A MOST SANGUINARY AFFAIR: BLOODY TOWTON, 1461

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Palm Sunday, 1461: On a bleak, windswept Yorkshire plateau two Medieval armies clashed amidst a snowstorm; brutally hacking-and-slashing with sword, halberd and bill in what was to prove the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. It would prove to be the decisive battle in the dynastic struggle known to history as the War of the Roses.

The War of the Roses was a 30 year-long conflict between adherents of two branches of the ruling Plantagenet dynasty: the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose; and the House of Lancaster, whose device was the red rose. The roots of the conflict lay partially in the competing claims of these royal cousins; and can be traced back to the deposition of King Richard II by his Lancastrian cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, Early of Derby and Duke of Hereford; who took the throne as King Henry IV. While Henry was able to hold onto his usurped crown and pass it to his son, the heroic warrior king Henry V; the legitimacy of Lancastrian rule came into question in the reign of his grandson, Henry VI

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SPARTANS: ELITE WARRIORS OF ANCIENT GREECE 7

Greek_Galleys 1(To read Part 6, go here; or to start at the beginning, go here.)

The Battle of Mantinea in 418 BC was the largest hoplite battle of the Peloponnesian War. The one-sided Spartan victory over their rivals secured Spartan hegemony over the Peloponnesians; and confirmed their reputation as the foremost soldiers in Hellas.

The prime agent behind the anti-Spartan alliance that collapsed at Mantinea was the Athenian Alcibiades son of Cleinias. A kinsman of the late Athenian leader, the renown Pericles, Alcibiades was perhaps the most charismatic politician of his generation. He had wealth, wit, good looks and boundless ambition. While not a great public speaker, he was charming and persuasive in private conversation. Unfortunately for Athens and his own fortunes, he was also completely lacking in scruples; and his primary loyalty was to no one other than himself.

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Herm portrait of the young AlcibiadesFollowing the failure of his efforts to sabotage Spartan power in the Peloponnese, he began to champion another project; one that would thrust him into a position of great influence and responsibility in the Empire. In 415 BC, delegates from the Ionian/Elymian city of Segesta in Sicily requested Athenian support in their war against neighboring Selinus; asking for a force of 60 triremes, the cost of which they offered to pay for a year. Alcibiades very quickly became the champion for this proposed intervention in Sicily; arguing for a military expedition to not only aid Segesta, but for subduing the entire island!

This opening of a new war, when the war against Sparta and her allies was yet smoldering and likely to erupt anew was foolish in the extreme….

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ART OF WAR: HEROES OF TROY AND MYCENAE

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Much of our perception of history is influenced by the artists who have drawn and painted scenes from out of the past. This is the second in a series in which Deadliest Blogger looks at historical armies and warriors through the images artists have given us.

The Trojan War was a seminal event in both Greek and Roman history and legend; and few episodes in Classical mythology have attracted more attention from artists, writers, or filmmakers than this famous war.

In their immortal tales the epic poets Homer and Virgil describe the ten-year war between the Greeks and the Trojans; and the wanderings of the Trojan hero Aeneas and the refugees from Troy to Italy. While these tales were accepted as history by both the Greeks and the Romans; post-renaissance scholars largely dismissed them as myth. It was not till the work of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who did the initial excavations at both Hisarlik in Turkey (site of ancient Troy) and at Mycenae that the underlying truth behind the legends began to emerge. Since Schliemann, continuing archaeology has confirmed and expanded our knowledge of events first described by Homer. We now know that the site of Troy was continuously occupied over many centuries, and archaeologists have uncovered not one city, but many; each built on the ruins of the previous.

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Most scholars and archaeologists agree that Troy VII was the Troy of Homer.

