Category: History (Page 4 of 6)

Battle of Marston Moor 2 July 1644

Having relieved the siege at York by out manoeuvering the Parliamentary Army, Prince Rupert wanted to engage Parliament’s Allied Army. Rupert believed (controversially) that he had orders from the King to do so. The Parliamentary backed Allied Army of the Eastern Association, local Yorkshire forces along with the Scots under the Earl of Levin accommodated him between York and Knaresborough. Rupert was outnumbered, especially, because he could not get the siege-relieved forces at York to get the lead out until the last minute. The Marquess of Newcastle, who had held York through the siege, was against offering battle at Marston Moor, going so far as to remind Rupert of one of his past failures due to hasty decisions. Rupert prevailed, but even with the mainly infantry forces from York, Rupert mustered only 18,000 to the Allied Army’s 28,000.

The two forces squared off late in the midsummer’s day after having had spent the better part of the afternoon so close to each other that insults were being traded across the lines. Persistent rain showers and the lateness of the day had convinced Rupert that battle would not begin that day. However, for debatable reasons, the allied front surged forward around 7 PM and the fight was on. Rupert could have felt vindicated to choose battle at first as Goring’s cavalry on the Royalist left broke through and routed Sir Thomas Fairfax’s right of cavalry and infantry. Goring’s forces pushed on and took the Allied Army’s baggage train behind the southern ridge. The Allied Scots’ infantry, however, doggedly held the line in the centre. Meanwhile, a wounded Cromwell pushed Rupert’s cavalry back in the vicinity of present day Kendal Lane on Tockwith*s eastern edge. After winning the cavalry engagement, Cromwell’s disciplined forces turned right and flanked the Royalist infantry. This envelopment turned the tide and the Royalist forces were reduced to the last stand by Newcastle’s best infantry, the Whitecoats, who defied Cromwell, until Scottish Dragoons came to finish off the battle near White Sike Close.

Ride Recommendation for the Battle of Marston Moor

This ride runs right through the battle area, which is centred on grid SE 491522 in between Long Marston and Tockwith. (Ordnance Survey Landranger map 105)

Check out the Battle of Towton from the War of the Roses not too far from Marston Moor.

Battle of Towton Yorkshire 29 March 1461

Interesting article in The Times about the War of the Roses Battle of Towton. It is still the bloodiest battle on English soil ever. Interesting information on the re-enactors and amateur historians too.

The battle is estimated to have involved 50,000 soldiers with 28,000 dying on the battlefield. The result of the battle was a change o monarchs with the Yorkist, Duke of York becoming King Edward IV of England at the expense of the Lancastrian King Henry VI.

It is not far from Marston Moor if you want to make a day of it on the bike.

War of the Roses link

I recently found out that I have an ancestor, Philip Yonge, who was killed in the War of the Roses at the Battle of Blore Heath on 23 September 1459. I need to read up on this famous, but little understood war in England in the 15th Century.

Photo Credit

By Chemical Engineer (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Short History of the Berlin Brigade Post Cold War

The new World Military History Blog has a concise history of the US Berlin Brigade in the few years after the fall of the wall and before the unit was de-activated in 1994. It is something I was not aware of, but an interesting case study on how units and commanders react to losing a mission when policy has  not caught up to the facts on the ground. In the 2nd Armored Cavalry, we continued to patrol the border for approximately eight months after the fall of the wall. We stopped active patrolling only about three months before German reunification on 3 October 1990. In some sense, we were lucky to get sent to Desert Shield/Storm as it forced us to focus on a new mission and not wallow around looking for another mission for three or four years.

As a military historian, I marvel at how a narrative forms after the fact. We search for a story that will help us make sense of what just happened. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union, and the whole international order in the span of a few months is something I’ll never forget. Don’t let anyone tell you they expected it or prepared for it or even had a idea of what to do afterwards. The major story of how the Cold War ended has yet to be told fully. I think a lot of the reason for this is that so many insiders are still alive and active. It is just to painful for many to acknowledge how off kilter their predictions of the future were. I try to remember that when I hear people telling me what is going to happen in the future. Or they will tell you confidently how something can never happen, because of a world view that is obvious to any right-thinking person.

