A. C. (Albert Carlton) Whitehead.

The standard bearer : a story of army life in the time of Caesar online

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horse with a javelin. The poor brute, screaming
piteously, plunged at length on the road, thus stopping
the other horse and the chariot, and blocking the way.
Caius quickly leaped to the other chariot, and then they
were again rushing onward, while their pursuers were
momentarily checked by the wreck of Caius's chariot.

"What shall we do now ?" said Caius, seeing that
besides their swords no weapons were left them excepting
a single javelin for each. This state of affairs was
what the Germans had expected, and now they were
coming on like the wind, though their number had
thinned to three.

" We must save our remaining weapons until we are
compelled to use them," replied Sannio. "Hold on to


the chariot and keep a good heart. We are now
drawing near the place where the hill road comes into
this, and we may have more enemies waiting for us

After a few minutes more of hard riding, they were in
sight of where the hill road came in. No living thing
was to be seen.

"Perhaps we have been too swift for them to head
us off here," said Sannio.

On clattered the chariot and nearer pressed the Ger-
mans behind. Now the chariot was passing the end
of the hill road, and now two Germans, breathing
thick and running hard, dashed out upon them. One
of them seized the bridle of the horse on the left. He
was of such huge size that his weight caused the horses,
though running their hardest, to swing around in a
circle. As they did so, the horsemen came up. One
of their javelins laid out one of the Romans' horses.
Sannio let drive with his javelin, and the German who
had killed the horse pitched gurgling and cursing to
the ground, the long heavy shaft straight through his
breast. As the chariot swung about, Caius had cut
at the second man on foot, and he felt a fierce and
savage delight in seeing that breathless warrior tumble
in a heap, limp and loose, his arm and whole shoulder
split almost from his body. Just then another javelin
sang, and Caius felt a sting in his side and heard a
tearing noise.

Meanwhile Sannio leaped down from his chariot
and with his sword had stabbed another German,
and then the horse of another from beneath, and it had
fallen, pinning the rider to the ground. The last


German, seeing himself alone, now betook himself to
the woods, leaving his horse.

"By Pollux," panted Sannio, "but we have had some
hard work with no plunder. What's that ? Are you
hurt, Caius?"

"I think it is nothing," replied Caius, as he examined
a red smudge spreading on his white tunic. "A
javelin barely nicked my side. No harm is done."

"We surely would have had it if the last two had
been fresh and strong," said Sannio. "But we must
get away from here. Others may come on at any


They now found that the driver was wounded and
hardly able to move. They laid him on the chariot,
and Sannio now caught the horse of the German who
ran away. The animal stood well enough to be
harnessed, but he was no sooner hitched than he began
to plunge and rear and kick. Sannio had the reins
and called to Caius to get into the chariot. They
then sped forward, the new horse plunging and trying
to quit the road, but the other, a heavier horse of
Roman breed, held him in place.

They reached the camp about an hour after dark.
As they drove up Caius was sure he saw Lanius and
Eredox together in the crowd of merchants and peddlers
outside of the camp walls.

Inside, Caius and Sannio reported to Caesar. "By
Jupiter ! the barbarians shall pay the penalty for
violating the laws of embassies," said Caesar, quietly.
And then he gave orders for Caius, Sannio, and even
the driver to have special attention given their hurts
and hunger.


"Bv Hercules, but fortune slights me sorely,"
complained Baculus, after listening to Caius's account
of their escape from the Germans. " Here I am left
out of everything that smells of a fight. I got tired
of soft living and joined Caesar's army, expecting hard
fighting. And now here I've been in Gaul some three
months, and nothing yet. I missed both the battles with
the Helvetians, and even the little adventure yesterday.
I wish I had been with you, boy," he went on, speaking
to Caius. "I would have shown you how to fight

"We showed them, didn't we, Caius?" laughed
Sannio, good-naturedly. "We got away from the whole
German army, and killed a part of it, besides. The
Germans have twice played Caesar treacherous. I
guess old King Ariovistus knows he can't conquer
Caesar in battle. So he takes every advantage he can.
When a man can't beat his mule, he whacks the pack-
saddle. And, Baculus, you should have seen Caius.
He acted like a veteran."

