Straight Dope Message Board

Straight Dope Message Board (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/index.php)
-   General Questions (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/forumdisplay.php?f=3)
-   -   Logistics behind Hannibal's crossing of the Alps (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=811570)

dofe 11-20-2016 09:04 PM

Logistics behind Hannibal's crossing of the Alps
 
Do historians know much about the logistics behind Hannibal's crossing of the Alps? More specifically, did he have a supply train backing up his campaign, or did his men obtain supplies through pillage of the land that they crossed?

Bonus question: how long could a modern military force (let's say a US army battalion) operate continuously without outside logistics support?

md2000 11-20-2016 11:59 PM

How far did the German army get in the Battle of the Bulge before they ran out of gas?

Colibri 11-21-2016 12:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by md2000 (Post 19797296)
How far did the German army get in the Battle of the Bulge before they ran out of gas?

That doesn't exactly answer either question, does it?

DSYoungEsq 11-21-2016 12:29 AM

As I recall, at least one of the Roman writers writing about Hannibal's campaign had a detailed write-up of exactly how he accomplished it. I remember translating that during second-year Latin.

ziper1221 11-21-2016 12:30 AM

I don't have any cites, but since nobody else has answered I will give it a try. AFAIK he relied on locals who were either dissatisfied with Rome and would lend them assistance, or were loyal and subsequently got pillaged.


An army unit would do very poorly under those conditions. I think only days. Maybe weeks if the fighting was not too heavy and they knew to conserve supplies.

One of the few reasons to have a marine corps in modern times is that they can operated as self contained units. A MEU brings its own logistics and would do much better.

Of course, special operations are designed to operate completely behind enemy lines, without even the benefit of bringing dedicated logistics stuff with them. They might use supply airdrops and such, though.

bob++ 11-21-2016 07:20 AM

Here is some published academic research on "THE CAMPAIGNS OF HANNIBAL AND SCIPIO"

Quote:

Logistics was a constant source of worry for Hannibal. To move and sustain an army
totaling upwards of 100,000 men for 20 years is a feat achieved rarely in human history
and ranks him as a logistical genius. Because it would have been impossible to sustain any
significant amount of provisions from his lines of communication, Hannibal attacked and
captured Roman grain storage and provisioning supplies to outfit his men. The siege of
Saguntum and the capture of Clastidium accomplished just this end. (Polybius, 238) He
stored the majority of this wealth at his Spanish logistical base at New Carthage, where he
also maintained his lines of communication to Carthage via a sizable naval fleet. He used
his new allies throughout Spain and Italy to supply him with replacement troops, goods
and services in return for securing the allies freedom from their enemies. He wintered his
troops, with rare exceptions, where they were safe from attack from the Romans, and
trained his men with weapons captured from defeated enemies. This freedom of
movement was due in part to Rome’s Fabian strategy of harassing but not engaging the
Carthaginian armies.
www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA398480 This is a pdf.

Boyo Jim 11-21-2016 08:42 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dofe (Post 19796966)
...Bonus question: how long could a modern military force (let's say a US army battalion) operate continuously without outside logistics support?

How modern? General Sherman marched into the South with his army and pillaged and lived very well off the land for a couple of months, IIRC.

bob++ 11-21-2016 09:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dofe (Post 19796966)
~how long could a modern military force (let's say a US army battalion) operate continuously without outside logistics support?

It would depend on how hostile the locals were and what resources were available there. Napoleon did badly in Spain because the locals were so hostile. Troops had to be guarded at all times and farmers did their best to stop them from taking their produce. Wellington, on the other hand, had a friendly populace and a policy of paying for supplies; as well as a supply line back to the UK.

Drop your "US army battalion" into Israel and they could keep going for a long time; drop them into Libya and they wouldn't last very long at all.

Chronos 11-21-2016 10:06 AM

Do the communication lines that provide the backing for a credit card count as a "supply line" that we're trying to cut?

Granted, even without that, an officer could still write out an IOU on paper, which a merchant might be persuaded to accept, but it's a lot easier with the credit card.


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:44 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2017 Sun-Times Media, LLC.