Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gaius Marius (157 BC - 86 BC), Reformer of Roman Armies

So-called “Marius”, free copy (probably augustean time) after a portrait of an important Roman from 2nd century BC. Because of many common details with the so-called « Sulla » (proportions, open mouth, large eyes), it is advanced that both statues (brothers, adversaries?) were concieved and exhibited together

Lists of those who were doomed were hung up in the Forum

“Gaius Marius sitting in exile among the ruins of Carthage after being kicked out of Rome,” plate from The Story of Rome by Mary Macgregor, illustrated by Paul Woodroffe, W. Rainey and Dudley Heath, now in the public domain

"Caius Marius on the ruins of Carthage" by John Vanderlyn. Engraving showing Gaius Marius, full-length portrait, seated, facing front, with ruins of Carthage behind him

Gaius Marius (157 BC – January 13, 86 BC) was a Roman general and statesman. He held the office of consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his dramatic reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the structure of the legions into separate cohorts. Marius defeated the invading Germanic tribes (the Teutones, Ambrones, and the Cimbri), for which he was called "the third founder of Rome." His life and career were significant in Rome's transformation from Republic to Empire.

Marius was born in 157 BC in the town of Arpinum in southern Latium. The town had been conquered by the Romans in the late 4th century BC and was given Roman citizenship without voting rights. Only in 188 BC did the town receive full citizenship. Although Plutarch claims that Marius' father was a laborer, this is almost certainly false since Marius had connections with the nobility in Rome, he ran for local office in Arpinum, and he had marriage relations with the local nobility in Arpinum, which all combine to indicate that he was born into a locally important family of equestrian status. The problems he faced in his early career in Rome show the difficulties that faced a "new man" (novus homo).

There is a legend that Marius, as a teenager, found an eagle's nest with seven chicks in it – eagle clutches hardly ever have more than 3 eggs; even if two females used the same nest, finding 7 offspring in a single nest would be exceptionally rare. Since eagles were considered sacred animals of Jupiter, the supreme god of the Romans, it was later seen as an omen predicting his election to the consulship seven times. Later, as consul, he decreed that the eagle would be the symbol of the Senate and People of Rome.

In 134 BC, he was serving with the army at Numantia and his good services brought him to the attention of Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus. Whether he arrived with Scipio Aemilianus or was already serving in the demoralized army that Scipio Aemilianus took over at Numantia is not clear. According to Plutarch, during a conversation after dinner, when the conversation turned to generals, someone asked Scipio Aemilianus where the Roman people would find a worthy successor to him. Aemilianus then gently tapped on Marius' shoulder, saying: "Perhaps this is the man." It would seem that even at this early stage in his army career, Marius had ambitions for a political career in Rome. He ran for election as one of the twenty-four special military tribunes of the first four legions who were elected (the rest were appointed by the magistrate who raised the legion). Sallust tells us that he was unknown by sight to the electors but was returned by all the tribes on the basis of his accomplishments.

Next, he ran for the quaestorship after losing an election for local office in Arpinum. The military tribunate shows that he was already interested in Roman politics before the quaestorship. Perhaps he simply ran for local office as a means of gaining support back home, and lost to some other local worthy. Nothing is known of his actions while quaestor.

In 120 BC, Marius was returned as plebeian tribune for the following year. He won with the support of Quintus Caecilius Metellus (later known as Metellus Numidicus), who was an inherited patronus. The Metelli, though neither ancient nor patrician, were one of the most powerful families in Rome at this time. During his tribunate, Marius pursued a populares line. He passed a law that restricted the interference of the wealthy in elections. In the 130s voting by ballot had been introduced in elections for choosing magistrates, passing laws and deciding legal cases, replacing the earlier system of oral voting. The wealthy continued to try to influence the voting by inspecting ballots and Marius passed a law narrowing the passages down which voters passed to cast their votes in order to prevent outsiders from harassing the electors. In the passage of this law, Marius alienated the Metelli, who opposed it.

Soon thereafter, Marius ran for the aedileship and lost. This loss was at least in part due to the enmity of the Metelli. In 116 BC he barely won election as praetor for the following year (presumably coming in sixth) and was promptly accused of ambitus (electoral corruption). He barely won acquittal on this charge, and spent an uneventful year as praetor in Rome (as Urban Praetor, Peregrine Praetor or President of the extortion court). In 114 BC, Marius' imperium was prorogued and he was sent to govern Lusitania, where he engaged in some sort of minor military operation: according to Plutarch, he cleared away the robbers whilst robbery was still considered a noble occupation by the local people. During this period in Roman history governors seem regularly to have served two years in Hispania, so he was probably replaced in 113 BC.

He received no triumph on his return and did not apparently run for the consulship, but he did marry Julia, the aunt of Julius Caesar. The Julii Caesares were a patrician family, but at this period seem to have found it hard to advance above the praetorship. (Only once in the 2nd century – in 157 BC – did a member of the family become consul.) To judge by this marriage, Marius had apparently achieved some substantial political or financial influence by this point (possibly from his governship in Hispania).

The Marii were the inherited clients of the Caecilii Metelli and a Caecilius Metellus had aided Marius' campaign for the tribunate. Although he seems to have had a break with the Metelli as a result of the laws he passed while tribune, the rupture was not permanent, since in 109 BC Quintus Caecilius Metellus took Marius with him as his legate on his campaign against Jugurtha. Legates (legati) were originally simply envoys sent by the Senate, but men appointed as legates by the Senate were used by generals as subordinate commanders, usually becoming the general's most trusted lieutenant. Hence, Metellus had to have asked the Senate to appoint Marius as legate to allow him to serve as Metellus' subordinate. In Sallust's long account of Metellus' campaign no other legates are mentioned, so it is assumed that Marius was Metellus's senior subordinate and right-hand man. Thus Metellus was using Marius' military experience, while Marius was strengthening his position to run for the consulship. The rupture in 119 BC may have been exaggerated after the fact in light of his later and much more serious disagreement with Metellus about Numidia.

By 108 BC, Marius conceived the desire to run for the consulship. Despite lack of approval from Metellus (brought on by Marius' status as a novus homo) who instead advised Marius to wait and run with Metellus' son (who was only twenty, which would signify a campaign 20 years in the future) Marius began to campaign for the consulship. Sallust claims that this was catalyzed, in part, by a fortune-teller who "told him that great and wonderful things were presaged to him that he might therefore pursue whatever designs he had formed trusting to the gods for success, and that he might try fortune as often as he pleased for that all his undertakings would prosper." Marius soon earned the respect of the troops by his conduct towards them, eating his meals with them and proving he was not afraid to share in any of their labours. He also won over the Italian traders by claiming that he could capture Jugurtha in a few days with half Metellus' troops. Both groups wrote home in praise of him, suggesting that he could end the war quickly unlike Metellus, who was pursuing a policy of methodically subduing the countryside. Eventually Metellus gave in, realizing that it was counterproductive to have a resentful subordinate.

Under these circumstances, Marius was triumphantly elected consul later that year, for 107 BC. He was campaigning against Metellus's apparent lack of swift action against Jugurtha. Because of the repeated military debacles from 113 BC to 109 BC and the accusations that the oligarchy was open to flagrant bribery, it became easier for the virtuous new man who had worked with difficulty up the ladder of offices to be elected as an alternative to the inept or corrupt nobility. The Senate had a trick up its sleeve, however. In accordance with the provisions of the Lex Sempronia on Consular provinces, which dictated that the Senate in a given year was to determine the Consular provinces for the next year at the end of year before the elections, the Senate decided not to make the war against Jugurtha one of the provinces and to prorogue Metellus in Numidia. Marius got around this through a ploy that had been used in 131 BC. In that year there was a dispute as to who should command the war against Aristonicus in Asia, and a tribune had passed a law authorizing an election to select the commander (there was precedent for this procedure from the Second Punic War). A similar law was passed in 108 BC and Marius was voted the command by the People in this special election. Metellus shed bitter tears when he learned of the decision. Upon returning home, he avoided meeting Marius, and was granted a Triumph and the agnomen Numidicus (conqueror of Numidia).

