743 - 750
THE WAR-PLANS OF GOSSCALT
The Great Continental War began with a crushing surprise attack by Gosscalt, the political and military leader of the Basquecs on the Atlantean fortress of Atlaniphis in the extreme south-east of Manralia. Gosscalt had planned his invasion meticulously and over many years. More or less since he had come to power in Basquecieh twenty years earlier, Gosscalt had aimed to defeat Atlantis, and place Basquecieh in her pre-eminent position. Almost certainly he did not intend to conquer the whole of the Atlantean Empire: rather, he aimed to invade its south-eastern Provinces and occupy Manralia, Vulcanieh, and some of the Provinces north of the river Gestes, ultimately capturing Cennatlantis by the second year of the war. He believed this would force the Atlanteans to ask for terms, as a result of which he would deprive her of all the occupied Provinces, perhaps including Cennatlantis. After he had digested all this, he might well declare war on Atlantis again some years later, and seize more territory.
He knew that he could not do this just with the Basquec Army. He intended that his principal ally would be Ughrieh. During the 15 years prior to the outbreak of the war, he wooed Emperor Yrultak of the Ughans, promising to make sure that they would gain large swathes of territory east and west of the Gestes and in Vulcanieh, if they would join him in his campaign against the Atlanteans. Later he took over all the little states between his borders and Ughrieh’s, and secretly sent an army into Ughrieh to join in the attacks against Atlantis.
His armies were now partly armed with rifles, and he was sure that this, together with his surprise attack, and clever strategic plans would enable him initially to hurl the Atlanteans out of Vulcanieh, back to the Gestes. He lined up one army, totalling 60000 men in Razira, to attack the strong Atlantean forts in the Raziris mountains. These would be aided by a huge strategic flanking attack, using 90000 men, across the rivers Gvondhat and Baccuel round the eastern flank of the main Atlantean defences in the mountains. The Atlanteans would be crushed between the two forces. These Armies would be flanked in the north by another small army, which would march on Vulcantil, and north to the river Thawril. The Basquecs would then exploit northwards across the river Yallodairu to the Gestes.
Gosscalt intended to actually begin the war, however, by an all-out attack on the strategically important fortress of Atlaniphis, which guarded the estuary of the river Gairase, the boundary between the Provinces of Vulcanieh and Manralia, and indeed the main route into Manralia itself. This would occur at the same time as the flanking army, mentioned above, outflanked the Raziris Mountains. Once Atlaniphis had fallen, 120000 men would invade Manralia. At the same time, up to 60000 men would cross the Gairase and move north and west, acting as a left wing to the main forces, and then moving west across the river Gayvot to conquer the mountainous lands of the Jutes. The Ughans, meanwhile, would move down to the Gestes, and generally occupy the attentions of the Atlanteans in Dravidieh. A joint crossing of that river would follow, once the main Basquec armies had reached it from Vulcanieh. Gosscalt was aware that there existed an alliance between Atlantis and Rabarrieh, and he therefore had 2 armies (120000) men on the river Gosal, and another 2 armies in the south, both to remain on the defensive to begin with.
Tactically, Gosscalt had inculcated speed of manoeuvre and pursuit against the enemy. Whole units were now armed with rifles, usually breech-loaders, and they were to pin the enemy, whilst other units, including cavalry, worked round their flanks. Massed cannon would bombard them at close range, while heavy cavalry would wait to give the coup de grace. Armies were usually about 60000 strong, divided into two corps, then divisions and so on downwards.
It was only since the later 730s that the Atlanteans began to take seriously the threat of a Basquec attack. But attempts to improve the defences were much too little and too late. The total size of the Imperial Atlantean army in 732 as 550000, of which 95000 were internal security Forces. In the south, there were 41/2 armies (108000 men) in Vulcanieh, 5 Armies (120000) in Dravidieh, and 2 Armies (48000) in Manralia. Following Basquecieh’s successful war against Rabarrieh, and Gosscalt’s increasing use of warlike threats against his neighbours, the overall armed forces were gradually increased to 650000 by 743, of which only 70000 were now Internal Forces. The Armies in Vulcanieh grew slightly to 120000, and in Manralia to 72000. But the problem was that Atlantis had to have defensive forces ready all round the perimeter of her Empire, which meant it was very easy for one particular enemy to concentrate overwhelming offensive forces in one or two particular places on the circumference. Thus the Basquecs had 150000 men to the south of the Raziris mountains, opposing 72000 Atlanteans there; and 72000 defending the whole of the southern Manralian border, against 120000 Basquecs concentrated opposite Atlaniphis.
