"Victory had been snatched from the very jaws of defeat." This line comes after the peons on the plantation of Leiningen have begun their deadly march. Refusing to leave his plantation to the ants's ravaging, Leiningen devises strategies of defense. When Leiningen took over this "model farm and plantation," he says, he prepared it for anything and everything. So, his water-filled ditches are one of the defenses that Leiningen employs against the onslaught of millions of ants. He opens the dam, which fills these ditches, making "an imposing girdle of water completely around the plantation. This twelve-foot water ditch seems to afford all the security necessary as the people and creatures remain on the other side.
As a further security, Leiningen has an inner ditch built that is smaller than the other. This ditch extends around the perimeter of all the buildings. Into this concrete ditch, filled with concrete, Leiningen has inflow pipes from three great gasoline tanks. If by some miracle the ants pass over the other ditch, the gasoline wall will prevent them.
Thousands of millions "of voracious jaws bearing down" upon the men appears, but they are deterred by their "failure to find a way over the ditch." However, they begin to climb and march over the dead bodies of other ants, and Leningen must think fast. Fortunately, the ants did not assalt simultaneously along the entire length of the ditch, or the outlook for the defenders "would have been black indeed." But, Leiningen puts the gasoline into action. Responding, the ants come along a widening line. But, as the ants climb onto the men's arms, Leiningen shouts to them to douse their arms in the gasoline. As the water rises that moves more swiftly "carrying away more and more of it on the hastening current.
As the water washes the ants away, Stephenson writes, Victory had been snatched from the very jaws of defeat." But, the ants use leaves to pass across the water as on rafts.