Archive for December, 2012


German Plans Circa 1940

Just the team here wishing you a happy New year, and to have fun. We have lots to come in 2013, and have been hard at work to make posts me frequent. As you know it is the holiday season, so a slow down is expected.

In 2013 you can expect a small look into Dutch and Belgium history. Followed by a look at Native American culture and the Iriquious confederation.  Also we have a project under way which is physical, this is the British lines in the event of a German invasion. (Photos etc) so stay tuned  , and thank to all the readers here.

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This was sent to us by a First Year at my old University. It has been un changed so please be critical.  So I can pass where to improve on. Thank you guys

How and why did the United States Win and the British lose the War of Independence?

“The War of Independence plays such an important part in American popular ideology” it is the creation myth of the American people, but how did the United States win? How could it manage to take on one of the worlds great powers and win? There are many factors that lead to American victory, which in a sense could have been over before it began. British indecisiveness after the battle of Brandywine Creek, with the chance to finish Washington’s force and effectively, end the Revolution, and with the splitting of his force the British would lose the Battle of Saratoga on September 19 and October 7, 1777 effectively destroyed a large part of the British army in North America. Another principle to look at, at the reason why America won was due to the over stretched supply lines, with a total of two months travel time across the Atlantic ocean, this meant a communications with London were out of date by the time they reached, the Generals in the field, this combined with that the war will eventually engulf other nations against Great Britain, lead to a strain on their armed forces and an eventual downfall, and the crippling economic cost that was accumulated during the war. All these factors provide and insight into this interesting question, how did a super power lose.

If you first look at the military aspect of the war the Continental army, was raised quite quickly after the battle of Lexington and Concorde, were a group of volunteers, Washington said of them after that “I dare say the men should fight very well (if properly officered) although they are an exceedingly dirty and nasty people” which shows the contempt that Washington had for the Continental army. Even with this lack of contempt for the Army that Washington had created, even to this extent it did show the skill of Washington as a General, to rally his troops as Valley Forge after the British capture of Philadelphia. With this considering General Howe had the tactical advantage then and there to effectively end the American cause. Colin Berwick believed that to this point, “Had he displayed greater energy he might have captured the entire army and possibly terminated the rebellion” Howe was provided the most credible chance of ending the war at an early stage, but with this the Continental had time to regroup and retrain especially, since the battle of Saratoga, which gave the fledgling country some impetuous on the world stage, with the implementation of Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus, a Prussian officer who’s work at Training the American Forces was invaluable, to helping them over come the British. “His work at Valley Forge was to turn the ragged Continentals into a far more professional and competent army. First he selected a model company, which he trained personally, although he eventually needed a translator for his orders. The members of this company were then able to spread his methods across the army. Those methods were intelligently modified from the Prussian models to make them better suit American conditions and the character of the American volunteer soldiers.” This shows that effective training provided a Washington, with a much more viable force than he started with, this increased Training would give the Americans a much more effective edge against there British counterparts, more ever in marksman ship, and Guerrilla tactics, which in affect the British army were not used to. “Much of the fighting especially in the south, took the form of guerrilla warfare, at which American militiamen proved more adept than British regulars” to this extent the British Red Coats were more used to fighting a general European war, with rigged formations and formations, not the hit and run tactics used in the American village areas this made it especially hard for the British to effectively hold onto any ground that they have taken. “Though every important American town fell to the British during the war, there were not enough troops to garrison them. The moment the British moved away from a subdued region, rebellion flared up in their rear.”

With what every bit of ground the British had taken, there was a matter of re supply and garrisoning those towns. Once British troops move out of the area, they would evidently rise up against the British again, coupled with the reliance on supplies from Britain, this lead to a more pressure on the Royal Navy, even though the most powerful navy at that time, it became very hard once the French navy became involved in the conflict.