"Come, don't flatter me, Sannio," said Caius. "I
was glad enough when that last fellow took to the

"I was sorry enough we didn't have time to take the
armor and horses of those two we cut down," said
Sannio, with a long face.



"Well, if there is no fighting soon, I think I shall be
like some of Caesar's friends. I shall have urgent
business at Rome," said Baculus, with a meaning smile.

Just then the sentries on guard raised an alarm.
Hurrying from their tents, as did the thousands of
other soldiers in camp, they saw, a mile away, moving
past them, a vast mass of men, carts, wagons, and
animals. Almost immediately scouts brought news
that this was the army of Ariovistus, and that it was
encamping on a chain of heights about two miles
away, with the purpose of intercepting the supplies of
grain which the Haeduans had promised to furnish

"I begin to believe that you soon will have your wish,
Baculus," said Sannio, as they stood and watched the
trooping thousands. "If Caesar does not join battle
with this Ariovistus inside of five days, I shall no longer
claim to know anything of him."

"So be it," grunted Baculus. "I am ready:"

On the next day, Caesar marched his army forth and
drew up a line of battle about halfway between his
own camp and that of Ariovistus. Caesar thus offered
combat, and after the Roman manner had his camp
to fall back upon in case of need. But Ariovistus
refused the proffer, not allowing his men to come out.

And in this way, for five days, Caesar offered, and
Ariovistus declined battle. The Roman legionaries,
having lost all fear of their enemy, were full of antici-
pation, expecting each day the greatest battle of their

On the sixth day, in order not to be cut off longer
from his grain supplies, Caesar chose an elevated point



about two miles from his own camp, and about half a
mile from that of the Germans, and sent a force of men
to make a smaller camp upon it. The Twelfth was
one of the legions sent, and with the Tenth and Eighth,
it was posted to protect the others while they dug
the ditch and built the walls.

This work began about sunrise and went rapidly
forward. The legions on guard were drawn up in line
facing the German camp. The Tenth held the center,
with the Eighth on the right wing and the Twelfth
on the left. This arrangement threw Caius, Baculus,
and Sannio not far from the center of the line, and
almost directly in front of where the new camp was
being built.

About the second watch of the day, a large troop of
horsemen was seen to issue from the German camp,
and advance.

"By Hercules," snorted Baculus. "I do believe
here is going to be something to do at last. Now,
fellow soldiers, now is the time to make a name for
the Twelfth legion."

Caius in his place, six ranks from the front, watched,
wide-eyed, with breathless interest.

On, swiftly on, came the black-clad, white-skinned
Germans. At a distance of three hundred paces from
the Roman ranks, they slowed and quickly formed
themselves into a wedge-shaped body with its point
toward the Romans. It was then seen that there were
two men to each horse.

"Ho, ho, they are forming a swine's snout. They
mean to root us out of Gaul with it," said Sannio.
"See, Caius, the soldiers call that wedge formation


a swine's snout. Its point, I think, is going to strike
near us, too."

Caius heard a hoarse blare from hundreds of huge
horns, and then he saw the German host roll toward
the Romans like a black cloud. The young soldier's
heart seemed to float in his throat like a hot liquid,
and a great sickness almost overcame him. A youth
at his side fainted, and a man two ranks to the
front of him was heaving hard with nausea. Never-
theless, Caius felt an almost mad desire to dash to
meet the on-coming wedge, but Roman discipline held
him in place, quivering and gripping his javelin.

The command to cast their javelins now rang loudly
in the Roman ranks. Caius, with thousands of others
in the three legions, poised and hurled the heavy,
steel-pointed shafts, and then for the first time he
heard the whizzing swish and hurtling whine of the
very storm of javelins as they glinted through the air,
and fell rattling as they glanced, or thudding as they
struck, on the wedge of men and horses.

Many Germans fell, some loose in death, others
yelling and roaring with the pain of their wounds.
Almost at the same instant when the javelins were
cast the second man on each horse, a foot soldier,
leaped down and with the others began to form small
circles about the wounded and to remove them from
danger. Meanwhile the advance of the Germans
had not been checked.

They hurled their own heavy javelins, and many
Romans were killed. Again the Romans cast, and
again numbers of Germans toppled from their horses,
and were quickly surrounded by their foot soldiers.



