Celtic Warfare in Ireland: A Logistical Perspective
Beougher, David B.
M.A. Thesis, History, Pennsylvania State University, May 1 (1999)
Abstract: The study of warfare in Pre-Norman Ireland has focused almost to exclusion on the political ramifications of campaigns and violent actions. Scholars have avoided detailed studies of the mechanics of violence in this Celtic society due to a paucity of the documentation commonly used by military historians. By combining the study of literary and ecclesiastical sources as well as archaeological evidence with modem United States Army logistical doctrine, the general logistical practices employed by the pre-Norman Irish kings emerges. The study continues on by examining certain critical elements of this practice: specifically the assembly of armies, methods of movement, and the provisioning of the force. After developing a model for Irish logistical practices, this thesis examines Latin and European influences on the Irish from the seventh through the eleventh centuries and their impact in Ireland. This methodology sheds new light on the incredible success of the kingdom of Dal Cais in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries. By refusing to conform to traditional logistical practices, and instead adapting the methods that had proven successful in Wessex and West Francia, Brian Borumha revolutionized warfare in Ireland.
Introduction: In a recent work entitled A Military History of Ireland, T.M. Charles-Edwards, discussing warfare up to 1100 AD., states “The normal Irish fighting man had a spear and a shield at the beginning of our period and also at the end.” The purpose of this thesis is not to challenge his assertion, nor is it to focus on the mechanics of combat. Instead, the objective is to examine the current understanding of warfare and violence in early medieval Ireland from a different perspective - that of the logistician. Logistics are not exciting. What the study of logistics does, however, is the ability to build a detailed model of how armies fought. Gaining an appreciation of how the Irish raised an army, moved it, and fed it, allows for a new understanding and a reassessment of the political and social impact of warfare in Ireland.