The essence, of supply is vital. The impact of this affect can be considered by Harry Wards statement that “Soldiers plundered the countryside for food” showed how important the rule of supply, was for the British in the war, unlike the Americans who could relay on the local communities except for the Loyalists, who would side with the British but the support there was minimum, to a extent, this wasn’t a worry but until the French involvement a strain became evident on the Royal Navy. “The Royal Navy was hard put to it to contain the new powerful French fleet. Spain’s entry into the war added further to the strain” to this extent even with the British to a point winning slightly on land, they could effectively not deal with threats to the two combined fleets, even though Spain was not actually allied to America during the war, and was only dragged in due to an alliance with France. It would only be a matter of time this coupled, with the supply issue and the lack of support in the local population in the towns that they have take. Jones states that “Thus if the Americans could but retain the will to fight and some capacity for doing so, they were bound to win in the end”. In a sense it was possible for the British to effectively defeat the Americans but in a long protracted war, with supply problems, and command issues, it would effectively take reinforcements, and messages, three months to get across the channel, and this would be vital time lost, and with the dissipation of the Royal Navy to protect other British interests. This can be more ever seen at the battle of Yorktown at the end of the war, the British army was pinned in the bay with out any means of naval escape, it would lead to General Cornwallis to surrender and in affect end the war.
Over all in retrospect if you look at the initial position of Britain before the War it seemed impossible for them to lose, the war yes they lost some battles against the Americans but, tactical indecisiveness by the British Generals notably General Howe, having the chance to finish the rebellion after the capture of Philadelphia, but the long nature of the supply lines for the British, and then the need to protect these supply lines from French and Spanish as they came into the war on Americans side this made the situation, much harder for the British as supply of the land was harder due to the Americans cause was strong. The Ironic idea is that at the treaty of Paris the British didn’t lose as much as you would expect from a defeated power. The war could have turned a different way if certain turning points went a different direction.

Bibliography
Colin Bonwick The American Revolution (Macmillan 1991 )

Richard Holmes http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/rebels_redcoats_01.shtml (accessed 15/02/2010)

Maldwyn A. Jones The Limits of Liberty American History 1607-1992 (Oxford University Press)

Rickard, J. (28 May 2003), Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus, Baron von Steuben (1730-94),http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_steuben.html

Harry M.Ward The American Revolution Nationhood Achieved, 1763-1788,

The Darkest Day Bloody Badajoz

 

“Let any man consider this and he must admit that a British Army  bears with it an awful power.” [1]

 

 Robert Knowles would use this term in his memirors. This quote is specifically related to the siege of Badajoz and its sacking. What happend during those few days would become one of the most infamous events in the history of the British Army.

[2]

The Siege of 1812 was not the first attempt at taking Badajoz. Two previous attempts were made in 1809 and then in 1811, both were called off due to French reinforcement column approaching from the Madrid Garrison. What we gather from accounts at the time is an interesting letter from Lord Wellington  to Colonel Beresford stating “of the difficulty of breaching”[3] This letter signifies the real difficulty of taking Badajoz. The reason why this is stated is due to the defence nature of the fortress. It is not simply a wall as some might think. The nature of the construction of the outer star fort provides a real challenge for any potential assailant. Nine Bastions  made up the defences of the star fort; each segment consisted of five to six and a half foot ditch between a scarp and counter scarp . So in effect the glacis which is the slope towards the wall would obscure the ditch. In reality this type of defensive styling had not changed since the sixteenth century.

[4]

These defences consisted of cannon, musket and occasionally a primitive form of anti-personnel mine. Especially when the breach was made, French garrison Commander General Armand Phillipon would utilise Chevaux-de-Frises and planks of wood along the breaches with twelve inch spikes and cannon covering the breach exits, which would provide devastating grapeshot. The most interesting of all would be the decision to fill the ditch with water, which would be a strange throw back towards medieval fortifications.[5]  With this we can see that the original letter could foresee the sheer scale and potential casualty list that could accumulate if an assault was to take place.

