MENTAL NOTE #42, TACTICAL DISPOSITION 2

MENTAL NOTE #42: The Finest Example of Skill in TACTICAL DISPOSITION, I think, comes from Alexander the Great!

At the Battle of the Hydaspes (located in modern day Pakistan), in 326 BCE, Alexander the Great, would win what some Historians consider, his last major battle; and amazingly, Alexander won this battle using EXTREME, Calculated Use of TACTICAL DISPOSITION.

“Alexander and his army sat across the Hydaspes, facing Porus, each king quite visible to the other. Realizing there might be spies in his camp, Alexander voiced aloud how he could easily wait until the end of the monsoon season before engaging the Indian king in battle. To support his boast he built numerous campfires along his side of the river, marching his men back and forth in formation – all the while searching for a suitable crossing spot. Curiosity drove Porus to initially shadow these movements, finally deciding they were only a diversion and stopped, although he continued to monitor possible crossing locations. In his The Campaigns of Alexander, historian Arrian wrote of this search for a crossing:” (Source: https://www.ancient.eu/article/660/battle-of-hydaspes/ )

Porus, would shadow Alexander on the opposite side of the river, moving a group of troops here, and then there; meanwhile, Alexander was busy secretly moving a considerable amount of troops to a portion of the river where he could cross without detection, and then engage the enemy on his own terms, and at his choice of time.

“Alexander’s answer was by continual movement of his own troops to keep Porus guessing: he split his force into a number of detachments, moving some of them under his own command hither and thither all over the place, destroying enemy possessions and looking for places where the river might be crossed… “

(Source: https://www.ancient.eu/article/660/battle-of-hydaspes/ )

“Porus continued to be hopeful that Alexander would simply give up and leave. Some historians believe Porus was unsure whether or not he could defeat the Macedonians. He would soon have his chance to find out. After a long tedious search, a suitable location to cross was found about eighteen miles from the Macedonian camp at a bend in the river – a heavily wooded area that would be the perfect place to provide cover. It was late evening and a terrible thunderstorm was raging, but Alexander and his army were ready.” (Source: https://www.ancient.eu/article/660/battle-of-hydaspes/ )

Alexander, under the cover of the dark of night, but unfortunately, also with unkind weather conditions, he and his troops made their way across the river. With a few hiccups along the way, Alexander may not have known that the crossing was wider than anticipated, due to a large river island that seemed to look like the opposite bank of the river. And also, the river was deeper in parts, than anticipated. Nevertheless, Alexander and his detachment of troops made it across and surprised Porus and his Indian army. Alexander, when the battle begun, raged on with his warriors, relentlessly.

“In time the elephants tired and their charges grew feebler, and with nothing worse than trumpeting. Taking his chance, Alexander surrounded the lot of them – elephants, horsemen, and all – and then signaled his infantry to lock shields and move up in a solid mass. Most of the Indian cavalry was cut down in the ensuing action; their infantry, too, hard pressed by the Macedonians, suffered terrible losses. Meanwhile, Coenus circled around Porus’ rear and attacked his left flank from behind.  Porus’ army fled straight into the waiting Craterus who had already crossed the river – 12,000 Indians and 80 elephants died to only 1,000 Macedonians.”

(Source: https://www.ancient.eu/article/660/battle-of-hydaspes/ )

Other sources put the death toll higher, at 20,000 dead Indians, and 5,000 taken prisoner in comparison to Macedonian losses of 3,000 men. (Source: https://greatmilitarybattles.com/html/the_battle_of_hydaspes.html )

Diodorus wrote, “Many were slain in their flight, but then Alexander, satisfied with his brilliant victory, ordered the trumpets to sound the recall. Of the Indians, there fell in the battle more than twelve thousand, among whom were the two sons of Porus and his best generals and officers.1

1 Arrian also gives casualty figures (Arrian. 5.18.2): nearly 20,000 foot and 3000 horse. He mentions also Porus’s two sons.” Diodorus Siculus. Diodorus of Sicily in Twelve Volumes with an English Translation by C. H. Oldfather. Vol. 4-8. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, Ltd. 1989.

In my opinion, this must be one of the best examples of a military leader using calculated, adaptive deception, for an advantage of TACTICAL DISPOSITION.

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