Monday, December 21, 2009

The Vedette

Here are a couple images from the fall 1974 issue of The Vedette: Journal of the National Capital Military Collectors. These depict a trumpeter of Bavarian horse, c. 1701 (cover illustration) and Bavarian cuirassier officers of the 1680s (top). The drawings were done by Jay S. Swingle, based on sketches by Dr. A. Benkert, to illustrate an article on "The Riders of the Blue King."
This was a quality journal with distinguished contributors.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Early Italian Wars: Ratio of Espingarderos to Ballesteros

Above: 10mm Conquistador Arquebusiers from Obelisk Miniatures These are suitable for the Italian Wars.

One of my projects this winter is to work-up scenarios for several battles of the Italian Wars and part of that is to return to the age-old question of the composition of the armies, particularly those of the Early Italian Wars and the campaigns in Naples.

An early, somewhat thorny problem is the ratio of espingarderos (hand-gunners and arquebusiers) to ballesteros (crossbowmen) in the Spanish expeditionary armies. Thorny because, while most of the time the Spanish tell us how many arquebusiers were part of a particular force, the crossbowmen were counted among the pikemen.

Working from several standard sources, I was able to determine the following ratios:

The ratio of firearms to crossbows in an Imperial force organized to fight the Hussites in 1431 was 1:1

The Emperor Maximilian eliminated the crossbow in the Imperial armies in 1507.

The ratio of espingarderos to ballesteros in some later armies of the Spanish Reconquest

1483 1:6 (handguns:crossbows)
1489 1:4

This data is quite interesting when compared to the ratio in Italy a few years later. In the space of a decade, the ratio is reversed. These were the first Spanish expeditionary armies organized on the new model.

1500: 4:1
1501: 3:1

Thursday, December 17, 2009

American Artillery in the Mexican War

Dillon, Lester R., Jr. American Artillery in the Mexican War, 1846-1847. Austin, Tex.: Presidial, 1975.

“American artillery dominated the battlefields of the Mexican War. In this conflict, America’s first foreign war, a new and elite corps of artillery was blooded in the crucible of battle, and a proven combat arm emerged with firm doctrine and the eminent esteem of both the nation and its military leadership.” – from the Preface

This excellent survey is, to my knowledge, the only work that deals specifically with the subject. It is rather on the small side but written in a spare, matter-of-fact style by a retired officer who well understood the subject in all of its metes and bounds.

It has just five chapters:

I. Prelude to Conflict
II. Cannon and Cannoneers
III. Taylor’s Army of Occupation
IV. The Heartland
V. Artillery and Victory

In addition, besides front matter, it has biographical sketches of many of the officers who later became prominent in the Civil War, a glossary, bibliography, and endnotes.

Having read it, I can now understand the source of the artillery genius of the great Civil War cannoneers like Henry J. Hunt and John Pelham (who of course was too young to fight in the Mexican War but was a worthy descendant of Ringgold, Duncan, Taylor, and Washington, who took the light batteries to war in 1846-47).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Confederate M-1841 6-lb. SBML

This light smoothbore field gun was an outstanding piece during the US-Mexican War and large numbers continued in use during the early years of the Civil War, gradually giving way to more powerful guns. In the western theaters, they were prominent in the Confederate forces rather longer than in the Union for obvious reasons. While most were brass, this gun has an iron tube, a pattern not uncommon in the Confederate armies.

Since many 6-lbrs. were bored out and fitted with a rifled tube liner, converting them to 12-lb. RMLs of the James pattern, this model can do service as a James rifle.

The gun model and figures are by Stone Mountain Miniatures.

Contemporary sources list the following frontages for typical Civil War batteries (depth in each case is 47 yards):

Mounted or horse battery of 6 guns (3 platoons): 82 yards (typical US)
Mounted or horse battery of 4 guns (2 platoons): 62 yards (typical CS)

In my rules, the ground scale is 1-in. (25mm) = 100 meters. Most 15mm models cannot be reasonably accommodated if these frontages are adapted to the ground scale, so I suggest using a 1-in. x 1-in. base for a 4-gun bty. and a 1½-in. (front) x 1-in. base for a 6-gun bty. The 4-gun bty. has 2 figs. to represent the 2 ptns. or sections; while the 6-gun bty. has 3 figs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Edward Woodward, RIP

It was very sad to learn that the accomplished English actor Edward Woodward died today. You may remember him for many striking performances in film, TV, and theater. For me, besides his role in Breaker Morant, I remember him as the protagonist in the now somewhat obscure English counter-espionage thriller Callan, which premiered in 1967. Callan basically was a gritty polar opposite of The Avengers, thought at the time to be rather lightweight in the Carnaby Street sense but redeemed by its engaging co-stars. Interestingly, Callan was a wargamer: I seem to remember a permanent sort of sandtable festooned no doubt with Hinton Hunt figures in his flat. Well, that's a memory. I'm told there are no surviving prints of the early episodes.

There is a charming remembrance of him here:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Battery Gun

I have no idea where this little gem came from. It was found among a collection of random guns, mostly 15mm, a few 25mm, which I had stored in a small wooden box years ago. Having a need for some representative VLA for early modern games, I decided to paint it, based loosely on the example in Eduard Wagner’s European Weapons & Warfare, 1618-1648, p. 144, b (top), and George Gush’s description of Scots’ battery guns in Renaissance Armies, p. 47. I think my principal concern was whether the tubes were of iron or brass manufacture. They are brass in both Wagner and Gush. The pan, with its multiple touchholes was painted black, and the touchholes were picked-out with silver. The carriage, really a crude cart, was painted in shades of brown with iron fittings. All in all, this was a fun, simple project. Total painting time was less than 30 minutes.

The gun was mounted on a 30mm sq. base for use with Hakkaa Päälle, Thomas Årnfelt’s and Daniel Staberg's draft rules for the Thirty Years’ War. The gunners are (I think) Mikes Models, painted as Polish artillerymen of the late 16th – 17th c. after the brief description in Gush’s book.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Little Fork Church

The ancient church, which was vandalized by Yankee cavalry during the war, is depicted in this photo from the book, showing the monument to the rangers dedicated May 25, 1904, which stands today.

I probably should have posted this earlier, to go with the Wiki reference, but I got distracted (not unusual for your correspondent).

Current Reading: The Little Fork Rangers

Hackley, Woodford B. The Little Fork Rangers; A Sketch of Company "D", Fourth Virginia Cavalry. Richmond, Va.: Press of the Dietz printing co, 1927.

This interesting source differs from some others I’ve discussed here in that it includes not only original materials and reminiscences but also latter-day musings on the history of the unit. The author-compiler, grandson of a member of the unit, was acutely aware of the deficiencies under which he labored but made an attempt to gather as much useful material as he could at a late date when few of the survivors were alive. The result is something of a hodge-podge, but still it’s quite useful for the historian, since there’s much here that can’t be found elsewhere.

The Little Fork Rangers were organized in Culpeper County, Va., in April, 1861, before the state’s secession. They took their name from the area between the fork of the Hazel and Rappahannock rivers, north of Culpeper.

One of the places where the rangers drilled was Little Fork Church. Wiki here

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Current Reading: Recollections of an Old Dominion Dragoon

Hudgins, Robert S., Garland C. Hudgins, Richard B. Kleese, and Gary Casteel. Recollections of an Old Dominion Dragoon: The Civil War Experiences of Sgt. Robert S. Hudgins II, Company B, 3rd Virginia Cavalry. Orange, Va.: Publisher's Press, Inc, 1993.

Sgt. Robert S. Hudgins II, was a member of the Old Dominion Dragoons (later Co. B, 3d Va. Cav.). He served throughout the war, from Big Bethel (practically his backyard) to Appomattox, and his recollections, despite lacunae, are compelling and shed light on many events but little described from the standpoint of a ranker. For example, he witnessed the duel between the Monitor and the CSS Virginia. He was present during the Seven Days, at Kelly’s Ford, during the Chancellorsville campaign, at Brandy Station, Gettysburg, and Yellow Tavern – where he witnessed Stuart’s mortal wounding – at the burning of Richmond, and at Appomattox.

An interesting part of the book, to my mind, is his relation of the war’s aftermath and Reconstruction. Utterly destitute, he made his way home and reestablished his family’s plantation under the most remarkably adverse (and in one instance, sinister) circumstances.

This is yet another slim volume of wartime reminiscences that the average reader will probably finish relatively quickly. Since it was published years ago by a small press, your best bet of obtaining it may be through interlibrary loan.