The world of Homer’s heroes (as well as the other heroes of Greek “mythology”) was that of the late Bronze Age. Most scholars now place the Trojan War somewhere between 1260 BC and 1120 BC. This was a world…

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13 DAYS OF GLORY: THE ALAMO, 1836

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There are times when a defeat can become a triumph. Just as the heroic death of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae gave courage to the rest of Greece; so the last stand of a handful of brave Texians in a fortified Mission became a rallying cry for Texas’ independence: Remember the Alamo!

IN the predawn hours of March 6, 1836, the Mexican army of President and Generalissimo Antonio López de Santa Anna stormed the battlements of the Alamo; slaying the defending Texan garrison to a man.

This battle, though neither final or decisive, was the seminal moment in the Texas War of Independence. It bloodied the Mexican army and lent the Texans both a band of martyred heroes and an immortal rallying cry: “Remember the Alamo”!

 

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Following Santa Anna’s seizure of power and revocation of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 in early 1835, the English-Speaking (mostly American) majority of Texans (called “Texians“, to distinguish them from the Spanish-Speaking “Tejanos”) revolted in the face of his dictatorial policies. American immigrants, originally invited by previous governments to settle in Texas as a counter to Comanche raids, were now the majority of the population; and brought with them the American distaste for tyranny. Expelling what few Mexican garrisons existed in the territory, the Texians began drafting a constitution for the new nation they envisioned; and building an army in preparation of Mexican reprisals.

Near San Antonio de Béxar (modern-day San Antonio) was an 18th century Spanish Mission. Abandoned at the end of that century, it was briefly turned into a garrison for Spanish troops; who gave it the name, “Alamo“. After Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the Alamo was held by a Mexican garrison; till this force was expelled by Texians under the famous knife-fighter JamesJimBowie, a land-owning resident of San Antonio, in December of 1835.

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Bowie was at first ordered by the new Texian Army commander, Sam Houston, to dismantle the fort and retrieve the 19 cannons of various caliber left behind by the Mexicans. Instead….

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GREAT CAPTAINS: ALEXANDER THE GREAT

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This is the next in a series of posts examining the “Great Captains” of military history. Unusual for Deadliest Blogger, this will be primarily in video format; posting compelling biographical material.

By every measure of generalship Alexander III of Macedon excelled all others, before and after. His performance set the bar by which all other generals have been measured ever since. In battle or in siege, he was ever victorious; leading his army in four very great battles and as many great sieges. He died at the young age of 32; having conquered the greatest empire to date, and second only to the that of the Mongols in extent…..

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DIADOCHI: MACEDONIAN GAME OF THRONES

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Long before George R.R. Martin penned his tale of war, intrigue and treachery the ancient world was scene to its own version of The Game of Thrones.

When Alexander the Great died in Babylon 323 BC, he left the greatest empire the world had yet seen with no clear successor. While both of his wives (Roxane the daughter of Oxyartes of Bactria; and Stateira , daughter of Darius) were pregnant, he had no (legitimate) children yet born; though a four year old son of his former mistress Barsiné, named Heracles, was claimed by some to be Alexander’s illegitimate son. Alexander had made no provision for what was to happen in the case of his death. For a ruler who habitually took unnecessary risks; leading his Army, literally, from the front this was particularly irresponsible. But it was completely in character for Alexander, who ever refused to acknowledge his own mortality.

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GREAT WARSHIPS OF HISTORY: THE BISMARCK

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As Hitler prepared for World War II, he planned to interdict British shipping with both submarines (U-Boats) and surface raiders. Of these, the greatest and most celebrated was the Bismarck-class of battleships. Larger than any built by Europe during the war (though smaller than the largest Japanese and American Battleships)the Bismarck and its sister-ship, the Tirpitz caused great concern among Allied naval planners in the early years of the war in Europe.

Launched in February 1939, the Bismarck spent only eight months and one offensive operation at sea before being hunted-down by the British and so wounded its crew scuttled the great ship on May 27, 1941. But that single attempt by the Germans to slip past the Royal Navy in the North Sea and enter the North Atlantic caused near panic in Britain and led to one of the great naval chases in history; becoming the source of books, song and film….

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