Thursday, January 15, 2009

Prologue II
The Final Battle
The Land of Cumorah, 385 AD

With that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them (Morm. 6:7).

The four-year truce had ended. The time had passed all too quickly. The chief captains were meeting to finalize their strategy in preparation for the expected battle. Captain Shem had just reported on his reconnaissance of the main river valley to the south of the foothills. There were two large encampments of the enemy. Each contained about 30,000 men and more were arriving each day. It would not be long now.
The old man stood up before the assembled captains and reviewed their battle plan. There were twenty-three captains and each had command of ten thousand people. This was an unusual situation so they had combined everyone, men, women and older children into each contingent. The babies and younger children would be under the care of some of the older women in a protected area in the north valley. The rest of the women and the older children would support the men in battle by supplying them with stones, arrows and other necessities, and helping with the wounded.
“You all remember our basic plan. We will make our initial stand along the crest of the south foothills. There we will have the uphill advantage. That should give us a two to one advantage over their troops. Moroni’s ten thousand will defend the east end, with each of your groups spaced out in order to the west. Captain Josh and his ten thousand will defend the west end. These end positions will be crucial so be prepared to assist them if they are overwhelmed.”
“We’ll start out from our high position using slings and stones to strike them at a distance, before they can even reach us with their slings. Then we’ll bring in the archers. Hopefully we can stop them with that. If not then we’ll have to be prepared for hand-to-hand combat, but their numbers should be substantially reduced by the time they reach the top. My only fear is that they will have so great a number that they will be able to outflank us. If that happens, we’ll be forced to retreat to protect our rear lines.”
“Captain Gilgal would you review the retreat strategy with the group please?”
“Of course. Upon hearing the retreat signal the women and children will begin the retreat across the valley to the northeast. The men will slowly retreat, fighting as they go. This will give the women and children a head start. When the second retreat signal is sounded the men will start a hurried retreat maintaining an orderly front so that no one is isolated and left behind. Each group will start fires in the grass and underbrush as they retreat to delay the enemy, unless the wind is blowing toward the direction of our retreat. After crossing the valley, we will take up positions on the ridge dividing the west and east valleys. That is a much shorter ridge and our forces will be much more concentrated, giving us a greater advantage, unless we have lost a substantial number of men. The women and children will continue on and take refuge in the east valley. Moroni’s group will again defend the southeast end of the ridge, and Captain Josh and his group the northwest end.”
The old man nodded his approval, and then called on Captain Cumenihah to report on the logistics.
“We have been stockpiling stones and weapons at strategic places along both ridges and have a months supply of food stored in the east valley. We have a double supply of slings and swords to replace any that might be lost or broken. There are periodic brush piles places all along the south foothills to be lit in case of retreat. We have gathered a large supply of herbs to treat any wounded or sick.
So they prepared and waited, day after day. And then before they knew it, the dreaded day had arrived! The sentries reported that the massed enemy hoards had left the river valley and were moving towards the south hills—the hills that separated their refuge from the outside world. The signal was sounded and everyone gathered their weapons and rushed toward their positions on the ridge overlooking the river. By the time they were all in position, the enemy was half way up the south slope. Even though they had been warned, the vastness of the approaching army amazed them. Like a plague of locust covering a field they advanced upward. Now they could hear their savage shouts and the shrill sound of their “death whistles”. Many of them were naked except for a lambskin around their groin and they had painted themselves with blood. The defenders were struck with horror, with the fearful certainty of death. Most had lost hope, but were ready to struggle in defense of their lives. There was nowhere else to run. This would be their last stand—live or die.
When the enemy was within a hundred yards the signal was given and the men started hurling stones out onto the advancing front with their slings. They were quite effective and many of the enemy’s frontline were killed or wounded. But it seemed that there was a thousand ready to replace each of their fallen comrades. With each round they were getting closer and closer. Now they were within bow range and both sides started showering arrows upon the opposing side. The enemy wasn’t as effective as the defenders due to the uphill disadvantage, but everyone seemed to sense that they definitely had the momentum. They weren’t giving ground and were slowly inching upward.
