The Third Crusade

The Third Crusade (1189-1192) was launched as a direct result of the loss of Jerusalem to the Muslims in October 1187.   The loss of Jerusalem was occasioned by the destruction of the crusaders at the Battle of Hattin on July 4, 1187.[1]  Hattin was a disaster for the Kingdom of Jerusalem, most of the army was destroyed with only a small party led by Raymond of Tripoli escaping.   The king Guy of Lusignan (b.1150-d.1194) was captured as well the masters of the Templars and Hospitallers.   All the military monks were executed and most of the prisoners were sold into slavery.

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Medieval Fortifications

Fortifications have existed since before recorded history and the Middle Ages were no different.   Forts and castles were used throughout the Middle Ages as a means of controlling territory and could even be used in an offensive manner such as the English under Edward I used in the conquest of Wales in the twelfth century.

            Most of the fortifications used in the early medieval period were Roman works that had survived the fall of the empire.   Most surviving Roman fortifications were town walls and even if they did not survive completely they were incorporated into new construction whenever possible.

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Book Review: Frederick the Great On The Art of War

Jay Luvaas is a professor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Pa.; he coauthored a series of Battlefield Guides of U.S. Civil War battlefields that became almost instant classics. He has authored several books of military history such as “The Military Legacy of the Civil War: The European Inheritance”, “The Civil War: In the Writings of Col. G.F.R. Henderson”, and “Napoleon on the Art of War”. He has also authored many articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Parameters, the Journal of the U.S. Army War College and the Civil War Times Illustrated. Professor Luvaas prefaces his work by pointing out that the book is not a straight chronological … More after the Jump…

Battle Analysis: The German Invasion of Russia in 1941

The German invasion of European Russia was a huge mistake for several reasons, the biggest being that Germany had insufficient forces to win in the first year.   Another reason was the force disparity between the German and Russian armies there is also the almost total lack of realistic logistics planning on the part of the German High Command or OKH.   The German army did not have contingency plans for a winter campaign and were thus caught flat-footed when Russia failed to capitulate in 1941; this lack of planning was despite the recommendations of such officers as Guderian and Manstein.

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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…

The First Crusade

            The First Crusade was arguably the most successful of the various numbered Crusades; however, they were not particularly well equipped for a campaign in Asia Minor.   It is no surprise that they were not, as the climate in Anatolia is completely different from Europe.   What is amazing is the way in which the Crusaders persevered in spite of the hardships they had to endure throughout the march across Asia Minor.  

            The main Crusader army seems to have had an appreciation for the difficulties involved in a march across Anatolia; no doubt; the counsel of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118) was helpful in their choice of march route.   Prior to leaving the region of Nicaea to continue the Crusade, the leaders held a council at Pelekanum where the Frankish leaders and the Alexius discussed further plans for the Crusade.[1]  It was decided that the Crusader army would move as a series rather than together so that there would be more flexibility in deployment, and to simplify logistics.

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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…

The Military Revolution?

I saw this piece (Warfare of the Future) on RCP today and it got me to thinking about the Nature of Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMAs) in general. I dont think there are a whole lot of people out there that are not in the military in into to military history that are very conversant with the idea of a RMA. The idea was first proposed by historian Michael Roberts in a series of lectures in England in 1955. It has gained currency among the current crop of thinkers in the worldwide defense community, especially think-tanks and weapon makers. The RMA is the current killer-app of defense thinking.

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Clausewitzean Ideas of War and how they Relate to Present Conflicts

Clausewitzean Ideas of War and how they Relate to Present Conflicts

As I am getting ready to begin the final class for my MA and complete my Thesis I have been re-reading Clausewitz and his ideas and theory of War.   One of the things that that has struck me the most and made me realize how much Clausewitz is misunderstood is the way in which his most famous quote from the book about how “War is the continuation of policy by other means”[1] is completely taken out of context in most history.

If you read his book further, and I assume that most generals, staff chiefs, and even military historians have then it is clear that this quote is just a starting point given the numerous caveats and expansions on that simple statement in his theory.   Indeed, the very section that this quote heads explains what he means in a very concise and unambiguous manner; it is worth quoting in full.  

“We see, therefore, that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means.   What remains peculiar to war is simply the peculiar nature of its means.   War in general, and the commander in any specific instance, is entitled to require that the trend and designs of policy shall not be inconsistent with these means.   That of course, is no small demand; but however much it may affect political aims in a given case, it will never do more than modify them.   The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and means can never be considered in isolation from their purpose.”[2]

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Military Principles: Britain

To be honest, Britain did not go very far toward developing principles of war during the 19th century.  There were two reasons for this, 1. Britain was heavily committed in fighting small colonial wars such as the Indian Mutiny, and Boer War, not to mention numerous other small conflicts throughout their globe spanning colonial empire; and 2. They did not have a mass army.  In 1914 Britain could only field a small six division expeditionary force compared to the mass armies of Germany, France, and Russia. A short history of the 19th century British Army is probably called for here because it explains much.  After the defeat of Napoleon the British army … 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…