Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Looting Horde?

What constitutes a looting horde? 100 people? 1000? A Million? At what size does a band of starving refugees become a cohesive unit able to look beyond what the person next to them has in easy reach and instead cast their eyes to the great unknown resources down the road? How many spontaneous officers and NCOs must burst into life to coordinate and keep a looting horde moving in the same direction? How much food must they take per day to keep these starving looters together?

Ever tried to get three well fed guys to follow your orders without a higher power and fear of retaliation if they don't? Ever tried to get three underfed guys to even walk a mile when they have no clue what is up that dark road and no one but you is going to punish them if they don't listen?

I thought not.

There is a reason armies have not relied on foraging to supply themselves exclusively for quite some time now. That is not to say there hasn't been plenty of looting done by groups of armed Men claiming to be part of a military organization from pre-history to the present day. Yet can anyone name a time when companies of Men formed and survived for any length of time simply by living off the land and looting? And did so completely under their own authority and motivation?

Raids by neighbors are not a wandering and looting horde. They require bases, a leadership hierarchy and more importantly time and resources to form before they can start raiding.

The free companies of the 100 years war? Perhaps some of the early peasant or Jaquerie rebellions? Most of those lived short violent lives that ended quickly. A few made good but only by either capturing an area and making it their own or turning to the wealthy as hired men.

By it's very nature even if a looting horde manages to form on it's own it will travel no faster than available resources push it. If it attempts cohesion then it becomes something else all together and if it doesn't things quickly break down.

How many looters does it take to move through a countryside devouring everything they come across and still remain intact? I couldn't tell you because I don't know if it has ever happened but a quick glance at the picture above will tell you what happened to the last army that attempted to move through a hostile country looting and pillaging as they went as their only real plan for survival.

The land emptied in front of them. People burned what they couldn't take with them to deny the horde all they could. Snipers and refugees took shots at them from almost every bit of cover they could find.....

And then Winter hit.

Now imagine a ravaging band of say even 30 desperate men. How much loot do they get from one house or farm? Enough to feed all 30 of them for even a day? I doubt it. How long does it take to loot one house and move on? Do they just rush in saving themselves time or scout an area and creep in slowly.  Who breaks up the fights for the slim pickings they get and who gets em motivated to go on to the next house over?

Who protects these 30 guys from the 35 coming up behind them who also have no time to scout and must move fast to keep themselves fed taking all they see because they have no time to search?

The logistics of looting are much harder than defending. A group of looters may hit a farm or house but it won't take long for the area to know something is up and time is not on the looters side. The longer they wait the more the immediate area rises up and prepares to defend or attack. In order to operate with any chance of success they must hit very isolated farms or houses that contain enough resources to last them long enough to pick the next target. If they guess wrong or find only an abandoned house do they have time to try again before things get really dicey?

Attacks like these were common during the civil war around here. Yet every band that attempted them didn't last long before the locals mobilized against them. Side meant nothing in the end no matter how it started out in the beginning. Most units of sympathizers both North and South degenerated quickly into simple looting bandits and were dealt with accordingly. It's rough living with a very short life expectancy. On a  small scale looting bands are a real threat but on a large scale they never make much of a dent overall.

When those bands have government backing it becomes a very different story. When they can raid and fall back to a larger group the dynamics change for the defenders but the attackers are no longer a looting horde then but part of a larger organization with different perspective and logistical needs as well.

Your best defense against looters is community and neighbors followed by hidden caches here and there and a quick retreat. Unless you are in a very remote area you will have plenty of fore warning that looters are active in your area and once you are warned you do have a distinct advantage. Looters rely on people not helping their neighbors and hitting places piecemeal. There is no way I am going to let a band of looters hit my neighbors place and not go to help even if I don't always agree with their politics or life style.

The life of a looter would be a short one indeed.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. hey pioneer p!

    long time since out tractor adventure - sorry i am late getting back to you but i am still recovering - lol!

    some ancient armies were able to sustain their campaigns with plunder, but these were foot soldies with hand weapons and they would return home or set up shop... even nomadic peoples have an area, but then so do all animals...

    so you are right, any horde will eventually wither and die.

    cheers buddy!

    1. Jamby - I doubt any army really maintained a plunder only system of supply. A few managed it for periods of course before heading back into safe lands but conquering peoples always came out on top by colonizing as they went. Eventually even the marauding type armies met a tough nut and those types of armies are fragile and recover slowly.

      An aimless horde of urbanites wouldn't last two weeks in my opinion and would do little actual looting from determined defenders. Or so it seems to me anyway.

  2. In 1864 the US army came through VA to capture Lynchburg but spent so much time fooling around and looting along the way that it gave the defenders time to dig trenches and bring up 1st rate troops. The US troops were forced to retreat as of all things they were short of supplies even after stealing everything that hadn't been hidden. Looting isn't a well thought out plan.