The offensive nature of the British offensive in 1812 made it crucial for Badajoz to fall. Even though some historians argue that the siege may not have been necessary; it has to be recognised that this is with the benefit of hindsight.  We need to look at the British assault plan to get some context towards the movement of the siege. The plan was to construct the trench system near the St Rouge Road along to the River Guadiana. This would allow the Batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery , to attempt to form a practical breach in the fortresses defences. On the issue of defence it was not simply the French confined to the fortress itself. The British forces  had to assault fort San Christobal, Tete de Pont, Fort Pardeleras and Fort Picurina. These were commonly held by a small French force of cannon and French Voltigeur’s. These were taken very quickly and the initial barrage on Badajozs walls began on the 25th May and it would fall to the night of the 6th of April to actually begin an effective assault on the fortress.

The assault would be made on three sections of the Fortress . The main British assault force would assault the greater breach at the Saint Maria bastion, which consisted of the Light Division  and the 4th Division under Wellington’s direct command. Picton’s 3rd Division would use ladders to scale the Castle and create a secondary attack on the St Vincent bastion.  At the breaches we can start to see the state of mind that would affect the besiegers once inside the fortress. A Times newspaper reporter who was imbedded with the army, this was surprisingly quite common at the time, stated that: “Of all the awful sights I have ever beheld, the attack on Badajoz was the most so. It began at ten at night, when the enemy threw up a racket, and afterwards several fire-balls. As soon as our troops approached the breaches, tremendous explosions took place; and as the night was very dark, you may form to yourself some idea how great and awful was the effect.”[6]  You can begin to see the effect that the initial assault would have on the troops at the breaches due to the defensive setup that General Phillipon had constructed. It became hard for the army to effective get a lodgement within its walls and the casualties would begin to mount. “Let any man picture to himself this frightful carnage taking place in a space less than one hundred square yards. Let him consider that the slain died not all suddenly, nor by one manner of death; that some perished by steel, some shot, some by water, that some crushed and mangled by heavy weights, some trampled upon, some dashed to pieces by the fiery explosions.” Sir William Naiper’s words sum up the mounting dead and injured at the breaches, and when you add in the French taunting: “Come into Badajoz”[7], it is initially reasonable to understand a sense of frustration and anger among the besieging troops that no progress was being made. The best way to describe this is from a Sergeant in the Forty Third light infantry division assaulting the St Maria breach. “As the battle grew hot, I caught the contagion that burned all around, and in this desperate and murderous mood advanced to the breach of Trinidad.”[8]  George Simmons would go onto show the ferocity of the French defence . “The French cannon sweeping the breaches with a most destructive fire. Lights were thrown among us….that burned most brilliantly, and made us easier to be shot at…I had seen some fighting, but nothing like this”[9] . The fighting and its aftermath would be ‘nothing likes this’.

It is common knowledge, even to the modern day period, that anger needs to be vented for psychological well being. This helps us to understand the anger of so many fallen and injured at the breach would have a huge physiological impact on the army. Ian Fletcher agrees with my hypothesis with regards to the detrimental value of anger  but also on the combined issue of the presence of alcohol. “They had endured a miserable last 21 days in the trenches and had suffered terribly getting inside the town. Once there, however, their anger found vent and they dissolved into a dangerous mob of drunken disorderly soldiers.”[10] Ironically it was General Picton’s troops that managed to take the castle rather than the troops at the greater and lesser breach. What is also interesting to note is that the ladders used for the siege were too small and a lot of troops had to assault by scaling the last part of the wall.

When an effective lodgement had been made, the French General Phillipon promptly surrendered once the castle was captured. The French garrison was allowed to leave un- molested. What followed became a venting of anger as described by the anonymous sergeant who said that there was “desperate and murderous mood”[11] That really described the atmosphere of the men that assaulted the breaches and the castle, and really begins to explain the reasoning for the outpour of anger and violence.

