DEADLIEST BLOGGER’S GREATEST QUOTES ON WAR 2

If you loved the first list, here is Deadliest Blogger’s list of favorite military quotes, part two:

“Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar, on the very brief campaign against the Pontians.

“When the situation is obscure, attack!” – General Heinz Guderian

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” – Sun Tzu

“Naipierw pobijemy, a potem policzemy!” (First we kill them, then, we count them) – Attributed to an anonymous commander of the Polish Winged Hussars

“Few men are born brave. Many become so through training and force of discipline.” – Flavius Vegetius

“It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” – General Robert Edward Lee

“If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.” – Winston Churchill, when questioned during Operation Barbarossa how he, a life-long anti-communist, could call for support of Stalin.

“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.” – Carl Von Clausewitz

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” – JRR Tolkien

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. – Sun Tzu

“In war truth is the first casualty.” – Often attributed to Aeschylus

“During war truth is so precious she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” – Winston Churchill

“”A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.” – Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., on the value of hard training.

“The art of concentrating strength at one point, forcing a breakthrough, rolling up and securing the flanks on either side, and then penetrating like lightning, before the enemy has time to react, deep into his rear.” – Gen. Erwin Rommel, on the definition of Blitzkrieg (“Lightning War”); as he practiced it in France, 1940

“War is the province of chance.” – Carl von Clausewitz

“I shall return!” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur, on departing from the Philippines in 1942

“I have not yet begun to fight” – John Paul Jones

“Molon labe!” (Come and take them!) – Leonidas of Sparta, in response to the Persian demand that the Spartans at Thermopylae lay down their arms.

“Nuts” – General Anthony McAuliffe, Dep. Commander 101st Airborne Division at the Battle of the Bulge, in response to the German demand for the surrender of Bastogne.

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GRANICUS: ALEXANDER’S MOST PERILOUS BATTLE!

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In 334 B.C., Alexander son of Philip, third king of Macedon to bear that name, was only 21 years of age. But while young, Alexander was already a proven commander; prepared to begin his storied career as one of history’s greatest commanders and conquerors. But he would have to survive his first trial of arms against the forces of the Persian Empire, in what would prove his more perilous battle!

Philip II, that wily statesman and gifted general who had subdued Greece and forged a Hellenic alliance against Persia, before being struck down by an assassin’s blade; had raised his eldest son, Alexander, to lead in his footsteps. From Philip, Alexander had learned the arts (and sciences) of war and kingship; and so confident was Philip in his preternaturally gifted son and heir that he had entrusted to Alexander command of an Army, and regency of the kingdom, when Alexander was only 16 years old.

The boy had won his first victory in battle that year, leading the Macedonian home guard against Thracian hill tribesmen of the southern Balkans (and founding there a Macedonian colony, Alexandropolis; the first of the many cities named for himself he would leave in his wake throughout his short but spectacular life ). Soon after, Alexander had commanded his father’s elite heavy cavalry at the Battle of Chaeronea; where the southern Greek states were finally brought to heel and forced to accept Macedonian leadership.

Upon Philip’s death in 336 B.C., Alexander was proclaimed king by the Macedonian army. His first two years was spent securing his father’s gains. Campaigning successfully first against the ever-restive Illyrians to the northwest of Macedon,  he then had to respond to a revolt by the allied Greek states to the south. He responded by storming the most dangerous of the rebel cities, Thebes; the brutal destruction of which shocked the other Greek states into submission.

His base secured, Alexander marshalled his forces for the great enterprise his father had envisioned: a war of retribution against Greece’s ancient enemy, the Persians.

THE INVASION OF ASIA

Alexander bid farewell to Macedon in 334, leaving Amphipolis in April at the head of an army of just under 37,000 men. Marching east along the northern Aegean coast, Alexander arrived at the narrow Hellespont (Dardanelles), the narrow straits that separate Europe from Asia, in May. While the mainbody of the army was ferried across, Alexander and a picked guard sailed down the straits to Troy. As he came ashore, he cast a spear; symbolically claiming Asia to be “won by the spear”. It was an ancient challenge, and it was now for the Persians to refute his claim to ownership.

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After holding athletic games at Troy, and sacrificing at the tomb of his ancestor and role-model, Achilles, Alexander rejoined his army and prepared to move against the Persians. South of the plain of Illium the rich Greek cities of the Ionian coast were barred to him by Mount Ida; whose passes were guarded by Persian troops. Learning that the main Persian awaited him on the plains of Zeleia to the east, Alexander instead moved northeastward; both turning the Ida position and seeking battle with Persian field forces.

