Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Holding a riverbank vs highground Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Ronald M




Location: vancouver bc canada
Joined: 06 Oct 2015

Posts: 65

PostPosted: Tue 23 Aug, 2016 8:01 pm    Post subject: Holding a riverbank vs highground         Reply with quote

Which would be harder for a attacking force to take?

A riverbank forces the attacking force to build boats if tis deep and if its shallow they are signifigantly slowed down and to add onto that men may get washed away so they have to concentrate on not getting hit by archers, getting washed away and to continue moving forwards. a shallow enought river also has no guarantee of being shallow enought to walk across the entire way

high ground men do get slowed down but the defending force has to move to take full advantage (charge) and it would harder for the defendng force to stop a charge powered by gravity
arrows reacher farther for the defenders and the attackers have arrows dragged down by gravity

those are just bunch of pros/cons i thought up of

smiley face 123? no? lol yeah well im here cause i like...swords and weapons and stuff obv
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
Joined: 11 Jun 2007
Likes: 7 pages

Posts: 2,218

PostPosted: Wed 24 Aug, 2016 4:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Clever commander wouldn't try to land on a bank defended by the enemy. He would find another place to cross. Or if he has it available, use artillery to clear the river bank. So a clever commander on the other side wouldn't insist on defending the river bank but rather take another good defensive position if he thinks he will be attacked by a more numerous enemy. Letting enemy land on the bank and attacking him before all troops are on the land would be a good tactic. Similar to how Moray and Wallace attacked the English after half of the English crossed the Stirling bridge.
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,247

PostPosted: Wed 24 Aug, 2016 5:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A riverbank isn't necessarily good ground to deploy an army. It may be marshy or overgrown, it may not be a straight line. It could be cut by streams running to the main channel.

Plus, if your defense is that good, how can you hope to counterattack? You can't win the fight just by standing there, you have to be able to deal some damage yourself. Ain't gonna happen if the enemy can just sit on the other side of the river plinking at you with a few archers.

Generally, the whole point of deploying an army is to get the enemy to fight. If you are trying to avoid that, or make it impossible for him to attack you, it is far easier to head for the nearest castle or walled town! There you can rest in comfort and thumb your nose at your foe from the wall.

You can't even fight a desperate blocking action that way, unless you are holding a ford, bridge, or other crossing point. An impassable river is not on someone's line of march, so they'll just wave from a distance as they stroll past. Plenty of fights did happen at fords or bridges, just don't count on that being the ONLY place to cross, as others have pointed out.

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2016 2:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As an attacker, I'd try my best to bypass or avoid defended riverbanks and high ground alike. Why should I even remotely consider attacking them when there's no compelling strategic reason?

Now, I might force the crossing of a riverbank if I knew that 1) it's the fastest route by which I can cross the river, 2) the troops holding the riverbank were much weaker than mine in terms of number or equipment or preferably both, and 3) I have the means of rapidly crossing the river and putting a large number of troops into the bridgehead very quickly. In this kind of situation I should expect to be able to absorb the casualties in the crossing and then simply ride roughshod over the enemy troops guarding the opposite side of the bank with a frontal attack. Anything less than this and I'd rather strike elsewhere.

Similarly, when the enemy is on high ground, I'd only attack directly if they're so woefully inferior to my force that I shouldn't expect any resistance. If not, what's stopping me from keeping them busy with a small observation force and then making my way around them?

From the defenders' side, the disadvantages are pretty obvious too. Many people have raised the point that it's very difficult to guess where the enemy is going to cross a river, so one has to risk either spreading the friendly troops so thin that the enemy might be able to punch through easily with a good concentration of troops at one crossing point -- or massing the defenders at the wrong crossing point and letting the enemy cross nearly unopposed. It's much better to defend after the enemy has crossed, whether in whole or in part, because then we'd know the path they need to use for their logistical lifeline and will be able to attack or harass it.