What we can clearly see is a disproportion of violence dependent on rank and class. It may seem clichéd that people from different classes act differently in certain situations, and we can see this through firsthand accounts at the time. This point is best described is Robert Blakeney who arrived in the town in the second wave at the Saint Vincent breach.

“When the savages came to a door which had been locked or barricaded, they applied the muzzles of a dozen firelocks against the part of the door where the lock was fastened, and fired off together into a house and rooms, regardless of those inside Men, Women and children were shot for no other reason than pastime; every species of outrage was publically committed and in a manner so brutal that a faithful recital would be shocking to humanity.”[12]

The account describes the situation that he found himself in. Ironically though it was his role to actually maintain discipline and order, but if we look at the town planning map[13] the maze of streets and alley ways shows how hard it was for officers and Non- Commissioned officers to regain control as there was no central town square to funnel the troops into. This allowed basic command and control to break down.

We do have one piece of evidence from a soldier who took part in the sacking, that of Edward Costello who even admits the mistakes he made during events that night. “I must confess that I participated in the plunder, and received about 26 dollars for my share.”[14] The money he did obtain was ironically by accident as he was injured after the assault, he describes how he became involved in the sacking. “We then turned down a street which was opposite the foregoing scene, and entered a house which was occupied by a number of men of the Third Division. One of them immediately, on perceiving me wounded, struck off the neck of a bottle of wine with his bayonet, and presented it to me, which relieved me for a time form the faintness I had previously felt.”[15]  The extract goes onto the next day but we can see that Edward Costello’s actions are credited to alcohol, which in turn attributed to his actions that night.

 

 

The sacking went on for many a few days, and this is known through the private correspondence of Captain JL Blackmen of the Coldstream Guards in letters to his parents dated the 8th April 1812. “Should the advance we our found for him- Lord Wellington is still at Badajoz.”[16] We begin to see the sheer scale of the problem that was created by the sacking. At the time this letter was written the main body of the army was still at Badajoz trying to stop the sacking, which was proving to be more difficult than at Ciudad Rodrigo due to the town’s natural make up. When order was eventually restored no punishments were given out, only the threat of punishment, and this is where I think the problem lies. William Grattan would agree with my statement as he openly states his disgust. “Many men were flogged, but although the contrary has been said, none were hanged-yet hundreds deserved it.”[17] It is crucial to understand that the lack of punishment at Ciudad Rodrigo caused this problem and I suspect that William Grattan was contemplating this at the time, however  it may be the fear of  death that brought the men out of the city after they have ‘let off steam’. This did not end the darkest day of the British army; the camp women had their part to play as well. “An officer of the king Germans Legion observed around 200 women pouring into the town when it was barley taken to have their share of the plunder and was ‘sickened when saw them coolly step over the dying, indifferent to their cries for a drop of water, and deliberately search the pockets of the dead for money, or even divest them of their bloody coats’.”[18]  The women were feared by the Spanish locals more so than the men. Mainly due to the conditions that the women faced and the possibility of becoming a widow very quickly after becoming married it was not common for women to cover the battlefield in search of loot, clothing and food to help support them-selves before they had a chance to re-marry. So in that sense it was not just the men that took part in the sacking the armies’ women had their part to play too


[1] Lieutenant Knowles Robert. The War in the Peninsula (Stroud: Spellmount Military Memoris 2001).,pg87

[2] The Times, Monday, Apr 27, 1812; pg. 3; Issue 8588; col B

[3] Letter From Wellington to Colonel Beresford 1809

[4] Profile of the European fortress wall from the 16th century.