The army of the local Persian satraps (governors) were commanded by a Greek mercenary general, Memnon of Rhodes, appointed by the Great King, Darius III  (who was still in distantSusa, one of the three Persian royal residences). Memnon knew well how formidable the Macedonians were in battle, and had urged the satraps to avoid battle and instead adopt a scorched earth policy. But jealous of Memnon’s promotion over command them, these proud nobles refused his advice as “cowardly”; and moved directly to oppose Alexander’s invasion.

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CANNONS AT PANIPAT: THE FOUNDING OF THE MUGHAL EMPIRE

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In 1525 a descendant of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane crossed the Khyber Pass with a tiny army in a desperate gamble: an attack on the powerful Sultanate of Delhi. On the dusty plain of Panipat, he would lay the foundation of India’s mightiest empire: the Mughal! 

Few would-be warlords were born with a more illustrious pedigree than Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, commonly known as simply Babur (“Tiger”). Born in 1483 the eldest son of the Timurid king of Ferghana, he was descended from Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur the Lame (known to the English-speaking world as “Tamerlane“) on his father’s side. On his mother’s side, he enjoyed an even more celebrated ancestor: no less than Genghis Khan, founder of the Mongol Empire and perhaps history’s greatest conqueror.

EARLY YEARS

But the empires of these two great ancestors had long-since fragmented into petty kingdoms and khanates. Babur’s prospects for future greatness seemed unlikely, his place in the world around him uncertain. As his father’s son, Babur was heir to nothing more than the mountain-girt valley of Ferghana; bordered on the east by Kashgar, and in the west by Samarkand, former capital of the Timurid Empire. The kingdom’s only significance  was that it lay along the northern portion of the Silk Road. That, and the excellence of its horses. When his father, Umar Sheikh Mirza, died in 1494 (two years after Columbus discovered the Americas) the twelve-year-old Babur [1] inherited the throne. The boy’s right to rule was immediately challenged by powerful  uncles who ruled neighboring kingdoms (most of the rulers of this region were relatives of the boy, descendants of Timur).

The arid Fergana valley, today; which straddles eastern Uzbekistan, southern Kyrgyztan and northern Tajikistan. Straddling the northern Silk Road, herein lay the petty kingdom to which young Babur was heir.  

Despite his extreme youth, Babur held onto his throne; thanks to the skill of his maternal grandmother and the kingdom’s regent, Aisan Daulat Begum. This Mongol princess was descended from Chaghatai Khan, the second son of Genghis Khan; and possessed all the courage and political skills of those great men. Throughout his minority, she guided Babur and taught him the arts of king-craft. She also taught him of the military exploits of Genghis Khan and of  Timur; his earliest lessons in the art of warfare. Ever prepared to give praise and thanks where it was due, Babur later wrote of her: “Few among women will have been my grandmother’s equal for judgement and counsel; she was very wise and farsighted and most affairs of mine were carried through under her advise.”

In 1497, the ambitious and capable young Babur decided upon nothing less than the capture of the imperial Timurid city of Samarkand. This city was at that time one of the wealthiest and most populous in the world; as well as a place of great learning. In alliance with his cousin Sultan Ali of Bukhara, Babur marched upon the city. This was a bold move for a fifteen year old warlord. The siege lasted seven months; and throughout the young Babur showed a grasp of strategy and far-sighted judgement well beyond his years. As winter came, the young king’s officers wanted to disperse back to their homes. But not wishing to lift the blockade on Samarkand, Babur instead dispersed his army into winter quarters in towns and fortresses around the city.

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The haunting ruins of the once-great city of Samarkand

While dispersed about the city, a relief army approached from the north. These were fierce Uzbek Turks, nomads off the steppes north of the Aral Sea. “Untainted” by the softening influences of civilization and wealth, these Uzbeks were possessed of all the savage ferocity and hardiness that was characteristic of the first generation of Mongols who followed Genghis Khan off the steppes, to lay the world beneath their horses hoofs.  This Uzbek horde was led by another descendant of Genghis Khan (through his eldest son, Jochi): their formidable Khan, Muhammad Shaybani.  This Uzbek leader was the last great Mongol conqueror to come out of the central Asian steppe; and a man who would prove to be the nemesis of Babur’s early life….

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DEADLIEST BLOGGER’S GREATEST QUOTES ON WAR 2

If you loved the first list, here is Deadliest Blogger’s list of favorite military quotes, part two:

“Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar, on the very brief campaign against the Pontians.

“When the situation is obscure, attack!” – General Heinz Guderian

“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” – Sun Tzu

“Naipierw pobijemy, a potem policzemy!” (First we kill them, then, we count them) – Attributed to an anonymous commander of the Polish Winged Hussars

“Few men are born brave. Many become so through training and force of discipline.” – Flavius Vegetius

“It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” – General Robert Edward Lee

(To continue reading, go here)

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A MOST SANGUINARY AFFAIR: BLOODY TOWTON

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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 overthrow 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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Henry VI suffered from bouts of “madness”; in which he was largely unaware of circumstances around him. He likely inherited this malady from his maternal grandfather, the French kingCharles VI; whose reign (1380-1422) was marred by frequent periods of “madness”.  Control of the kingdom during King Henry’s periods of mental infirmity was granted by Parliament to his cousin Richard, the powerful Duke of York.