High ground isn't necessarily that advantageous either. It's exposed to wind and weather. It's usually far from water supplies, and wells have to be dug deeper if it's going to be made into a long-term position. It's more difficult to conceal than position lower down. It may be more vulnerable to night attacks since people without night-vision equipment usually find it much easier to look up from a lower position to detect objects silhouetted against the sky than to spot objects from a higher position against the darker background of low ground. And while shooting from high ground provides a bonus to weapon reach/range, it complicates aiming -- in most cases, one has to aim significantly lower than usual to hit a target on high ground, and even experienced marksmen who know this fact are still likely to overshoot their first few shots until they've found the correct adjustment for the slope (and the amount needed for this adjustment also changes as the enemy gets closer).


Last edited by Lafayette C Curtis on Mon 19 Sep, 2016 9:52 am; edited 2 times in total
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,247

PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2016 5:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's funny, the original poster mentioned archers, so I was assuming ancient and medieval warfare, then you go and talk about night vision equipment! But it's true that he didn't really specify an era, and at least some of the basic concepts are the same. (Aside from aircraft, long-range artillery, etc.) Not so much with concealment, though--that was rarely a factor until modern times.

But it should be noted that for thousands of years, commanders have tried to deploy their forces on the high ground. Again, I was mostly assuming this question was about aimed at deploying for a day or two at most, but even so, I can tick off quite a few armies that camped out on hill tops for days or weeks, just to have the advantage of the position.

And all through those millennia, the enemy force would frequently attack that position! A few generals were clever enough or had forces competent enough to try some kind of flanking attack, especially if it was some "insurmountable" crag, but frontal assaults straight up the middle were standard procedure.

That wasn't necessarily lack of imagination, either. If your troops were militia or short-term levied forces, you only had so long to mess around before they'd go home. If they were paid mercenaries, you have to worry about your funds running out. Professional troops would be the most reliable, but many of them want to FIGHT, and having the commander refuse battle repeatedly, or keep his men sneaking around at night, can be bad for morale. There's also pressure from the government to get the job done, especially if the government is also under pressure from mobs in the street demanding action.

So all of that together frequently boils down to, "Look, the bad guys! ATTACK!" And it often worked just fine.

Matthew
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2016 9:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
That's funny, the original poster mentioned archers, so I was assuming ancient and medieval warfare, then you go and talk about night vision equipment! But it's true that he didn't really specify an era, and at least some of the basic concepts are the same. (Aside from aircraft, long-range artillery, etc.) Not so much with concealment, though--that was rarely a factor until modern times.


Argh. I meant without night-vision equipment. We know from 19th- and 20th-century reconnaissance/scouting manuals that patrols at night were generally advised to take the low ground and look up at the skyline rather than taking the high ground and risk being skylined themselves. Seeing as this is also a common piece of hunter lore, I have a hard time believing that this kind of stuff was entirely unknown in earlier times. Of course, it's rather irrelevant for larger forces since their campfires and other activities would have made their position obvious in any case. But for smaller forces (maybe around the size of a modern platoon or small company at most) it might be a good idea to camp in a position with better cover and concealment -- and one that would provide a better chance to detect night attacks/infiltrations by forcing enemies to approach through high ground and silhouette themselves against the sky.


Quote:
But it should be noted that for thousands of years, commanders have tried to deploy their forces on the high ground. Again, I was mostly assuming this question was about aimed at deploying for a day or two at most, but even so, I can tick off quite a few armies that camped out on hill tops for days or weeks, just to have the advantage of the position.

(snip)

So all of that together frequently boils down to, "Look, the bad guys! ATTACK!" And it often worked just fine.


At the same time, we also have examples of ancient and medieval armies bypassing enemies on hilltop/high-ground positions to attack some other less well-defended position or less well-prepared troops in their rear. Sertorius Guevara anyone?
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Holding a riverbank vs highground
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum