NAPOLEON’S LAST CAMPAIGN (PART NINE)

 

1024px-Prussian_Attack_Plancenoit_by_Adolf_Northern(To read Part Eight, go here. Or, to read this series from the beginning, go here)

At 6 p.m., Marshal Ney called off the fruitless cavalry assaults upon Wellington’s Anglo-Dutch regiments on Mont-Saint-Jean. His torn uniform covered with mud and his face blackened with gunpowder smoke, Ney was now ordered by Napoleon to capture La Haye Saint at all costs.

Forward of and warding Wellington’s center, the farm complex had been held all day by elements of the King’s German Legion. Thus far, it had held out against every French assault; and fire from its defenders had harried the flanks of every French assault on Wellington’s position that had been forced to bypass it.

Napoleon explained to Ney that the key to cracking Wellington’s position lay in taking La Haye Saint. With this gadfly and breakwater gone, the Emperor could advance his final reserve, the Imperial Guard, up the Charleroi Road and break Wellington’s decimated infantry; which he was certain could take no more punishment.

Meanwhile, however, a crises was developing on his right flank. Another battle was raging there, independent of that being conducted against Wellington’s position.

Blücher’s Prussians had arrived in strength, and were threatening to cut his line of retreat!

PLANCENOIT

All that long June day (only three days short of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year) the Prussians had marched towards the sound of the guns. Leaving a single corps (Thielmann’s III Korps) to hold the river Crossing at Wavre against interference by the hapless Grouchy; Blücher and Gneisenau had come with every man, horse, and gun at their disposal. At 4 pm, even as Ney was preparing his grand cavalry assault, the Prussian vanguard was massing under the cover of the Bois de Paris forest along Napoleon’s right (eastern) flank. Here the lead elements of Von Bülow’s IV Korps, two infantry brigades, two batteries of guns, and a regiment of Silesian Hussars were poised to strike toward the village of Plancenoit. Behind them and still marching forward was the rest of the Corps, in total some 32,000 men….

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THE SPARTANS: ELITE WARRIORS OF ANCIENT GREECE (PART 2)

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THE REAL STORY OF THE WARRIOR-HEROES OF ANCIENT GREECE!

“For the Spartans, it wasn’t walls or magnificent public buildings that made a city; it was their own ideals. In essence, Sparta was a city of the head and the heart. And it existed in its purest form in the disciplined march of a hoplite phalanx on their way to war!” – Bettany Hughes, writer/historian.

(For Part One, go here)

THE PERSIAN WARS

Sparta’s finest hour came in the early 5th century B.C., when Persia, the greatest empire that the Ancient World had yet produced, launched two separate invasions of Greece and Europe.

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The Persian Empire had been founded by Cyrus the Great in the 6th Century B.C. Under Cyrus and his successors, this empire had devoured all the other states of the Middle East. By the dawn of the 5th century, the Persian Empire covered an expanse of land that stretched from Libya in the west, to India in the east. Its northern borders rested on the edge of the vast Eurasian steppes; its southern on the Indian Ocean. In the west, the Persian Empire bordered on the Aegean Sea; across which it eyed the turbulent, independent city-states of Greece with suspicion and disdain.

In 546 B.C., the Cyrus the Great had incorporated the Greek cities along the Aegean coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) into his empire. But in 500-499 B.C., these Greek cities of Ionia had rebelled against Persian rule. In this the rebels were aided by the Ionian “mother city”, Athens; and the small city of Eretria, on the island of Euboea. The revolt was short lived; but Persian memory was long….

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Thermopylae scene

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THE AGE OF ARTHUR: PART SEVEN

1 fort under attack

This is the Seventh-part of our discussion of Britain in the so-called Age of Arthur: the 5th though the mid-6th Century A.D. It is a fascinating period, with the Classical civlization of Greece and Rome giving way to the Germanic “Dark Ages”. It was the sunset of Celtic-Roman culture in Britain; it was the Age of Arthur!

But who was Arthur?

Before we answer that question, it is necessary we understand the world in which he lived.

(Read Part Six here; or start from the beginning here!))

SHADOW IN THE EAST

Once we move past the events between 420-455 AD, we are forced, in many cases, into the realm of informed speculation. The campaigns of Ambrosius and the movements of the Anglo-Saxons are only given cursory treatment by the chroniclers of this era. None are contemporary. Gildas the Monk, who writes in the second quarter of the 6th century, is the nearest. He is terse in the extreme in describing events in the 5th century following the end of Vortigern’s reign.

That said, we can make educated guesses and, based on what both archeology and the sources provide, develop a working theory.

Between 465 and 475, Hengist and his Saxons burst out of their confinement on the Island of Thanet (see Part Five). Quickly, they overran much of Kent, likely as far as the Medway and perhaps to the Thames near Londinium. The majority of the British population had largely fled or died during the years of Saxon terror and occupation, and Saxon crofters had been quietly infiltrating into it for years. Now, Hengist formally retook possession of the lands once granted him by the late, unlamented Vortigern.

