Julius Caesar

and the Gauls

Vercingetorix, the young chief of the Averni tribe, organised Gaulish resistance to Roman occupation and became a national legend. He took up his last stand at the siege of Alesia, where the Gauls were defeated by Julius Caesar's Roman forces. Six years later the proud warrior was paraded through the streets of Rome and publicly executed.

According to Plutarch's account, Vercingetorix donned his finest armour and rode out through the town to the enemy lines where Caesar waited for him. He leapt from his horse, stripped off his armour, and sat silently at Caesar's feet, until he was taken away as a prisoner. The actual surrender was far from the account enshrined in legend.

I embarked on this war in the name of freedom for all the Gauls.  Vercingetorix to Caesar

In 52 BC, Vercingetorix assumed supreme command over all the tribes of Gaul and was proclaimed king by his supporters. The sheer ambition of the head of the Averni had alarmed many established tribal leaders, who feared that their own influence would decline if he came to power. From time to time his opponents tried to edge him out into the political wilderness. But the riposte from Vercingetorix was convincing. Who, he asked his compatriots, could possibly benefit from these internecine struggles? Wasn't there a far more pressing task at hand - to liberate Gaul from the Roman invaders? They should unite together to fight Julius Caesar.


The Gauls believed that the Roman invasion of their homeland in 58 BC had been unlawful and ordered on the flimsiest of pretests. Caesar claimed that the migration of a few Germanic and Celtic tribes, on the lookout for new places to settle, constituted a threat to the Roman provinces in northern Italy and southern France.

In his account of the invasion, On The Gallic War, Caesar painted a convincing - if inaccurate - picture of the occupation as a pre-emptive defensive measure to protect the security of the Empire. But this was merely a pretext. In fact, he badly needed to secure some military victories and build up a force of loyal legionaries around him so that he could pursue his real aim - ascendancy over his rivals in Rome. The war had been raging for six years when Vercingetorix command. The Gauls' only hope against the Roman legionslay in a concerted action. By this time Caesar, a brilliant field commander and military planner, had already inflicted several defeats. Caesar even claimed, although this may well  have been Roman propaganda, to have discovered that the Averni tortured insubordinate Gauls and used violent deterrents, such as cutting off the ears of disloyal foot-soldiers.


By 52 BC Vercingetorix had completed his preparations for a major counteroffensive. The Romans now faced an effective and highly motivated army. To stop the invaders from replenishing supplies, the Gauls adopted a scorched earth policy, razing their own villages and farmsteads to the ground. Even setbacks such as the capture of the key city of Avaricum by the Romans earlier that year did little to dampen their fervour. The Romans subsequent siege of the city of Gergovia ended in a fiasco, when they were forced to withdraw after suffering heavy looses. The city henceforth became a powerful symbol of Gaulish resistance.

But the key battle of the war still lay ahead. Vercingetorix assembled 80,000 men in Alesia, in present-day Burgundy. Here he determined to fight a decisive engagement with the Romans in the summer of 52 BC. The signs looked favourable: the city was well fortified and was located in a protected position on a hill.

Caesar's Gallic wars

58 BC

Caesar attacks the Helvetii as a danger to the Roman Empire and subdues tribes of the Franche Comte and Alsace.

57-53 BC

He invades Belgium and Normandy. A revolt amongst the Belgae is put down after fierce fighting.

52-51 BC

A revolt breaks out in Central Gaul. In the spring the Romans beseige Avaricum, killing most of the 40,000 inhabitants. Caesar then besieges Gergovia but is forced to abandon the attempt. In late summer; Vercingetorix attacks the Romans near Divio (modern Dijon). Caesar counters with his Germanic cavalry and sends the Gauls racing back to their own infantry lines. The Gauls regroup at Alesia. Vercingetorix surrenders to Caesar after the Gaulish relief force flees. By 51 BC the last remnants of Gaulish resistance, were extinguished.