Blakely Field Gun Update

According to Gettysburg National Military Park, the Blakely gun that used to be in the old Cyclorama building is on loan to the Dakota Sunset Museum in Gettysburg, South Dakota. Thanks to Katie Lawhon of GNMP for the information.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blakely Field Guns in the Army of Northern Virginia

Above: Another view of the Blakely MLR that used to be on display at the Cyclorama Center at Gettysburg NMP.

The Blakely gun could be found in two batteries of the Stuart Horse Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia:

(1) Chew’s (Va.) Battery, known as the Ashby Artillery because of its early association with Turner Ashby’s famed “Laurel Brigade” of Stonewall Jackson’s Valley District. This unit was the first horse artillery battery in the ANV. It was organized on Nov. 11, 1861, with Roger Preston Chew of Charles Town, Va. (today, W. Va.) as captain. Chew had one Blakely among his guns through the great cavalry battle of Brandy Station, where it “ended its life.”

(2) Hart’s Washington (S.C.) Battery, commanded by Capt. James F. Hart, which was generally associated with Hampton’s Brigade. Hart had four Blakelys in the Maryland campaign (1862) and three at Gettysburg, having lost one to Union counterbattery fire in the Loudoun Valley fighting following Brandy Station.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blakely Field Gun

The 3.60-in. Blakely muzzle-loading rifle was practically an ideal gun for the horse artillery. Its light weight (the 58-in.-long iron tube weighed just 700 lbs.), handiness, accuracy, and reliability marked it as a superior piece. And, it had remarkable range — reaching 1,760 yds. with a 1.5-lb. powder charge at 7º30’ elevation. Blakelys could be found with Hart’s and Chew’s horse artillery batteries in the Army of Northern Virginia. The fine example shown was on display in the Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg National Military Park. It was cast by Fawcett, Preston & Co., Liverpool, England, in 1861.©

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

La Florida: Indian Traits and Leaders

Indians in general were crafty, devious, unpredictable, and employed deception, guile, ambush and stratagem. They were also relatively well organized locally and organizationally coherent in tribal areas, which were sometimes quite extensive.

They were an important source of operational-tactical information for Europeans, whose knowledge of events in LF was limited generally to the areas they control.

In terms of SF Actions! Indian traits are:
undisciplined, but betters (Indians were undisciplined but saw themselves as betters, so this is different.)
expert shooters

No Indian can possess any of the following characteristics:

When not detected, Indians can perform any two actions per turn (except, obviously, no. 7 “mount...”). (I’m going to see how this works in practice, so it’s provisional for now.)

They are allowed only one turn of HTH, unless successful. If unsuccessful, they will immediately withdraw from contact, facing the enemy. (Again, I want to see how this works in practice.)

Officer traits are:

For SF Actions! LF Indian equivalents are:

cacique = colonel
war chief = captain

Caciques were Indian chiefs in the La Florida-Caribbean region.

war party = squadron
warband = company

Monday, September 14, 2009

Current Reading: In the Saddle with Stuart

Reade, Frank Robertson, and Robert J. Trout. In the Saddle with Stuart: The Story of Frank Smith Robertson of Jeb Stuart's Staff. Gettysburg, Pa.: Thomas Publications, 1998.

Lt. Francis (“Frank”) Smith Robertson (1841-1926) was a student at the University of Virginia when the Civil War broke out in 1861. The son of former Virginia governor Wyndham Robertson, he was a child of privilege who went to war initially as an infantry officer. Contracting an illness that plagued him for months and killed dozens of his fellows in the 48th Va., he eventually recovered and found employment as an engineer officer on Gen. Jeb Stuart’s staff. Although he had no qualifications for his position (a distinction he shared with at least one other), he nevertheless served bravely and efficiently from April 1863 until Stuart’s death. Afterwards, he served on the staff of Gen. W.H.F. (“Rooney”) Lee.

This is another book of wartime reminiscences well edited by Robert J. Trout. Much of it was written contemporaneously with the events described, with clarifications and additions penned later. I found it especially useful for its descriptions of Brandy Station, Gettysburg, and Five Forks. Robertson brings home also in a most affecting manner the cavalryman’s relationship with his mounts – from Miranda, who saved his life by her speed; to Bostona, who couldn’t be made to turn except by dashing straight ahead for a considerable length and then gradually turning like a wagon (which almost got him killed at Brandy Station); to Yank, an uncomfortable ride about which the less said the better.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Current Reading: Lee’s Last Casualty

Parker, Robert W., and Catherine M. Wright. Lee's Last Casualty: The Life and Letters of Sgt. Robert W. Parker, Second Virginia Cavalry. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2008.

As the title indicates, this book tells the story of Sgt. Robert William Parker’s Civil War service, spent predominantly in the ranks of the 2d Va. Cav., through his letters to his wife, Beck, and his parents. Parker is thought to have been the last soldier of the Army of Northern Virginia killed in action, and he is buried in the Confederate Cemetery at Appomattox.

The book is elegantly and knowledgeably edited by the young scholar Catherine M. Wright and provides a rare glimpse into the wartime experiences of a common soldier of the mounted arm, where the war was anything but “swords and roses.” Then, as now, communication with loved ones was vital in sustaining the morale of the individual faced with privation and suffering far from home.

Parker fought in numerous battles and actions, large and small, including First Manassas, Kelly’s Ford, Brandy Station, Aldie, Gettysburg, the Overland campaign, and of course, Petersburg and Appomattox. This is a fascinating read, even at times exhilarating, but overlaid with sadness.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Current Reading: Riding with Stuart

Garnett, Theodore Stanford, and Robert J. Trout. Riding with Stuart: Reminiscences of an Aide-de-Camp. Shippensburg, Pa.: White Mane Pub. Co., 1994.

Garnett (d. 1915) was an aide-de-camp to Confederate cavalryman Gen. Jeb Stuart, and this slim volume provides his reminiscences of the period October 1863-May 1864. Very ably edited by Robert J. Trout, who perhaps knows Stuart’s military household as well as anyone, its centerpiece is Garnett’s “Continuation of War Sketches,” covering Auburn, the Mine Run campaign, and the Overland campaign through Yellow Tavern and Stuart’s death.

Garnett’s recollection of Stuart’s mortal wounding at Yellow Tavern is perhaps the most expansive we have and is quite valuable in its own right.

The book also includes a biographical sketch of Garnett by editor Trout and the text of Garnett’s address delivered at the unveiling of Stuart’s equestrian monument in Richmond, Va., in 1907.

Garnett was a perceptive young man, and his reminiscences, though written many decades after the events they describe, provide a glimpse of a period little discussed in other memoirs of Stuart’s headquarters.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Horse-holders (3)

Above: 1st Maine Cavalry skirmishing during the fighting near Middleburg, Va., June 19, 1863. Pencil and Chinese white drawing by Alfred Waud. Library of Congress.

The narrative below, penned by Lt. Col. Arthur James Lyon Fremantle of the Coldstream Guards, in his book, Three Months in the Southern States (1864), describes a large skirmish near Franklin, Tenn., on June 4, 1863. The Confederate troops engaged belonged to Martin’s Division. It is clear from Fremantle’s account that the tactics employed were previously unknown to him.

“It was very curious to see three hundred horses suddenly emerge from the woods just in front of us, where they had been hidden--one man to every four horses, riding one and leading the other three, which were tied together by the heads. In this order I saw them cross a cotton-field at a smart trot, and take up a more secure position; two or three men cantered about in the rear, flanking up the led horses. They were shortly afterwards followed by the men of the regiment, retreating in skirmishing order under Colonel Webb, and they lined a fence parallel to us. The same thing went on on our right.”

And a little later …

“The way in which the horses were managed was very pretty, and seemed to answer admirably for this sort of skirmishing. They were never far from the men, who could mount and be off to another part of the field with rapidity, or retire to take up another position, or act as cavalry as the case might require. Both the superior officers and the men behaved with the most complete coolness; and, whilst we were waiting in hopes of a Yankee advance, I heard the soldiers remarking that they `didn’t like being done out of their good boots’--one of the principal objects in killing a Yankee being apparently to get hold of his valuable boots.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bucquoy (Part 2)

Above: Image of Bucquoy taken from a biography.

Our previous post on Bucquoy covered his career up to 1618. We resume here in late 1618.

Arriving in Bohemia, Bucquoy had to contend first against the mercenary army of the Peter Ernst, Graf zu Mansfeld, which had been subsidized on behalf of the rebels by Spain’s enemy, Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy. Mansfeld had taken Catholic Pilsen (Nov. 21), and used it as a base. Meantime, the rebels’ own largely-peasant field army under Heinrich Matthias, Count Thurn, blockaded Vienna. Bucquoy concentrated against Mansfeld and caught a detachment of the freebooter’s army under Mansfeld’s own command at Zablat (modern Záblati, June 10, 1619) and destroyed it, although Mansfeld himself escaped the debacle.

