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Volume 7376

The Battle of the Pass of the Ancients
by Alan Hanson 

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The Battle of the Pass of the Ancients
by Alan Hanson
There is something sublime about walking the ground of an old battlefield. This is not so of the battles of our century, which have been fought for the most part from a distance with rifles and artillery. They are too impersonal. But in the battles of hundreds of years ago, when antagonists carried the battle ax, the broadsword, or the claymore into hand-to-hand combat, a soldier had to look into the eyes of the man he killed or who killed him. Battles seem such wasteful things, but there is inspiration in knowing that men from time to time held convictions so strong that they were willing to come by the thousands and die that their beliefs might live.

On what field did Americans fight their greatest battle? Historians might debate the significance of the struggles at such places as Yorktown, Gettysburg, Chateau-Thierry, and Iwo Jima. Surely, though, the greatest battle of all on the North American continent has yet to be fought. It will be contested an April day in the year 2430 among the orange groves at the western base of Cajon Pass in what we now call California. (Note: The date given in the magazine version of The Red Hawk was chosen over the date of 2434 given in the book version of The Moon Maid.)

The only known account of this battle, which we will call the Battle of the Pass of the Ancients, comes from the memoirs of Julian 20th, the commander of the American forces on the field that day. His account comes back to us, apparently, through an earlier pre-incarnation of himself. Though the battle will be fought in the future, to make it easier understand in the present day, the events surrounding the battle will be recounted in the past tense.

A Racial Conflict
The Battle of the Pass of the Ancients brought to an end 384 years of racial strife between the descendants of the moon men, who invaded and conquered the earth in 2050, and the descendants of the native Americans who were subjugated at that time. At the same time, the battle brought to a close a feud between the families of Julian and Or-tis that began in 2050 when Julian 5th and Orthis both died during the decisive air battle of the moon invasion.

The moon men, or Kalkars, thoroughly subdued the American people until Julian 9th led the first uprising against their authority in 2122 in present-day Illinois. Over the next 300 years, the Americans slowly forced the Kalkars westward and eastward across the continent. The Kalkars’ ultimate fate on the eastern shore is unknown, but we do know that in about the year 2300, Julian 15th drove the Kalkars across the Mojave Desert, over the mountains and into the central valley of California. There, with only narrow mountain passes to defend, the Kalkars held. At least 20 times in the next 100 years, the Americans went into the valley in force, only to be driven back.

The Trek of the Americans Out of the Desert
The Americans’ final assault on the Kalkars awaited only a strong and imaginative leader. He was to be Julian 20th, who came to power in August 2429 at the age of 20. In January 2430, Julian announced to his people that, following the spring rains, they would move out of the desert to settle in the Kalkar valley. By April the thousand clans that owed allegiance to the house of Julian had gathered at Julian’s camp in the eastern Mojave Desert. Fully 50,000 people, half of them warriors, started the trek, following “the trail the ancients used,” probably remnants of Interstate 40 (see map 1). Julian, reasoning that success depended on hiding their position and strength from the enemy as long as possible, took his people off the trail after four days. To hide their advance, he led them on a difficult march across a stretch of desert and up into the mountains to “a like called Bear” by the American’ slaves (Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains). This placed their camp about 25 miles to the east of the pass of the ancients (Cajon Pass), where the Americans had attempted to enter the valley for a hundred years and where the Kalkars had come to expect them.

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The American Battle Plan
Being greatly outnumbered, Julian knew he needed to draw the Kalkars into a major battle. A decisive victory would leave the Kalkar military in confusion long enough for the Americans to gain a secure base in the valley for further military operations.

Julian’s strategy was to draw the enemy to a battlefield of his choosing, while hiding the strength and location of his own force from the Kalkars. He did this by keeping his main force at the Bear lake camp and sending The Wolf with 1,000 warriors to the pass of the ancients to stage three days of false advances. Julian’s hopes of luring a substantial Kalkar force were realized. American scouts reported Kalkars filling every trail from the south and west heading for the pass. Just as important, no enemy scouts spotted the large American camp at Bear lake.

Once Julian had drawn the Kalkars into the field, he relied on the maneuverability of his warriors and a surprise attack to win the battle (see Map 2). On the evening of the third day of The Wolf’s false attacks, Julian led 20,000 warriors slowly down the mountain trails and into the orange groves in the foothills below Bear lake. Mounting their war horses for the first time in two weeks, this force turned northwest for a 25-mile ride to the Kalkar camp. About 10 miles from the enemy’s position, The Rattlesnake was dispatched in a more westerly direction with 5,000 warriors to attack the Kalkars’ rear. Julian moved on with the main force, intending to attack on the flank while placing himself between the main body of Kalkars and their supplies and reinforcements.

Julian’s plan called for a surprise attack while the enemy slept. The Rattlesnake’s orders were to attack as soon as his force was in position, the sound of the assault being the signal for the forces of Julian and The Wolf to move in. Advancing his force to within a mile of the nearest Kalkar camp fires, Julian anxiously awaited the signal.

