Question: What is known about battle tactics in Book of Mormon?

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Question: What is known about battle tactics in Book of Mormon?

The clash of melee soldiers described in the Book of Mormon alternated between relatively bloodless and elite versus elite combat

Miriam Webster’s dictionary defines tactics as “the science and art of disposing and maneuvering forces in combat.” [1] Nephite tactics were the culmination of their [[../Strategy|strategy]] and resulted in combat determined largely through shock battle. [2] William Hamblin noted that

Battles frequently began with an exchange of missiles to wound and demoralize the enemy. Only when the missiles were exhausted did hand to hand combat occur. The battle described in Alma 49 offers a good description of archery duels preceding hand to hand melees. When panic began to spread in the ranks, a complete collapse could be sudden and devastating. The death of the king or commander often led to the complete collapse of an army, as happened in Alma 49:25. Casualties occurred most during the flight and pursuit after the disintegration of the main units. Battles in the Book of Mormon often end with descriptions of just such routs, flights, and destructions of armies (see Alma 52:26–36; 62:31, 38). [3]

The clash of melee soldiers described in the Book of Mormon alternated between relatively bloodless and elite versus elite combat in Mosiah 19:14-15, 20:24-25 and Alma 2:29-33. But verses such as Mosiah 20:10-11, Alma 43: 43-44, Alma 52:33-34 and 3 Nephi 4:11 suggest a bloody and vicious scrum with combat falling upon the leaders and masses alike. [4] In a letter to Moroni, Helaman recorded what would be the standard tactical goal. He said that “we were desirous… to fall upon them in their rear, and thus bring them up in the rear at the same time they were met in the front” (Alma 56:23).

Command and control was affected through battle standards (Alma 46:21). [5] This system was effective enough to both end and restart the melee described in the Alma 43-44.


Notes

  1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tactics (Accessed August 22, 2009).
  2. For more discussion, see wikipedia article on "shock tactics".
  3. William Hamblin, "The Importance of Warfare in Book of Mormon Studies," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B. Reynolds, (Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1997), xxx. ISBN 093489325X ISBN 0934893187 ISBN 0884944697. off-site GL direct link
  4. See this preliminary research for more: http://mormonwar.blogspot.com/2009/02/homeric-warfare.html
  5. Compare with David A. Freidel, “Maya Warfare, Myth and Reality” Cal State East Bay University, Yuxana papers. (Accessed February 20th 2008).