The most dramatic and influential changes Marius made to the Roman army were named the Marian Reforms. In 107 BC, shortly after being elected as Consul, Marius, fearing Barbarian invasion, saw the dire need for an increase in troop numbers. Until this time, the standard requirements to become a Roman soldier were very strict. To be considered a soldier in the service of the republic, an individual was required to provide his own arms and uniform for combat. Marius relaxed the recruitment policies by removing the necessity to own land, and allowed all Roman citizens entry, regardless of social class (Plutarch, The Life of Marius). The benefits to the army were numerous, with the unemployed masses enlisting for military service alongside the more fortunate citizens. Poorer citizens were drawn to lifelong service, as they were rewarded with the prospect of settlement in conquered land. This also 'Romanized' the population in newly subjugated provinces, thus reducing unrest and lowering the chance of revolt against the Roman Republic. The new Roman army, its numbers vastly bolstered by lower class citizens whose future was tied to their permanent career, was always able to provide reserves in times of disaster. In addition, the growth of the army ensured continued military success due to the high number of fresh soldiers available for each campaign. Even though the army increased in size considerably, Marius also sought to improve organization among his troops.

Marius needed more troops, and to this effect he made a change in procedure used for recruiting troops, probably unaware of the momentous implications of this change. All of the Gracchian agrarian reforms had been premised on the traditional Roman levy, which excluded from service those whose property qualification fell below the minimum property qualification for the fifth census class. The Gracchi had tried to restore the smallholders who would constitute the majority of those qualified to serve. The end of the Gracchan land legislation did nothing to change the military crisis that gave rise to that legislation. It seems that the minimum qualification for the fifth census class (the lowest one eligible for military service) was lowered from 11,000 to 3000 sesterces of property, and already in 109 BC the consuls had had to seek suspension of Gaius Gracchus' restrictions on the levy. In 107 BC Marius decided to ignore the census qualification altogether and recruited with no inquiry into the property of the potential soldier. From now on Rome's legions would largely consist of poor citizens (the "capite censi" or "head count") whose future after service could only be assured if their general could somehow bring about a land distribution on their behalf. Thus the soldiers had a very strong personal interest in supporting their general against the Senate (i.e., the oligarchy) and the "public interest" that was often equated with the Senate. Marius did not avail himself of this potential source of support, but in less than two decades Marius' ex-quaestor Sulla would use it against the Senate and Marius.
War in Numidia

Marius found that it wasn't as easy to end the war as he had claimed. He arrived comparatively late in 107 BC and in that year and the next he forced Jugurtha to the south and west toward Mauretania. Marius' quaestor in 107 BC had been Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, the son of a patrician family that had fallen on hard times. Marius was supposedly unhappy at receiving the dissolute youth as his subordinate, but Sulla proved a competent military leader. By 105 the king of Mauretania, Bocchus I, who was also Jugurtha's father-in-law and reluctant ally, was worried about the approaching Romans. After receiving word that an accommodation with them was possible, Bocchus insisted that Sulla make the hazardous journey to his capital, where Sulla induced Bocchus to betray Jugurtha, who was duly handed over to Sulla, thus ending the war. Since Marius held the imperium and Sulla was acting as his subordinate, the honor of capturing Jugurtha belonged strictly to Marius, but Sulla had clearly been immediately responsible and had a signet ring made for himself commemorating the event. Sulla would later claim that the credit for ending the war was his. Meanwhile, Marius was the hero of the hour, and his services would be needed in another emergency.

The arrival of the Cimbri in Gaul in 109 BC and their complete defeat of Marcus Junius Silanus had resulted in unrest among the Celtic tribes recently conquered by the Romans in southern Gaul. In 107 the consul Lucius Cassius Longinus was completely defeated by the Tigurini clan, and the senior surviving officer (Gaius Popillius Laenas, son of the consul of 132) had saved what was left only by surrendering half the baggage and suffering the humiliation of having his army "march under the yoke." The next year (106 BC) another consul, Quintus Servilius Caepio, marched to Gaul and captured the disloyal community of Tolosa (Toulouse), where a huge sum of money (the Gold of Tolosa), was taken from shrines. The larger part of it mysteriously vanished when being transported to Massilia (Marseille). Caepio was prorogued into the next year, when one of the new consuls, Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, also operated in southern Gaul. Mallius was a new man like Marius, and he and the noble Caepio found it impossible to co-operate.

The Cimbri and the Teutones (both migrating Germanic tribes) appeared on the Rhône, and while Caepio was on the west bank he refused to come to the aid of Mallius on the left. Eventually the Senate got Caepio's reluctant agreement to co-operate, but even when he crossed the river to help the threatened Mallius, he refused to join forces and kept his own at a fair distance. First the Germans routed Caepio and then destroyed Mallius's army on October 6, 105 BC at Arausio. Since the Romans fought with the river at their back, flight was not possible and reportedly 80,000 were killed. The losses in the preceding decade had been bad enough, but this defeat, apparently caused by the arrogance of the nobility and its refusal to co-operate with talented non-nobles, was the last straw. Not only had huge numbers of Romans lost their lives but Italy itself was now exposed to invasion from barbarian hordes. The failure to deal with this threat marked the start of a period when dissatisfaction with the oligarchy (and thus, conflict between the optimates and the populares) was becoming increasingly, and dangerously, bitter. Sometime during this war Marius participated in the Trial of Trebonius.

In late 105 BC Marius was elected consul again while still in Africa. Election in absentia was unusual enough, but at some time after 152 BC a law had been passed dictating a ten-year interval between consulships, and there is even some evidence to indicate that by 135 BC a law had been passed that prohibited second consulships altogether. Nonetheless by this time news of a new advancing tribe known as the Cimbri had reached Rome and in the emergency Marius was again chosen consul. The law was either repealed or set aside under the circumstances of emergency, as Marius was then elected to an unprecedented five successive consulships (104 BC–100 BC). He returned to Rome by January 1, 104 BC, when he celebrated his triumph over Jugurtha, who was first led in the procession, then killed in the public prison.

The Cimbri conveniently marched into Hispania and the Teutoni milled around in northern Gaul, leaving Marius to prepare his army. One of his legates was his old quaestor, Sulla, which shows that at this time there was no ill-will between them. In 104 BC, Marius was returned as consul again for 103 BC. Though he could have continued to operate as proconsul, it seems that the position as consul would make his position as commander unassailable and avoid any problems with the consuls if he was only a proconsul. Marius seems to have been able to get exactly what he wanted, and it even seems that his support determined whom the people would elect as his colleagues (his choice was apparently determined, on several occasions, on the basis of their malleability: only Catulus in 102 BC, and Flaccus in 100 BC, would have been serious candidates in their own right without his support, and even Flaccus was described as more servant than partner in the office.) In 103 BC, the Germans still did not emerge from Hispania, and conveniently Marius's colleague (L. Aurelius Orestes, son of C. Gracchus's commander in Sardinia in 126 BC–124 BC) died, so Marius had to return to Rome to oversee the elections, being re-elected for 102 BC.

In 102 BC the Cimbri returned from Hispania into Gaul and together with the Teutones decided to invade Italy. The Teutones were to head south and advance toward Italy along the Mediterranean coast; the Cimbri were to attempt to cross the Alps into Italy from the northwest by the Brenner Pass; and the Tigurini (the allied Celtic tribe who had defeated Longinus in 107) were to cross the Alps from the northeast. This decision proved fatally flawed. The Germanic soldiers divided their forces, making each contingent manageable, and the Romans could use their shorter lines of communication and supply to concentrate their forces at will.

First, Marius had to deal with the Teutones, who were in the province of Narbonensis marching toward the Alps. He refused to give them a battle where they wanted, and withdrew to Aquae Sextiae (a settlement founded by Gaius Sextius Calvinus in 124 BC), which blocked their path. The leading contingent of the Germanic warriors, the Ambrones, foolishly attacked the Roman position without waiting for reinforcements and 30,000 were killed. Marius then hid 3,000 troops in ambush, so when the main Germanic contingent finally attacked, the hidden Roman troops could fall on them from behind. In the ensuing defeat, the Teutones were completely annihilated, to the number of something over 100,000.

Marius' colleague Quintus Lutatius Catulus in 102 BC did not have as much luck. He botched the holding of the Brenner Pass, allowing the Cimbri to advance into northern Italy by late 102 BC. Marius was in Rome, and after becoming elected consul for 101 BC and deferring his Triumph over the Teutones, he marched north to join Catulus, whose command was prorogued into 101. Finally, in the summer of that year a battle was fought at Vercellae in Cisalpine Gaul. Once again, Roman discipline overcame a larger barbarian force. At least 65,000 were killed (perhaps as many as 100,000 again) and all the remainder enslaved. The Tigurini gave up their efforts to enter Italy from the northeast and went home. Catulus and Marius celebrated a joint Triumph, but in popular thinking all the credit went to Marius, who was praised as "the third founder of Rome." Catulus became alienated from Marius and would later become one of his chief opponents. As a sort of reward (the danger was now gone) Marius was returned as consul for 100 BC. This year would not go at all well for Marius.