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The Armies
Of the force of 25,000 warriors that the Americans brought out of the desert, 4,000 did not engage in the fight. They had been left under the command of The Rock to guard the Bear lake camp. All of the 21,000 who did fight were mounted. The exact number of the Kalkar force is unknown, although there is no doubt it greatly outnumbered the Americans. Julian refers to it as “a great horde.” Most of the Kalkars probably rode mounts to their camp, but many fought on their feet as the American surprise attack prevented them from finding their horses.

Centuries of Kalkar rule resulted in a decline of scientific knowledge to the point that the use of firearms was unknown, and they were not used by either side during the battle. One thousand American warriors were armed with bow and arrows. Other weapons carried by Americans included lance double-edged swords and knives. The Kalkars used the same weapons, only heavier. They also wore iron bonnets and vests of iron on their chests. Choosing not to encumber themselves with the weight of the metal, the Americans carried only a light shield on the left forearm for defense.

The Battlefield
When Julian led his attacking force to the crest of a low ridge during his night advance, he got his first glimpse of the field on which the battle would be fought. Before him stretched a broad valley bathed in moonlight. Orange groves in the near foreground would cover his final advance, and beyond to the northwest was a great open area dotted with dying campfires. The wide-open ground suited the agile Americans over the slow Kalkars, who, with their heavy weapons, would be more effective in a more enclosed arena.

The Action
There was a crisis for the Americans even before the battle started. For some reason never explained, The Rattlesnake was delayed in reaching the rear of the Kalkars. If The Rattlesnake had not been in position by the time the Kalkars began waking, Julian would have been forced to attack from two sides only, giving the Kalkars an avenue to retreat and reorganize. However, just at dawn the war drums of The Rattlesnake sounded and Julian’s forces charged the camp.

Julian deployed his force along a two-mile front in the groves, with the 1,000 archers in front and line after line of lancers and swordsmen behind. As they charged, the bowmen fired at the confused Kalkars. Those who escaped the arrows were trampled beneath the horses of the lancers behind.

The tents of Or-tis were seen ahead, and there quickly developed the battle center. The American advance was slowed as the warriors crowded in upon one another, and some Kalkars were able to mount behind the front lines. The battle soon became a matter of hand-to-hand combat, as the two sides drove each other to-and-fro in a series of broken engagements.

The American strategy at this point turned to fighting in a circular motion around the main body of Kalkars in an effort to close off escape routes. By the end of the day, Julian reported he was back south of Or-tis’ position, having fought all the way around it during the day’s fighting.

Lulls in the conflict occurred as both sides fought to the limit of endurance. The superb physical condition of the Americans proved an advantage. Julian told of hundreds of Kalkars dropping dead in the heat of the day, while only the very young and the very old among the Americans succumbed to fatigue.

Fighting halted at nightfall when friend and foe became indistinguishable. Julian, in keeping with his ultimate goal of exterminating the Kalkars, was unwilling even then to give the Kalkars the opportunity to retire from the field. The clans were formed in a solid ring around the Kalkar position and ordered to hold their position during the night and be ready for battle again at first light. It should be noted here the extreme fatigue the Americans must have been feeling. They had just finished an 18-hour battle and had not slept in 36 hours.

The Retreat of the Kalkars
If the Americans had hoped to get some rest on the battlefield that night, they were denied it by a daring and desperate Kalkar escape march. Toward dawn, Julian reported, the entire body of Kalkars rode out in what he likened to “a great slow moving river” toward the south down the broadening valley. In the middle of the retreat must have been Or-tis, who never was seen during the battle. The Americans cut the Kalkars down by the thousands from the sides and front, but the sheer numbers of the enemy and the fatigue of the Americans allowed thousands more Kalkars to leave the field and flee toward The Capitol.

Julian did not provide casualty figures for either side. However, several days after the battle, he told Bethelda that “thousands” of Americans died. The Kalkar dead surely were much higher. During the battle, Julian describes corpses of warriors and horses so thick that living horses could barely climb over them. Sometimes bodies were stacked so high that they formed barriers that had to be gone around. During the retreat alone, thousands and thousands of Kalkars were hacked down from the edges of the retreating mass. The following day, of the Kalkar dead, Julian could only say that, “their losses must have been tremendous I was sure.

If Julian would not hazard a guess, let us do so. From the account of the battle, let us place the American dead at 3,000 and the Kalkar losses at four times that.

The Aftermath
The Kalkars had an opportunity to salvage a peace with the Americans despite their crushing defeat when they captured Julian himself during their retreat. However, it was a reflection of the strength of the American leadership that their assault on The Capitol went ahead without their top commander. Unable to bargain with Julian, Or-tis ordered him executed, but the American eventually escaped to rejoin his people.

As a captive in the Kalkar camp the day after the battle, Julian judged from overhearing conversations that the defeat of the Kalkars was complete, and they were fleeing toward the coast. In fact, he would confide, “This first victory has been greater than I had dared hope.” The Americans followed up the victory with an immediate assault on the Capitol.

It was to take two more years of hard fighting to drive the last of the Kalkars into the sea, but the fate of the two races had been effectively decided in that epic battle on a fateful April day among the orange blossoms below the pass of the ancients.

—the end—

From Our ERB Online Bibliography
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The Red Hawk

The Moon Maid

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