After an hour the enemy had outflanked the west line and started swarming over the ridge. The signal was given and the women and children started the retreat down the hills and across the valley where they would cross the northeast hills and take refuge in the east valley. The men were fighting hand-to-hand combat now and clearly being overwhelmed. The second signal was given and the men started to retreat although it wasn’t as orderly as the old man had hoped. Many had already broken and started to run before the signal was given. They had hoped to slow the enemy with fire as they retreated, but the wind was contrary and from the south that day, so they didn’t start the fires.
The defenders were barely ahead of the advancing enemy and those that were weary or weak were killed before they could descend the ridge and cross the valley. The remainder regrouped on the ridge of the northeast hills and took up their positions. A quick count indicated that they had already lost a third of their men. But they were blessed with an hour’s respite. The defender’s huts and villages distracted the enemy. They stopped to loot and burn them before resuming the chase.
The brief rest didn’t last long. The enemy was soon storming the defenders positions on the northeast ridge. Here the battle was fiercer. It was a shorter distance to defend between the mountain and the lake and so the defenders weren’t stretched as thin and were able to concentrate their forces. However the enemy had new troops arriving constantly to replace the battle-worn warriors, while the defenders had no such advantage. Finally the enemy formed a wedge of shielded warriors that succeeded in breaking through the center of the ridge and dividing the defenders into two groups. From that point on it was a lost cause. The weary defenders were no match in fighting the fresh enemy warriors on even ground and were systematically destroyed. Then the enemy hoards swarmed over the ridge and into the protected north valley. Like wolves after lambs they attacked the women and children committing all the atrocities of countless conquering armies before them. They had been instructed to spare no one. It was all over before sundown. When it was too dark to kill anymore, the enemy gathered the plunder and returned to their camps along the south river.
The old man had been wounded and left unconscious near his position on the ridge. The enemy was eager to get down into the valley and find what plunder awaited there and passed him by. Sometime during the night he regained consciousness. In the meager light of a quarter moon he could see the dead all around him. He knew it was over! He slowly made his way along the ridge and then began to climb the mountain. He climbed for an hour until his strength gave out and he lost consciousness again.
He awoke at daybreak. He had lost a lot of blood but the head-wound wasn’t life threatening. He bound it up as best he could and continued his climb up the mountain. He knew the enemy would return again today looking for any survivors. Suddenly he heard voices above him. Startled he crawled into some nearby brush. There were two or three of them whispering to each other. Then he recognized Moroni’s voice. What a relief! He rushed up the slope and found them resting behind a large rock. They were as startled to see him, as he had been to hear them.
Moroni’s contingent had been defending the ridge where it abutted against the mountain. When the enemy had broken through, they had been forced higher and higher up the slope. Most of his group had been killed, but he and three of his men had escaped up the mountain as night fell.
Now they all climbed the mountain to where they could get a good view of the whole area. Everywhere they looked they could see the signs of destruction—the burned villages—the dead bodies strewn over the landscape—the burned fields and forests. The enemy was starting to come back into the main valley in small groups. Now they were sorting through the ruins of the villages but soon they would be looking for survivors.
They came across another group of survivors who had also climbed the mountain. There were 19 of them. They had come up from the far end of the north valley where they had spent the night hiding in the forest. They said that several hundred men and women had escaped to the south along the seashore and around the east end of the mountain.
As they solemnly sat surveying the scene, the old man broke into a prophetic lamentation:
O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen. But behold, ye are fallen, and I mourn your loss. O ye fair sons and daughters, ye fathers and mothers, ye husbands and wives, ye fair ones, how is it that ye could have fallen! But behold, ye are gone, and my sorrows cannot bring your return….O that ye had repented before this great destruction had come upon you. But behold, ye are gone, and the Father, yea, the Eternal Father of heaven, knoweth your state; and he doeth with you according to his justice and mercy.
Some time later they were discovered by enemy patrols. All were killed except Moroni who was miraculously able to escape. He recovered the bundle of plates his father had entrusted into his care and spent the next thirty six years traveling northward--wandering alone over the vast expanses of North America--constantly on guard against the enemy he knew would kill him on sight.
The old man didn’t win the final battle. But he did win the historian’s war. All that we know about that culture comes through the eyes, the mind and the writings of the old prophet, Mormon, so in this case, at least, history was not the propaganda of the victors.

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