[5] Fletcher Ian. In the Hell Before Daylight the Siege and Storming of the Fortress of Badajoz 16th March- 6 April 1812 ( Gloucestershire: Spellmount Military 2008).,pg62

[6] Capture of Badajoz.The Times Saturday, Apr 25, 1812; pg. 4; Issue 8587; col D

[7] Fletcher Ian. Wellington’s Regiments: The Men and their Battles from Rolica to Waterloo 1808-1815 ( Staplehurst: Spellmount Military 1994).,pg67

[8] Anon., Memoirs of a Sergeant late in the Forty-Third Light Infantry Regiment (Kessinger Publishing 2010) .,pg168

[9] Esdaile J Charles. Peninsular Eyewitness The Experience of War in Spain and Portugal 1808-1813 (Barnsley: Pen and Sword 2008) .,pg208

[10] Fletcher Ian.  Wellington’s Regiments: The Men and their Battles from Rolica to Waterloo 1808-1815 ( Staplehurst: Spellmount Military 1994).,pg69

[11] Anon., Memoirs of a Sergeant late in the Forty-Third Light Infantry Regiment (Kessinger Publishing 2010) .,pg168

[12] Boy in the Peninsular War. The services, adventures, and experiences of Robert Blakeney, subaltern in the 28th .,pg273

[13] Spanish Planning Office Town Map of Badajoz

[14] ^IBID.,pg274

[15] Rifleman Costello. The Adventures of a Soldier of the 95th (Rifles) in the Peninsular & Waterloo Campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars (Great Britain: Leonaur 2005 ).,pg273

[16] Personal Letters of Cpt JL Blackman Coldstream Guards, April 8th 1812

[17]Holmes Richard. Wellington the Iron Duke (London: Harper Collins 2003).,pg161

[18] Venning Annabel. Following the Drum, The lives of Army Wives and Daughters (London: Review 2006).,pg160

 

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The Following was written by a guest to our blog looking at the City of God in the Context of the fall of Rome and the greater sphere of education;  please enjoy.

https://i0.wp.com/www.artilim.com/painting/g/gozzoli-benozzo/st-augustine-cycle---teaching-in-rome.jpg

In this analysis I will be looking at Book 5, Chapter 24 of ‘The City of God’, summarising and looking
at it from an analytical perspective, taking into account both social and political contexts. St.
Augustine wrote ‘The City of God’ in response to the sacking of Rome in August 410AD directing ‘at
the paganism of an empire now in dissolution’ (Palmer, 2001: 26), due to the accusations that
Christianity was the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.

This chapter of the ‘City of God’, a ‘Mirror of Princes’, was written by St Augustine to depict the
image of how Christian Roman Emperors ought to act. It criticises the Romans for not restraining
themselves in its strive for power and control, and forgetting that they were only temporal rulers of
the earthly city and that the power of the true God comes from God. Furthermore this was power
willing given by god to the Emperors and should be used as an extension of his worship to ‘promote
true religion’ (Deane, 1963:134), and the teachings of Christianity.

In addition Augustine continues on that Christian emperors should act both morally and religiously.
Be humble and not be surrounded by the sense of grandeur and power of those who honour them
with meaningless praise. This strive for praise makes virtues, not a true virtue, and pride is the root
of all sin. Augustine continues on that Christian emperors must be compassionate and be willing to
pardon those who have committed injustice, with mercy whatever severity of the crime, so that the
committee of the crime can amend their ways and be penitent before god, as all men are depraved
with sin and are fallen.

So in conclusion to my summery Augustine is stating that Christians emperors should be humble
not seeking out empty glory, ‘vain conceit’, and be restrained in searching for control and power.
Emperors should use their power as an extension of God to promote the true faith of Christianity
and its teachings. Emperors should also remember that they are in turn just men and only temporal
rulers of the plane and the God is the true ruler of all. As all men are fallen including the emperor,
and he as well as other men must be penitent and pray to God to forgive him for his transgressions
and sin.

When analysing this text, historical, political and social contexts is of the up most importance,
as Augustine writes this in response to the paganism of the falling Roman Empire which was on
a ‘Slippery slope of moral decline… Rome had free rein to indulge in selfish passions of greed and
domination, only the city of god in heaven was eternal and supreme’ (Baker, 2006).