Caesar wasted no time in engaging the enemy. The legionaries constructed a siege encirclement of the town. As Vercingetorix exhorted the defenders of the city with rousing speeches, the Romans encountered some unexpected difficulties beyond its walls. The besieging army now found itself under siege. Caesar received intelligence that Gaulish warriors were flooding in from all directions towards Alesia to help compatriots trapped there. At this point, Caesar implemented an innovative solution. He divided his troops into defensive and offensive units. To keep the Gaulish relief forces at arm's length, a defensive perimeter of deep pits, entanglements, wooden stakes sharpened to spikes, and water-filled moats was swiftly constructed. In just six weeks, the Romans had thrown two encirclements around the town - a 10-mile-long siege ring and, beyond this, a defensive ring 12 miles in circumference.

A Gaulish force of as many as 100,000 warriors gathered to relieve the town. But they found it difficult to co-ordinate their actions and the Romans were able to repel the attack. Vercingetorix was forced to look on helplessly as Roman forces edged ever closer. With enough provisions for only 30 days, the Gauls were in a desperate situation. Roman soldiers carried armfuls of Gaulish shields and bloodstained pieces of armour into their camp as war trophies, and the demoralised defenders could only look on in despair — ancient accounts of the siege speak of men weeping and women waffing. When their food ran out, even

the relief troops began to flee. To break the deadlock, the troops caught in Alesia decided to take the chiefs, including Vercingetorix to the Romans. They were surrounded and forced to surrender with all their weapons.


For the next six years Vercingetorix was held in a Roman, well aware that he would be subjected to a final public humiliation before his execution. When Caesar vanquished his enemy Pompey after a bloody civil war and returned to Rome in 46 BC, the Gaulish hero was doomed to play his part in Caesar's triumph. The vanquished warrior was taken from his cell and paraded  through the streets of Rome as part of the dictator's triumphal procession.

Vercingetorix's bravery and charismatic leadership assured his position as a national hero. In times of danger the French have repeatedly invoked his memory. He became a figurehead for the race's struggle for independence in the same way as Joan of Arc who led France into battle against the English invaders over 1000 years later.

Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BC) was a brilliant military tactician, a courageous warrior and a skilled orator and politician. His military success in Gaul gave him the means to achieve absolute power in Rome in 46 BC.

[But the great  Julius  Caesar  met  his  match  when  he  tried  to  invade  Britain.  The  first  time  about  50  BC  he  did  not  get  much  passed  the  shore  line;  the  second  time  about  as  far  a  London,  but  had  to  make  a  peace  treaty  with  the  British.

He  returned  to  Europe  and  Rome  never  to  try  to  invade  Britain  again.  He  was  met  with  horse  and  chariot  soldiers,  which  he  had  never  encountered  in  Europe.  It  was about  100  years  later  before  Rome  invaded  England  again,  and  made  some  settlements.  But  they  never  could  conquer  the  Picts  and  Scots  in  Scotland. General  Adrian  in  the  second  sentry  AD   had  to  build  a  wall  across  northern  England,  to  keep  the  Picts  and  Scots  from  coming  down  and  driving  the Romans  back  to  Europe.  An  interesting  true  story  of  this  was  recently  made  into  a  movie called  "The  Eagle" - well  worth  watching  for  some  historical  truth,  of  Rome  not  being  able  to  master  the  warriors  of  Scotland  -  Keith Hunt]

Hard times

for criminals

Pinkerton's Detective Agency played a key role in the fight against the crime wave that was sweeping across the Wild West. Many agents were also effective spies for the Union side during the American Civil War.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy.. and the Sundance Kid, who led the Hole-in-the-Wall-Gang. Pinkerton's men ran the gang to ground in Fort Worth. Many surrendered or died fighting. The leaders escaped to Bolivia, where  they may have been shot by the Bolivian army.

Abraham Lincoln, President-Elect of the United States, had been warned: on February 23, 1861, he was to be the intended target of an assassin, who would murder him as soon as his train pulled into Baltimore station. He had the agents of Pinkerton's National Detective Agency to thank for this tip-off, which saved his life. While conducting investigations on behalf of a railroad company, they had learned of the assassination plot which was being planned by Confederate supporters.

On the evening of February 22, he attended a ball in Harrisburg as planned. He slipped away through a side door into a coach with blacked-out windows which promptly sped off into the night. Waiting for the President on the outskirts of the city as an unlit railway train manned by armed Pinkerton agents. One of the detectives cut telegraph wires so that anyone watching them could not inform Confederates in Baltimore of the arrival of the President there earlier than scheduled - it was only 3:30 in the morning when Lincoln's train pulled safely into Baltimore station. Foor years later he was not to prove so lucky: he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865.