I think Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shifts apply to international relations as well.

Battle for the Southern Frontier Book Review – Creek War

Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812

On Tuesday this week, I received the Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812, by Mike Bunn and Clay Williams in the mail. It is published by The History Press.

I absolutely devoured this book. This is my kind of popular history. Bunn and Williams have written a book of a great history, but also backed it up with lots of detail on the historical ground where the war was fought. Their bibliographic essay is a dream for those of us who like to dig a little deeper. They even include some of the source documents and illustrations in the book itself. Finally, they include lots of maps, location descriptions and images of historical markers that help us saddled adventurers find the pertinent locations on our travels.

Bunn and Williams break the story up into 5 parts…the origins of the war, war from the south northwards, from Georgia westwards, from Tennessee southwards and finally the Gulf campaign against the British. Each section has the basic history told, but also the key locations described in detail, so you can find them even if they are long lost and/or unmarked. So much of this era is only told when discussing Andrew Jackson. It is refreshing to see a book that gives a little room to the important operations around Mobile and west Georgia/east Alabama.

Timelines and Dramatis Personae of the Creek War

The book also has two things that I love in any history book which is a good timeline to start the book and a list of short biographies of all the main players. In fact, I like to read the timeline and biographies first to give me good mental hooks to hang the story on as I read. These are both tight, stand-alone references for anyone who wants to start a deeper study of the conflict.

I’ve already mentioned the detailed and helpful bibliographic essay, but the selection of original documents are also a great read. Of special note are the accounts of the Canoe fight and Tecumseh’s speech to the Creek, which I have blogged about previously here. There is also a website to support the book that can be found here.

This book, by the author’s own admission, is not meant to add a lot of new scholarship to the history, but in my mind it does what it is meant to do admirably. In some ways, I think the authors do not give themselves enough credit when it comes to their photo documentation of the historical sites as original research. I have read many accounts of this war, but have yet been able to visualize several of the important geographic features. An example is Emuckfau Creek. There are creeks that can be crossed with a leap, or barely getting your feet wet, or wade-able or only swimmable. When imagining the battle, it is hard to determine whether it was hard or easy to cross in the midst of a battle. However, Bunn and Williams answer that for me by giving me a photo on Emuckfau on page 89. No other factual account has done that for me. There are far too few military histories with adequate maps, good directions to the key points for travelers, concise biographies of key players, original images and solid bibliographies written in a way that does not intimidate new readers nor insult those who already come to the subject with some knowledge. This one does all of these things and does them well.

Great book. Bunn and Williams get a coveted Battlefield Biker helmet nod.

Mike Bunn and Clay Williams Interview on Creek War

I’m happy to welcome Mike Bunn and Clay Williams to Battlefield Biker to talk about their new book titled, The Battle for the Southern Frontier: The Creek War and the War of 1812. It is published by The History Press. You can see my review of the book here.

Battlefield Biker (BB) – Why did you write this book about the Creek War?

Clay Williams (CW) – Mike and I have a love for this time period in Gulf South History. We had previously worked together at the Old Capitol Museum of Mississippi History and had done lots of research on the Mississippi Territorial Period (1798-1817), which included the Creek War and the War of 1812, for a future exhibit. Mike eventually left to take another job in Georgia and the exhibit never took place due to Hurricane Katrina closing the Old Capitol. Mike and I have stayed in touch over the years and wanted to do a large project again together and the Creek War and its related Gulf Coast campaigns of the War of 1812 looked like a perfect fit. We had already done some research, and it is a topic that is basically unknown to many. Mike and I love to visit historic sites and so visiting and documenting these areas where these key events took place would be a key portion of our book and we so we decided to take the project on.

Mike Bunn (MB) – We certainly didn’t set out to write a book at first, though. It’s a project that just grew once we got into it and realized the possibilities and discovered how much info we had to share.