The Atlanteans had made some attempt to increase the production of muskets and rifles, but whereas by 743 the Basquecs had whole units armed with breech-loading rifled handguns, and muzzle or breech-loading rifled cannon, the Atlanteans, having experimented with, and rejected muzzle-loading rifles, were only beginning to produce and arm their forces with breech-loading rifles. Their cannon were still nearly all muzzle-loaders, though quite a few were now rifled.
Finally, quite vigorous attempts were made to prepare and update forts and defensive positions, especially in the Raziris Mountains, in the highlands in Dravidieh, and most significantly, as far as events in the coming war were concerned, in the areas around Cennatlantis.
THE BATTLE OF ZHADVECH AND THE BASQUEC CONQUEST OF VULCANIEH
On 22nd July, 743, Basquec forces attacked the Atlantean fortress of Atlaniphis in south-eastern Manralia, beginning the Great Continental War. At the same time, 60000 Basquecs demonstrated against the strong Atlantean positions in the Raziris mountains, while 60000 more marched unseen round the eastern flank of those heights, across the rivers Gvondhat, Baccuel and Vulcan. 30000 more protected their right flank, and attacked a smaller number of the enemy in Vulcantil. Overwhelmed by Basquec firepower, and a sweeping movement by superior Basquec cavalry round to their rear, the Atlanteans here were crushed, and over the next month were chased headlong back to Versciun in the north and to Faiddir, and ultimately the river Gestes to the west. In the mountains, small Basquec forces infiltrated themselves into the wood-cloaked slopes of the eastern heights, and took Snarun. The main Atlantean forces were to the south, between Gedvoxis and Aggorpand, as well as about Zhadvech. They kept the Basquecs in front at bay with great difficulty, being constantly outranged and overwhelmed by their rifle-fire. As news of the flanking Basquec force reached it, the Zhadvech Army of about 25000 men disentangled itself with difficulty from the Basquecs to the south, turned north – and was attacked on August 3rd by 60000 men. It was comprehensively smashed at this Battle of Zhadvech and the Basquecs pressed on south-westwards. Now the Atlanteans in the southern mountains took fright, and most moved off to confront this threat to their rear. In a series of poorly co-ordinated attacks on the enemy, they were all beaten, and their remnants retreated to Blouth and then Faibaddo. The remaining Atlantean forts in the mountains were now bypassed and besieged later at leisure. Of 60000 Atlantean defenders of the mountains, 19000 had become casualties, 12000 prisoners, and just 24000 escaped back to the river Gestes.
So by the second week in August, the Atlantean defenders of Vulcanieh had effectively been eliminated. There followed a period of exploitation by the victors, as they fanned out across the Province, and made their way north to the river Gestes, mostly following the road through Faiddir. At the same time a force of 30000 crossed the Gairase near Atlaniphis, and, as planned, exploited to Ceriultis, Grolodairo, and then west to Ophinoutho and the river Gayvot. The first Basquecs reached the river Vulcan by the beginning of September, where south of Vulcanipand, they encountered the first fresh organised enemy defences. After some tough fighting, the Basquecs won, and gradually collected all their armies opposite the powerful fortress of Vulcanipand, on the north bank of the Gestes.
THE SECOND BATTLE OF ATLANIPHIS AND THE DEFEAT OF THE ATLANTEANS IN MANRALIA
The Basquec attack on Atlaniphis was not wholly unexpected by its Atlantean defenders, who had seen the Basquecs collecting to the south for weeks. However the suddenness of it did take them by surprise, as did the overwhelming numbers of the attackers, and their superiority in weaponry. The fort had been updated in the 660s to withstand a siege by non-rifled cannon, and strengthened by some outlying works in the 710s and late 730s. But the Basquec rifled cannon could fire on it from 2 to 3 miles, rather than 1 to 1 1/2 miles, as had been foreseen by its designers. At the same time, the Basquec rifles were able to crush the defenders in the outlying works and trenches, Quickly the fort was cut off and being pulverised. Mobile forces swept past it, westwards into Manralia, and eastwards across the Gairase and into Vulcanieh. Cut off, the Atlantean defenders died bravely, making several forlorn sorties, which were mown down by Basquec riflemen. The city was stormed on August 11th, and captured the next day. Thus ended the Second Battle of Atlaniphis, with casualties of 8000 and prisoners of 10000 Atlanteans.