Zablat caused the rebels to raise the siege of Budweis, recall Thurn’s army from Vienna, and redouble their appeal for aid throughout Europe. Ultimately, only Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania, agreed to an alliance with the rebels.

In the skirmishing during the advance to Prague, Bucquoy was severely wounded (musket shot in the groin) while on reconnaissance at Rakonitz (Nov. 4 or 5). Feverish and confined to a coach, he is said by at least one author (Reade) to have given up his command to Tilly, but this was evidently not the case—or was temporary—since he played an active role at the ensuing Battle of White Mountain (Nov. 8, 1620) under the ramparts of Prague, no doubt spurred by the palpable mismanagement of the first phase of the battle by Maximilian and Tilly. In fact, he took to horseback and helped to restore order on both flanks, thus at least facilitating what was probably an inevitable final victory over the rebellion by the combined armies of the Emperor and the League. White Mountain was a battle of annihilation and settled the fate of Bohemia for 300 years.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

AR Dampierre (Part 3): The Regiment in the Bohemian War

Above: The triumphal parade of AR Dampierre at the Hofburg, Vienna, on June 5, 1619 (see biography of Dampierre, posted previously).

Bohemian War. Sub-war of the Thirty Years’ War, lasting from May 23, 1618-1623.

The conflict began with the Defenestration of Prague (May 23, 1618), which also was the opening event of the Thirty Years’ War.

The regiment was involved in the following events:

Combat of Pilgram (Nov. 3, 1618)
Capture of Lomnitz (Nov. 9, 1618)
Combat of Unter-Wisternitz (Aug. 5, 1619)
Defense of Vienna (Dec. 1619)
Capture of Nikolsburg (Feb. 6, 1620)
Battle of the White Mountain at Prague (Nov. 8, 1620)
Combat at Neuhäusel (Jul. 10, 1621)
Action at Goutta (Jul. 17, 1621)
Combat at Wisternitz (Nov. 13, 1623)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

AR Dampierre (2) in the War in Friuli (Ger.: Friaul)

(War of Gradisca; Uskok War), 1615-1617

This was a precursor conflict of the Thirty Years’ War – in a sense like the Russo-Japanese conflict in Manchuria in the run-up to World War II. The war was an attempt by the Venetian Republic to end the depredations of the Uskok pirates in the Adriatic. The Uskoks, based at Senj, were refugees who had fled from their native lands as the Turkish Empire expanded into the Balkans. As vassals of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, they were under his protection. When the Venetians moved against them, Ferdinand was drawn into the conflict. Ferdinand was joined by his brother-in-law, King Philip III of Spain. Venice was supported by troops from Holland and England.

The war theater was quite small. The fighting took place largely in the Austrian province of Friaul (Istria) along a front roughly defined by the Isonzo River. The major event was the Venetian siege of Gradisca. There were many small actions in the countryside that were characteristic of partisan warfare and cavalry security operations. AR Dampierre took part in many of these, as follows:

Raid on Romans (Nov. 19, 1616)

Expedition against Palma (Dec. 1, 1617)

Siege of Gradisca (Apr. 1617)

Combat at Rubia (Jun. 27, 1617)

Combat of Mariano (Jul. 13, 1617)

In these operations, AR Dampierre sometimes acted as part of a task force that included 300 Polish horse and 600 Hungarian foot.

The war was concluded by the Treaty of Madrid in which Venice achieved its objectives with the complicity of the Austrians. Some of the Uskoks’ leaders were executed, and the Uskoks themselves were removed to the interior, where in future they would be more useful in fighting the Turks.

AR Dampierre moved on to participate in the Bohemian War.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AR Dampierre

Dampierre’s regiment was the oldest mounted arquebusier regiment in the lineage of the “modern” Royal and Imperial Army.

Unit History and Chronologies:

1616 Sep 2 Heinrich Duval Graf v. Dampierre; 1620 Jacob Graf Dampierre, Freiherr v. Mondroville; 1623 reduced

Notice that the unit existed from 1616-1623, when it was “reduced,” which I think means reduced to cadre. The regiment initially consisted of three companies. Subsequently, two additional companies were added.

The rittmeisters (company commanders) in 1617 were:
Ernst Graf Montecuccoli
Hans von Schärffenberg
Hans von Losenstein
Graf Hardegg

In 1618, a company under Mons d’Espaigne was added. (I am not sure that the “Mons” does not represent “monsieur,” and the records do not indicate one way or another.)

From its foundation, the regiment – despite its designation - was a mixed cuirassier and arquebusier unit, the initial companies having 30 cuirassiers in their 100-man complements. On 29 Sept. 1618, it consisted of two companies of cuirassiers (200 men) and three companies of arquebusiers (300) (“Copia d’un Capitolo di Lettera de Sermo Gran Duca di Toscana al suo Ambassor in Corte Ces.ea ...”; see also “Bestellung für Herrn Heinrich Duval Graven von Dampier Obrist vbe 500 Curazziere vnd Archibusier Pfärdt” [6 Mar. 1619]).

Next post: War in Friuli, or Uskok War

Monday, July 27, 2009


Dampierre, Henri du Val, comte de (c. 1580-Pressburg, Oct. 9, 1620). Imperialist General-Veldt-Wachtmeister (lieutenant general) and member of the Army Council (Hofkriegs-Rat).

A Frenchman by birth, Dampierre was a major actor in the Bohemian War until he was KIA at Pressburg. He had been in imperial service since 1602, fighting generally in the eastern borderlands and against the Republic of Venice and learning his craft under such renowned commanders as Giorgio Basta. He had the command of a unit of mounted arquebusiers in 1609 and subsequently commanded units and mixed task forces that consisted of a variety of mounted types and Hungarian infantry. During this period he became skilled in all facets of warfare, ranging from partisan warfare to siegecraft and battles and encounters. He was oberst-inhaber (colonel-proprietor) of Arquebusier Regiment (AR) Dampierre (1617-1620), a unique unit that Dur Écu will profile in a future post, and he was promoted to Obristwachtmeister zu Feld über alles Kriegsvolk zu Ross – essentially commander of the imperial horse – during the Bohemian War.

Following the death of the Emperor Matthias (Mar. 20, 1619), the revolt against imperial authority mushroomed, and support for the Archduke Ferdinand’s candidacy for the vacant imperial crown ebbed away. A Bohemian army under Thurn blockaded Vienna and Hungary joined the revolt. At the height of the crisis, Dampierre led his splendid regiment (subsidized by Ferdinand’s younger brother Leopold) into Vienna with banners flying and trumpets sounding (June 5, 1619), parading before the Vienna Hofburg in a dramatic show of support for the archduke that cowed his immediate enemies and caused them to flee the city.

Dampierre’s theatrics, combined with the news of Bucquoy’s victory over Mansfeld at Zablat on June 10th, began the decline of the revolt, which was crushed at the Battle of the White Mountain outside Prague (Nov. 8, 1620).

Sources: Janko, Wilhelm Edlen von. “Heinrich Duval Graf von Dampierre.” Mittheilungen des K.u.K. Kriegs-Archivs (1876); Tomaschek, Eduard. Geschichte des K.K.Dragoner-Regiments No. 8 Generallieutenant und Feidmarschall Raimund Graf von Montecuccoli, Reichsfürst und Herzog von Melfi, von dessen Errichtung 1617 bis zum Jahre 1888. Wien: Verlag des Regiments, 1889 (biographical sketch, 9ff.).

Le dimanche de Bouvines

A friend has reminded me that today is the 795th anniversary of the Battle of Bouvines (July 27, 1214) and added: "Without it, there would not have been a Yorktown in 1781."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Horse-holders (2)

The question arose: How far from the front were the horses of the dismounted men ordinarily “held”? Interesting that, since Dur Écu has rarely found mention of horse-holders in the historic record, much less particulars of their craft.

It would seem, from the manuals that 100 yards was the prescribed distance. For example, McClellan in Regulations and Instructions (1862), wrote:

“The horses will be habitually kept at about one hundred yards in rear of their riders, though they should be nearer when they can find shelter from fire which will admit of it. Fifty yards will be far enough when the enemy does not use fire-arms.”

I have seen these distances prescribed in other contemporary manuals. There is no reason to believe that they did not obtain in earlier periods.