During this year Lucius Appuleius Saturninus was tribune for the second time (having apparently had Marius's support on both this occasion and the previous one), and advocated reforms like those earlier put forth by the Gracchi. He pushed for a bill that gave colonial lands to the veterans of the recent war and offered to lower the price of wheat distributed by the state. The Senate, however, opposed these measures and violence broke out. The Senate then ordered Marius, as consul, to put down the revolt. Marius, although he was generally allied with the radicals, complied with the request and put down the revolt in the interest of public order. He then went to the east and into retirement.

What is important in this incident is that instead of seizing the opportunity to establish himself as supreme ruler and reformer of the state, Marius showed the senate, who had always been suspicious of his motives, that he was one of them instead of the outsider that Quintus Metellus said he was in 108 BC. Marius' overall concern, for his part, was how to maintain the Senate's esteem.

While Marius was away and after he returned, Rome had several years of relative peace. But in 95 BC, Rome passed a decree expelling from the city all residents who were not Roman citizens. In 91 BC Marcus Livius Drusus was elected tribune and proposed a greater division of state lands, the enlargement of the Senate, and a conferral of Roman citizenship upon all freemen of Italy. But Drusus was assassinated, and many of the Italian states then revolted against Rome in the Social War of 91–88 BC. Marius took command (following the deaths of the consul, Publius Rutilius Lupus, and the praetor Quintus Servilius Caepio) and fought along with Sulla against the rebel cities, but retired from the war in its early stages – probably due to poor health (it has been suggested that he suffered a stroke.)

After the Social War, King Mithridates of Pontus began his bid to conquer Rome's eastern provinces and invaded Greece. In 88 BC, Lucius Cornelius Sulla was elected consul. The choice before the Senate was to put either Marius or Sulla in command of an army which would aid Rome's Greek allies and defeat Mithridates. The Senate chose Sulla, but soon the Assembly appointed Marius. In this unsavory episode of low politics, he was helped by the unscrupulous actions of Publius Sulpicius Rufus, whose debts Marius had promised to erase. Sulla refused to acknowledge the validity of the Assembly's action.

Sulla left Rome and traveled to the army waiting in Nola, the army the Senate had asked him to lead against Mithridates. Sulla urged his legions to defy the Assembly's orders and accept him as their rightful leader. Sulla was successful and the legions stoned the representatives from the Assembly. Sulla then commanded six legions to march with him to Rome and institute a civil war. This was a momentous event, and was unforeseen by Marius, as no Roman army had ever marched upon Rome—it was forbidden by law and ancient tradition.

Once it became obvious that Sulla was going to defy the law and seize Rome by force, Marius attempted to organize a defense of the city using gladiators. Unsurprisingly Marius' ad-hoc force was no match for Sulla's legions. Marius was defeated and fled Rome. Marius narrowly escaped capture and death on several occasions and eventually found safety in Africa. Sulla and his supporters in the Senate passed a death sentence on Marius, Sulpicius and a few other allies of Marius. A few men were executed but (according to Plutarch), many Romans disapproved of Sulla's actions; some who opposed Sulla were actually elected to office in 87 BC. (Gnaeus Octavius, a supporter of Sulla, and Lucius Cornelius Cinna, a supporter of Marius, were elected consul). Regardless, Sulla was confirmed again as the commander of the campaign against Mithridates, so he took his legions out of Rome and marched east to the war.

While Sulla was on campaign in Greece, fighting broke out between the conservative supporters of Sulla, led by Octavius, and the popular supporters of Cinna. Marius along with his son then returned from exile in Africa with an army he had raised there and combined with Cinna to oust Octavius. This time it was the army of Marius that entered Rome.

Some of the soldiers went through Rome killing the leading supporters of Sulla, including Octavius. Their heads were exhibited in the Forum. All told some dozen Roman nobles had been murdered. The Senate passed a law exiling Sulla, and Marius was appointed the new commander in the eastern war. Cinna was chosen for his third consulship and Marius to his seventh consulship. After five days, Cinna and the populares general Quintus Sertorius ordered their more disciplined troops to kill the rampaging soldiers.

In his Life of Marius, Plutarch writes that Marius's return to power was a particularly brutal and bloody one, saying that the consul's "anger increased day by day and thirsted for blood, kept on killing all whom he held in any suspicion whatsoever." Among these included former consul Lutatius Catulus and the orator Marcus Antonius, grandfather of Mark Anthony. Plutarch writes that "whenever anybody else greeted Marius and got no salutation or greeting in return, this of itself was a signal for the man's slaughter in the very street, so that even the friends of Marius, to a man, were full of anguish and horror whenever they drew near to greet him."

Plutarch relates several opinions on the end of C. Marius: one, from Posidonius, holds that Marius contracted pleurisy; Gaius Piso has it that Marius walked with his friends and discussed all of his accomplishments with them, adding that no intelligent man ought leave himself to Fortune. Plutarch then anonymously relates that Marius, having gone into a fit of passion in which he announced a delusion that he was in command of the Mithridatic War, began to act as he would have on the field of battle; finally, ever an ambitious man, Marius lamented, on his death bed, that he had not achieved all of which he was capable, despite his having acquired great wealth and having been chosen consul more times than any man before him.

Marius was a successful Roman general and military reformer, but also known as a harsh, ambitious man harboring contempt for the nobility (who occupied the Senate). He played a critical role in the destruction of the Roman Republic, and the birth of the Roman Empire. Plutarch says of him

just as Plato was wont to say often to Xenocrates the philosopher, who had the reputation of being rather morose in his disposition, "My good Xenocrates, sacrifice to the Graces," so if Marius could have been persuaded to sacrifice to the Greek Muses and Graces, he would not have put the ugliest possible crown upon a most illustrious career in field and forum, nor have been driven by the blasts of passion, ill-timed ambition, and insatiable greed upon the shore of a most cruel and savage old age.

His improvements to the structure and organization of the Roman legion were profound and effective. However he was, in part, responsible for the breakdown in relations with Sulla which led to Sulla's march on Rome. He himself had broken with tradition on previous occasions and his effort to reverse the Senate's appointment of Sulla as commander of the Mithridatic War was highly questionable under Roman constitutional tradition. The five days of terror upon his return to Rome saw many hundreds slaughtered in his name.

The Marian reforms to the legions, recruiting among un-propertied urban citizens, was a pivotal step leading in short order to the collapse of the Republic. Marius set the precTautanedent of recruiting among the poor and then granting these veterans land upon the conclusion of the campaign. Thus the legions became more loyal to their generals than to the state. The loyalty of such legions is what allowed Marius himself, Sulla, and about 40 years later Marius' nephew Julius Caesar to march on Rome itself.

The struggle between Marius and Sulla led to the deaths of numerous distinguished Roman senators, equestrians and unknown thousands of Roman soldiers and citizens. It set a precedent for the civil wars to come that led ultimately to the destruction of the Republican form of government and thus to the establishment of the principate system of the Empire.

Sources :

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Hiram Berdan (1824-1893), Inventor and Sharpshooter

Hiram Berdan (1824 – 1893), engineer and Union Army General, commander of sharpshooters during the American Civil War. Photo taken between 1860 and 1870

Hiram Berdan as an inventor after the war

Hiram Berdan grave in Section 2 of Arlington National Cemetery. He died at the Metropolitan Club in New York City on March 31, 1893. He appeared at the club around 5:00 PM, and mentioned to the club secretary that he was not feeling well. During a game of chess with “Admiral Crosby,” the New York Times reported that at 5:45 PM “suddenly his head dropped and he began to breathe heavily and expired almost instantly.” It was finally determined that his death was caused by a cerebral hemorrhage

Hiram Berdan (September 6, 1824 – March 31, 1893) was an American engineer, inventor and military officer, world-renowned marksman, and guiding force behind and commanding colonel of the famed United States Volunteer Sharpshooter Regiments during the American Civil War. He was the inventor of the Berdan rifle, the Berdan centerfire primer and numerous other weapons and accessories.

Hiram Berdan was a talented inventor with over 30 patents to his name. These range from a collapsable life boat (a patent that was donated to a charity, and never built) to machines to automate the production of bread (these machines were used by some companies at the time of the Civil War to make Army Bread, or Hardtack) to post-war weapons modifications sold to the Russian military. Through these patents, Berdan became a very wealthy man with contacts in important governmental and business positions.

