THE ATTEMPT TO RELIEVE CENNATLANTIS FROM THE NORTH,
OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 590
During the summer of 590, the Republicans attempted to extend their area of control around the besieged city of Cennatlantis, both southwards across the Cresslepp, and eastwards to Snattarona and Gilliso. However, the Imperialists were too strong to be shifted from the marshy area between the rivers Cresslepp and Bourtonna, and they seized and entrenched themselves on the Snattarona hills while the Republicans were off to the west in July, resisting two assaults by Bourbronna in August and September. These were serious setbacks for the Republicans, who were now very much hemmed in, defending the siege of Cennatlantis. Bourbronna strained every sinew to force the city to surrender, using bombardment, starvation and attempted treachery, all to no avail. His overall strength was still considerably lower than the Imperialists’, and he rightly concluded that he had to remain on the defensive after November, until Cennatlantis could be taken. Nevertheless, harsh words passed between Bourbronna and the republican leadership, who chided him for not advancing further, yet refused to find any more troops for him.
The Imperialists determined to push on with another attempt to crush Bourbronna and relieve Cennatlantis. Lingon took over leadership of the next campaign, which had already been planned as an attack from the north. Lingon himself, along with General Yrixan would lead 45000 men from Gilliso on Rundes, supported by a force of 30000 men, led by General Zuaippo on Lake Oncia, which would land between the southern arms of the lake, and move on Rundes from the north. (The Imperialists still had complete naval control of all the Chalcran lakes). Another 15000 men under Gaivlin would move down the north side of Lake Trannolla as a feint, to attract the attention of the Imperialists to the south. Having stormed and seized Rundes, the overwhelmingly strong Imperialist armies would then march on Cennatlantis on both banks of the Dodolla, keeping in close contact by the bridge at Rundes, and knocking aside any Republican challenges as they met them.
The plan was quite well-conceived, and more by luck than anything else,Bourbronna was indeed deceived at the beginning by Gaivlin’s diversionary advance in the south. However, there was still considerable danger in separating the two main Imperialist armies before they joined at Rundes, in the face of a brilliant general like Bourbronna. The Republican forces were initially split between Bourbronna in the hills east of Cennatlantis, with 30000 men, Ventel in the south, behind the Dodolla, with 25000, and Pouton in Rundes and to the NE and NW, with 15000. On October 26th, Bourbronna moved south with most of his army, to assist Pouton in crushing what he believed was the main Imperialist attack around Lake Trannolla. It has never been fully explained why Bourbronna harboured this misconception, but it nearly caused a disaster to the Republicans. Only his own strategical brilliance rescued them later. Over the next two days, Zuaippo’s army began landing from Lake Oncia, but it took some time for a force of this time to cross the lake and disembark, and it lay at the mercy of a strong Republican counterattack from Rundes for some considerable time. Lingon had forseen this, but did not want to attract Ventel’s attention to the east side of the river, and his own advance via Gilliso, in case this undeceived Bourbronna about the feint offensive by Gaivlin in the south. Certainly Pouton, with his small force, felt helpless, and demanded help from Bourbronna. Meanwhile he put most of his army within the fairly weak defences of Rundes, with cavalry on the east bank to watch Lingon, and a small force in a defensive position south of Zuaippo’s army.
By the 1st November Bourbronna was at last beginning to realise that he was being led up a blind alley in the south. He turned himself round, and marched back to confront Lingon, ordering Ventel to hold tight in Rundes at all costs. He also finally decided that he needed reinforcements for Ventel on the western side of the river, and ordered Pouton to march north at all speed to join Ventel, with 20000 men. Bourbronna’s march back north was a nightmare in rainy and foggy weather, and by the time Lingon’s army came into sight, on November 4th, the Imperialists had already blockaded the east side of Rundes. To the west, Zuaippo had finally finished landing and got his army into shape by 1st November, and moved, with 20000 men, against Ventel’s blocking force of just about 7500. A keenly fought battle in a thunderstorm on November 2nd went against the Republicans, despite their carefully entrenched position, and they retreated, initially, towards Rundes. Ventel, however, now learning of the reinforcements belatedly coming from the south, decided that he did not want to be trapped inside Rundes with his whole army, and deliberately ordered this force, plus another 5000 to move to one side, in the direction of Failrunn. This left about 5000 (including the garrison) in Rundes.
On November 5th, Bourbronna hurled his army piecemeal against Lingon, 25000 against 35000. In the First Battle of Rundes, Bourbronna’s army was unable to make much impression on the Imperialists, and he broke off the fight fairly early on. News now reached him that Zuaippo’s forces had blockaded Rundes on the west bank of the Dodolla on the 4th. He now decided he must concentrate all his forces and defeat the two separated prongs of the enemy army, while they were still separated by Rundes and the Dodolla. He turned round and marched his weary army back to Cennatlantis and across the river by the northern siege-lines. Zuaippo, meanwhile, having blockaded Rundes, was unwilling to advance much further until he had direct communications with Lingon. He did, though, sent a force of 15000 trailing vaguely in the footsteps of Ventel, towards Failrunn. Lingon should have moved speedily south on Cennatlantis, chasing Bourbronna, and relieving the city from the east. He tried to impress this on Yrixan, who actually led the army, but Yrixan insisted that Rundes had to be taken first. Thus, on November 5th and 6th, there was the remarkable sight of two Imperialist armies, numbering at least 50000, frozen (almost literally because of the icy weather) in position by Rundes, which was held by no more than 5000 men. During this time, three different Republican armies marched and manoeuvred at all speed to defeat them. Pouton had joined Ventel’s small force at Failrunn on November 4th, and egged on by Bourbronna near Cennatlantis, on November 6th they attacked the unsuspecting Imperialist army some miles to the east. With 30000 against 15000, the Battle of Failrunn was an overwhelming Republican victory. Over 10000 of the Imperialists were casualties or prisoners, and the rest retreated north up the western bank of Lake Oncia, towards Noccana.
On November 7th, all the Republican forces, led by Bourbronna, moved on Rundes up the Dodolla. Now Rundes fell to the Imperialists after an assault on November 6th, incidentally forcing the Republican navy out on to the lake, and Lingon immediately set his army in motion down the east of the Dodolla on Cennatlantis. He had of course left it too late, and now was just the wrong moment to divide up the Imperialist forces. On November 8th, Bourbronna’s army of 50000 smashed Zuaippo’s 35000 (which included a few troops from Lingon's army) at the Second Battle of Rundes. Losing 11000 men, Zuaippo retreated hastily northwards back to his landing-place on Lake Oncia.
During this time, Lingon had been moving on Cennatlantis, and he reached the Republican besieging forces on the east bank on November 9th, by which time the news was reaching him of the defeat of all the Imperialist forces on the west bank. He hurriedly forced his way through the besieging lines, offloaded a few men and supplies to the besieged Imperialists, and then, next day, started to retreat northwards again. He fully expected Bourbronna to force his way into Rundes and cut off his retreat. In fact Bourbronna assumed that Lingon would be settling in the Cennatlantis area, and directed his own army back down there, leaving Ventel and Pouton to chase off the defeated enemy, and retake Rundes, which was achieved by November 11th. As a result, he himself failed to intercept Lingon. Nevertheless, Lingon, learning, as he approached it on November 11th, that Rundes had fallen, decided not to chance his arm against the victorious Republicans there, and veered off eastwards across the hills towards Gilliso. Thus the campaign petered out, and was notched up by the Republicans as yet another successful defence of the siege of Cennatlantis.
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