Under English succession laws, York’s claim to the throne was superior to that of his Lancastrian cousin’s. As Protector of the Realm, Richard of York was too close to the throne for the liking of the adherents of the House of Lancaster; particularly the king’s wife, Queen Margaret of Anjou. When Henry temporarily regained his senses in 1454, the Lancastrians used the opportunity to call a new Parliament; to which the Duke of York and his supporters were not invited. (In Medieval England, Parliament was called and dissolved by the King; and its members there at his invitation.) Not surprisingly, this Lancastrian Parliament stripped the Yorkists of their privileges. Armed conflict soon broke out, and in 1455 the War of the Rosesbegan with the First Battle of St. Albans.

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The fortunes of war shifted back and forth; the Yorkists gaining the advantage till atWakefield, in December of 1460, the Lancastrians ambushed Richard of York’s forces and killed both the Duke and his 17 year old second son, Edmund of Rutland.

The late Duke Richard was succeeded both as Duke of York and leader of the Yorkist cause by his able eldest son, Edward of March. Just over a month after his father and brother’s defeat and death, he routed a Welsh force led by Owen Tudor at Mortimer’s Cross. It was before this battle that Edward’s army beheld a meteorological phenomenon known asparhelion; in which the rising sun appeared to be flanked by two lesser suns and a bright halo. From this he took his personal standard, the “Sunne in Splendour“.

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Edward IV’s banner, the Sunne in SplendourDespite a second Lancastrian triumph at the Second Battle of St. Albans  over Edward’s ally,Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick; Edward was able to join up with Warwick in London. There, on March 4, 1461, Warwick proclaimed Edward king. (Warwick would ten years later break with Edward and proclaim Henry VI once again king. From these acts he came to be known as “The Kingmaker“.)

The Lancastrian army, under Queen Margaret and her favorite, the Duke of Somerset,retreated to York, where their cause was strong. (Oddly, at this time in the war the Lancastrians were strongest in the north, with York a Lancastrian stronghold. Despite so many of their lords having titles in the south, such as Somerset and the Earl of Devon, the Lancastrians were detested south of the Midlands.) Edward led a Yorkist army northward to bring the Lancastrians to battle.

The Yorkists moved along three routes. John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk marched to the east of the main body, with orders to raise forces and rejoin Edward before the battle. Warwick’s group moved to the west of the main body, through the English Midlands, gathering men as they went. Warwick’s uncle, the very capable Lord Fauconberg, led Edward’s vanguard; clearing the direct route to York for the main body, led by Edward himself.

Bloody skirmishes occurred at Ferrybridge and at Dinting Dale; in which the Lancastrians led by Lord Clifford attempted to harass the Yorkist’s advance. Clifford, who was thought to have personally killed Edward’s younger brother, Edmund of Rutland after Wakefield and was called “the Butcher”, was killed during the skirmish at Dinting Dale by an arrow; a loss for the Lancastrians of a dedicated adherent and ferocious enemy of York.

On Palm Sunday, March 29, under a glowering sky and amidst a snowfall, the armies of York and Lancaster met between the villages of Towton and Saxton; about 12 miles southwest of York and 2 miles south of Tadcaster.

The stage was set for what would become the largest and bloodiest battle in English history.

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LEGNICA: THE MONGOL TERROR REACHES POLAND

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The Middle Ages’ greatest war machine rolls westward out of Asia, as Eastern Europe faces the onslaught of the Mongol horde!

Genghis (or “Chinghis”) Khan was undoubtedly one of history’s greatest conquerors. After uniting the nomadic tribes north of the Great Wall, forging the “Mongol” nation, he created the most mobile army the world has ever seen. To this day, no armies have traveled further and faster (on average) than the Mongols. While the conquests of other nations are measured in miles, those of Genghis Khan and his successors must be calculated by lines of longitude and latitude; spanning the whole of Eurasia.

Though Genghis Khan died in 1227, the juggernaut he created rolled on under his sons and grandsons. In 1230, the Mongol general Chormaqan Noyan invaded Persia. Within a couple of short years, he had smashed all opposition. Operating out of Tabriz in Azerbaijan, he reduced Georgia and Armenia to client-status.

Mongol army on the marchThis control of the Caucuses region opened communications with another Mongol army, 130,000 strong, under the Mongol generalissimo, Subutai “the Invincible” and Batu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan. This force of swift-moving horsemen was tasked with conquering Russia; a prelude to the conquest of eastern Europe. Eighteen years earlier, Subutai had conducted a “reconnaissance in force” into southern Russia; culminating in the defeat of the Russian princes at the Battle of the Kalka River.