Berdan was a likely choice to form a regiment of expert marksmen because of hid influence, and because he was known to be the best rifle shot in the United States at the time, in formal competition. Target shooting was a popular sport in the northern United States for affluent and common men alike. President Lincoln was also known to be a fair shot. Most of the men who formed the Sharpshooters were not wealthy business men, like Berdan, but rather men who had learned to shoot through hunting, competition shooing, or previous war experience. The call to a Sharpshooter regiments was well received, so well in fact, that the states began keeping their marksmen for volunteer sharpshooting regiments, to the dissatisfaction of Berdan.

At the beginning of the war Hiram Berdan used his recognition to persuade the Federal government to allow him to establish a regiment of Sharpshooters recruited from each of the loyal states and meeting specific marksmen restrictions. It is currently debated by historians and scholars whether this idea actually belonged to Hiram Berdan. It possible that Casper Trepp, who served as Captain of Company A, 1st U.S. Sharpshooters and later Major to Hiram Berdan, brought the idea of rifle regiment from Europe. Trepp came from Switzerland after serving in the Crimean war. He was an experienced infantryman and had witnessed both Napoleonic tactics (a method of fighting developed during the Napoleonic war to intimidate the enemy, still used during the civil war when weapons had surpassed the tactics) and the rifle regiments of the European armies. The tactics used by the Sharpshooters (operating in small teams, using stealth and cover, trying to maintain distance to the enemy) are believe to be the direct parent of later American fighting tactics. Other aspects of the Sharpshooters with European flavor are the green uniforms (tradition European uniform color for riflemen - possible the origin of the Green Berets as a symbol of an elite fighting force), the leather leggings and the hairy calf-skin knapsack that the Sharpshooters carried.

It is likely that Trepp knew he did not have the clout needed to persuade the Union to form these rifle regiments, and so gave Berdan the push needed to campaign for the regiments. There is some evidence of this in the writings of other Swiss Sharpshooters. Regardless of this, there grew a significant level of animousity between the two men, leading Trepp to attempt resignation (Berdan refused to accept Trepp's resignation, several times) and both men to file legal claims against each other.

The claims against Hiram Berdan were largely centered around the fact that he was seldom, if ever, seen on the field of battle. Though Berdan spent a great amount of time and effort to gain the ranks of Brigadier-General and Major-General, these were fought largely on the grounds that Berdan had not actually aided the battles. Berdan was not a military man by nature, and was possible the most difficult Sharpshooter to be taught drill. It was Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Mears who taught the Sharpshooters how to drill and to fight, largely against his will. Mears left the Sharpshooters to command the 4th U.S. Regulars.

Hiram Berdan stayed in Washington (D.C.) for several months of the war, recovering from a wound (that the military records do not mention) and attempting to draw more recruits to fill the ranks of the two Regiments, now depleted by war-time losses. After Gettysburg, Berdan petitioned for discharge and left the army January 2nd, 1864. After the war, Berdan took his family to Europe, where he was successful with several weapons patents.

Casper Trepp was officially given command the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters after Hiram Berdan officially became the Chief of Sharpshooters. He was killed at the Battle of Mine Run, November 30, 1863.

Hiram Berdan's dream was to form and lead a brigade of Sharpshooters, expert marksmen with extremely accurate weapons, in the civil war. To determine the quality of the recruit, a test was devised that each applicant must fire ten consecutive rounds free standing at a ten inch diameter target one hundred yards away and then fire an addition ten rounds at a ten inch diameter target two hundred yards away from a resting position, without missing a single shot. He recuited officers and enough men who could pass the marksmen test to field a full regiment, the 1st U.S. Sharpshooters, and the eight (instead of ten) company 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters. Berdan served as Colonel of the 1st Regiment, and Henry A.V. Post was Colonel of the 2nd regiment. Berdan eventually gained the rank of Brigadier-General over both regiments.
Of the eight companies forming the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters, they were formed as follows:

Company "A" - Minnesota October 5, 1861
Company "B" - Michigan October 4, 1861
Company "C" - Pennsylvania October 4, 1861
Company "D" - Maine November 2, 1861
Company "E" - Vermont November 9, 1861
Company "F" - New Hampshire November 28, 1861
Company "G" - New Hampshire December 10, 1861
Company "H" - Vermont December 31, 1861

Most, but certainly not all, of the men serving in a company came from the state in which it was mustered. Some states, however, were not able to provide enough soldiers for a whole company and do their recruits were mustered into a company with a neighboring state.

The states did not like losing control of their best marksmen. This, combined with the lack of organization in the driving force behind the Sharpshooters, led the states to begin refusing to allow Berdan to recruit their soldiers. Eventually, lack of replacements for fallen soldiers took it's toll on the regiments.

The 2nd Regiment was part of the Army of the Patomac in the Eastern Theater. Because of the uncertain regimental status of the Sharpshooters and the need to put the marksmen in tactically advantageous positions, they were frequently reassigned. The official assignments were as follows:

Companies moved to Washington, D.C., and duty in the Defenses of that city until April, 1862.
2nd U.S. Sharpshooters attached to Augur's Brigade, King's 1st Division, McDowell's 1st Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, March to April 1862.
2nd U.S. Sharpshooters attached to 1st Brigade, King's Division, Dept. of the Rappahannock, April to June, 1862.
Attached to 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 3rd Army Corps, Army of Virginia, June to September, 1862.
Attached to 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 1st Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, September 1862 to March, 1863.
Attached to 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, 3rd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac, March to June, 1863.
Attached to 2nd Brigade, 1st Division. 3rd Army Corps, June to September, 1863.
Attached to 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 3rd Army Corps, September 1863 to March 1864.
Attached to 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, 2nd Army Corps, to February, 1865.

The movements of the 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters and associated battles are as follows:

Moved to Bristoe Station, Virginia, April 5-6, 1862
thence to Falmouth, Virgina, April 15-19, 1862
Duty at Falmouth until May 25, 1862
McDowell's advance on Richmond, Virginia May 25-29, 1862
Operations against Jackson June 1-21, 1862
Duty at Falmouth until August, 1862
Blackburn's Ford July 19, 1862
Reconnaissance to Orange Court House July 24-26, 1862
Pope's Campaign in Northern Virginia August 16-September 2, 1862
Fords of the Rappahannock August 21-23, 1862
Sulphur Springs August 26, 1862
Battle of Groveton August 29, 1862
Bull Run August 30, 1862
Maryland Campaign September 6-22, 1862
Battles of South Mountain September 14, 1862
Antietam September 16-17, 1862
Camp near Sharpsburg until October 29, 1862
Movement to Falmouth, Virginia, October 29-November 17, 1862
Battle of Fredericksburg December 12-15, 1862
"Mud March" January 20-24, 1863
At Falmouth until April, 1863
Chancellorsville Campaign April 27-May 6, 1863
Battle of Chancellorsville May 1-5, 1863
Gettysburg Campaign June 11-July 24, 1863
Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania July 1-3, 1863
Pursuit of Lee July 5-24, 1863
Action at Wapping Heights, Virginia July 23, 1863
Bristoe Campaign October 9-22, 1863
Auburn and Bristoe October 14, 1863
Advance to line of the Rappahannock November 7-8, 1863
Kelly's Ford November 7, 1863
Brandy Station November 8, 1863
Mine Run Campaign November 26-December 2, 1863
Payne's Farm November 27, 1863
Demonstration on the Rapidan February 6-7, 1864
Campaign from the Rapidan to the James River May 4-June 15, 1864
Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7, 1864
Laurel Hill May 8, 1864
Spotsylvania May 8-12, 1864
Po River May 10, 1864
Spotsylvania Court House May 12-21
Assault on the Salient, "Bloody Angle," May 12, 1864
Harris Farm, Fredericksburg Road, May 19, 1864
North Anna River May 23-26, 1864
On line of the Pamunkey May 26-28, 1864
Totopotomoy May 28-31, 1864
Cold Harbor June 1-12, 1864
Before Petersburg June 16-19, 1864
Siege of Petersburg June 16, 1864 to February 20, 1865
Jerusalem Plank Road, Weldon Railroad, June 22-23, 1864
Demonstration north of the James River July 27-29, 1864
Deep Bottom July 28-29, 1864
Demonstration north of the James August 13-20, 1864
Strawberry Plains, Deep Bottom, August 14-18, 1864
Poplar Springs Church, Peeble's Farm, September 29-October 2, 1864
Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, October 27-28, 1864
Expedition to Weldon Railroad December 7-12, 1864
Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, February 5-7, 1865

The 2nd U.S. Sharpshooters were "discontinued" (the organization as a whole disbanded, and the soldiers reassigned to other companies and regiments) on February 20, 1865. Companies were consolidated as follows:

Company "A" transferred to 1st Minnesota Infantry
Company "B" to 5th Michigan Infantry
Company "C" to 105th Pennsylvania Infantry
Company "D" to 17th Maine Infantry
Company "F" to 5th New Hampshire Infantry
Company "G" to 5th New Hampshire Infantry
Company "H" to 4th Vermont Infantry.