Thereafter the two Basquec Armies, commanded by one of Gosscalt’s best generals, Vacchic (or "Vagic", in Atlantean transliteration) moved 200 miles north as far as the city and fortress of Noehtens on the Helvengio, and west to the fortress of Nostohs. The former, easily reinforced by sea, held up the Basquecs for the rest of the year, but the latter, after a brief resistance, was scandalously abandoned by its commander. Basquec forces then spread out widely, and moving north-westwards, crossed the river Tophyens, and were only finally halted on the river Trothyum by Atlantean forces from the west of the country (some 30000 men). The Basquecs had thus succeeded in overrunning over half of the Province, for the loss of only some 10000 men. But the original 120000 men, concentrated before Atlaniphis, were now scattered over hundreds of miles throughout the Province. So, for example, in November, there were 50000 men spread out over 100 miles on the river Trothyum, 25000 around Noutens, 15000 in the south of the Province, and the rest in the rear.
UGHRIEH AND RABARRIEH JOIN THE WIDENING CONFLICT
At the time when Gosscalt declared war on Atlantis, there was already a sizeable Basquec Army in Ughrieh, to the east of the Atlantean fortress of Borepande. So Ughrieh did not delay long in joining her ally in war against Atlantis – she declared war on August 1st. The Ughan Army, though numerous, was far less well-organised than the Basquecs, and had considerably fewer modern weapons – in that respect, it was about at the same level as Atlantis. The frontier with Atlantis stretched some 400 miles along the river Gestes; it lay some 30 miles to the east of the river for most of the distance, although south of the river Galos, it bordered its eastern bank. Its armies, which were divided into corps of about 28000 men, and then into smaller units, like the Basquecs and Atlanteans, were grouped in three main areas opposite the Atlanteans. To the east of Borepande lay two corps, plus the Basquec Army; Around Bradghus, to the east of Pueggathis, were three corps; and spread further north were two more corps, making about 200000 soldiers. About eight corps protected the northern and eastern frontiers. The Atlanteans had five frontier armies (110000) in Dravidieh along the same front.
The Ughans began by occupying the Atlantean strip of territory on the east bank of the Gestes, to which the Atlanteans made little serious resistance. They had prepared plans for a war with the Ughans for years, and their intention was initially to stay on the defensive on the west of the Gestes, basing themselves on the strong fortress, which dotted the riverbank – from north to south, Fembepand, Dravipand, Pueggathis, Atlanipand, Borepande, with the hill defences as a fall-back position to the rear – Dravidos, Dravizzi and Atlandravizzi. The strategy worked for the rest of the year, and the Ughans’ attempts to besiege and take Pueggathis and Borepande, in particular, failed with very heavy losses.
Rabarrieh was very keen to get her revenge on Basquecieh, after her defeat in the war in the 730s. So, somewhat rashly, her king, Basalzi Alitheeri, declared war on Basquecieh only two days after the latter country attacked Atlaniphis. Her army had been much improved and increased in size over the previous few years of peace. Traditionally she used light infantry and fast-moving light cavalry to harass her enemies, while her main armies tended to be less reliable, and lacked discipline and organisation. Following her defeat by the Basquecs, many old commanders were sacked, and she sought to create a stronger, better-motivated main army. In fact she carried this too far, and insisted that nearly all infantry must march in strictly-drilled formations, shoulder to shoulder, upright at all times. As a result, her forces were at first mown down by the Basquecs, who made much greater use of skirmishers, and whose breech-loaders allowed the infantry to fire from a prone position. Rabarrieh had experienced the effects of rifled guns in the war, and by 743 had equipped a proportion of her infantry with muzzle-loading rifles, many sold to her by Atlantis, after she decided she needed breech-loaders.
As a result of gains made during her first war with Rabarrieh, the border with Rabarrieh lay close to the mouth of the river Gosal in the north. Basquecieh had expected Rabarrieh to turn against her, and stayed carefully on the defensive at first. After October, she made several attempts to take the Siphiyans Ugholix, a high range of hills, which dominated the estuary of the Gosal on its western bank, as well as the great fort on the river itself – but these failed. However, various attacks by the Rabarrans here, and further south along the long border, were beaten back with considerable loss to the attackers. Atlantis was quite closely involved in the attacks near the Gosal, as just to the west of the Siphiyans mountains, and also to the south of the Gosal estuary, lay two Atlantean colonies, the northern one including the great port and naval base of Siphiya. She had one army of 30000 to defend these colonies, plus her southern fleet, and some of these troops joined the Rabarrans in a defensive role against the Basquecs.To read the next part of this history, click on (2) 744