 Allan Pinkerton was an adept publicist. He used the motto 'We Never Sleep!', which was accompanied by a graphic of an open, watchful eye. The logo was used in advertisements in the pages of magazines, newspapers and circulars, and featured on billboards and wanted posters. It soon gave rise to the term 'private eye'.

The 22-year old Scot Allan Pinkerton emigrated from Glasgow to America in 1842. A trained cooper, he set up a lucrative business near Chicago making barrels, but he soon grew tired of his trade. Then quite suddenly and purely by chance, a new career opened up for him. On an excursion to an island near the town of Dundee, near Chicargo, Pinkerton came across a path. He found this curious, since the island was supposed to be uninhabited. Could it be that this spot was the hideaway of a notorious gang who had been flooding the surrounding area with counterfeit currency? Keen to solve the mystery, he rowed to the island with the local sheriff day after day. They concealed themselves in a safe hiding-place and staked out the path. Pinkerton's hunch was correct: the counterfeiters showed up the delighted sheriff was able to arrest them.

THE former cooper was rewarded with a job as an investigator in Chicargo to be a success in his new role. The city was widely regarded as a gangsters' paradise, yet could not call upon even a dozen officers to ensure the safety of its 30,000 citizens. By the end of 1848, Pinkerton had caught more criminals than any of his more experienced colleagues. Observant, tenacious and able to keep a cool head in a crisis, he was also incorruptible, a rare quality in mid-19th-century Chicago. But stopping crime did not pay. So, in 1850, he opened his own investigative bureau, Pinkerton's National Detective Agency carefully handpicking his colleagues. He even engaged the first female detective in America. Before long Pinkerton's had extended its operations across the whole country, and some high-profile cases generated good publicity for the fledgling agency.

The Adams Express investigation was a case in point. The firm dispatched mail and registered items throughout the USA by railroad. In the autumn of 1858, substantial sums of money went missing, despite the fact that the cars in which the mail was being transported were locked and sealed. It seemed that $50,000 had vanished into thin air. Pinkerton's detectives kept watch on the employees of Adams and soon focused their attention on a security guard by the name of John Maroney who appeared to be flush with money. Pinkerton discovered the whereabouts of the stolen hoard and arrested Maroney.

In an era when many law-enforcers openly accepted bribes to turn a blind eye, Pinkerton's had a reputation for honesty and integrity. New operatives were told never to accept bribes or compromise with criminals. They were always to co-operate where possible with local law enforcement agencies. They were to refuse divorce cases, or any cases that might involve clients in scandal. They were always to turn down reward money - they were well paid enough.


Following the outbreak of the American Civil War in April 1861 between the southern Confederate states and the northern Union, Pinkerton's worked for the Union side. They infiltrated the highest levels of command in the Confederate states, transmitting information about southern spies, army bases and plans for military operations. It was a dangerous enterprise and Pinkerton

'I hated them with the same passion that corrupt policemen did.'  

George White, Burglar, on Pinkerton agents

was close to being unmasked on several occasions. Back in Washington, he was charged by Abraham Lincoln with a new task. Spies from the South were at least as active as their northern counterparts, and Pinkerton was commissioned to find out who was responsible for security breaches. So he set up a network of agents that is now regarded as the forerunner of the FBI.

His colleague Elizabeth Baker acted in the guise of a naive Southern belle to discover one of the South's key weapons. Unsuspecting gentlemen friends showed her around the Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond, Virginia, where she was able to see that the foundry was busy building submarines. The vessels were a threat to northern gunboats, as they could pass unnoticed under any port blockade. Baker also spotted that the newfangled craft had an Achilles' heel: their ventilation systems protruded above the surface of the water, so that a keen-eyed lookout could easily spot an approaching submarine.

Pinkerton's agents were not universally successful. On one occasion, the authorities in the North released an important woman spy from the South - but did so much sooner than planned. She duly unmasked three of Pinkerton's employees in Richmond, who were immediately arrested and hanged. Shaken by this incident, Pinkerton retired from espionage.