The 2nd Regiment lost during service: 8 Officers and 117 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 123 Enlisted men lost to disease. Total 250.

Company D was organized in Augusta, Maine on November 2, 1861, to serve for three years. They left the state November 13, and on their arrival in Washington, D.C. were sworn into service with the Second Regiment of U.S. Sharpshooters at the Sharpshooters School of Instruction.

On December 31, 1863 all the men present reenlisted for an additional term of three years. On January 6, 1864, left for Maine, having been granted a furlough of 30 days. They reassembled in Augusta, where the remained until February 24. They left for the front and rejoined their regiment at Brady's Station, Virginia on March 1, 1864.

They remained attached to the Second Regiment, U.S. Sharpshooters participating in all the actions and movements in which the Regiment was engaged until February 18, 1865 when in accordance with the War Department Special Order #47 of January 30, 1865 the Company was then transferred and consolidated with several companies, to the Seventeenth Infantry Regiment, Maine Volunteers.

Berdan resigned his commission January 2, 1864, and returned to his career as an engineer and inventor. On December 8, 1868, President Andrew Johnson nominated Berdan for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general of volunteers, to rank from March 13, 1865, for the Battle of Chancellorsville, at which he led a brigade, and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on February 16, 1869. Although President Johnson also nominated Berdan for appointment to the brevet grade of major general of volunteers to rank from the same date for his services at the Battle of Gettysburg, at which he also led a brigade, the U.S. Senate did not confirm the appointment. Despite the lack of necessary Senate confirmation of the appointment to make it official, many sources refer to Berdan as a brevet major general and even his grave stone in Arlington National Cemetery indicates he was a brevet major general.

He was considered by many to be a crack marksman and innovator, but unfit for field command. Berdan subsequently invented numerous engines of war, including a twin-screw submarine gunboat, a torpedo boat for evading torpedo nets, a long-distance rangefinder and a distance fuse for shrapnel.

Berdan died unexpectedly on March 31, 1893 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. A recent film created by Silver Domino Productions was based on Berdan and his men.

The part of Hiram Berdan was played by Kurtwood Smith in the 1986 ABC miniseries

Sources :

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuvia Bielski (1906-1987), Leader of Bielski Partisan

Tuvia Bielski

The Bielski partisans

Partisans operating in the forests of Belarus

Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski in Defiance

Tuvia Bielski (May 8, 1906 – June 12, 1987) was the leader of the partisan group the Bielski partisans who were situated in the Naliboki forest in pre-war Poland (now Western Belarus) during World War II.

Tuvia grew up in the only Polish Jewish family in Stankiewicze, a small village in Eastern Poland (now Western Belarus) located between towns of Lida and Navahrudak (both housed Jewish ghettoes during World War II). He was the son of David and Beila Bielski, who had twelve children: ten boys and two girls. Tuvia was the third eldest. His brothers Asael, Alexander ('Zus') and Aron were later to become members of his partisan group.

During the First World War, Bielski served as an interpreter for the Imperial German Army, which were occupying the western territories of the Russian Empire. Already a speaker of Yiddish, he learned to speak the German language from these men and remembered it all his life. In 1927, he was recruited into the Polish Army, where he eventually became a corporal in the 30th Infantry Battalion. After his military service was over, Tuvia returned home. In an effort to add to his family's income, Tuvia rented another mill. This was still inadequate, so in 1929, at the age of twenty-three, he married an older woman named Rifka who owned a general store and a large house. The couple lived in the nearby small town of Subotniki. They were conducting retail business in the store.

During the Soviet occupation in 1939, Tuvia was fearing that he would be arrested by the NKVD due to his "bourgeois capitalist" occupation, so he moved to Lida. Before Tuvia left Subotniki he urged his wife, Rifka, to join him in the move to Lida. She refused.

In Lida, under Soviet control, Tuvia met and fell in love with another woman named Sonia. The love affair became serious. In late 1939, Tuvia divorced his wife, Rifka. He married Sonia, though they were not "officially" married due to wartime conditions.

When Operation Barbarossa broke out, Tuvia, Zus, and Asael were called up by their army units to fight against the Nazi German occupiers. Tuvia recalls: "Suddenly about fifty planes (Luftwaffe) flew over the town dropping incendiary bombs. In a very few minutes the entire place was on fire. The commander called us in, ordered us to leave the burning town and regroup in a forest about five kilometers from there. We were to continue working. We carried out his command but soon after we began our job in the forest another wave of planes flew over the area and set the woods on fire. The commander called us in and said: 'Friends, you are on your own!'" After the units disbanded, the Bielski brothers fled to Stankiewicze, where their parents lived. In early July 1941, a German army unit arrived in Stankiewicze.

During World War II, Tuvia Bielski led a group of Jewish refugees. He saved more than 1,200 Jews by hiding them in forests. Although always hunted by Nazis, the numbers of the refugees continued to grow. In their camp, they built a school, a hospital, and a nursery. The refugees lived in the forests for more than two years. As leader of the Bielski partisans, his aim was not to attack railroads and roads that the German Nazis were using as supply routes, although there were some such attacks, but to save Jews, who were under persecution from the Nazis during the Holocaust.

After the war, Tuvia Bielski was offered a high position in the Israel Defense Forces for his great acts of leadership; but he declined the offer, instead running a small trucking firm with his brother Zus in New York City for 30 years until his death in 1987. He married Lilka, another Jewish escapee; they remained married for the remainder of their lives. They had at least three children—sons Michael and Robert and a daughter, Ruth—and at least one granddaughter, Sharon Rennert, who herself has made a documentary about her family called In Our Hands: The Legacy of the Bielski Partisans.

He is portrayed by Daniel Craig in the 2008 film Defiance, which has been criticised in Poland due to its omission of the alleged involvement of the Bielski group in a massacre of Polish civilians conducted by Soviet-aligned partisans in Naliboki. The Bielski partisan group was the subject of an official inquiry by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance's Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation after witnesses testified that Bielski partisans were among the perpetrators of the Naliboki massacre; however, the investigation found no conclusive evidence linking the Bielski group to the crime.

Sources :

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Louis Lazare Hoche (1768-1797), One of the Best of the Revolutionary Generals

"Portrait of General Louis-Lazare Hoche (1768-97)" by Francois Gerard

Oil on canvas "Portrait of General Louis-Lazare Hoche (1768-97)" by Ary Scheffer (1795-1858). Paris, Musee de l'Armee

In "End of the Irish Invasion" ; — or — "the Destruction of the French Armada" (20 January 1797), James Gillray caricatured the failure of Hoche's Irish expedition. French warships, labeled "Le Révolutionaire", "L'Egalité" and "The Revolutionary Jolly Boat", being tossed about during a storm blown up by Pitt, Dundas, Grenville and Windham, whose heads appear from the clouds. Charles Fox is the figurehead on Le Révolutionaire which is floundering with broken mast. "The Revolutionary Jolly Boat" is being swamped, throwing Sheridan, Hall, Erskine, M.A. Taylor and Thelwall overboard.

Bust of Louis-Lazare Hoche, général en chef

Statue of Hoche commemorating his victory in Quiberon, by Jules Dalou, 20 July 1902

AKA Louis-Lazare Hoche

Born: 24-Jun-1768
Birthplace: Versailles, France
Died: 18-Sep-1797
Location of death: Wetzlar, Nassau, Germany
Cause of death: Pneumonia

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military

Nationality: France
Executive summary: French General

Military service: French Army (1784-97)
Wife: Anne Adelaide Dechaux (m. 11-Mar-1794)

Louis Lazare Hoche (24 June 1768 – 19 September 1797) was a French soldier who rose to be general of the Revolutionary army and often considered one of the best of them.

Born of poor parents near Versailles, he enlisted at sixteen as a private soldier in the Gardes Françaises. He spent his entire leisure in earning extra pay by civil work, his object being to provide himself with books, and this love of study, which was combined with a strong sense of duty and personal courage, soon led to his promotion.

