The Battle of the Nations – 16-19 October, 1813

The Battlefield at Leipzig

The October, 1813 Battle of the Nations in Leipzig was arguably as important as the 1814 Battle of Waterloo.  In English language historiography of the Napoleonic Wars it is often downplayed or only briefly mentioned however.  This is mainly because no English speaking armies fought in the battle.  The lions share of the fighting at Leipzig was done by Austrian and Russian armies and thus the English speaking world tries to ignore this decisive battle in which almost 50,000 men died. After Napoleons’ defeat in the Russian Campaign of 1812 and the concurrent French defeat in the Peninsular Campaign the Allied nations of Europe joined together once again in the … Read more…

The Evolution of Warfare and the Crimea

“History” is a problematic concept because it is very much tied to a specific culture. History departments derive from the medieval university culture of Europe and we have to accept that most people, at most of the time, have lived without any notion of it. Perception is a key to understanding this phenomena: in the history of warfare, violent confrontations have in large part been endemic. Two parties confront each other and display a show of brutal force and often the conflict is resolved symbolically by a single dual or one side is hidden behind a fortification, while tribute is discussed. A perfect example of endemic warfare would be the … Read more…

Book Review: The Great Degeneration by Niall Ferguson

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If there is one book in the realm of history or political science any informed person needs to read this year then Niall Ferguson’s The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die is it. In this short book Ferguson goes right to the heart of why the West seems to be in decline and analyzes in short, incisive prose why that is so and perhaps what can be done to reverse it. The book itself is only 147 pages of text divided into an introduction, four topical chapters and a conclusion. There are twenty pages of notes but no bibliography or index, which is unusual for one of Dr. … Read more…

Book Review: Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 by Richard R. Beeman

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[FULL DISCLOSURE: I received my copy of this book free from the author. I was not paid for this review and the opinion expressed is purely my own] Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776 by Richard Beeman is the tale of the First and Second Continental Congresses from the opening of the First until the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776. It was serendipitous that I received this book from the publisher when I did because the events leading to and surrounding the Declaration of Independence have recently become an area of interest of mine. The book is 418 pages of text separated … Read more…

The Transformation of War Wrought by the Armies of the French Revolution and Napoleon

In the years before the French Revolution, warfare in Europe was moribund at best.   The wars of the period were dynastic wars fought to maintain the traditional balance of power and were generally limited in scale and scope.   The armies of this era were professional armies with an aristocratic officer class and private soldiers drawn from the lowest segments of society and subject to brutal discipline.   Desertion and looting were rife in the pre-revolutionary or old regime army’s, which partly explains the discipline, the other part of the discipline equation was the need for soldiers to execute their battlefield actions in concert to maximize the effect of … Read more…

Loaded Cannon in NYC

The cannon in Question.
Image Courtesy CBSNews

This is a curious item of interest: 18th century cannon in NYC found to be loaded with ammo

The cannon in Question. Image Courtesy CBSNews
The cannon in Question.
Image Courtesy CBSNews

Recently, a Revolutionary era cannon from a British warship that had been on display in Central Park  until the mid-90’s in New York was found to loaded during restoration efforts.  The cannon was apparently loaded with 2 pounds of black powder and a cannonball.  It was disarmed by the NYPD Bomb Squad after the police were notified.  The powder is claimed to have still been viable.  Now wouldn’t that be a hoot if somebody had figured that out while the cannon on was still on display and fired it.  Would we consider anybody injured a Revolutionary War casualty since that is when the cannon was loaded?