BB – Will you tell us a little about the format of the book ( I love it). i.e. timeline, biographies, geographic points of interest, some original documents and the essay. How did you work out what you wanted to do with the book?

CW – Mike and I initially referred to the book as a sourcebook-a one-stop shop for gathering information on the conflict. We knew it was not going to be a long narrative and didn’t want it to be one. We targeted it for the general public and wanted it to be easily accessible and this was what we came up with. Again, Mike and I have stated this was not to be a new definitive study of the conflict, but a book that hopefully introduced the topic to the many that have no idea about it and that its format would make it easy to peruse and enjoy without getting bogged down with long narratives and too many footnotes. There were components that we wanted in it that we thought be helpful, a time line, a great bibliographical essay, original documents, as well as site locations. Again, I will say the book grew out of the idea to visit these sites, many marked and many unmarked, and document them for the public-the whole historic preservation and interpretation idea.

BB – How did you work as a team? Did you split duties?

CW – Yes, we split duties. By splitting the wars into 4 campaigns, meant we were both responsible for two-that meant doing research, locating historic sites, writing the narrative text as well as the text for the historic sites and the bios for those participants in our respective campaigns, locating graphics, etc. We also split the various other portions as well such as Mike wrote the Origins of War and I wrote the Conclusion. Each of us would write a first draft, then submit to the other for editing and suggestions. Mike and I work very well together in that regard. We don’t have large egos and we can each tell the other that something he wrote was garbage. It was a great pleasure to work with Mike. We both have such a love for the study history and are eager to do projects of this nature.

MB – We started working like that when we worked together at the Old Capitol. We have written so much together that it was easy to critique each other’s writing. Editing can be a touchy process for many, but fortunately not for us. We didn’t edit so much as fine tune what we knew we were each trying to say. We were truly on the same page and as I look back on the work, I don’t think readers will be able to tell which section was written by who; it comes off as one voice.

BB – The bibliographic essay was great. Who inspires you in this field? i.e. clear source display.

MB – Their are a lot of authors we like and we both have ridiculous personal libraries. As far as this topic specifically, though, I’d have to say that Robert Remini, Frank Owsley, Jr., and Henry S. Halbert and T.H. Ball stand as the foremost inspirations. Remini is a master storyteller, Owsley wrote what we consider to be the definitive study of the conflicts we cover and was the only one to rely exclusively on primary sources, while Halbert and Ball produced one of the first serious studies of the wars. The fact that they co-authored their work made them an especially significant inspiration for us.

CW – Not sure I have an answer for that. I know Mike and I both enjoy books that are well documented and have great bibliographies so we can find other books, articles etc. that touch on a topic we like and can search ourselves. I know our wives would agree that we both spend waaaay too much money purchasing books.

Editor’s note… Don’t ever let the Mrs. Bunn, Mrs. Williams and the Battlefield Bikette meet in the same room. The pressure to eBay the libraries may get too strong.

BB – What role did technology play in the writing of the book? i.e. online research, collaboration software, Skype, IM, etc?

CW – Not too much-Some small online research, but mostly through books and articles. E-mail is a wonderful thing-cheap for Mike and I to contact each other as well as for us to contact historians located across our theater of war. Mike and I met many local historians who had done great research on their particular area and we were able to combine alot of their research into this book.

MB – As Clay says, this was not a tech-heavy project. We of course have the website and relied on a digital camera and photoshop, but email was about as advanced as most of it got.

BB – Other than Andrew Jackson, which historical figure(s) jumped out at you and made you wish you had more space for biographical detail?

MB – William Weatherford was a complex individual. He was as white as Creek, yet became one of the foremost Redstick leaders. During the war he was a fearless and intelligent leader. After the war, he returned to life as a planter in south Alabama and was apparently an accepted member of the community. He must have been fascinating.

CW – Agreed. William Weatherford is a great figure-We wish there was more information out there on him.

BB – In your opinion, how much of the Creek Indian war strategy, tactics and supply were informed or provided by the British directly?