When the Gardes françaises disbanded in 1789 he had reached the rank of corporal, and thereafter he served in various line regiments up to the time of his receiving a commission in 1792. In the defence of Thionville in that year Hoche earned further promotion, and he served with credit in the operations of 1792 - 1793 on the northern frontier of France, including the Battle of Wissembourg. At the Battle of Neerwinden (1793) he served as aide-de-camp to General le Veneur, and when Charles Dumouriez deserted to the Austrians, Hoche, along with le Veneur and others, fell under suspicion of treason. But after being kept under arrest and unemployed for some months he took part in the defence of Dunkirk, and in the same year (1793) he was promoted successively chef de brigade, general of brigade, and general of division. In October 1793 he was provisionally appointed to command the Army of the Moselle, and within a few weeks he was in the field at the head of his army in Lorraine. He lost his first battle at Kaiserslautern on 28–30 November 1793 against the Prussians, but even in the midst of the Reign of Terror the Committee of Public Safety retained Hoche in his command. Pertinacity and fiery energy, in their eyes, outweighed everything else, and Hoche soon showed that he possessed these qualities.

On 22 December 1793 he stormed the lines of Fröschweiler, and the representatives of the National Convention with his army at once added the Army of the Rhine to his sphere of command. On 26 December 1793 the French carried by assault the famous lines of Weissenburg, and Hoche pursued his success, sweeping the enemy before him to the middle Rhine in four days. He then put his troops into winter quarters.

Before the following campaign opened, he married Anne Adelaide Dechaux at Thionville (11 March 1794). But ten days later he was suddenly arrested, charges of treason having been preferred by Charles Pichegru, the displaced commander of the Army of the Rhine, and by his friends. Hoche escaped execution, however, though imprisoned in Paris until the fall of Maximilien Robespierre. Shortly after his release he was appointed to command against the Vendéans (21 August 1794). He completed the work of his predecessors in a few months by the peace of Jaunaye (15 February 1795), but soon afterwards the war was renewed by the Royalists. Hoche showed himself equal to the crisis and inflicted a crushing blow on the Royalist cause by defeating and capturing de Sombreuil's expedition at Quiberon and Penthièvre (16–21 July 1795). Thereafter, by means of mobile columns (which he kept under good discipline) he succeeded before the summer of 1796 in pacifying the whole of the west, which had for more than three years been the scene of a pitiless civil war.

After this Hoche was appointed to organise and command the troops sent to assist the United Irishmen in their rebellion against British rule. A tempest, however, separated Hoche from the expedition, and after various adventures the whole fleet returned to Brest without having effected its purpose. Hoche was at once transferred to the Rhine frontier, where he defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Neuwied in April 1797, though operations were soon afterwards brought to an end by the Preliminaries of Leoben. Later in 1797 he was minister of war for a short period, but in this position he was surrounded by obscure political intrigues, and, finding himself the dupe of Paul Barras and technically guilty of violating the constitution, he quickly laid down his office, returning to his command on the Rhine frontier. But his health grew rapidly worse, and he died at Wetzlar on 19 September 1797 of consumption. The belief spread that he had been poisoned, but the suspicion seems to have had no foundation. He was buried next to his friend François Marceau in a fort on the Rhine.

He is commemorated by a statue in Place Hoche, a gardened square not far from the main entrance to the Palace of Versailles. Another statue, the last major work by Jules Dalou, is in Quiberon, Brittany. In Les Invalides where Napoleon's tomb is enshrined, there is also a memorial to Hoche. A station on the Paris Metro is also called 'Hoche.'

Napoleon once said that Hoche was a true man of war and one of the best generals that France had ever produced.

Hoche's motto was Res non verba, which is Latin for "Deeds, not words."

Sources :

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friedrich Karl von Preußen (1828-1885), Prussian Generalfeldmarschall

Prinz Friedrich Karl von Preußen (1828–1885), Kgl. Preuß. Generalfeldmarschall, from "Krieg gegen Frankreich 1870-71" von Th. Lindner, Berlin 1895

Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia (Prinz Friedrich Karl von Preußen) wearing Hussar uniform

Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia (Prinz Friedrich Karl von Preußen) by Richard Brend'amour, 1895-1896. Source from "Krieg und Sieg 1870-71, Herausgeber Julius von Pflugk-Harttung" , self scanned

Opening of the monument of Friedrich Karl of Prussian. The picture was taken by Albert Bode in 1899

Prinz Friedrich Carl Nikolaus von Preußen (Prince Frederick Charles Nicolaus of Prussia) (20 March 1828 – 15 June 1885) was the son of Prince Charles of Prussia (1801–1883) and his wife Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (1808–1877). Prince Frederick Charles was a grandson of King Frederick William III of Prussia and a nephew of Frederick William IV and William I. He was born at Schloss Klein in Berlin.

From 1842 to 1846, Frederick Charles was under the military tutelage of then major Albrecht von Roon, who accompagnied the Prince to the University of Bonn in 1846. After his studies, the Prince served as a captain on Wrangel's staff during the Schleswig campaign of 1848. Promoted to major on the general staff, he partook in a campaign in Baden during which he was wounded. During the following peace years he was promoted to colonel in 1852, major general in 1854 and lieutenant general in 1856. In 1860, the Prince published a military book, titled, "Eine militärische Denkschrift von P. F. K.". Promoted to General der Kavallerie, the Prince took part in the Second Schleswig War of 1864 against Denmark, where he held command over the Prussian troops in the Austro-Prussian expeditionary force.

He served with distinction in the Austro-Prussian War, where he commanded the First Army; consisting of 2nd, 3rd and 4th corps. Arriving first at Königgrätz, he held the numerically superior Austrians at bay until his cousin Crown Prince Frederick William and his Second army came up and attacked the Austrians in the flank.

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War, the Prince was given command of the Second Army, with which he distinguished himself at the Battle of Spicheren and the battles of Vionville-Mars le Tour and Gravelotte-St.Privat and the following Siege of Metz. After the fall of Metz, his army was sent to the Loire to clear the area around Orléans, where French troops, first under Aurelle de Paladines, then under Chanzy, were trying to march north to relieve Paris. He won battles at Orleans and Le Mans. For his services he was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall. After the war, the Prince was made Inspector-General and was given the rank of Field Marshal of Russia by Alexander II of Russia.

In 1878 he was created an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

He died at Jagdschloss Glienicke.

Family and Children
On 29 November 1854 at Dessau he married Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau (1837–1906), daughter of Leopold IV, Duke of Anhalt. They had five children amongst which:
  1. Princess Marie Elisabeth Luise Friederike of Prussia (1855-1888),
  2. Princess Elisabeth Anna of Prussia (1857-1895),
  3. Princess Anna Victoria Charlotte Augusta Adelheid of Prussia (1858-1858),
  4. Princess Luise Margarete Alexandra Victoria Agnes of Prussia (1860-1917),
  5. Prince Joachim Carl Wilhelm Friedrich Leopold of Prussia (1865-1931).

Friday, June 15, 2012

Nogi Maresuke (1849-1912), The Conqueror of Port Arthur

Portrait of Nogi Maresuke (乃木希典, 1849 – 1912) standing before his house in Nogizaka, Tokyo

Two admirals and six generals surrounding YAMAGATA Aritomo, on his inspection tour to Mukden, Manchuria (fourth from left is OYAMA Iwao) (from L to R, KUROKI Tamemoto, Commander of 1st Army, NOZU Michitsura, Commander of 4th Army, YAMAGATA Aritomo, General Chief of Staff, OYAMA Iwao, OKU Yasukata, Commander of 2nd Army, NOGI Maresuke, Commander of 3rd Army, KODAMA Gentaro, Manchurian Army General Chief of Staff, KAWAMURA Kageaki, Yalu River Army Commander) 26 July 1905 (Meiji 38) Papers of OYAMA Iwao, #62-18

The Russo-Japanese front: The man in the center is Maresuke Nogi(乃木希典) — photographed in his travel from from Dalny to Port Arthur (Russian Empire), on January 2 1905, by Ernesto Burzagli (1873-1944), Italian naval attaché in Tokio, who sailed from Yokohama (Japan) on a diplomatic mission to Port Arthur, during the Russo-Japanese War. The original picture, scanned by Emiliano Burzagli, belongs to the Private archive of Burzaghi family, Italy.