We don’t know how Ambrosius Aurelianus, leader of the Britons, responded. Kent was only one trouble spot. The Saxons were expanding all along the eastern coast of Britain. From the Isle of Wight to the mouth of the Humber, Anglo-Saxon incursions were a constant threat.

Britain logress 474

To check these, Ambrosius established garrisons in strategic towns and forts all along the new frontier with the Saxons. These “burhs” ran roughly across the center of the island along a rough north-south access: The eastern portion of the island was largely written off as “the Lost Lands of Logres”.

A shadow had fallen over the eastern part of the Island, as the barbarian power grew and spread….

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DEADLIEST BLOGGER’S GREATEST QUOTES ON WAR 3

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(To Read Part Two, Go Here)

War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil. – George Orwell

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. – John Stuart Mill

Between a battle lost and a battle won, the distance is immense and there stand empires. – Napoleon

The Spartans ask not how many are the enemy; only where they are. – Plutarch

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1066: A BLOODY AND MOMENTOUS YEAR (2)

1 battle of hastingsHarold Godwinson had won a great victory at Stamford Bridge, defeating a Norse army and killing its storied leader, Harald Hardrada; the mightiest warrior in the north. But there was no time for celebration: William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, had crossed the Channel, and landed in Kent!

In the absence of the English naval levies (the Sea Fyrd) that had been dismissed with the coming of autumn, William had but to await good sailing weather and his rival’s distraction in the North to pounce upon England like a leopard upon his prey. Taking advantage of the opportunity the late season and the Norwegian invasion had given him, William and his Normans crossed the channel on the 28th of September; just two days after Stamford Bridge.

The Norman invasion army of 1066 was a true combined arms force, comprised of heavy cavalry, close order infantry, and archers. The mounted knights and their retainers, the elite strike force of the army, came from all across northern France: from Normandy, Brittany, and Flanders. The Age of Chivalry, during which the armored knight on horseback was king of battle, was just dawning. The coming struggle would pit the new against the old, as mounted knights (supported by archers and heavy foot) would face an army trained in the Viking Age tactics of the “shield-wall”….

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1066: A BLOODY AND MOMENTOUS YEAR!

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On October 14, 1066, two determined enemies faced each other over shallow valley. Arrayed on one side was the invading army of William, Duke of Normandy. Looking down upon them from the heights of Senlac Hill were the defenders of England, led by their warrior king, Harold. With the fate of England in the balance, they would contend that day in one of the greatest and most decisive battles in the sanguine history of the British Isles: The Battle of Hastings.

This struggle was the culmination of years of dynastic intrigue concerning the succession to the English throne that followed the death of King Edward the Confessor. This issue was complicated by the events a generation earlier in England’s history, when the Danes under their kings Svein Forkbeard and his son, Canute, wrested England from the hands of the Anglo-Saxon king, Aethelred the “Unready” (though this appellate may be a misconstruction of the Anglo-Saxon word for “Unwise”).

The Danish conqueror, Canute, married Aethelred’s widow Emma; a daughter of the Norman duke, Richard I (“the Fearless”). Her two sons by Aethelred, Alfred and Edward fled the Danes and took refuge in the court of their Norman kinsmen at Rouen.

Emma also had a son by Canute, Harthacanute, who briefly ruled England and Denmark following the deaths of both his father and brother. Upon his deathbed, Harthacanute named his half-brother Edward, still in Normandy, as his heir. (Edward’s elder brother Alfred had been treacherously killed by the Danes some years earlier.)

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 1 : le roi Édouard le Confesseur

Edward’s excessive piety earned him the sobriquet, “The Confessor”. Raised in the court of Normandy, Edward favored his Norman kinsmen and friends. He was also naturally suspicious of those English lords who had won favor under Danish rule, particularly the powerful Earl of Wessex, Godwin; who had linked himself to the house of Canute by marriage. Edward the Confessor’s 24 year reign was marked by tension between his English lords and Norman favorites at court. Eventually Godwin forced the Norman faction out of England, becoming the “strong-man” behind the throne in Edward’s later years as king.

When Godwin died, his place beside Edward was taken by his strong son, Harold Godwinson, now Earl of Wessex. Harold used his wealth and position at court to amass a private army of professional Anglo-Danish warriors, called Huscarls (or Housecarls, “Household Warriors”). Canute had first created such a force, and Harold’s force was modeled on this elite body of fighting men. With these he defeated a coalition of rival English lords and the Welsh Prince, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, from 1055-1057. He then warred successfully in Wales in 1063, killing Gruffydd and bringing peace to the Welsh Marches.

The following year, a momentous event occurred. Harold and his youngest brother, Gyrth, were shipwrecked off the Norman Coast….

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stamford-bridge-bjorn

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GREAT SHIPS OF WAR: THE YAMATO!

Yamato_during_Trial_Service

Deadliest Blogger begins a new series on famous warships or types of ships in history.

In 1940 the Imperial Japanese Navy launched the heaviest and (arguably) the most powerfully armed battleship in history *. Heavily armored and armed, the Yamato and its sister ship, Musashi, sported 16″ of steel armor at the “beltline” (sides above and at the waterline), and massive 18″ guns (the largest-caliber guns ever mounted on any warship).

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