CW – Hmmm, another good question…..I will say not much. Of course, the Creek War had basically ended before the British could become directly involved. However, please be aware that many of the Creek leaders, such as Weatherford, had as much European ancestry as they had Creek ancestry, so many had read or were familiar with “white tactics” of war.

MB – Yes, this was a war planned and fought by the Redsticks. Everything might have been different had the British managed to get involved earlier, but that is just conjecture.

BB – What was your favourite map of the book and/or research?

MB – For me, it was learning about Floyd’s campaign with the GA militia. Two of the largest battles of the war were fought by troops under his command, but they remain among the most unknown battles of the war. There are no markers commemorating either of them, sadly. As far as maps, I am proud that we were able to create a series of them that detailed the battles of each campaign fairly accurately. So many of the ones we have seen are wildly inaccurate.

CW – Another tough question…..I enjoyed so much of the research. The War of 1812 sections concerning Mobile, Pensacola and Lake Borgne were so fascinating to me. Many have heard of Jackson’s win at New Orleans, but the events leading up to it are really unknown and I liked delving into it. The contemporary maps created by Latour were awesome and I really liked all the maps we have created to help others understand the conflict. Maps are so essential when reading any type of military history. Nothing is worse than reading a detailed account of a battle or campaign and not having a reference map to chart the movements of armies.

BB – What use was GPS and geo tagging in your research?

CW – Not much, Our favorite map was produced by Delorme. They were awesome and got us out of many fixes.

MB – Yeah, topo maps got us back to civilization a few times when we thought we’d never see another paved road!

Editor’s note; Delorme is a Battlefield Biker favourite as well. See Battlefield Biker’s Ride Recommendations for specific Delorme maps for battlefield touring.

BB – What support did your employer’s give to the book?

CW – I did work on the book independently of my regular job with the Mississippi department of Archives and History.

MB – This was totally independent of our jobs.

BB – Did you have any great road trips together or separately in the research?

CW – Yes, the best part of the book were the trips Mike and I took together. We would meet in a central location in Alabama, drop off one car, and with maps and notes in hand, take off on a circular route to locate various areas. We took several long weekend trips. They were great, but exhausting. We would both leave our respective homes at like 6am, meet up 3 hours later, then drive around til dark, stopping at historic sites, then stay at a some hotel, then get up the next morning and repeat the process. It was always a great thrill to find a historic marker or monument off the beaten path after following some vague directions or such. Plus, those moments at Fort Mims, Horseshoe Bend, and Chalmette, overlooking the battlefield while we take photos still fills me with awe-to be on the actual ground where these momentous events took place. It is this feeling that Mike and I hope we can convey to our readers with our book.

MB – Clay and I have made many trips together, but as a group the ones for this trip were certainly the most rewarding.

BB – What was your favourite driving/riding road in your travels?

MB – Well although they were a little hazardous and difficult, I’d have to say all the unpaved roads we ventured onto were my favorite. When we did find old markers (placed in their location as much as 90 years ago when these dirt paths were thoroughfares) it was very rewarding. It gave us a sense we had truly discovered something people zipping by on the highways are missing.

BB – What’s next for Bunn and Williams as a team or individually?

CW – Well, in the pipeline, Mike and I want to do a similar formatted book on the entire Mississippi Territorial period-early 1800s to 1820-tracing locations where events took place that eventually transformed this frontier area of the Gulf South into the states of Mississippi and Alabama. Again, this is such an unknown part of history that we are eager to inform the public about it and its importance.Not sure when we will be able to get into it. We are both still a little exhausted having completed this one book while both working full-time jobs. We both wish we could win the lottery or something and do this type of work full-time.

Thanks Gentlemen for a little insight to your work. It has been a pleasure reading the book and interviewing you. Please support practical scholarship like this by buying their book at the link below.

Roman Battlefield Archaeology & The Battle of Harzhorn

Roman battle site in northern Germany dated to 200-250 AD

Interesting new battlefield find of Roman artifacts in northern Germany that indicates that the Romans were still active in the area two and a half centuries later than conventional wisdom had posited.