The Japanese general 乃木希典 (Nogi Maresuke) and the Russian general Aнатолий Михайлович Стессель (Anatolii Mikhailovich Stoessel) (both in the center) after the capitulation of the Russian forces in the Chinese city 旅順口區 / 旅顺口区 (Lǚshùnkou qu), (European name: Port Arthur),(Japanese name: Ryojun) on 2 January 1905. (Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905). This picture taken from the Japanese book "國の光" (The light of our nation) published in 1909, foto first published by 朝日新聞 (Asahi Newspaper)

General Nogi Maresuke and his wife relaxing at their Aoyama home

Count Nogi Maresuke, GCB (乃木 希典?), also known as Kiten, Count Nogi, (25 December 1849–13 September 1912) was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, and a prominent figure in the Russo-Japanese War.

Nogi was born as the son of a samurai at the Edo residence (present day Tokyo), of the Chōfu clan from Chōshū (present day Yamaguchi Prefecture). He was born on 11 November 1849, according to the old Japanese lunar calendar, or Christmas day, according to the new one. His childhood name was Mujin, literally "no one", to prevent evil spirits from coming to harm him! On turning 18, he was renamed Nogi Bunzō.

In November 1869, by the order of the Nagato domain's lord, he enlisted in Fushimi Goshin Heisha (lit. the Fushimi Loyal Guard Barrack) to be trained in the French style for the domainal Army. After completing the training, he was reassigned to the Kawatō Barrack in Kyoto as an instructor, and then as Toyōra domain's Army trainer in charge of coastal defense troops.

In 1871, Nogi was commissioned as a major in the fledgling Imperial Japanese Army. Around this time, he renamed himself Maresuke taking a kanji from the name of his father. In 1875, he became the 14th Infantry Regiment's attaché. The next year (1876), Nogi was named as the Kumamoto regional troop's Staff Officer, and transferred to command the 1st Infantry Regiment, and for his service in the Satsuma Rebellion, against the forces of Saigō Takamori in Kyūshū, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. In a fierce battle at that time, he lost the 14th Infantry Regiment’s regimental banner to the enemy, which was considered an extreme disgrace. Nogi considered this such a grave mistake that he listed it as one of the reasons for his later suicide.

On 27 August 1876, Nogi married Shizuko, the fourth daughter of Satsuma samurai Yuji Sadano, who was then 20 years old. As Nogi was 28 years old, it was a very late marriage for that time, considering that the average age to marry was in the early 20s. On 28 August 1877, their first son Katsunori was born, and Nogi bought his first house at Nizakamachi, Tokyo. In 1878, he became a colonel. The next year, his second son, Yasunori, was born.

In 1887, Nogi went to Germany with Kawakami Soroku to study European military strategy and tactics.

In 1894, during the First Sino-Japanese War, Nogi served as major general in command of the First Infantry Brigade, which penetrated the Chinese defenses and successfully occupied Port Arthur in only one day of combat. The following year, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned to the Second Infantry Brigade, tasked with the invasion of Taiwan. Nogi remained with the occupation forces in Taiwan until 1898. In 1899, he was recalled to Japan, and placed in command of the newly formed 11th Infantry Brigade, based in Kagawa.

After the war, he was elevated to danshaku (baron); and he was conferred with the Order of the Golden Kite, 1st class.

Nogi was appointed as the third Japanese Governor-General of Taiwan from 14 October 1896 to February 1898. When moving to Taiwan, he moved his entire family, and during their time in Taiwan, his mother contracted malaria and died. This led Nogi to take measures to improve on the health care infrastructure of the island.

However, unlike many of his contemporary officers, Nogi expressed no interest in pursuing politics.

In 1904, Nogi was recalled to active service on the occasion of the Russo-Japanese War, and was promoted to army general in command of the Japanese Third Army, with an initial strength of approximately 90,000 men and assigned to the capture of the Russia port of Port Arthur on the southern tip of Liaodong Peninsula, Manchuria. Nogi's forces landed shortly after the Battle of Nanshan, in which his eldest son, serving with the Japanese Second Army, was killed. Advancing slowly down the Liaodong Peninsula, Nogi encountered unexpectedly strong resistance, and far more fortifications than he had experienced ten years earlier against the Chinese.

The attack against Port Arthur quickly turned into the lengthy Siege of Port Arthur, an engagement lasting from 1 August 1904 to 2 January 1905, costing the Japanese massive losses, including Nogi's second son. Due to the mounting casualties and failure of Nogi to overcome Port Arthur's defenses, there was mounting pressure within the Japanese government and military to relieve him of command. However, in an unprecedented action, Emperor Meiji spoke out during the Supreme War Council meeting, defending Nogi and demanding that he be kept in command.

After the fall of Port Arthur, Nogi was regarded as a national hero. He led his 3rd Army against the Russian forces at the final Battle of Mukden, ending the land combat phase of operations of the war.

British historian Richard Storry noted that Nogi imposed the best of the Japanese samurai tradition on the men under his command such that "...the conduct of the Japanese during the Russo-Japanese War towards both prisoners and Chinese civilians won the respect, and indeed admiration, of the world."

At the end of the war, Nogi made a report directly to Emperor Meiji during a Gozen Kaigi. When explaining battles of the Siege of Port Arthur in detail, he broke down and wept, apologizing for the 56,000 lives lost in that campaign and asking to be allowed to kill himself in atonement. Emperor Meiji told him that suicide was unacceptable, as all responsibility for the war was due to imperial orders, and that Nogi must remain alive, at least as long as he himself lived.

After the war, Nogi was elevated to the title of count and awarded the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers, Grand Cordon, 1917.

As head of the Peers' School from 1908–1912, he was the mentor of the young Hirohito, and was, perhaps, the most important influence on the life of the future emperor of Japan.

Nogi spent most of his personal fortune on hospitals for wounded soldiers and on memorial monuments erected around the country in commemoration of those killed during the Russo-Japanese War. He also successful petitioned the Japanese government to erect a Russian-style memorial monument in Port Arthur to the Russian dead of that campaign.

General Nogi is significant to Scouting in Japan, as in 1911, he went to England in attendance on Prince Higashifushimi Yorihito for the coronation of King George V. The General, as the "Defender of Port Arthur" was introduced to General Robert Baden-Powell, the "Defender of Mafeking", by Lord Kitchener, whose expression "Once a Scout, always a Scout" remains to this day.

Nogi and his wife committed respectively seppuku and jigai shortly after the Emperor Meiji's funeral cortege left the palace. The ritual suicide was in accordance with the samurai practice of following one's master to death (junshi). In his suicide letter, he said that he wished to expiate for his disgrace in Kyūshū, and for the thousands of casualties at Port Arthur. He also donated his body to medical science.

All four members of the Nogi family are buried at Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo. Under State Shinto, Nogi was revered as a kami and Nogi Shrine, a Shinto shrine in his honor, still exists on the site of his house in Nogizaka, Tokyo. His memory is also honored in other locations such as the Nogi Shrine in Kyoto.

Nogi's seppuku immediately created a sensation and a controversy. Some writers claimed that it reflected Nogi’s disgust with the profligacy and decline in moral values of late Meiji Japan. Others pointed to Nogi's own suicide note, calling it an act of atonement for mistakes in his military career. In either case, Nogi's suicide marked the end of an era, and it had a profound impact on contemporary writers, such as Mori Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki. For the public, Nogi became a symbol of loyalty and sacrifice.

1897 - Order of the Sacred Treasure, 1st class.
1906 - Order of the Golden Kite, 1st class.
1906 - Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers, Grand Cordon.
1906 - Pour le Mérite.
1907 - Legion of Honour.
1911 - Knights Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.
1911 - Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross, Military Division (UK).

Sources :


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Raimondo Montecuccoli

General Raimondo Montecuccoli continues to accompany us on our virtual journey both in and around Modena and across Europe. Churches, museums, archives and libraries conserve the memory of this great condottiere who had a major influence on the story of the 1600s and who became so European that Italians almost forgot about him.

The importance of this personality can also be deduced from the vast iconography that carries his likeness in the portrait style of the full-blown 1600s school to be found right across Europe. One interesting portrait is on show at Pavullo’s Palazzo Comunale, the town hall: painted by an unknown local artist in the late 1600s, it portrays Raimondo in the martial and peremptory guise of a fully-armed condottiere. In Modena, at its Palazzo Comunale, is one of the best known paintings of Montecuccoli, the one by Girolamo Vannulli, a brilliant interpreter of the Italian figurative style of the 1700s.

Instead, in the Paradisino church, we find the altar of Sant'Antonio, bestowed in the 1670s as a votive offering by Raimondo Montecuccoli to the Church of Santa Margherita, the original location of the work, while Raimondo’s parents, Galeotto and Anna Bigi, were buried in the monumental Church of San Pietro, finished in 1506.