McClellan also noted that the horse-holders were to remain mounted throughout.

If the horse-holders and the led horses were too far from the firing line, disaster could ensue if the enemy got between the line of dismounted men and their mounts.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Above: Artist Walton Taber’s rendition of horse-holders of Buford’s Division at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863 (Battles and Leaders, vol. 3).

Horse-holder is a term that seems to have so far fallen out of usage that I can’t find it in my NSOED. With the passing of dragoons and dismounted cavalry, there’s not much, if any, call for them. Maybe they were never very popular; vide Kipling:

“The new fat regiments come from home, imaginin vain V.C.’s
(The same as our talky-fighty men which are often Number Threes)”

Despite Kipling’s indictment of “talky-fighty men,” who exist at all times and in all arms and branches, the role of the horse-holder was of vital importance, first in the dragoons, who from their first apparition dismounted to fight on foot, and later among the cavalry of the 19th c., beginning with the American Civil War, who fought with equal skill mounted and dismounted. Mainly, they kept the mounts of the men on the firing line in hand, out of harm’s way, and ready to meet any offensive or defensive circumstances that eventuated.

Dur Écu did a quick, imperfect survey of the proportion of horse-holders to shooters and found:

1 in 10 were horse-holders in the Thirty Years’ War and in Marlborough’s day
1 in 4 in the American Civil War and afterward
1 in 3 on the continent of Europe (France, Germany, Russia, etc.) post-1866
1 in 3 in Britain to 1883 (Kipling’s Number Threes)
1 in 4 in Britain 1883-1914

The proportions shown seem to have reflected the relative proportion of shooters needed to put up a credible defense (by fire combat) with weapons and doctrine in use at different periods. I say seem, because I think this needs to be investigated further.

The Battle of Záblat

Above: The Battle of Záblat by Abraham Hogenberg.
[“Schlacht von Zablat, 1619,” in Hogenbergsche Geschichtsblätter (ca. 1630)]

This is an interesting contemporary depiction of the complete defeat of a contingent of the Bohemian rebels commanded by the freebooter Peter Ernst, Graf Mansfeld by an Imperialist army under Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, comte de Bucquoy. It shows at a glance the problem of the rebels in the fight: their cavalry, brave but wholly inadequate numerically and in terms of its military efficiency, was swept from the field, and the infantry was left to fend for itself.

Mansfeld escaped the disaster with the remnant of his cavalry, and the infantry, after a brief resistance in a wagenburg (wagon fortress formed by laagering the 200 pack wagons of the army), surrendered and took service with Bucquoy’s army.

The battle was a major turning point of the Bohemian Phase of the Thirty Years’ War as it was a severe check that marked the beginning of the inexorable decline of the rebel army. The Imperialists lost a handful of men, while Mansfeld’s contingent had probably 400 KIA and 1,200 CMIA of the 3,000 with which it began the fight. (Although Mansfeld himself believed he had lost 4,000 men!)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ebenezer Churches, near Bloomfield, Va.

It was at this site that the money from the Greenback Raid was divided among Mosby’s men on the afternoon of October 15, 1864. The amount captured, $173,000 was parceled-out in equal shares of $2,000 among the rangers. Mosby refused a share, but the men later voted to buy him a thoroughbred horse with the money that would have been his had he taken a share. There are two churches, built side-by-side, the first having been constructed in 1804 (one source says 1765) and the second in 1855, as the result of a division in the congregation. The magnificent map of the John Singleton Mosby Heritage Area, surveyed and drawn by map-maker Eugene M. Scheel and edited by historian John K. Gott, has a description of the churches and notes: “The Hebrew Eben-ezer means stone of help, erected by Samuel to memorialize the Israeli[te] victory over the Philistines.”

According to a recent article in The Washington Post the money from the raid was divvied up at the Rock Hill Farm, about five miles south of Round Hill, Va.: “Rock Hill had a brief role in the Civil War. It is believed to be the site where Mosby’s Rangers, a guerrilla-style band of Confederate soldiers, divided up money from the Green Back [sic] Raid.” (Kafia A. Hosh, “Landmark Not Showing Its Age,” The Washington Post [June 28, 2009], C1). It will be interesting to examine the evidence for this claim, which I expect can be found in the documentation prepared for the property’s nomination for the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Old Duffields Station

This structure, overgrown with weeds and virtually collapsing, still stands down the tracks from the modern commuter station. The depot was raided by Mosby on June 29, 1864. Constructed in 1839, it is said to be the second oldest surviving train station in the U.S.

Site of the Greenback Raid (Oct. 14, 1864)

The railroad cut in the photo is the location of Confederate partisan ranger Col. John S. Mosby’s famous attack on the train carrying a payroll for Phil Sheridan’s Army of the Shenandoah. It is located between Duffields Station to the east and Kearnysville in the west in Jefferson County, W. Va. I visited the spot a few years ago with Don Hakenson of the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society, who knows Mosby’s Confederacy as well as anyone. The county gives the site as where Wiltshire Road intersects the railway, but Don guided us to a location near Warm Springs Road, and the photo is taken looking west from there.

It was here, in the deep cut, on the night of October 14, 1864, that Mosby and 84 of his partisan rangers (43d Battalion, Virginia Cavalry) ambushed, derailed, and destroyed the express train on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. After taking the payroll and several prisoners, the raiders burned the train and returned to Loudoun County, Va.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Officers of the Gardes françaises in 1697

Military fashion. This plate by Knötel shows how the officers of the French Guards at this period exercised their prerogative to design their uniforms according to personal taste, as long as they observed the general rule of having the coat and lining colors in the same colors as those prescribed for the regiment.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fort Matanzas (3)

The top photo, taken from the fort’s gun deck, shows the view south from the rear of the sentry box. From the fort’s website:

“The sentry box or garita had fallen off sometime during the 1800s while Fort Matanzas sat abandoned. It was rebuilt of brick in 1927 and again of coquina in 1929 using steel reinforcing rods to attach it to the existing parapet walls.”

The lower photo was also taken from the gun deck of the fort, looking south toward Matanzas Inlet. It shows how the fort’s battery commanded the river and inlet, which was about one-half mile closer in the 18th century.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fort Matanzas (2)

Top: Fort Matanzas from the ferry slip.

Above: This informative placard is at the entrance to the ferry slip.

The entrance to Fort Matanzas National Monument is off SR A1A just south of the town of Crescent Beach on Anastasia Island. There is a small visitor center adjacent to the parking area. Conveyance to the fort from Anastasia Island is via a passenger ferry, which operates from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The FMNM website is at

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fort Matanzas

Above: Two views of the model of Fort Matanzas in the national monument's gift shop.

Dur Écu visited Fort Matanzas National Monument near St. Augustine, Fla., recently. The fort – really a strong watchtower – is located on Rattlesnake Island (I kid you not!) on the Matanzas River, just north of Matanzas Inlet (of which more later) and about 14 miles south of St. Augustine. Constructed during 1740-42, its purpose was to defend the approach to St. Augustine along the river, which flows west of Anastasia Island, the barrier island in the area.

Despite its small size (50-feet square and 30-feet high), it was a remarkably strong fortification, mounting five guns and garrisoned usually by one officer and seven-ten men detached from the St. Augustine garrison for a tour of duty of one month.

Although not strictly speaking pertinent to our exploration of 16th-century La Florida, the fort, with its simple, box-like structure is an appealing candidate for modeling.

Matanzas – Spanish for “slaughters” – took its name from the massacres of French Huguenots of the Ribault expedition at the inlet in 1565.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sword-and-Bucklermen (2): Machiavelli’s Examples

Below: Machiavelli (right) in conversation with Cesare Borgia

According to Macchiavelli there were three examples of swordsmen defeating Swiss pikemen during the Renaissance period. These were:

(1) The condottiere Francesco Carmagnola's victory over the Swiss Confederates at Arbedo (1422);

(2) A victory of the Spanish in Naples over the Swiss infantry of Aubigny (presumably Seminara II in 1503);

and (3) the success of the Spanish infantry against the "Swiss" at Ravenna (1512), a battle nonetheless lost by the Spanish.

With the exception of Arbedo, which Machiavelli rather obviously misinterpreted, these examples have been adopted by modern historians as indicative of the ascendancy of the swordsman over the pikeman.

For example, Oman, whose work on the period remains more or less the standard survey, states that "when the pikemen and swordsmen first met in 1502, under the walls of Barletta, the old problem of Pydna and Cynosephalae was once more worked out. . . . Then, as in an earlier age, the wielders of the shorter weapon prevailed" (Middle Ages, 2:275). In a subsequent work Oman avoided mention of the Barletta example but gives the Spanish swordsmen credit for their work at Ravenna (Sixteenth Century, 56). Gush, basing his comments on either Machiavelli or Oman or both, mentions the success of Spanish swordsmen over pikemen at Barletta and Ravenna (Renaissance Armies, 10).