“We thought that with the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, the Romans gave up on this region and pulled back behind the limes,” – says Henning Hassmann, the Lower Saxony Conservation Department’s lead archaeologist.

Roman battlefield archaeology

Because of the advanced nature of Roman battlefield archaeology, the finds could be placed fairly precisely in the chronological record. Also, the tools and weapons found had enough organic matter still attached for carbon dating to place the items at 200-250 AD. More than six-hundred artifacts were found from sandal nails to wagon hardware to spear and arrow heads. The site was originally found by metal detector enthusiasts who reported the find to local archaeologists.

Kalefeld is in northern Germany, approximately 100 KM south of Hanover

The battle is now being referred to as The Battle of the Harzhorn. It is sited on a heavily forested hillside northeast of the town of Kalefeld, Germany.

The Battle of the Harzhorn is historically significant, because it took place two centuries after historians thought the Romans had abandoned major operations in the north of Germany. The  Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (~ September, 9 AD) was thought to be the last of the major Roman excursions in this area of Germania. It was previously believed that the Romans had given up on trying to conquer the lands between the Rhine and the Elbe after Teutoburg. Even more intriguing is the fact that archaeologists believe that the Romans were coming from the north when the Battle of the Harzhorn took place which could indicate that they had been ranging even further north prior to the battle.

Photo attribution:
Description
Deutsch: Grabungsschnitt am Harzhorn
Date August 2012
Source Own work
Author Axel Hindemith
Attribution
(required by the license) Foto: Axel Hindemith / Lizenz: Creative Commons CC-by-sa-3.0 de

Sounds like the opening of Gladiator was near spot on!

The items found and the battle site, including the hillside, cold weather, and tall pines make the opening scene of Gladiator look very accurate. Enjoy the clip below to remind you of how awesome the Roman military machine could be.

Battle of Fort Fisher (Part 2 The Assault) 15 January 1865

The Union Navy under Porter continued a relentless bombardment from 13 January to the early afternoon of 15 January. When the bombardment stopped, a force of sailors and marines landed and attacked with pistols and cutlasses. This attacked was repulsed by the Confederates who had re-occupied the earthen works. However, the focus on the amphibious landings caused the Confederates to leave too little on the up river side where General Terry had landed on the 13th of January.
Terry’s force worked its way into the land-side walls and turned the position one pit at a time. The Confederates of Colonel Lamb fought valiantly, but the “Gibraltor of the South” was lost and the last port for large scale re-supply of the southern cause was now in Union hands.

Motorcycle Ride

Start at the Fort Fisher, NC Historic Site on the north side of the Cape Fear. Take the ferry to Southport. Follow North Carolina State Route 211 to US 17 and follow the coast south to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Battle of Fort Fisher (Part 1 The Landings) 13 January 1865

By the end of 1864, the Confederacy had only one major port remaining to run goods in and out to the Bahamas, Bermuda and Nova Scotia for much needed supplies. That port was Wilmington, North Carolina and it was protected by Fort Fisher. Fort Fisher sat at the mouth of the Cape Fear River’s entrance into the Atlantic. Fort Fisher was a formidable obstacle, not just for its position, but for the extended earthen works as well. Such was its strength that it was often referred to as the “Gibralter of the South.” Naturally, it became a prime objective for the North as they tried to choke of the remaining supply lines to the South.

On Christmas Day 1864, General Benjamin Butler and Admiral David Porter led a combined force that was to attempt an amphibious assault on Fort Fisher. Porter played his part with one of the fiercest bombardments that the Union Navy had conducted to date. However, Butler lost his nerve after his initial attack was rebuffed and cancelled the ground attack and departed. Porter and Union commander, U.S. Grant were disgusted with the lack of Butler’s resolve. Grant relieved Butler, replacing him with Alfred H. Terry (who was later to become one of the best known Indian fighters of the West). Porter was to give a reprise of his successful bombardment. Terry had previously been in charge of the Siege of Charleston and knew that he had to co-ordinate heavily with Porter for the complex mission to succeed.

