Why the Western Front Stalemated in WWI

The conventional explanation for why the Western Front in World War I settled into a stalemate is that the power of defensive weapons was stronger than the offensive methods employed.   The theory is that the defensive potential of machine-guns, artillery, repeating rifles, and trenches was unbreakable with infantry and artillery alone.   This simplistic explanation does not suffice under close scrutiny though.   If this were so, why were the Germans not stopped in France until after they had removed troops to the Eastern front for the Battle of Tannenberg and why were the French stopped cold when they attempted to invade Germany in August 1914? The reasons for … More after the Jump…

The Crimean War part one – The Narrative

This war has always interested me; mainly because of the use of technology and the admittedly fuzzy reasoning for the war in the first place.   The war was probably the last European Great Power War that was fought for limited dynastic and prestige reasons.   The ostensible cause of the war was a dispute in 1852 between the Orthodox and Catholic churches over control and access to some of the shrines in Jerusalem.   The Russians decided to get involved as the self-appointed guardians of Christian places in the Turkish Empire and the French got involved in their self-appointed role as the guardian of Catholics.   At that, war was not declared until October 1853 and the shooting did not really start until November when the Russian Black Sea Fleet decimated the Turkish navy.

More after the Jump…The Crimean War part one – The Narrative

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.

More after the Jump…The Transformation of War Wrought by the Armies of the French Revolution and Napoleon

The Fifth Crusade

            Pope Innocent III (p.1198-1216), who was perhaps the most ardent supporter of Crusade to hold the Papacy, issued the Papal Bull Quia maior in April 1213 calling for a new Crusade to recapture Jerusalem.[1]  This Bull set the standard for all future Crusading Bulls; in it, Innocent introduced many new concepts that widened the appeal of Crusading in Christendom.   This was the first time that the indulgence had been expanded to include those who could not go on Crusade, they could gain the indulgence by supporting the Crusade financially.   Innocent intended for this new Crusade to be led by the church and he worked tirelessly to see the Crusade come to fruition.

            The response to the new call for Crusade was tremendous throughout Europe except for France where the nobility was engaged in suppressing the Albigensian heresy.   Duke Leopold VI of Austria (1176-1230) led a large contingent from Austria on Crusade.   In Hungary, Andrew II (1205-1235) had taken the cross during the Fourth Crusade but had not fulfilled his vow so he now joined this new effort in its fulfillment.   A churchman Oliver of Paderborn the Bishop of Cologne gathered a large army in Northwest Germany, Holland, and Flanders, which he then led on the Crusade himself.   Oliver also wrote an account of the Fifth Crusade that is one of the most valuable sources extant.   Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (1205-1250) also took the cross promising to lead a massive army of Germans but he first had to cement the control of his empire.

More after the Jump…The Fifth Crusade

Battle Analysis: The Ludendorff Offensives of 1918

In the spring of 1918 the German army attempted a series of what they hoped would be war-winning offensives on the Western Front that ultimately were to fail and their failure led directly to the German signing of an armistice in November of 1918. The failure of the Ludendorff Offensives as they were known was strategic and operational in nature. The German army had devised a new tactical system and doctrine that broke the stalemate of the Western front. What they could not do was follow through once the front had been broken. The Germans had developed the tactical system known as infiltration in response to the stalemate of trench … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Campaign of Germany in 1866

       This work is the Official History of the 1866 Seven Weeks’ War prepared by the Prussian General Staff after the war. I got this book for use in my thesis and it probably would not be of interest to anybody except for hard-core history fans or specialists. That being said, it is one of the better official histories I have ever read.        It is readable and concise and includes a wealth of information. Perhaps the best part of this work from a historian’s perspective is that it is based on primary source documents that are no longer available because they were destroyed in the closing days of World … More after the Jump…

The Rise of the Crusading Ethos, Politics and Religion in the Eleventh-century

Europe in the tenth and eleventh centuries was a continent in transition.   The states of Europe were still in flux and the kings of Europe had limited authority outside their own personal demesne.   Although individual French kings did wield considerable power, they waged a constant struggle to have their authority recognized by the great magnates in France, especially after the fall of the Carolingian dynasty in the ninth century.[1] The rest of Europe was no exception, in England the king was engaged in a great struggle with his leading barons and the Pope that would not be settled until the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.[2]

More after the Jump…The Rise of the Crusading Ethos, Politics and Religion in the Eleventh-century

Some Thoughts on Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was probably the most accomplished politician that Germany has ever produced.   He was almost single-handedly responsible for the emergence of the nation of Germany during the nineteenth century.   He was appointed Prime Minister of Germany in 1862 by the Prussian King Wilhelm I (1797-1888) in the middle of a constitutional crisis in Prussia in which the Reichstag refused to authorize a state budget.   Bismarck handled this crisis with ease by using the machinery of state to collect taxes without the Reichstag thus making them irrelevant.   He continued to collect taxes and finance the state for four years until finally the Reichstag was … More after the Jump…

Book Review: The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan

           

The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War

The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan,  is one of those rare history books that manages to be both readable scholarly at the same time.   Indeed, it is an even rarer breed of book because it is an anthology and not by a single author.   Where many history books are written for the specialist historical crowd and there is an element of haughtiness in the writing, that condescension is entirely missing here.   This history book does not assume knowledge on the part of the reader, but at the same time does not present its material in such a way that the non-historian would be put off by it.

More after the Jump…Book Review: The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan

Military Principles: France

Military Principles: France France during the 19th century and until the end of WWI was enthralled with the writings of two authors and naturally the exploits of Napoleon when they developed their principles of military operations. The two authors are Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini and Ardant du Picq, both wrote seminal works that were avidly devoured by French military thinkers but for different reasons. First, and most influential was Jomini, he was a Swiss-born French speaking veteran of the Napoleonic wars who served on the Napoleons staff for much of the Napoleonic wars and wrote The Art of War analyzing Napoleonic tenets and presented what he thought of as the recipe for … More after the Jump…

Military Principles: 1st in a series

There are several things that are important when studying any military battle or campaign.  There are also several versions of this list and which list you use essentially depends on personal preference.  What follows is my personal list of what for lack of a better term can be called Military Principles.  These are things that in my opinion the victorious commander and his army must get right to be victorious.  Let me clarify that, the victorious military force must get more of these right than his opponent to win.  It is rare indeed that any commander or army gets every one of them right every time. If you study military … More after the Jump…