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September 20, 2019

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Short Rounds

Some Aggies Observe an Old Tradition

April 21st is a signal date in the history of Texas. It was on that date in 1836 that Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was captured by Sam Houston’s little army at San Jacinto, thus securing the independence of the new Republic of Texas.

Graduates of Texas A&M – Aggies – observe April 21st as a day on which to meet in remembrance of those no longer present. It is a tradition that is observed whenever Aggies are gathered together, wherever they are in the world.

Thus, on the appropriate date in 1942, twenty-five Aggies, led by Maj. Gen. George Moore ('08), one of the senior-most American officers in the Philippines, mustered to commemorate their dead. They did so on Corregidor Island, in Manila Bay, just then under siege by the Japanese. Knowing that the final roll might soon be called for all of them, these Aggies embodied the essence of commitment, dedication, and friendship – the “Aggie Spirit” as it were. They risked their lives to honor their beliefs and values.

A little more than a fortnight later, they all became prisoners-of-war, as the island fortress was surrendered to the enemy on May 6, 1942.

Three years later, Aggies again assembled at that same spot on the same date. They numbered about 300, including many men who had arrived in the Philippines with the liberating American armies. Among the 300 were three who had been among the twenty-five who’d met there in 1942, the others having perished while prisoners of the Japanese.

--Courtesy William Gross

 

William the Conqueror and the Logistics of the Conquest

It’s well known that in the summer of 1066 Duke William of Normandy concentrated an army of some 14,000 men and 3000-4000 horses, crossed the English Channel, and wrested the crown of England from his cousin Harold Godwinson. Now crossing the channel is a considerable accomplishment in any age, given its treacherous waters, so William deserves credit for that, perhaps as much as for his hard-fought victory in the Battle of Hasting (October 14, 1066). But William’s greatest struggle was perhaps logistical.

William’s concentrated his army at Dives-sur-mer, where it spent most of August of 1066 training and preparing. It was a “pot luck” host. Although it contained many of William’s Norman subjects, it also included a lot of adventurers from all over Europe, including knights from Italy and Spain, as well as from other parts of France. A large contingent consisted of Norman veterans who had long-experience of war against the Lombards and Byzantines in Southern Italy and the Moslems in Sicily.

Taking care of this army – as small as it may seem in modern terms – was a major undertaking.

The average man eats about four pounds of food a day, and drink about a gallon of water. So for an army of 14,000, William had to supply about 28 tons of food, mostly grain, plus 14,000 gallons of water, without considering more than the barest diet, nor things like beer or wine, commonplaces of the medieval diet. Thus, in a month, William’s 14,000 men required 868 tons of food and over 400,000 gallons of water.

Of course, William’s army also included between 3,000 and 4,000 horses. War horses of between 1300-1500 pounds eat about 24 pounds of feed and fodder each day. In William’s time about half of this would have been grains, mostly barely or spelt, though occasionally oats, while the other half would have been cut hay; green grass could be substituted, but in a 3:1 ratio, which would have meant that the horses would have spent so much their time eating there would have been little time for exercise and training. Of course, each horse also required between 8 and 12 gallons of water, depending upon the weather. So each day, William’s horses required 12-18 tons of grain and as much again of hay, plus 24,000-48,000 gallons of water. In addition, since stabling the horses required a daily supply of 2-4 pounds of fresh straw per animal, to line their stalls, William had to come up with 4-5 tons of that stuff each day. So for his month’s encampment, William’s horses required between 745 and 1,115 tons of feed and fodder, plus 125-150 tons of straw, and between 620,000 and 930,000 gallons of water, figures that make the supply requirements of the men seem minuscule.

Of course not only did William have to supply food and water, he also had to cope with the consequences of large numbers of men and horses consuming food and water. Each day William’s men would each have left about three pounds of feces and perhaps a quart of urine, for a daily output of about 21 tons of more-or-less solids plus perhaps 3,500 gallons of liquids. For the entire month the army was at Dives-sur-mer, this would have amounted to some 650 tons and nearly 110,000 gallons. But, as with rations, those figures pale when compared to the equivalent numbers for horses. A horse produces some 20 pounds of feces and 7.5-8.5 gallons of urine a day. So for the month the army was in camp William had to deal with about 930 tons of horse manure and 480,000-720,00 gallons of urine.

How William managed to dispose of all this sewage is unclear.

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