On January 13th, 1865, under covering fire by Porter, Terry landed a force up river from the fort to block a Confederate re-enforcement of the fort once the amphibious assault began. Union forces probed the fort’s defenses and Terry decided that the fort was vulnerable from the river side. In the mean time, Porter continued his bombardment and prepared an amphibious assault of sailors and marines on the ocean side. With the fort now cut off from land side support and no naval protection to speak of, the Confederate forces, under General Whiting and Colonel Lamb, hunkered down under a remorseless bombardment by Porter over the next two days. The damage to the earthen works could not be repaired due to the ceaseless nature of the fire.

The stage was now set for the final assault on the 15th of January.

Motorcycle Ride

Start in Southport, North Carolina on the south side of the Cape Fear. Take the ferry to Fort Fisher. Then follow the coast from Fort Fisher to Camp Lejeune, NC. Check out Fort Fisher, NC Historic Site.

North Carolina and the American Revolution

Besides being a great place to ride with mountains, country roads, and seaside, North Carolina holds some of the coolest battlefield riding in such a compact area. Check out A Student of History’s dissertaion summary on North Carolina and the Revolutionary War.
Battlefield Biker rides; Moore’s Creek Bridge, Guilford Courthouse and nearby in South Carolina, Cowpens.
And for those of you who only think of the Civil War, Fort Fisher landings and assault.

Battle of Cowpens, South Carolina 17 January 1781

On 17 January 1781, the outlook for the British Army in America changed forever. A British Legion (combined infantry and cavalry) led by one of the British star, young officers, Banastre Tarleton, met its match on this day with a mixed force of one-third Continentals and two-thirds militiamen, led by what can only be called a “Good Old Boy,” Daniel Morgan.

American General Nathaniel Greene commanded the southern army and knew he couldn’t withstand a full encounter with the British, so he instructed his forces to split up and conduct operations against isolated British outposts. General Daniel Morgan commanded one of these smaller units. Tarleton was well known to the American forces for “Tarleton’s quarter.” Tarleton had a reputation, at least partly earned, for total war. He did not mind burning provisions and communities who supported the patriot cause. He also was reputed to have refused quarter to Americans at Waxhaws (Buford’s Massacre) by refusing surrender and continuing to assault.

Morgan had decided to attack Fort 96. Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton had set off to catch Morgan and prevent Morgan from disrupting the British / Loyalist forts and communities, like Fort 96. Tarleton had Morgan on the run and Morgan was attempting a ragged retreat when he decided to turn and face up to Tarleton in an area known a Cowpens (an open area of upland pasture) in northwestern South Carolina, near Gaffney. Tarleton had pushed his Legion hard through the night and they arrived at Cowpens ready to fight but tired.

Morgan had a plan to feign retreat after the intial exchange of rifle fire, knowing that Tarleton liked to take the initiative as fast as possible. When Morgan’s skirmishers fired and pulled back, Tarleton ordered his Legion forward to press the attack in hopes of a rout. Morgan had his skirmishers join his infantry line in fall back positions. What was planned and what just happened next is open to debate, but what is clear is that Morgan managed to envelope Tarleton’s Legion with infantry and cavalry and deliver withering fire into the British ranks whilst they were totally committed to a headlong rush. This may seem unusual, but much of the killing by the British Legions was by bayonet, so when they pressed the attack, they would have been mentally and physically committed to a bayonet charge. Taking heavy fire from an infantry line that was thought to have fled, whilst simultaneously having your flank rolled by cavalry might just make you want to drop your bayonet and run. That’s what Tarleton did with a handful of his command. Most of his force did not do so well with the majority being killed, wounded or captured.

Tarleton, 26 years old at the time, was rebuked and many older British officers felt it had been just a matter of time before the young rake’s risk taking had cost the British Army dear.

Motorcycle Ride

This is truly one of those perfect marriages of a great battlefield and a great ride. Here’s a beauty of a ride along the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. It starts very near The Cowpens National Battlefield and makes it way through several state parks, lakes and geological sites.

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