When the war ended, Pinkerton once more turned his attention to apprehending criminals. Over the following years his detectives, the famous Pinks, were instrumental in taking a whole string of notorious underworld figures out of circulation - among them Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

After Allan Pinkerton's death in 1884, his two sons continued to run the business. Today, the firm's employees are mainly concerned with investigating white-collar crime and insurance fraud, and offering security consultancy, preferring to leave the business of hunting down criminals to the police or the FBI.

A trapper's life

becomes the stuff of  myth

A skilled hunter, trapper and explorer, Daniel Boone instinctively understood the possibilities of the unknown expanses of America. In pioneering the Wilderness Road to Kentucky he opened up the gateway to the Wild West.

'One man was destined to lead the first settlers to the West, and that man was Daniel Boone.'


Daniel Boone was born on November 2, 1734, in a log cabin in Pennsylvania. The wild countryside provided the boy with a perfect education for his later career. Despite his aunt's efforts to school him. he preferred to amuse himself in the woods nearby, carving spears that he used to kill small game animals. On his forays into the wilderness he met local Indians, who taught him about hunting and reading tracking signs.


When Daniel was 15, his family moved to the Yadkin River in North Carolina. Their arduous travels through rolling grasslands, sandy prairies and dark forests only served to heighten the young man's sense of adventure. Within a few years Boone had begun to earn his living accompanying wagon trains of settlers. His first assignment was of a military nature. In 1755, European colonial rivalries between France and Britain were being enacted on American soil. The British commander General Edward Braddock led an expedition to capture the French Fort Duquesne. In the baggage train accompanying his force, Boone drove a supply wagon and was engaged to repair harnesses and get damaged carts back on the road again. The expedition ended in disaster. Braddock and most of his troops were wiped out in an ambush, with only a few men, including Boone, escaping the massacre.

Shortly after this incident, Boone married and settled down. For ten years, he devoted himself to his family, life on the farmstead and hunting. Yet at the back of his mind he still harboured a dream of a land full of bison and deer, a land of freedom and adventure, a land that lay waiting for him beyond the Appalachian range.


In 1767 Boone travelled with his old friend, a hunter and trader named John Finley, to the edge of Kentucky and camped for the winter at Salt Spring near Prestonsburg. In May 1769 Boone, Finley and four other men set off to go further west, beyond the Cumberland Gap. It was nearly two years before Boone returned home. During this time he thoroughly explored Kentucky going as far west as the Falls of Ohio (present-day Louiseville). He made further trips to Kentucky in 1773 and 1774.

The 'land of dreams'

A name for a state

Kentucky is taken from the Indian word

'Ken-tah-ten', meaning 'Land of the Future'.

Early explorations 

The first expeditions to reconnoitre the region were in 1750-51.

Early settlement

The region, which was claimed by Virginia, was permanently settled from 1775 onwards. Boonesborough and Harrodsburg were among the first settlements.

The War of Independence 

In the War of Independence (1775-83), Kentucky settlers fought against an alliance of the local Indian tribes and the British.

Kentucky joins the Union 

On June 1, 1792, Kentucky entered the Union of the United States of America as the 15th state, after ceding the western parts of its territory to Virginia.

In 1775 Colonel Richard Henderson of the Transylvania trading company hired Boone as his agent and commissioned him to open up a passable route to Kentucky. Using axes, Boone and a party of 30 men hacked their way through the wilderness for 300 miles, right into the heart of Kentucky, the so-called 'Great Meadow'. It was a hunter's paradise, filled with buffalo, deer, wild turkey and meadows ideal for farming. The route they pioneered, originally no more than an impassable Indian trail, was the legendary 'Wilderness Road'. Soon, wagon trains of settlers were using the new route to get to the West. One of the first groups of newcomers to arrive was Boone's own family, who established a small settlement known as Boonesborough at the end of the Wilderness Road.


But the local Indians declared war on the new arrivals, believing them to be intruders and attacked the settlement. Shawnee warriors kidnapped Boone's daughter and two other girls. He set off in pursuit, and freed all three girls in a surprise attack. Shortly afterwards, Boone himself was taken prisoner and spent four months in a Shawnee village. His skills as a hunter and backwoodsman so impressed Chief Black Fish that he adopted Boone into his own family. They even swore an oath to become blood brothers. But Boone had learnt that the tribe was planning further attacks against the settlers and so he made his escape from the village, and returned to Boonesborough.