    1. Sf - Just like around here. Small bands of Union or Confederate raiders would form but quickly degenerated into brigands pure and simple. Often times they would be hunted down by their own side and dispatched. The headlines would be outraged that some had actually looted and burned a dozen farms. A dozen in a few weeks and then caught all before the telephone was invented.

      Looting is not a good way to make a living I would say.

  3. You can go back through history and see where Armies stopped because lack of supplies. Battle of the Bulge comes to mind. The German ran out of fuel?? I believe there will be looting, in the big metro areas, but it will take a lot of time to move in any direction. Fuel could be hard to get. How many idiots can ride a horse? let alone butcher any animals?

    1. Rob - How many urbanites can walk a mile without food overland? Now compare this to how many out of shape people can get one or two while defending their homes. The attrition alone would end looting quick.

      Look at how the defenders managed in New Orleans when they weren't disarmed.

  4. Well, lets see. The Goths did a pretty good job of just rolling along living off pillage during the fall of the Western Empire. The Vandals did the same thing in North Africa. Sherman's Army raped and pillaged across Georgia and Sherman himself bragged about how they lived off the land. Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes did sometimes stoop to drinking horse blood, but otherwise aside from drinking curds and mares milk, they subsisted on what they found along the way. Not hard since they essentially massacred everyone they came across, on the spot or later.

    During the "period of the nation at war" the Japanese were absolutely overrun by bandits, you will recall "The Seven Samurai."

    Not all of the looters will be overweight accountants and lawyers on a rampage. The cities of America are rife with gangs, some like the Latin Kings and MS13 are about as well organized and coordinated as you can get. They have numbers, leadership, planning, and are ruthless. Those folks aren't going to sit down in the streets and go hungry, no indeed.

    I know there is a philosophy among survivalists that the countryside won't support large groups, but I think when hungry suburbanites think of food, that's what they think of. Great flocks of sheep and cattle, fields full of corn. If I lived in a city, and the food was gone and people were dying in the streets, I'd go out into the country. I'd bring along some cronies, if I had any, both to protect myself against similar groups and to help harvest the hillbillies.

    1. Harry - The Goths raided the weren't a wandering band of looters. Same really can be said of the Vandals and the Mongols. In each case however the latter two had to take entire towns and cities and move slowly with many becoming settlers along the way. The Mongols of course suffered the same eventual fate as all roaming armies when they hit their first tough nut to crack.

      We are not discussing bandits here that again must take over a place and then quite quickly become a local warlord and must in turn defend themselves. We are talking roaming looters and that has never before happened that I know of. Looters if successful either find a place and stop roaming, hit too tough a target and get decimated or fall apart on their own. Usually they fall apart on their own.

      The biggest threat would be road agents who find a spot and then begin raiding out from it. Not wandering looters. At that point it becomes a static conflict however with territory and neighboring tribes etc. That will take some time to form and will again be an entirely different animal.

    2. I did a logistics study on how much food a looter wood have to steal and haul away just to support a group of 10 men and some family members (base of 30 people) for a couple of weeks and the amount of food and water was incredible.That's if they can find something to loot after the first 2-3 weeks.

    3. MASR - Exactly and on top of that they have to have tribe which is something all those who expect the horde forget. Mongols, Vikings, Goths they all had tribe. They grew up together it was an us v. them world. Looters will have to form tribe before they even become looters. Good luck forming that into any type of viable force.

  5. The Goths and the Vandals were pushed out by other tribes and had some what limited choices about staying in place and being killed or moving into Europe for a chance of new lands and not getting dead. Shepard/nomads tend to have chance to survive on the move compared to an agriculture based population.

    1. Certainly correct. But they also had the advantage of being and thinking of themselves as one somewhat united people against others. Not a disunited and mixed up mish mash of people attempting to form together as some looting group like American refugees would be. Especially American refugees coming out of the cities.

  6. So, in your estimation, it is unlikely that in a complete societal collapse, with no restraints on behavior other than physical restraints, the chances of homesteads such as yours being attacked by gangs of rovers is pretty much nil? Or are you saying that the groups must necessarily be small, under 20 members for instance, due to logistical constraints on the size of a band?

    1. Harry - I am saying both actually. It will indeed have to be small groups or they will start preying on each other because it would be easier. That and random looting is not going to generate enough supplies for a larger group in a sufficiently short enough time frame.

      The number of farms and homesteads plus distance will also mean these groups will be used up, annihilated or settled in somewhere before they reach even 200 miles from a large city. My guess is attrition will take em out before they get even 100 miles especially if fuel is not available. Living by looting takes dedicated leadership and followers with specific jobs especially in hostile territory which they would be in. With the food available on average in one house a group of 20 looters would need to find, identify and hit about 3 places per day, even assuming they take only one casualty it adds up fast and needing to hit 3 per day would mean almost no scouting or intelligence work so they are going in blind. This is not even taking into account the issues with getting 20 non-related people to work together.


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