Works mentioned:

Gush, George. Renaissance Armies, 1480-1650. Cambridge: P. Stephens, 1982.

Macchiavelli, Niccolo. The Art of War. Albany, 1815. (Reprint of the Ellis Farnsworth translation, London, 1775).

Oman, Charles W. C. A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages. Vol. 2: 1278-1485. London, 1924. Rev. and enlarged edition.

Oman, Charles W. C. A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1937.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Caracole

There are few contemporary descriptions of the caracole. One, by the Englishman Digges, describing reiters attacking infantry methodically, is exceptionally clear:

“I well like the manner of the Germans, who keep always their main troop standing, and cause only one rank from the front to charge, and the same being repulsed to retire to the tail of the standing troop, and then another to charge and retire to the tail of the former, whereby they maintain the whole troop in full strength till they see the footmen sway or break, and that the horsemen enter. Then presently they back them with another rank, and those again with another, till they see cause either to follow with the whole troop or stay. And this is the surest and most orderly form of charging of all others.”

Digges wrote ca. 1579.

Reiters (Part 4)

Above: Reiters (NYPL, Vinkhuijzen Coll.)

Reiters in Combat
The first campaigns of note in which reiters participated were those of the Schmalkaldic Wars during the German Civil Wars (1546-1553). Incidentally, the reiters then fought for both the Imperialists (Holy Roman Empire) and the Protestant League of German princes.

Following these actions, the reiters took advantage of the discord in Western Europe, some fighting for France under Henri II against Spain at St. Quentin (1557) and Gravelines (1558), in addition to serving in various Italian armies.

With the cessation of Franco-Spanish hostilities, reiters found new employment with both the Huguenot and Catholic (Royalist) parties in the French Religious-Civil Wars. The reiters were considered tactically superior to the Catholic gendarmerie, who adhered to the feudal tactic of attack in line with lances. (Note: Blaise de Monluc, a Royalist, felt that the reiters possessed the advantage of attacking in one great body, not spread out in a thin line. He confirms the effect that the reiters had in changing the tactics of their adversaries: “We quit them (lances) for the German pistols.”)

Accounts of various actions are too varied for proof positive, but the high loss rate among reiters indicates determination, if not effectiveness. In a campaign of 1568, one reiter army was reduced to 1,200 men (slightly larger than a squadron). Schwartzreiters fought at Dreux (1562), Jarnac (1569), and Moncontour (1569), but at Ivry (1590), everything went wrong. From the start, the Royalist squadrons were formed too close to one another; firing ranks were unable properly to caracole in order to reload. The units that did close with the Huguenot foot found that arquebusiers had been situated within the ranks of pikemen, and these mauled the surprised Germans. After being disrupted by shot, the squadrons found themselves smashed by Huguenot cavalry and were forced to retire.

In addition to combat in the Wars of Religion, reiters served with the Dutch rebels against Spain in the Netherlands Wars of Independence (1568-1609). Following varying performances, the reiter units gradually faded from the battlefields of Europe, being replaced by more disciplined horsemen. Their tactical style, however, had been adopted nearly universally by all types of firearm-equipped cavalry by 1600. It would take the Thirty Years’ War and the professionalism of the hard-charging, determined Swedish cavalry, led by the “Lion of the North,” King Gustavus Adolphus, to make them truly obsolete.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reiters (Part 3)

Above: Reiters (from the NYPL, Vinkhuijzen Coll.)

Organization and Tactics

The cavalry of the 16th c. was divided into units that varied in number according to the commander’s custom and battlefield demands. The basic unit was the troop or cornet of 60-120 men, commanded by a rittmeister, in German-speaking lands. Larger units of 300-1,000 pistoleers, as many as 30 ranks deep, were called squadrons.

The first troops to make widespread use of pistols, reiters found it necessary to revise the standard cavalry tactic of attack in line (en haye) in order to gain the maximum effect of concentrated firepower. Intended primarily for use against infantry squares, a tactic known as the caracole was evolved.

In the most common version, a unit as large as a squadron was formed in column, wedge, or square, on average 10-15 ranks deep, and advanced towards the enemy at a slow trot, towards the front, flank, or at an angle to the enemy formation. The unit halted just beyond the ranks of the enemy pikes. Each reiter rank then advanced in succession, the individual troopers holding their fire until the last possible moment. They halted again and turned their mounts to the flank (to avoid blasting the horse’s ears off). With the faustrohre on its side, lock up to insure that the priming powder would make contact with the main charge, each reiter fired into the mass of foot and, wheeling his horse around the flank of the formation, trotted back to rejoin the tail of the column.

The following ranks would move up and repeat the procedure, thus giving the troops who had fired time to reload their wheellocks, a process which took as many as 14 separate steps. Continuously applied, this tactic could and often did result in the disorder of the enemy foot—unless they were hardened veterans, especially trained against cavalry. Once a break had been made, the reiters would charge into the gaps, using clubbed pistols, swords, and loaded pistols to force the enemy from the field of battle.

All of this worked in theory of course. In reality, the caracole was a very difficult maneuver to perform properly. Unless the troopers were well-trained, they would often fire a premature volley (not necessarily at the enemy), then, instead of rejoining the column, would ride away from the battle. Some who hadn’t fired at all would ride to the rear with those who had. In addition, due to the short effective range of the pistol, only tough troops would continue to caracole and take losses without becoming disorganized, or broken by enemy countercharges. While the front rank was filing to the rear, the whole formation was vulnerable to attacks by determined sword- or lance-wielding horsemen. For example, at the Battle of Mookerheyde (1574), reloading reiter cavalry was charged by Spanish lancers. The reiter front broke, causing chaos in the following ranks and the reserves. The resultant panic spread to the Dutch infantry, who also fled.

Opposing caracoles would often engage in prolonged fire combat without decisive results until one or the other finally broke.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Reiters (Part 2)

Armor and Weapons

If armored, reiters wore three-quarter or half-armors with high leather boots often reaching above the knee. Such armor was frequently painted black with borders left natural metal, giving the armor its “black and white” finish. The paint helped retard rusting, eliminated the need for polishing, and covered any defects present in a cheap armor. Mail was often worn in the form of sleeves or a shirt, and also in cape form, the so-called “bishop’s mantle.” Headgear ran the gamut from civilian caps, “iron hats,” morions, cabassets, and most frequently, open-faced burgonets. Gauntlets of both mitten and fingered types were used, or just leather gloves with a bridle gauntlet for the left hand. The average weight of a reiter’s harness would be about 25-30 pounds with helmet. Most often, the horse was unarmored except for barding in the form of heavy leather straps on the hind quarters.

Initially armed with a lance of boar-spear form and a thrusting-sword (estoc), reiters soon developed an affinity for, and increasing dependence on, firearms. Pist’ala, a Bohemian word meaning firearm, is noted in Silesian records of 1483, but the weapon as discussed here is believed to have originated in eastern Germany circa 1507. The form favored was the faustrohre (fist-pipe), a .70-calibre weapon, of wheellock ignition, varying in length from 18-24” and weighing about five pounds. Firing a one-oz. ball, the weapon was accurate against individual targets up to 20 yards and against massed targets 50 yards distant. As many as four faustrohren would be carried—two in tubular leather holsters at the saddle-bow, one thrust precariously into the right boot and, occasionally, one in the waist belt or sash.

A pistol could be loaded, primed, and spanned (cocked) several hours in advance of use without difficulty, but care had to be taken in handling the delicate lock mechanism and the brittle pyrites used in ignition.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The Black Horsemen – German Reiters

This article, by the scholar Walter J. Karcheski, Jr., was originally published years ago in Gorget & Sash, Vol. II:2. It is republished in serial form here, by kind permission of the editors of G&S. Dur Ecu has added his comments to the original text where it seems appropriate to add something to, or extend, the author’s text.


Renaissance battles, such as those of the Italian Wars (1494-1559), provided concrete evidence of the deadly effectiveness of hand-held firearms. The first mounted troops to make widespread use of these weapons were the German reiters. These horsemen, who were also called schwartzreiters (black riders), diables noirs (black devils), and barbouilles (bedaubed) for their preference for blackened armor and habit of staining face and hands to appear more ferocious, helped change forever the tactics of mounted warfare.

