying to cross. Not only that but I think two of the commanders have decided they'll turn to the North and because they hold the majority in the force they abandon the men in the water. That leaves about 8,000 people that are milling about in the water.

    What I'd like help with is deciding:

    1. How many men are killed in the battle; this includes being killed by the Northmen and being knocked down and drowned/crushed by their own men.
    2. How many are wounded during the fight, and possibly how many die after the battle.
    3. How many manage to escape the fight.

    I know I'm the writer and I am supposed to decide this but I need a little help in any case. I'd have all of them die but I've noticed that the number of people that are actually killed in battles is actually quite low and more are wounded or choose to flee. If you could point me towards a similar battle that happened that might help me plan things out.
     
  2. Xatron
    Offline

    Xatron Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2013
    Messages:
    576
    Likes Received:
    6
    Most of the answers to your questions can't be answered by us. An army's behavior during a battle depends on many things, like the commander's charisma, the training the soldiers have had, the morale during the battle, the religious and traditional beliefs every army follows.
    Firstly, 32.000 soldiers can be too high a number if you are talking about a small nation or too small if you are talking about an empire or a big country. Then there is the existing technology. If you are writing on a medieval setting then obviously maintaining a big army for any length of time is very costly. If you are talking about a technologically advanced era like today's world, then using the many means of transportation available it becomes easier to maintain numbers. For example, ancient Spartan regular army counted almost 30.000 soldiers on average periods (counting battle slaves etc) but they rarely marched with more than 10.000-15.000 soldiers.


    Then we would have to know the winner's doctrine as well. How do they treat war prisoners? Do they execute them on sight? If so, then the enemy knowing that would rather die fighting than surrender and die anyway, raising the casualties for both sides. Do the winners send teams to hunt down the fleeing survivors? Do the ones that lost retreat organized or out of order? Do they believe in some sort of deity that dictates they show mercy to the defeated? Do they have the concept of honor in their culture? If so do they follow it or consider it important?

    These are things you as the writer have to think about, mainly because we can't know the culture and behavior of the nations you write about unless you tell us. Otherwise we might as well imagine two armies of smurfs and flying pigs fighting each other.

    PS. Pigs would win
     
  3. Pyraeus
    Offline

    Pyraeus Member

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2012
    Messages:
    84
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    I know what you mean about not marching with more than 10-15,000 soldiers. The two armies only joined up for the march across and planned to split apart again as they made their way across the countryside. A fair amount of the army is made up of men who have not been given particularly extensive combat training. There is a sizable number of men in the army that have either not been in a battle before or have only seen limited combat before arriving in the North.

    The Northmen kill captured enemies that have been wounded so that they won't have to use resources keeping them alive. Common foot soldiers are not considered to be particularly useful captives so the infantry and the like would likely be killed after the battle rather than being kept alive as captives.
    Higher ranking individuals such as Knights and Lords can be used to ransom back Northern Lords and Knights and so they would be taken captive, and attempts would be made to keep them alive if they are wounded.

    The commanders of the Southern army include two who are not certain that the South can win in a victory against the North, especially because they are fighting against their fellow countrymen. They held their own men in reserve and sent the other soldiers across first. Whether or not they knew the attack was going to take place has yet to be decided, but if I decide that they do know, I'll make it so they send the least experience across first with the more hardened soldiers, so when the greenhorns begin fleeing into the River the veterans can't fight back properly in the crush.

    The North suffered a bad war about 20 years before the story takes place. They sighted invaders in the upper reaches of the North and the rumours spread to the South. When it became clear there was an invasion taking place they let the word out about it but the Southrons dismissed the attacks as pirate raids. In the end the Northerners lost thousands of people to the invaders and a lot of their land was used up and destroyed. When the Southerners finally decided to come and help - only after they themselves were raided - the damage was done and afterwards there was a lot of enmity between the two factions. The North is slowly healing and becoming more populated but they have fewer soldiers that can fight, though it can be said that those who are left over from the previous war have done their best to ensure that their children are trained in how to fight properly.

    The morale of the Southern soldiers has been badly effected because the ground they have been marching across his quite rugged - there are two pathways into the North and 20 years ago when they marched to help the North the Southerners took the left hand path which took them to a besieged Northern stronghold where they defeated the main enemy army and effectively won the war. Also, a fleet of Southern ships had sailed around and up onto the Northern shore to drop of an army of soldiers while a second marched up the right hand pass. A lot of the fleet has been destroyed by the main character, along with a fair number of soldiers. The Southrons are largely tired, travel-worn and demoralized about the disaster that has befallen their fleet - perhaps some 40-50 ships set sail and only a few actually arrived on the shore.

    From this I can say that the Southron army is made of mostly peasants that don't have any grand amount of training under their belt, with divisions of soldiers that have seen several conflicts. The North is actually larger than the South but because of the previous war a lot of the land is empty or not fully healed. The South is pretty sizable and is economically strong.

    I'm still working on the religion system; I hadn't thought of a god that asks for his/her disciples to show mercy to their enemies. Thank you for pointing that one out. I think there might be some difference in the gods these two areas worship, though it is meant to be relatively similar because I think the Southerners are Northmen that migrated southwards a few hundred years ago. As a random comparison the Northerners are Russian/Ukrainian etc. while the Southerners are German/Prussian/Austrian etc.

    Typically enemy soldiers that manage to escape after a defeat would either be hunted down by groups of soldiers if commanders believe that it is wise to send troops away into the country side, or the fleeing soldiers will be killed by wounds, disease or the general people of the countryside.

    EDIT: Had an idea. A fleet is sent with 20,000 to land on the coast, while 12,000 march up along the pass. When they learn about the destruction of the fleet, with about 3,000 of those on the ships surviving, The two commanders decide it would be better to fight for the North and send in those 3,000 into the water. These men are attacked and killed and wounded while these other two retreat back southwards. A number of 15,000 moving there seems a lot more manageable - I think I mentioned that the large size of the army would only have lasted for a while; they would have split up after crossing the River into more manageable groups.
     
  4. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Yes.

    Putting this as gently as I can, you can research things like military organization and adapt them to your world. As far as comparables are concerned, you are far better equipped to decide which of history's battles/wars come closest to your circumstances. Google is your friend.
     
  5. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ditto all ed had to say...
     

Share This Page