And now the point of the wedge struck the Roman
line almost in front of where Caius stood, and came
crashing into it, overbearing rank after rank of the
legionaries and crushing them to the ground, while

even the rearmost Roman ranks were driven backward
by the terrific shock. Then the Roman short swords
were out and passing back and forth, causing horses
and riders to fall like grain before the scythe. It was
not till the wedge had pierced almost through the entire


first maniple that the force of the charge was some-
what broken. Indeed, Caius himself stabbed the fore-
most horse, while Sannio slew the rider as he pitched
headlong on the ground.

The Germans hastily drew back, and formed their
wedge behind those second men who had quickly passed
between the horses to the front and had made a strong
line to protect the horsemen. Then immediately the
wedge rushed and plunged upon another part of the
Roman line. But again it was repelled. Finally
the Germans retreated, the footmen clinging to the
horses' manes and easily keeping up with their hardest

Caius now saw that some forty of the men of Baculus's
maniple were fallen. A few only were wounded, while
most of the other fallen were crushed and mangled to
death by the horses' hoofs. This left a huge gap in
the line before him.

"By Hercules, but they came near killing all of my
maniple," exclaimed Baculus, wiping the blood from a
great cut on his face. " But by the Roman eagles, it
was a pretty little piece of work, and the Twelfth will
fight. Caesar now knows that. I hope we shall see
those Germans again soon. Are you hurt, Caius ?"

"No, only frightened a little," answered Caius. "I
believe I am not hurt so badly as you are."

"Ah, it is well that I came out alive," exclaimed
Baculus. "Five of the rascals set upon me, and after
I had slain three of them, it was only by good luck that
I was able to hamstring another as he hung to a horse
and got away with the rest."

The work was hindered no further, and the new


camp was finished by one o'clock in the afternoon.
Then Caesar left the Seventh and Twelfth legions to
hold it, and took the others back to the larger camp.

When the ranks of the first cohort of the Twelfth
legion were rearranged, Caius was advanced to a place
in the first rank of the first maniple. This change put
him under the command of Baculus, and was considered
a promotion, for a Roman soldier was promoted from
the rear ranks toward the front, and from the left of
the lines toward the right. Caius now held a place
in the front ranks, only eight places from the right,
thus being near Baculus, his centurion.

On the next day, Caesar again offered Ariovistus
battle more persistently than before, keeping his men
in line until noon. Seeing that Ariovistus would not
fight, he then led his men back into camp.

Early on the third day after the new camp was
made, Sannio returned to the tent from the quaes-
torium, where he had been to grind the corn.

"Well, Baculus," he said, "you are always wanting
a fight. I think you will have one to-day. Caesar
means to force the Germans to a battle. When he
consulted the auspices the sacred chickens came eagerly
from their cage, the silence was silence perfect, and
half the crumbs fell from the chickens' mouths as they
greedily ate. The omen was good, and already the
red battle flag hangs from a spear on Caesar's tent."

"Suits me exactly," muttered Baculus. "I hope
he won't change his mind."

And just then the tubas of all the legions sounded with
a deafening blare for the legions to march forth and
form in line of battle as on the previous days. Im-


mediately the men shouted, "To arms! To arms!"
the legions fell into place, and were soon outside of the
camp in line of battle. The Seventh was on the
extreme left, and the Twelfth next, while the others
were in the center and on the right.

After the line was formed, Caesar, on his great splay-
footed horse, rode up and down the lines, encouraging
his men, and urging them to remember all their former
bravery and their hopes of future glory. Besides, he
hinted, there might be some more substantial rewards,
if the victory were won.

The order to advance was sounded, and then the
line, more than a mile long, moved forward over the
rocky, tree-covered ridges, toward the German en-
campment. On, right up to within a hundred paces
of it, the Romans moved, and then halted.

"Come out," shouted a Roman soldier, "and make
good the boasts of your insolent king."

"Come out and beat the mule," called Sannio.
"You have whacked the pack long enough."

"Yes," roared Baculus. "We are ready for you."

And so hundreds of Roman voices cast insults upon
the Germans, and the Germans hurled their taunts
upon the Romans. And though their speech differed,
each understood the other's meaning.