In 1236 this Mongol army crossed the Volga River, and within a year had crushed the Volga Bulgars; and subdued (and incorporated) the Kipchak and Alani tribes north of the Caucasus, taking their forces into the Mongol army. Between 1237 and 1238, the Mongoltumans (divisions of 10,000 men) conquered the principalities of southern Russia. Of the great towns and cities only Smolensk,  Novgorod and Pskov survived sack and slaughter; the former because it submitted to the Mongols and agreed to pay tribute, the latter two because they were two far north, protected by forest and swamp. The nomadic Cumans of the Ukraine (part of the now-destroyed Kipchak Confederation) fled before the Mongol terror; finding refuge across the Carpathian Alps, in the Kingdom of Hungary.

Mongols storm Russian cityThe Mongols made great use of siege engines such as the trebuchet pictured here. These could be assembled and disassembled as needed, carried on pack animals while on march. As depicted below, they were powered by a team of men pulling ropes.

Russia subdued, the Mongols prepared in 1240-41 for their next thrust westward; this time following the Cumans into Hungary. Subutai planned a winter campaign: the Mongols preferred to invade in the dead of winter, when militia armies had disbanded back to their farms and villages; and the great rivers were frozen hard, presenting no barrier. The plains of Hungary were the main target; a place where, once subdued, the Mongols could pasture their vast pony herds. To cover their northern flank during the Hungarian operation, and prevent the Poles from coming to Hungary’s aid, Subutai and Batu sent a force of two tumans through Poland….

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GREAT WARSHIPS OF HISTORY: BYZANTINE FIRE DROMON

For centuries Byzantium’s seaborne-flank was defended by a fleet of swift galleys; armed with one of history’s greatest secret weapons: Greek Fire!

In 672 three great Muslim fleets were dispatched by the Muslim Caliph, Mu’awiya; to clear the sea lanes and prepare for a Muslim army to besiege the storied capital of the Byzantine Empire: Constantinople. Methodically moving up the Anatolian coast and into the Aegean, they wintered at Smyrna in 673. Entering the Hellespont (Dardanelles) in 674, the Arab armada landed at Cyzicus on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara. A base was established, and from here the Arab fleets attempted to blockade Constantinople and support the Arab land forces arriving opposite the city, after crossing Anatolia.

This was not the first time the great city had stood siege. Its massive triple walls, constructed during the reign of the emperor Theodosius in the 5th century, had never been breached. However, with command of the sea around the city as well as an army camped outside the walls, the Arabs could cut Constantinople off from outside supply. In time, the great city must surrender or starve.

Finally, in the autumn of 677, the Emperor Constantine IV resolved to confront the Arab besiegers at sea, and break their blockade. His fleet sailed out of the protected anchorage of the Golden Horn, and into the blue waters of the Bosporus. Wheeling from column into line, the Byzantine fleet darted forth into the open waters of the Sea of Marmara; where the Arab mariners scrambled onto their ships and rowed out to meet them.

The Byzantine galleys were of a type called dromons (“racers”). As the name implies, they were swift galleys, powered by oars and sail. Evolved from the Imperial Roman “bireme”, they differed from the ancient design used by the Greeks and Romans in several key ways. They were either smaller monoremes (powered by a single bank of oars) or biremes (two banks of oars), ranging from 50 to 120 oars. These vessels lacked the distinctive outriggerfound in the ancient Greek and Roman galleys (or of the later Renaissance galleys), and the partially-submerged bronze bow-ram that was the main weapon of the ancient warships had been replaced with a sharply pointed bow “spur”; projecting above the water. This was useful in breaking enemy oars, if not in punching a hole in an enemy hull.

The Arab sailors and warriors in the Sea of Marmara that day were sailing ships of the same (or nearly the same) design as the Byzantines; built in Arab-controlled ports in recently captured Egypt and Syria. There, shipyards had built vessels for the Byzantines until those lands were overrun by Muslim armies in the first half of the 7th century; when Islamic forces burst forth from the Arabian Peninsula, filled with religious zeal to spread their faith at the point of the sword. Once in control of former Byzantine ports along the Mediterranean, the Arabs were able to build their own great fleet of dromons to oppose the Byzantines at sea. Unlike the Arab dromons, though, the main weapon of the swift Byzantine darters sallying forth to offer battle that autumn day was no longer their ship’s beaks, or even their deck-mounted catapults. Instead, siphons and pumping devices were mounted on their bows, and sometimes on gunwale-mounted swivels; devices through which to launch a deadly and highly secret new incendiary weapon: Greek Fire.

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