Reiter units were a form of medium cavalry, German in origin, recruited from the areas of Brunswick, Saxony, and the Rhineland-Palatinate. Men of little or no principle, they fought for whoever provided money. When pay was slow in coming, they were prone to go on strike, to mutiny, plunder friendly localities, or return to Germany en masse. In view of this independent mercenary spirit, even the native German princes, who were often in command, were hard-pressed to control them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Numbers in War

Some thoughts on numbers in war. Others have been quoted in the same vein: Stalin comes to mind.

“Dieu est toujours pour les gros bataillons.” (God is always on the side of the big battalions.) -- Attributed to Turenne by Joseph de Maistre.

“Dieu est d’ordinaire pour les gros escadons contre les petits.” (God is usually for the large squadrons against the little ones.) – Bussy Rabutin, Lettres, 4:91 (Oct. 18, 1677)

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Council of War

“The same consequences which have uniformly attended long discussions and councils of war will follow at all times. They will terminate in the adoption of the worst course, which in war is always the most timid, or, if you will, the most prudent. The only true wisdom in a general is determined courage.” – Napoleon (Maxim LXV, The Military Maxims of Napoleon)

Meetings: Some things never change.

First Bayonet Charge

Dur Écu had previously thought that history’s first bayonet charge was made by French troops in 1693, either at Marsaglia or Neerwinden. See, for example, his article on French line infantry of the Thirty Years’ War (which extends forward into the latter decades of the 17th c.), excerpted here:

The French were the first to experiment with the bayonet, the weapon that eventually rendered the pike redundant. According to Belhomme, the primitive plug bayonet was first employed in 1642 in the Army of Flanders. These bayonets were hafted weapons, about two-feet long. The blade was one-foot long and was fastened to a wooden haft, also one-foot long, which could be plugged into the muzzle of the musket. Puységur, a contemporary, described French soldiers using plug bayonets in 1647, and his description of the weapon is identical to Belhomme’s. But it is clear from these and other accounts that the plug bayonet was not employed to any great extent until the 1670s.

The early plug bayonet was employed defensively, but within a couple of decades the offensive possibilities of the weapon were recognized. The French infantry is generally considered to have made history’s first bayonet charge at Marsaglia (4 October 1693). Since some controversy attaches to this distinction, it may be best to cite authority. Broglie, citing Rousset, states:

Les charges, commandées par les officiers, l’epée à la main, et faites, d'apres l'ordre exprès du maréchal [Catinat], “au pas de course, la baionette au bout du fusil et sans tirer un coup,” furent remarquables et exécutees avec une vigueur qui décida du sort de la journée.

Another source accords the honor to the French Guards at Neerwinden (29 July 1693), just a few months earlier (Eugene François de St. Hilaire, Histoire d’Espagne).

Now recently, Dur Écu noticed a reference to a bayonet charge by French infantry at the Siege of Valenciennes in 1677 in an article by John A. Lynn, the dean of historians of the army of Louis XIV. In examining the source cited by Professor Lynn, a letter of French War Minister Louvois, it is clear that the French infantry on this occasion counterattacked cavalry in street fighting and drove them off with grenades and the plug bayonet. So, this episode may have been not only history’s first bayonet charge but also a remarkable example of the prowess of infantry armed with the new weapon against cavalry.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Abbreviations and Acronyms

The following is a draft list of abbreviations used in Dur Écu’s blog projects. Since many of these have already been employed in posts, it’s about time the list was posted here.


ADB Allegemeine deutsche Biographie

DBI Dizionario biografico degli Italiani

DBL Dansk Biografisk Leksikon

DNB The Dictionary of National Biography

KL Bodart. Kriegs-Lexikon

KSB Kleine slavische Biographie

RIHM Revue Internationale d’Histoire Militaire

SK Sveriges Krig

TE Theatrum Europaeum

National or Other Forces

Bdn Baden

Bav Bavaria; Catholic League

Boh Bohemian Rebels

Dnk Denmark

Eng England

Fr France

Hol Holland

Imp Imperial; Imperialist

Lge Catholic League

Man Mansfelders

Pol Poland; Poland-Lithuania

Sp Spain

Sw Sweden

Swz Switzerland

PrU Protestant Union

Wei Weimarian


CR Cavalry regiment

DR Dragoon regiment

IR Infantry regiment


FM Feldmarschall; field marshal

FML Feldmarschall Leutnant

FZM Feldzeugmeister

GdI General der Infanterie

GdK General der Kavallerie

GFZM General Feldzeugmeister

GL Generalleutnant

Gen Qu Generalquartiermeister [Quartermaster General]

GWM Generalwachtmeister

kt knight

LG Lieutenant General (Fr)

mdc maréchal de camp (Fr); maestre de campo (Sp)

mdcg maestre de campo general (Sp)

mdF maréchal de France (Fr); marshal of France

Dur Écu: Blog Projects (in addition to La Florida)

One of the reasons that Dur Écu began this blog was to use it as a cyber workspace for his planned online encyclopedias of the Wars of Louis XIV, the Thirty Years’ War, and Early Modern Warfare. In part, this is an attempt to encourage others to participate in these nascent projects. So, if anyone wishes to contribute, either by comment or by authoring draft entries, please do so. All contributions will be gratefully acknowledged. (If you wait for Dur Écu to finish these projects on his own, you’ll be waiting a long time.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Bucquoy, Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, comte de (Part 1)

Bucquoy, Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, comte de (Arras, 1571- Neuhäusel July 10, 1621). Imperialist GL [“General Obrister Leuttenandt”] and oberbefehlshaber (commander-in-chief) in the Bohemian War. The victor of White Mountain (1620) was KIA or MWIA at Neuhäusel less than a year later.

Bucquoy was descended from an ancient noble family of the Spanish Netherlands. His father had been killed at the Siege of Tournai (1581) serving under the Duke of Parma, and he himself made his first campaigns in the Spanish army under the Cardinal-Archduke Albert of Austria beginning in 1596. At Albert’s defeat by Prince Maurice of Orange in the Battle of Nieuport (July 2, 1600), he was a GWM and WIA at the head of his Walloon IR Bucquoy. In 1602, he was promoted GFZM. Subsequently, he served under Spinola in campaigns in the Low Countries and along the Rhine (1602-1609), which were terminated by the Twelve-year Truce between Spain and Holland. During this time he married Maria Magdalena Gräfin von Biglia of Milan, by whom he had a son, Charles Albert (q.v.).

In 1618, Bucquoy was promoted FM and awarded command of the Imperial army that was organized to put down the rebellion of the Bohemian Estates against the Emperor Matthias. The command was as much a recognition of Bucquoy’s military reputation as it was of the massive and timely intervention of Hapsburg Spain (and initially of the veteran troops of the Spanish Netherlands, which Bucquoy led into the war theater) in support of the near-defenseless emperor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sources for the Battle of Saint-Gotthard, 1664

Austrian-Imperialist Field Marshal Raimondo Montecuccoli's triumph over the Turkish Army of the Grand Vizier Achmed Koprulu at The Raab (St. Gotthard-Mogersdorf) on Apr. 1, 1664, ended decisively the latest Turkish threat to Christian Europe and was followed in ten days by the signing of the Peace of Vasvar, by which Austria and Turkey agreed to a 20-year truce.

Two (aging) German-language sources on this battle are:

Peball, Dr. Kurt. "Die Schlacht bei St. Gotthard-Mogersdorf 1664." Militärhistorische Schriftenreihe, 1 (1964). Publication of the Militärwissenschaftliche Abteilung des Bundesministeriums für Landesverteidigung, Vienna.

Wagner, Georg. "Das Türkenjähr 1664: Eine Europäische Bewährung." Burgenländische Forschungen, 48 (1964).

These articles were, quite obviously, written in the 300th anniversary year of the battle. Despite their commemorative character, they exhibit high scholarly qualities.

I recently learned of a new book devoted to the battle by the Hungarian scholar Ferenc Tóth that has received praise in the historical journal of the French army.

Saint-Gotthard 1664: une bataille européenne. Panazol: Lavauzelle, 2007.