Caesar was yet making some slight changes in his
line, when a movement was observed among the
Germans, and then they were seen to issue by thousands
from numerous places in their lines of wagons, and
quickly form their line of battle, having their wagons
behind them as a rampart. On this wall of wagons the
black-garbed women and the children were seen climb-


ing, and then with flying hair, and with their white
arms extended, they begged the men not to give them
over to the Roman soldiers.

Now the German battle horns sounded loudly and
harshly, the German line moved, broke into a run,
faster and faster, and came on with a rattle, a clangor,
and a clamor, that made the Roman veins swell almost
to bursting with the hot blood pounding through them.

At the same moment, the Romans dashed forward.
So swift was the onset of each that there was no time
for throwing their javelins. These were dropped,
and with swords drawn, both lines closed upon each
other with a horrid shock that sounded up and down
the lines like a sudden burst of thunder over a hollow
valley. The Germans had locked the front line of
shields before them and the other lines above them,
and formed their phalanx.

Caius, with an exhilaration he had never before
known, had rushed with the legion upon the Germans.
As the two armies had crashed together, he felt himself
stunned and the breath almost crushed from him by
the impact on the wall of hard shields. Recovering
quickly, he found himself opposed to two huge German
warriors, both protected by their shields and both
striking at him savagely. With all the din and push
and confusion, he barely saved himself with sword
and shield. A fleeting glance as he dodged and parried
showed him the Roman to his left fallen, with his blood
and brains oozing from a cleft skull.

Baculus now called out, "Leap upon them, men,
and tear their shields down." At once the Roman on
Caius's right leaped, and clutched at the top edge of a


German shield, and he was as quickly run through with a
long two-edged sword. He fell, but a stream of dark
blood was pouring upon the ground before his body
reached it. Caius had only a glimpse of all this, for
at the same instant, he himself had leaped upon the
shields, and had only been saved from a like fate by
the parrying of the soldier directly behind him. As
it was, he caught the top edge of a shield with his left
hand, and dragged it down. Two soldiers from the
second rank had passed up beside him, and now all
three thrust stoutly into the opening. A German fell,
and in doing so, dragged down two other shields, thus
exposing their owners. These two Germans were quickly
stabbed, and the opening in the walls of shields grew.

Caius next found himself in combat with a single
German giant, who swung his long sword, roared,
leaped, cut, and thrust so swiftly and adroitly that
Caius could scarcely defend himself. The young
Roman, however, kept his head, made a movement as
though to dash into the opening to the German's right,
and when his antagonist whirled to prevent this, thus
exposing his own left side, Caius's already bloody blade
darted forward like an adder's tongue. He saw the
German weaken, totter, and sink in a heap with the
blood spurting from a gash in his side. And so the
young soldier fought, now here, now there, until he was
so weak and weary that it seemed he must fall and die
among the litter of corpses that strewed the ground.

At last as he pressed half stupidly on, he became
dimly aware of a Roman close at his side hard pressed
by three Germans. A quick glance showed it to be
Baculus. As the tide of battle had flowed somewhat


away from the youth, he was not now engaged with
any particular foe. So he quickly hurled himself
upon the nearest of the antagonists of Baculus. As he
did so, the German swung his long, heavy sword, and
Caius must have been cleft to the teeth had he not
parried with his own sword, upon the superior metal of
which the German's weapon broke. Caius thrust,
and the German fell. Baculus meanwhile had cut
down another of his assailants, while the third betook
himself to flight.

"By Hercules," panted Baculus, "I think that is
once you have saved my life. They were about to get
me, I believe. But look ! they are leaving us."

Caius, clearing the blood and dust from his eyes,
now saw that the whole German army was in flight.
Far to his right he heard the thunder of Caesar's Haeduan
cavalry, bearing down upon the disordered barbarians.
Dumnorix was proving that he could fight for Caesar
against the Germans, even if he had failed in the battle
against the Helvetians. The Romans, too, broke into
pursuit. Soon they came upon the line of wagons.
Here strange sights met their eyes. A few of the women
were yoking horses to wagons, trying to escape. Many
more, the Romans saw to their astonishment, were
coolly cutting the throats of their little ones, and then
their own. The Roman soldiers butchered thousands
of them, as they broke over the wagons, and then on,
pursuing, hewing, cutting, hacking, stabbing, the
flying Germans.