Aware that an Indian attack was imminent, he organised the region's defences, strengthened the palisades and stored provisions. When the Shawnee eventually appeared at the gates of the settlement talks were held over several days and, on September 9, 1778, a peaceful settlement seemed likely. But a nervous settler, alarmed by a Shawnee warrior, let off a shot. Salvoes of gunfire immediately followed, and war erupted. The Shawnee laid siege to Boonesborough for eight days, making repeated attempts to burn it down. But the settlers' sustained fire was eventually to prove too much for the Indian warriors. On September 18, the besieging force withdrew.


Daniel Boone was to have no future in Boonesborough. When Kentucky became part of the Union in 1792, he, like many settlers, lost his land as a result of legal loopholes in the title deeds. In 1799, he joined his son in Missouri. He acquired new land there, but subsequently lost this as well, when Louisiana and Missouri, part of the original territory of Louisiana, were sold by the French to the United States in 1803 for $15 million. Once again, Boone title deeds turned out to be worthless and bureaucracy proved his undoing. Hunting remained his sole consolation and livelihood, as it had been throughout his life. Just two years before his death on September 26, 1820, he could still be seen roaming the forest in his own inimitable style, his flintlock slung over his shoulder.

Boone became a legend after his death with the appearance of "The Leatherstocking Tales" by James Fenimore Cooper, published between 1823 and 1841. His hero, Natty Bumppo, a rugged hunter, scourge of Indians, and scout for the British army, is based on Daniel Boone. Lord Byron also paid tribute to Boone in a series of stanzas in his poem, Don Juan


Shortly before midnight on March 12, 1928, the St Francis Dam in the Santa Clara Valley north of Los Angeles broke. Over 55 billion Hires of water flooded into the valley, cutting a swathe 2 miles wide and 62 miles long. It swept away people, animals, houses, bridges and sections of railway, before flowing out into the Pacific Ocean. The catastrophe claimed the lives of almost 400 people and left an area of devastation that was submerged in several metres of mud. The person responsible for the disaster was soon identified: William Mulholland, chief engineer on the construction of the St Francis Dam in 1926 and now head of the Los Angeles Water Authority.


The collapse of the St Francis Dam inflicted lasting damage on Mulholland's reputation. Before the disaster, he had a string of remarkable achievements to his name. Born in Belfast in 1855, he left school at 15 to go to sea. Arriving in New York City at the beginning of the 1870s, he worked in various parts of the United States as a lumberjack, in textile mills and as a miner. In 1877 he moved to California and settled in Los Angeles. There, in the city's waterworks, he found an occupation that was to engage him for the rest of his working life. Los Angeles was criss-crossed by a system of open drainage culverts and Mulholland was given responsibility for maintaining one of these culverts. He taught himself mathematics and engineering, and just eight years later became chief engineer of the city's waterworks. His colleagues dubbed Mulholland 'the Chief, a man who managed to combine devotion to duty with humour and an affable nature.

He was also an innovator and creative thinker. In 1906 when building the barrier that formed the Silver Lake Reservoir, Mulholland was the first American engineer to use hydraulic sluices in the construction of a dam. The new method of

In the aftermath of the tragedy, William Mulholland argued that the collapse of the dam must have been caused by sabotage. When a State Commission found that the dam was built on unstable bedrock, he accepted the blame and resigned, a broken man. Yet none of the explanations for the tragedy satisfied him: There was a hoodoo about the place', he said.

construction gained acceptance right across the USA and was adopted when the Gatun Dam was built on the Panama Canal.


By the end of the 19th century, Los Angeles had almost 100,000 inhabitants and a stream of immigrants arriving daily. Along with his former boss Fred Eaton, the one-time mayor of Los Angeles, Mulholland warned that the water supply would soon be inadequate for the growing population. The two men looked around for suitable sources of water in the area and investigated the Owens Valley, 230 miles north of the city. Mulholland realised that water from this valley could be used to supply Los Angeles. Since the valley was 1200 metres above sea level, water would not need to be pumped, but could be transported using the force of gravity. They decided to build an aqueduct.

Eaton negotiated the purchase of land and Mulholland directed the construction of the aqueduct. Around 5000 men worked for eight years, installing roads, railway links, power lines and sluices, and digging 164 tunnels with a total length of over 62 miles through the mountains. At 231 miles, the aqueduct was the longest in the world and the most challenging engineering project ever undertaken in America, yet remarkably it was completed within the allotted schedule and under budget.

On November 5, 1913, the aqueduct was officially opened. Water flowed from the Owens Valley into the San Fernando Valley, where it was stored in an underground reservoir. In 1921, several small reservoirs were built to supply the city in the event of a drought or damage to the aqueduct, but it was clear that a major reservoir was needed. Mulholland chose the San Francisqiiito Canyon," about 30 miles north of Los Angeles, as the site of the new dam. The aqueduct ran conveniently along the canyon and two electrical generating stations located there used aqueduct water to provide power for Los Angeles. In 1924, the construction of the St Francis Dam was started.


In the years immediately after the completion of the aqueduct, Los Angeles did not need all the water now at its disposal. The surplus was used to irrigate the arid San Fernando Valley. Land prices in the valley rose steeply enriching two syndicates of Los Angeles speculators, some of whom were friends of Mulholland. In the meantime the Owens Valley languished, becoming more arid and infertile. Its inhabitants felt betrayed: Mulholland had pledged that only essential water would be diverted to cater for the city. In May 1924, an explosion damaged a section of the aqueduct. Thereafter, acts of sabotage increased in frequency and the press began to speak in terms of a war in the Owens Valley.

The crisis came to a head in November 1924, when 70 armed men from the valley closed off a key lock on the aqueduct, shutting off the water flow. The next day there were 700 protesters at the site, demanding compensation for their now worthless land. Lengthy negotiations ensued, but no agreement was reached. In 1927, another part of the aqueduct was blown up. The 'providential' St Francis Dam and Reservoir saved Los Angeles from a severe water shortage and water from the reservoir also continued to generate electricity.


During 1927 and 1928, several cracks appeared in the dam but Mulholland was not unduly concerned. On March 7, 1928, the dam was completely filled for the first time and further cracks appeared. At 11.57 pm on March 12, 1928, scarcely 12 hours after Mulholland last inspected it, the dam crumbled. The dam-keeper, Tony Harnischfeger, and his wife were swept away by a

Without Mulholland's technical genius, the growth of Los Angeles into a metropolis of ten million would have been impossible. In this arid region, development has followed water supply: the San Fernando Valley, irrigated by excess water from Mulholland's aqueduct, was annexed by Los Angeles in 1915, almost doubling the size of the city.

flood wave at least 38 metres high, the first of hundreds of people to die in the catastrophe.

A commission was set up to investigate the collapse. Experts found evidence that water had leaked from the dam the very day before it burst. Mulholland admitted that he had visited the dam the day before the accident, but swore that he had not noticed anything untoward. The experts concluded that the bedrock on which the dam was built was unsuitable as a foundation for such a structure and that the engineers were guilty of errors in their assessment of the geology of the site and the construction of the dam itself. Although not convicted of any crime, Mulholland resigned shortly afterwards. Deeply wounded by the accusations, he spent the rest of his life as a recluse. He died in 1935.

'If human error was at fault, then I am the human in




In 1992, the causes of the 1928 disaster were re-examined. Scientists came to the conclusion that Mulholland could not be held responsible for any negligence. In the light of the geological knowledge of the time, it would have been impossible to ascertain that foundations could not be safely sunk into the bedrock formation at the eastern end of the dam.

Mulholland remains, in equal measure, a legendary and controversial figure in the history of California. He created the conditions that enabled Los Angeles to develop into a major city, yet today people are also aware of the environmental problems that were caused by diverting water from the surrounding valleys into the city. Concerns such as these were simply not considered during the building boom of the 1920s.

Anyone visiting Los Angeles cannot help but stumble across Mulholland's name, since the most picturesque of the city's boulevards, Mulholland Drive, was named after him in 1924. From here it is possible to view the sprawling metropolis which, without his vision and determination, could not have achieved the prosperity and prominence it has today.