My First Peer-Reviewed Article

I received notification this morning that my first Peer-Reviewed article has been accepted for publication.   It is an annotated bibliography of Frederick the Great for Oxford University Press (OUP) Online and it has taken me awhile to write it up.   The process of writing it is pretty interesting in and of itself and I am going to describe how that went. I was first contacted by OUP last November asking if I had any interest in writing an article.   The initial contact had the proposed subject and that Dr. Dennis Showalter is the Editor-in-Chief for the project. Because I get blog related spam and fishy requests and … Read more…

Book Review – Iron Kingom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark

This massive tome lays claim to being a complete history of Prussia, and if he doesn’t achieve it, he doesn’t miss it by much. It is fairly large at over 700 pages but Dr. Clark has a pleasant writing style that makes the book easy to read. He is not so much recounting events as using the historical events to tell the story of Prussia. The book opens with the retelling of the Allies abolishment of Prussia as a political unit in 1947 then goes right to the beginning of Prussia with the establishment of Prussia as a political unit under German sovereignty under the Great Elector in the years … Read more…

BOOK REVIEW: Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson

I have read several of Niall Ferguson’s books and while I may not always agree with him hi writing style and analysis are always interesting and thought provoking.   Civilization: The West and the Rest is no different.   I have the UK edition of the book, I doubt it is significantly different from the US edition except for the cover, but cannot guarantee it. In this book Dr. Ferguson attempts to analyze and explain why the West, which he defines as European and countries with a European heritage, has prospered so much over the past 500 years and how the West managed to control so much of the globe. … Read more…

Book Review: The German Way of War by Robert M. Citino

This book is an interesting read to say the least, Dr. Citino makes the case that there is a specifically German “way of war”. That way, is what he calls operational maneuver. He traces the development of this “way of war” from the 17th century battles of the Frederick William I, the “Great Elector” of electoral Brandenburg and scion of the Hohenzollern Dynasty through to the end of World War II and the final defeat of Nazi Germany. I am not myself so convinced that the discussion should end there based on my experience talking to current German soldiers about war and battle during partnership exercises while I have been … Read more…

UPDATE: Saint John of Nepomuk

John of Nepomuk Guarding or Blessing the Flötbach

I wrote a post about Saint John of Nepomuk a week or so ago and at the time I wanted to post a picture of the statue near my house but had been too lazy to stop on my way to work and take picture. I fixed that yesterday and here are the photos. The first one is a full-length photo of the statue and the second is a close-up of the inscription. The statue stands on the bridge over one branch of the creek that flows behind my house. The stream’s name is the Flötbach (Flute Stream), but of course it is the Shrierbach where it is adjacent to … Read more…

Saint John of Nepomuk

Statue of St. John of Nepomuk on the Charles Bridge in Prague

The region of Germany where I live in northeastern Bavaria is locally known as the Oberpfalz or in English the Upper Palatinate. Traditionally, this area was not part of Bavaria but was made up of numerous small separate sovereignties with a regional identity.   This was a relic of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thrity-Years War. That all changed in 1805 when Napoleon overran Germany and reduced the 350+ sovereign entities in Germany to 39, this is when the Oberpfalz became part of Bavaria. Of note is that the vast majority of the people in the region are Roman Catholic, my town is 95% Catholic for example. The … Read more…

The Transformation of War Wrought by the Armies of the French Revolution and Napoleon

This is the text of a paper I wrote for my undergrad that I found yesterday while looking through the folders on my computer for something else and decided I would post here.   It is not the best writing I have ever done but I like and still agree with the conclusion I came to in it.

In the years before the French Revolution, warfare in Europe was moribund at best.   The wars of the period were dynastic wars fought to maintain the traditional balance of power and were generally limited in scale and scope.   The armies of this era were professional armies with an aristocratic officer class and private soldiers drawn from the lowest segments of society and subject to brutal discipline.   Desertion and looting were rife in the pre-revolutionary or old regime army’s, which partly explains the discipline, the other part of the discipline equation was the need for soldiers to execute their battlefield actions in concert to maximize the effect of their weapons. [1]  Lastly, pre-revolutionary eighteenth century warfare was characterized by small field armies, reliance on depots for supplies, mechanistic battlefield evolutions, and wars for limited gains.

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