Baculus kept his cohort fairly well together. On, on,
they followed, the whole army leaving behind it a
track of dead, dying, plundered bodies.


As Caius, Baculus, and Sannio pressed forward, they
saw two Germans dragging a man who was loaded
with chains on his arms and legs. He seemed half dead,
and only moved because of his guards' threatening
gestures with their brandished swords. The three
hurried toward the prisoner.

"By Hercules," exclaimed Baculus, "it is Procillus.
At them, and kill the cursed barbarian guards !"

Procillus was soon loosed from his guards and chains,
glad to be free, but weak with exhaustion. A Haeduan
of the cavalry gave up his horse, and Procillus was sent
to Caesar, who was as much delighted to see Procillus
as he was to be victor in the battle.

As Caius and Baculus, in the long pursuit, reached
the Rhine, they saw far out on the river a little boat.
In it was a single huge man, struggling toward the
opposite shore. Ever and anon, he was forced to cease
rowing to beat off drowning wretches who tried to
climb into his boat. At last he reached the shore,
sprang out, and disappeared in the forest.

"Who is that man?" asked Caius of a German
prisoner whom a Roman close at hand had taken.

"It is Ariovistus," he answered.


NIGHT found Caesar's army in the camp which they
had left in the morning to fight the Germans. The
shrieks and moans of the wounded might still be heard
here and there in the tents, and still might be seen the
flaring torches of the camp followers and soldiers'
slaves as they went to and fro over the battle field,
ever pulling and searching and plundering the bodies of
the slain. The loud laugh, the rough jest, and the song
of victory, all bespoke the joy that rioted in the Roman

Most joyful of all, perhaps, were the Haeduans.
They had seen the Germans, their cruel oppressors,
beaten, and they had the glory of taking part in the
battle that had destroyed them. They were now a free
people once again.

The Romans were elated at having beaten an enemy
so noted for courage, and they were delighted with the
valuable booty that had fallen into their hands. There
was not a Roman soldier but had some gold or silver
ornament, taken from the body of a German, and scarce
a Roman but held one or more German prisoners to
sell as slaves in Italy.

Sannio, Baculus, Procillus, and Caius lay at ease on
their cloaks in their tent, each happy in his ow T n way-
Sannio, because of the extra share of plunder that he



had taken from the body of a German chief; Baculus,
wounded and weary, but gratified with all the fighting
a day would hold ; and Procillus, sick and sore, but
once more among friends. Caius was proud because
he had been publicly praised for his bravery by Caesar,
but he was still wondering at the cruelty and heartless-
ness of war. To the simple, kind-hearted boy, brought
up on the Italian hills, with a task no harsher than the
tending of sheep, the day's slaughter seemed a bloody
dream, a horrid unreality.

"Procillus, tell us of what befell you among the
Germans," said Baculus, as he bound a cut and bathed
it with oil.

"Yes," Sannio joined in, counting over and toying
with the trinkets of bronze and gold he had taken. "I
thought never to see you again when we left you that
day in the barbarian camp."

"You are a brave soldier to leave a mate like that,"
said Procillus.

"By Pollux, did you want me to storm the whole
German army?" asked Sannio.

"No," said Procillus. "I was only teasing. You
could have done nothing more than lose your life.
As to what happened, it is rather a long story. More
happened in a short time than you would think. If you
fighting men can remain long enough awake, I will
try to tell you all."

"Yes, tell us," they urged.

"As soon as Metius and I were in the camp, we were
led past the sacred trees upon which were nailed the
heads of many Gauls, an offering to Woden, before
Ariovistus. He no sooner saw us than he shouted


aloud, in the hearing of his whole army, 'Why have
you come into my presence ? To spy out my men and
strength ? ' We began to speak to give him Caesar's
message, but with horrid oaths and fearful threats
he forced us to silence. We expected instant death, so
dreadful were his gestures and countenance. Then he
ordered chains fastened upon us, and we were dragged
from before him.

"But he soon forgot us, I suppose, for he was even
then making ready to march his army toward Caesar.
As Metius was known to Ariovistus, he fared better

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Online LibraryA. C. (Albert Carlton) WhiteheadThe standard bearer : a story of army life in the time of Caesar → online text (page 6 of 16)