For those who read French, the review from the Revue historique des armées is linked here:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Amundsen on Luck

Victory awaits those who have everything in order.
People call that luck.
Defeat is certain for those who have forgotten to take the necessary precautions in time.
This is called bad luck. -- Roald Amundsen, My Life As a Polar Explorer

(The great Norwegian polar explorer disappeared in June 1928.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sword-and-Bucklermen: How They (Are Supposed to Have) Fought

(Above: Obelisk Miniatures WOS 001 10mm Conquistador Sword and Bucklermen from Obelisk's website)

Given the nature of Renaissance scholarship, it was perhaps inevitable that the Spanish sword-and-bucklermen, from the moment of their appearance on the battlefields of Italy, should have been equated with the sword-armed legionaries of ancient Rome. The analogy, of course, was reinforced and extended by the fact that the Spanish in Italy faced French armies with the usual complement of Swiss pikemen, who fought in a phalanx formation like the Greek infantry so often bested in combat by the legionaries. Renaissance scholars--chief among them the Florentine Machiavelli--viewed the confrontation of swordsman and pikeman in their own time as a repetition of the ancient confrontation of Roman legion and Greek phalanx.

Machiavelli, who was a military theoretician, not a soldier, well understood from his reading of the Greek historian Polybius that the ancient confrontation of swordsman and pikeman had been settled decisively in favor of the swordsman. The classical examples were numerous and included chiefly battles at Cynosephalae (197 B.C.), Magnesia (190 B.C.), and Pydna (168 B.C.).

The reason for the ascendancy of the swordsman was perceived to be his ability to exploit the cumbersome weapon and tactical formation of his pike-armed opponent to his advantage. The swordsman, if he could penetrate beyond the hedgehog-like front of the presented pikes (and this he did by throwing himself under the pike heads or thrusting them aside with his shield), would find the game easy enough. He could then rush into the formation of pikemen, whose pikes were useless encumbrances once the swordsman had infiltrated beyond their heads, and lay about with his sword. In this situation the pikeman had to drop his primary weapon and resort to his sword. The swordsman, with his shield and special sword training, would inevitably defeat the pikeman, who had neither shield nor particular training in the use of the sword. This, reduced to its simplest form, was the choreography of any individual duel between swordsman and pikeman in the classical age or during the Renaissance.

Worth Reading: Fortescue on the Nature of War

The English military historian Sir John Fortescue is best known for his monumental 13-volume History of the British Army. I found his views on the nature of war and its persistence in human history in his introduction to Taylor’s The Wars of Marlborough, 1702-1709 (1921).

And let us not be told that we have had enough of war and wish to hear no more about it. Above all, let us not be deluded by saying that the late—or rather the present—war is “a war to end war.” A war that could end war is a war that could change human nature; and the prime cause of war is that human nature obstinately refuses to be changed. We cannot even maintain domestic peace without the help of a standing army, called the police. The abolition of private property would not end domestic broils; the dissolution of nations could not end external quarrels. As long as one man excels another in body or mind, as long as one woman is even comelier than another, so long will there be envy, jealousy, strife, and violence, or, in one word, War.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Thirty Years' War Army on the March

This very interesting print from Dur Écu’s collection shows the Spanish army under the command of FM Ottavio Piccolomini marching to the relief of Thionville (Diedenhofen), which was besieged by the French Army of Lorraine under Manassés de Pas, marquis of Feuquières, in 1639. At the subsequent Battle of Thionville (June 7/17, 1639) Piccolomini destroyed the French army, lifting the siege.

One can see at a glance that the order of march can translate very quickly into a line of battle and that the artillery and baggage is protected by the fighting formations. Also, the wedge-like form of the advance guard is suitable for attack or defense to front and both flanks in a meeting engagement. Indeed, the entire order of march is reminiscent of formations adopted by modern armored units in movement to contact in desert warfare.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Dragoons, according to Turner, were "Musketeers mounted on horses, appointed to march with the cavalry..." (p. 236). Dr. Johnson defined a dragoon as "a man who serves indifferently either on foot or on horseback." However, despite the fact that they shared certain attributes of each, dragoons at this period were neither infantry nor cavalry but were a distinct combat arm (one is immediately reminded of the familiar, ancient division of the combat arms, omitting the artillery, into "horse, foot, and dragoons").

Since they combined the firepower of the infantry with the cavalry's mobility, dragoons were very useful troops, capable of performing a variety of missions. Turner summarized these as follows:

Dragoons then go not only before to guard passes (as some imagine) but to fight in open field; for if an enemy rencounter with a cavalry in a champaign or open heath, the dragoons are obliged to alight [dismount], and mix themselves with the squads of horse, as they shall be commanded; and their continuate firing; before the horse come to the charge, will, no doubt, be very hurtful to the enemy: If the encounter be in close countrey, they serve well to line hedges, and possess enclosures, they serve for defending passes and beating the enemy from them (Ibid.).

The origin of dragoons and, indeed, the derivation of the term itself are obscure. Some French military historians, notably Susane and Père Daniel, have discerned their origin in the mounted infantry employed by Maréchal Brissac in the occupation of Piedmont (1550-1560), but others, principally Choppin, have correctly expressed disagreement with this view. Brissac's "dragoons" (the term postdates the mid 16th Century) were most certainly infantry pure and simple who were given horses captured from the enemy to increase their mobility and who were employed chiefly in raids and ambushes. They appear to be dragoons in the context of Turner's definition, but they were not organized or trained as such, and their existence as quondam dragoons was ephemeral, due entirely to their commander's adaptive genius. Indeed, Taylor, 53, points out that mounting infantry to increase mobility was not uncommon during the Italian Wars, and that the Venetians, Spanish, and Imperials had all piggy-backed infantry on the crupper behind light cavalry during 1509-1516.

The first true French dragoons emerged at the beginning of French military involvement in the Thirty Years' War (1635). (However, the ephemeral "Griffons" of the Gardes francaises predated this apparition.)

These units originated in the reorganization of 1635, when, as we have seen, the French cavalry was first organized on a regimental basis. Choppin indicates that at this time the carabins were dispersed, and three of the 12 new regiments formed were dragoons. These included one regiment of mousquetaires à cheval and two regiments of fusiliers à cheval. Choppin states that these units were dragoons in all but name.

Ambert, 1:330, states that there were no dragoons in the French army in the decade following the Siege of La Rochelle, but that in the reorganization of 1635 a 1,200-man unit, the dragoons of Cardinal Richelieu, was formed.

On 27 May 1635, just one day after the publication of the royal ordinance reorganizing the cavalry, the Marquis d'Alègre received a commission to raise a regiment of dragoons which was to consist of five 100-man companies. This regiment was in existence until 30 July 1636 (Courcelles, I:71).

Thereafter, for about a decade, the history of the French dragoons becomes somewhat murky. One regiment of the fusiliers à cheval was most certainly at Rocroi (1643), but the fusiliers do not appear to have survived the war. A new regiment of dragoons, that of the Marquis de la Ferté Senneterre, was raised in 1645 and served at the Sieges of Mardyck and Quesnoy (1646) and at the Battle of Lens (1648). It would appear that at the Peace of Westphalia and until l656 this regiment was the only unit of dragoons in the French army.

In 1656 a second regiment of dragoons, designated the Dragons étrangers du Roi and commanded by a certain Count Oddi, was raised. This unit passed to the Duc de Lauzun in 1658 and performed distinguished service at the Battle of the Dunes (1659). Thus, at the conclusion of the French Spanish War in 1659, there were just two dragoon regiments in the French army.

In 1660 the companies of La Ferté Senneterre were amalgamated with those of the Dragons étrangers du Roi, and the designation "étrangers" was dropped by the latter. Then, in 1668, the Dragons du Roi was divided, and two new regiments were created from it. These were Colonel général and Royal dragons, which ranked first and third, respectively, among the famous quatorze vieux ("old fourteen") of the French dragoon regiments created between 1668 and 1676.

In 1668 the duc de Lauzun was named Colonel général des dragons, and the corps was formally established as a separate arm. In 1669 there were 14 regiments. This number was augmented by 12 in 1688 (War of the League of Augsburg). In 1690 the number of regiments stood at 43. These had 6 companies, each of 35-45 horse, giving the regiment 210-270 men. The squadron was composed of three or four companies. In 1697, at the Peace of Ryswick, 28 regiments were disbanded. There were 30 regiments in 1704, following augmentations in 1701 and 1702; each regiment consisted of 12 companies.

There is little evidence that French dragoons were uniformed before c. 1680. Leliepvre states that there is fragmentary evidence that about that date dragoons were uniformed in blue and blue, red and blue, green and red, and yellow (where the second color is the facing color). His plate shows French dragoons of 1665 in yellow coat with red cuffs and of 1670 (du Roi) in blue coat with red facings.

Dragoons were normally armed with a wheel- or flintlock musket, one or two pistols, sword, and a hatchet or entrenching tool (these last not used in combat except in extremis).