To begin with, the beliefs of Augustine and the historical contexts are hugely interlinked, and must
be considered, when looking at this chapter. Given that Augustine was a theologian more than a
philosopher and furthermore that his works were not his own ideas about how to live a virtuous
life or how society should act but rather the Word of God, written from the scriptures, (Deane,
1963). He was also a preacher of the Word of God, so his audience would be the pagans who were
in dissolution, frighten at the events of the Sacking of Rome in 410 AD. Augustine saw his task as the
preacher to set forward the message of God’s Word, and defend the word of god against enemies of
the faith e.g. pagans. This was motive of writing the city of God, to defend the Word of God against
the accusations that Christianity was the reason of the Sacking of Rome.

However this may seem somewhat hypocritical when we look at the historical contexts of the

Sacking of Rome. The Sack of Rome was led by a leader of the Visigoth, or Goth tribe, who were

asylum seekers to Rome to escape the attack of the Huns. However they were met great difficulty
due to not having equal status in the eyes of the Roman Empire, this was due to the Romans being
anxious of the Goth tribes. However when the attempted assignation of leaders of the tribe failed,
Alaric saw this as just cause to fight for their right as citizens and as Christian. Alaric was a Christian
and so was the Goth Tribe, however they were far from virtuous, they killed and tortured the
Romans who were fleeing and looted the pagan temples. (Baker, 2006)

https://i2.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/-akW_7JYEtmY/T7r5jRLH5rI/AAAAAAAAAGg/sYVtIXVPCdo/s1600/rome2.jpg

Additionally when looking at this chapter of ‘The City of God’, Augustine’s Theology can be seen
directly, especially his theology of the Fallen man, even more critically when he doesn’t condemn
Alaric’s behaviour as a Christian. The Theology of the fallen man stems from Augustine’s previous
work the ‘Confessions’ where he confesses the multiple sins he committed as a child but also in
adulthood. He comes the conclusion that it is in mans nature to sin, because when Adam and Eve
were condemned for ‘original sin’, by turning away from gods wishes and eating from the Tree of
Knowledge, therefore committing themselves to the root of all sin pride. ‘Disobedience and rebellion
against God, which had its root in mans pride and in his presumptuous desires’ (Deane, 1963: 16).
Augustine dictates in this chapter that the emperor must turn to the true God, and through prayer
ask god forgiveness for his sins, because this pride and ‘free-will’ to sin is what led to the sacking
of Rome, as the pagans turned their back on God, for pride and power to control vast amounts of
nations.

In regards to contemporary education in today’s standards, St. Augustine’s ideas are more idealistic
towards Christianity. With society today, especially in the United Kingdom, it has become secularised
and multicultural, so Augustine’s ideas of using power and an ‘extension of worship’ to promote
the true faith would be highly inappropriate, as this would ignore other faiths and beliefs in society.
The idea of teaching humbleness, and restrain against sinning or perhaps even classing this as bad
behaviour is rooted to religion, as some of the laws we see are based on teachings from the bible and
we cannot get past that as it’s in our history, such as the idea of morality and punishment for our
crimes may it be in this life or the next.

Perhaps this may be biased on my account due to being an atheist, and this has therefore led me to
the idea that his teachings in a modern-day perspective would not be effectively applied. Perhaps
by becoming secularised we are losing our restraint and are in a city of dissolution because we are
not ‘God-fearing’.

However when looking at this on a grander scale of more historical education of the middle ages, it
did supply some deviance on contemporary education, after the ‘dark ages’. Where most education
establishments were churches where future members of the clergy were taught how to read and
write in Latin, and when the protest church was created English.

Deane, H.A (1963) The Political and Social Ideas of St. Augustine. USA: Columbia University Press.

Baker, S (2006) Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, UK:BBC Books, pg 276-312

O’Daly, G (1999) Agustine’s City of God: A Reader’s Guide. . Oxford: Clarendon Press. pg 99-100

Palmer, J.A (2001) Fifty Major Thinkers on Education, , Oxon: Routledge., pg 25-29

History For Kiddies

Just something I would put up for an younger viewers of the Blog