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LEGIO X FRETENSIS   March 2000 -- Page 3

 

TITUS CANYON MARCH: DEATH VALLEY
- Submitted by Titus Lucretius Aeldred (Douglas A. Unsworth, J.D.)
- Photos by Robert Garbisch

To visit the Legio X photo gallery for this event, please click here.

April, 824 AUC (71 AD):

In the name of our glorious Emperor vespasian and under the command of the noble Military Governor, Flavius Silva, the Legio X Fretensis has been ordered to move against the last stronghold of the Jewish rebels at Masada. In preparation for the attack on Masada, a detachment of the IV Cohort was ordered to make a reconnaissance in force through Titus Canyon (no relation to this writer) to clear the approaches to the rebel fortress. Under the able command of Centurio Marcus Lucius (Robert Garbisch), a heavily armed contingent undertook the dangerous mission, including in its number: Beneficarius, Lucas Cornelius Flavius (Richard Lucas); Auxiliary, Octavius Lucius (Jim Garbisch); Legionary, Titus Lucretius Aeldred (Douglas A. Unsworth, J.D.); and, Signifer, Severius Lucretius Aeldred (David A. Unsworth). The unit was also graced in having the lovely Lady Lydia accompany the expedition as far as the base camp set up at Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley.

Following a simple breakfast of bagels and hot drink, the expedition (excepting only Octavius who was to take cavalry transport and meet the group the following day) departed from our Bay Area home station by mounted caravan in the early morning of April 13 (2000), traveled South for most of the day and proceeded into Death Valley by means of a southern approach, so as to surprise any rebels looking for our approach from the north. This necessitated a slight detour through the mounuains surrounding Death Valley, where we viewed the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns during a short rest in our travels. These huge stone constructions, shaped much like Roman brick bread baking ovens, were made by a people long ago gone and are truly a wonder of that ancient world.

We arrived at our desert campsite two hours before sunset, during a raging dusty storm. Nevertheless, through the sacrifice and efforts of one and all, command and billet tents were soon set up and baggage unpacked. With others so occupied, Severius dug a protecting trench around the camp perimeter and proceeded to guard it well with his sling and well placed stones hurled to discourage any rebel spies that might stray too close to our encampment. In recognition of the efforts of his troops, Centurio Marcus hosted all to an excellent dinner at the Stovepipe Wells Village caravansary.

The following day was given over to reconnaissance of the area. Though the wind had died down, local thunderstorms put on fabulous light shows and cooled the temperature to a comfortable 80 degrees, a good omen for the 20-mile reconnaissance march to take place the following day.

After a traditional breakfast of cold oatmeal with raisins and/or banana (a treat), water and Roman hardtack, the contingent moved out to view the local mining works and later to make observations of the entirety of Death Valley from the 5000 foot height from Dante's View. A visit was also made to the oasis at Furnace Creek, followed by a tour of Scotty's Castle and weapons practice on the lip of Ubehebe Crater, an extinct (?) volcano. Much attention was given to our group of Roman soldiers throughout the day by the native populations as we demonstrated the might and majesty of Imperial Rome.

Octavius arrived and joined us for dinner that night, a hearty Roman beef stew served with fresh bread and sour wine, an excellent repast. We were now fully manned and ready for adventure and our march through Titus Canyon. Signifer, Severius mentioned that Octavius is the largest warrior (having the largest appetite) that he has ever seen. References to Legio X Fretensis as "Titus' mules" must certainly have had Octavius in mind!

Centurio Marcus had the troops up before Apollo's sun chariot had been driven above the horizon. Following a quick check of equipment, the unit proceeded to the East approach of Titus Canyon. Before beginning the march, a visit was made to the ghost town of Rhyolite. They still mine gold nearby, which will do much toward satisfying the appetite of the Senate once the treasures are transported back to Rome.

Proceeding up the trail toward Titus Canyon, we stopped in the field for a breakfast of poppy-seed cakes, oranges and water. Beneficarius Lucas then escorted the brave Lady Lydia, who had come to encourage the troops on the eve of their dangerous mission, back to the base camp. The remainder of the IV Cohort strapped on scutum and gladius, hoisted our pole packs and proceeded to march up toward the East gate of Titus Canyon. The climb to the pass (5000 foot plus) was long and dry but made by all in excellent spirits. Some problems with equipment were encountered but soon remedied though field expedients.

Titus Canyon is a true natural wonder. The magnificent view of the mountains and canyons, looking like a giant labyrinth made of precious stone (emerald greens, ruby reds, topaz browns and yellows) was well worth the effort of marching around in our heavy lorica segmentata, helmet and full field pole pack. The walls of the canyon, in places only as wide as a pilum, rise well over a thousand feet above the canyon floor. Our legions will have to be on constant alert for ambush as they march hereafter onto Masada.

We lunched on fresh dates, raisins, olives, bagels and sour wine at the summit, half way through to our final destination at the West end of Titus Canyon. However, the fates were not to be denied and soon misfortune struck when the contingent took casualties. The rebels, fearing to meet us in open battle, resorted to ambush and booby trap. Among the injured was this writer, who suffered wounds to his right ankle and knee within sight of the mountain plateau of Masada.

Unable to keep up with the march, this writer offered to fall upon his sword, rather than to risk capture by the enemy. However, our noble Centurio Marcus would not abandon any of his troops. Arrangement was made to evacuate the wounded, guarded by our Signifer, Severius. Thereupon, the remainder of the contingent continued with the march and cleared Titus Canyon of all rebels by the time they had exited the canyon at dusk - mission accomplished!

AVE ROMA IMMORTALIS!

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