Worth a Listen: Gay Woods

Among the many “voices” of Celtic women, I think it would be hard to find one more hauntingly beautiful than that of Gay Woods providing the vocals on Steeleye Span’s evocation of The Water Is Wide. The cherished old folk song that is so evocative of the yearning of separated lovers is rescued from the possibility of “in yer cups” melancholy by the soaring violin of Peter Knight and Woods’ tour de force that seems capable of reaching the more remote limits of a weathered soul.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chronology of the Bohemian War, 1618-1623

Among my (many) projects is that for an online Thirty Years' War encyclopedia. I hope to use this blog as a kind of workspace for that venture, and I invite any of my readers to participate, either by commenting on entries, proposing entries, or by authoring articles, however brief. To begin at the beginning, here is an outline of a chronology of the first phase of the war. As you can see, I can provide very little on some of the events, so if anyone can flesh them out--at least the labels--I'd appreciate it.

Bohemian War, 1618-1623

Pilsen, Capture of (Nov. 11/21, 1618). Mansfeld took the town.

Záblat [Sablat], Battle of (June 10, 1619). Complete victory of the Imperialists, commanded by Bucquoy, over the Bohemian rebels, commanded by Mansfeld.

Bautzen, Capture of (Sep. 23, 1620). The town was taken by the Elector of Saxony.

Langen-Loys, Combat of (1620).

White Mountain, Battle of (Oct. 28/Nov. 8, 1620). Victory of the combined Imperial and League armies, commanded by Bucquoy and Tilly, over the army of the Bohemian Estates, commanded by Christian of Anhalt.

Neuhäusel [Érsekujvár], Battle of (July 10, 1621). Victory of the Hungarians, commanded by Thurzó, over the Imperialists, commanded by Bucquoy.

Nickolsburg, Treaty of (1623). Peace treaty ending the Bohemian War.

Monday, February 2, 2009

La Florida: Fighting Vessels (2)

Dur Écu has just previously lauded Albert Manucy’s biography of Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. One useful appendix of that book (although not labeled as such) is the author’s description of “Some 16th Century Vessels.” This includes two pages of text describing various types of ships and boats of the period and two pages of profile line drawings showing showing the appearance of several types.

This section of Manucy’s book will prove quite useful in working-out naval aspects of LF. Here are the types described:

Narrow Hulls: Galera; Galeota; Bergantin; Fragata; Galeaza; and Galeón.

Broad-beamed Ships: Nao, návio; Caravela.

Smaller Craft: Barco; Patache; Zabra; Chalupa; Pinaza; and Lancha.

Source: Manucy, Albert C. Florida's Menéndez: Captain General of the Ocean Sea. St. Augustine, Fla.: St. Augustine Historical Society, 1983.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Curious Comparisons

I can think offhand of just two veterans of the US Civil War who wrote at any length on the Thirty Years’ War: Theodore Ayrault Dodge and John Watts de Peyster. Both served in the Federal Army of the Potomac, Dodge in the infantry and De Peyster in the artillery.

Only Dodge’s writings, as exemplified by his magnum opus, Great Captains, have enduring value, and I’ll probably return to that work in a future post. But De Peyster’s rambling, shambling, and at times plainly strange forays into the rich history of the Thirty Years’ War have at the least a certain antiquarian interest for the modern reader, chiefly as illustrative of the blind Nativism that characterized large segments of the officer corps of the US Army and polite society in the northeast for the greater part of the 19th century and continued in a residual sense well into the mid-20th century.

This Nativism, composed in large part of anti-Catholicism and anti-foreign (mainly anti-Irish) convictions, saw history as a morality play in which the heritors of the Protestant Revolution had supplanted the decadent, reactionary Catholic powers of Europe. Quite naturally, in the eyes of De Peyster and others, the Thirty Years’ War marked an enormous step forward in that process.

To return to the subject line, De Peyster in one of his rambles provided a comparison of some Thirty Years’ War generals to generals of the Civil War. For the life of me, I can’t fathom his thinking in this exercise, but then that’s the nature of facile historical comparisons. You either buy them or you don’t (for example, the carefully-cultivated Obama-Lincoln parallel: Both are politicians from Illinois—therefore Obama is “like” Lincoln).

The following is from De Peyster’s article “The Thirty Years’ War: With Special Reference to the Military Operations and Influence of the Swedes” in The United Service (Dec., 1884):

... [T]he Archduke Leopold, in some respects, resembled Hood; Gallas, in others, McClellan; Piccolomini, a Lee, in his comprehension of the strength of positions; Koenigsmarck, a “Stonewall” Jackson in enterprise; Pappenheim, exactly a Sheridan; Wrangel Junior, might recall Sherman, able, erratic, and ever looking to the end; Condé was a butterfly general, who took the field in summer, had the support of the best in the French service, and rested on his laurels in winter, a Grant in pertinacity; Torstensson, and in a far less degree Turenne, was a Thomas. In this comparison there is no intention to introduce the question of morals, since, with the exception of Gustavus, Horn, and Torstensson, morals were an unknown quantity.

(That last sentence is a stunner: De Peyster states that morals haven’t entered into his calculus and then stakes out the moral high ground for three Swedes, including the king, Gustavus Adolphus.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

La Florida: Fighting Vessels (1) – the Patache

Paul Hoffman’s superb study of the Spanish defense of the Caribbean in our period (see below) introduced me to a type of fighting vessel that I had never imagined would be present in the war theater, much less an important factor operationally and tactically. This was the boat called the patache de remos (oared patache), or just plain patache.

Hoffman’s brief but well executed glossary defines the patache as:

“A two-masted open boat often fitted with oars or sweeps, varying in number from ten to eighteen to a side, with a total of from twenty to thirty-six. Ranging in size from 60 to 200 toneladas burden, they were very swift under sail or oar and were used as tenders for larger ships. The name seems to be derived from an Arabic adjective meaning `rapid, active’.”

Hoffman speculates that the French use of the patache, which was Spanish or at least Moorish in origin, was possibly in imitation of the Spanish or the “inspiration” of pirates in the Indies “becalmed within sight of a prize.” Nonetheless, beginning in 1549, piratical depredations by pataches, often operating in tandem with larger sailing vessels, were noted.

It seems that some of the pataches were transported to the Antilles in pieces and there assembled and fitted-out for service with corsair flotillas. In response, the Spanish employed their own pataches and larger galleys.

Source: Hoffman, Paul E. The Spanish Crown and the Defense of the Caribbean, 1555-1585: Precdent, Patrimonialism, and Royal Parsimony. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1980.

Rod Langton makes miniatures in 1:1200 scale in his Renaissance Galleys line that appear to be suitable representations of pataches. These are his Bergantine, Fusta, and Galiot models, described as unarmed scout with 9 oars/side, unarmed scout/pirate with 15 oars/side, and lightly armed scout/pirate with 17 oars/side, respectively.

Monday, January 12, 2009

La Florida: Abbreviations

The number of abbreviations connected with LF posts is mounting. Here is a draft list, which I'll update from time to time.

EPP = Economic Power Potential
FHQ = Florida Historical Quarterly (professional journal)
GOD = The Game Organizer and Director
LF = La Florida (game system)
MPP = Military Power Potential
TPC = The Perfect Captain (web source for gaming systems)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

La Florida: Indian Weapons

Several sources were consulted on weapons employed by the Indians of LF. A useful, well-illustrated general source is:

Taylor, Colin F. Native American Weapons. Norman: Univ. of Okla. Press, 2001.

General sources have very little to say about LF, though, and it was necessary to consult specialized sources. Among these, the following was outstanding, and not just for weapons, as the title indicates:

Purdy, Barbara A. “Weapons, Strategies, and Tactics of the Europeans and the Indians in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Florida.” FHQ, 55 (Jan., 1977), 254-76. [I use FHQ as an abbreviation for the Florida Historical Quarterly.]

From Purdy and other sources, it appears that Indian weapons included: bows, spears, clubs, and short swords.

The bows typically were large, resembling longbows, and powerful. They had a range of 200 yards, and the Indians were said to commonly discharge six or seven cane arrows in the time it took a European to reload his arquebus. The bows were so stout that they could also be used as clubs.

Clubs used by the Indians were of various types. Those with stone heads appear to have been used like maces to stun an enemy at the least and to crush skulls and bones at worst. Others, like the macaña had “blades” made of pebbles or small stones that could not be splintered. “It will kill the best armored man,” wrote a Spaniard, “and anyone who hesitates and is struck with the macaña will surely be killed.” Pick-axe type clubs were described by De Soto.

It seems that thrusting-type spears were rarely mentioned in the literature of LF, and references to spears were mainly to dart-like throwing spears.