There are also several works showing Raimondo’s life as a condottiere at the Imperial court. At Vienna’s Kunsthistorishes Museum is a remarkable painting, cut down to an oval, in which Raimondo is wearing armour with on top the Golden Fleece, the symbol of the prestigious order of chivalry that reproduces the ram’s fleece of legend, granted by the royal houses of Austria and Spain. Raimondo was awarded this decoration by the King of Spain in 1666.

Another full-length portrait is to be found at the Museum Hafnerbach, again in Austria, where a white marble bust and various paintings portray other members of the Montecuccoli family including Princess Margarethe, Raimondo’s wife.

At Vienna’s Military History Museum, in the majestic atrium that serves as the “Room of the Condottieri” are marble statues representing General Montecuccoli and other illustrious military heads of the Hapsburg Empire and the Austro-Hungarian reign. This museum also keeps the field marshal’s baton used by Raimondo at the Battle of Saint Gotthard against the Turks.

Of enormous value are the literary works the General left us – including the important Treatise on War, written during his long imprisonment in Sweden and his On the War Against the Turks in Hungary from 1670, with much studied and highly appreciated translations produced in Germany, France and Spain. The manuscripts of his works are kept in various places around Europe: in Vienna’s War Archives and National Library, where we can find the original manuscript of his Military Tables and Axiomatic Tables of War, and in Modena’s Este Library which keeps On Battles. Other writings are kept at the Vatican Apostolic Library, while the state archive of Brno in the Czech Republic keeps important correspondence from Raimondo, his wife and his family.

During Raimondo Montecuccoli’s long life his diplomatic activities at the courts of the Central European and Scandinavian capitals were far from negligible. His acute observations, his descriptions of personalities, his insight into political machinations, all of this in his writings which was particularly successful in his volume Aphorisms, revealed the rich cultural milieu which inspired Montecuccoli.

In 1680, when Raimondo died in Linz – having followed the Imperial Court which had fled Vienna because of an outbreak of plague – his viscera were interred in the Church of the Cappuccini, while his corpse was taken to Vienna, where, on the 4 November, it was buried at a solemn funeral in the presence of the Emperor and the whole of the Court at the Am Hof Church.

Thanks to his acute political sensitivity, intellectual finesse and a shrewdness born of the grand strategy, Raimondo had lived enough to take in just what Europe and the sweeping changes of the 17th century really meant. His writings constitute an extraordinary, abundant testimony of this.

Raimondo dei conti di Montecuccoli, 17th century artwork

The Castello Montecuccoli in Modena

Raimondo, Count of Montecúccoli or Montecucculi (German: Raimondo Graf Montecúccoli) (21 February 1608 or 1609 – 16 October 1680) was an Italian military general who also served as general for the Austrians, and was also a prince of the Holy Roman Empire and Neapolitan Duke of Melfi.

Montecuccoli was born in the castle of the same name in Pavullo nel Frignano, near Modena. His family was of Burgundian origin and had settled in north Italy in the 10th century.

At the age of sixteen Montecuccoli began as a private soldier under his uncle, Count Ernest Montecuccoli, a distinguished Austrian general (d. 1633). Four years later, after much active service in Germany and the Low Countries, he became a captain of infantry. He was severely wounded at the storming of New Brandenburg, and again in the same year (1631) at the first battle of Breitenfeld, where he fell into the hands of the Swedes.

He was again wounded at Lützen in 1632, and on his recovery was made a major in his uncle's regiment. Shortly afterwards he became a lieutenant-colonel of cavalry. He did good service at the first battle of Nordlingen (1634), and at the storming of Kaiserslautern in the following year won his colonelcy by a feat of arms of unusual brilliance, a charge through the breach at the head of his heavy cavalry.

He fought in Pomerania, Bohemia and Saxony (surprise of Wolmirstadt, battles of Wittstock and Chemnitz), and in 1639 he was taken prisoner at Melnik and detained for two and a half years in Stettin and Weimar. In captivity he studied military science, and also geometry in Euclid, history in Tacitus, and architecture in Vitruvius, and planned his great work on war.

Returning to Italy and to the field in 1642, Montecuccoli commanded mercenaries loyal to the Duke of his native Modena during the First War of Castro but when that conflict ground to an unproductive stalemate he departed. His involvement, though understandable given his allegiance to Modena, was nonetheless unusual in that his service pitted him against the papal forces of Pope Urban VIII.

In 1643 he was promoted to lieutenant-field-marshal and obtained a seat in the council of war. In 1645-46 he served in Hungary against Prince Rákóczy of Transylvania, on the Danube and Neckar against the French, and in Silesia and Bohemia against the Swedes. The victory of Triebel in Silesia won him the rank of General of Cavalry, and at the battle of Zusmarshausen in 1648 his stubborn rearguard fighting rescued the imperialists from annihilation.

For some years after the Peace of Westphalia Montecuccoli was chiefly concerned with the business of the council of war, though he went to Flanders and England as the representative of the emperor, and to Sweden as the envoy of the pope to Queen Christina, and at Modena his lance was victorious in a great tourney.

In 1657, soon after his marriage with Countess Margarethe de Dietrichstein, he was ordered by the Emperor to take part in the Hapsburg expedition (as agreed between King of Poland and Emperor) against prince Rákóczy, Charles X Gustav of Sweden and the Cossacks, who had already, in 1655, attacked the Kingdom of Poland in the war known in Poland as The Deluge or elsewhere as the Second Northern War. During the conflict he was promoted to commanding officer of the division.

He became field-marshal in the imperial army and his division, along with Stefan Czarniecki's division, Frederick William's army and Danish forces, participated in the struggle in Denmark against the invading Swedes. Eventually the war ended with the Peace of Oliva in 1660 and Montecuccoli returned to his sovereign.

From 1661 to 1664 Montecuccoli, with inferior numbers, defended Austria against the Turks but at St. Gotthard Abbey, on the Rába, he and Carl I. Ferdinand Count of Montenari defeated the Turks so comprehensively that they entered into a twenty-year truce. They were given the Order of the Golden Fleece, and Montecuccoli became president of the council of war and director of artillery. He also devoted much time to compiling his various works on military history and science. He opposed the progress of the French arms under Louis XIV, and when the inevitable war broke out he received command of the imperial forces. In the campaign of 1673 he completely out-manoeuvred his rival Turenne on the Neckar and the Rhine, captured Bonn and joined his army with that of the prince of Orange on the lower Rhine.

He retired from the army when, in 1674, the Great Elector was named command in chief, but the brilliant successes of Turenne in the winter of 1674 and 1675 brought him back. For months the two famous commanders manoeuvred against each other in the Rhine valley, but on the eve of a decisive battle Turenne was killed and Montecuccoli promptly invaded Alsace, where he engaged in another war of manoeuvre with the Great Condé. The siege of Philipsburg was Montecuccoli's last achievement in war.

The rest of Montecuccoli's life was spent in military administration and literary and scientific work at Vienna. In 1679 the emperor made him a prince of the empire, and shortly afterwards he received the dukedom of Melfi from the King of Spain.

Montecuccoli died in an accident at Linz in October 1680.

With the death of his only son Leopold Philip Montecuccoli in 1698 the principality became extinct, but the title of count descended through his daughters to two branches, Austrian and Modenese. As a general, Montecuccoli shared with Turenne and Condé the first place among European soldiers of his time. His Memorie della guerra profoundly influenced the age which followed his own; nor have modern conditions rendered the advice of Montecuccoli wholly valueless.

The Memorie della guerra was published at Venice in 1703 and at Cologne in 1704. A French edition was issued in Paris in 1712 and a Latin edition appeared in 1718 at Vienna, and the German Kriegsnachrichten des Fürsten Raymundi Montecuccoli was issued at Leipzig in 1736. Of this work there are manuscripts in various libraries, and many memoirs on military history, tactics, fortification, written in Italian, Latin and German, remain still unedited in the archives of Vienna. The collected Opere di Raimondo Montecuccoli were published at Milan (1807), Turin (1821) and Venice (1840), and include political essays and poetry.

In 1934 the Italian navy launched the Raimondo Montecuccoli, a Condottieri class light cruiser named in his honour which served with the Regia Marina during World War II.

Montecuccoli noted one of the obvious problems of military conflict:
“ For war, you need three things; 1. Money. 2. Money. 3. Money. ”

Wars became much more expensive to fund as armies grew larger; they required more training and state investment to be effective. Warfare of Montecuccoli's time also involved significant numbers of mercenaries loyal to differing fiefdoms. Paying them became exceptionally expensive.

Sources :