Category Archives: Battles

War in the East – 7 Nov

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Picture of the Battlefield – 1854

The Field – After the Battle – 7th November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Tuesday – 7th November 1854

I went carefully over the position to-day, and the more I examined it, the more I was amazed at the noble tenacity of our men when assailed by such vast masses of infantry; though I must give great credit to the Russians for the obstinacy with which they sought to drive us back, and the laborious determination with which they clambered up the hill-side to attack us. 

The tents of the Second Division are pitched on the verge of the plateau which we occupy, and from the right flank of the camp the ground rises gently for two or three hundred yards to a ridge covered with scrubby brushwood, so thick that it is sometimes difficult to force a horse through it.  These bushes grow in tufts, and are about four feet high.  On gaining the ridge you see below you the valley of the Tehernaya, a green tranquil slip of meadow, with a few white houses dotting it at intervals, some farm enclosures, and tufts of green trees.  From the ridge the hill-side descends rapidly in a slope of at least 600 feet high.  The brushwood is very thick upon it, and at times it is almost impervious.  At the base of this slope the road winds to Inkermann, and thence to Sebastopol.  The sluggish stream steals quietly through it towards the head of the harbour, which is shut out from view by the projections of the ridge towards the north.  At the distance of a quarter of a mile across the valley, the sides of the mountains opposite to the ridge of the plateau on which our camp stands rise abruptly in sheer walls of rock, slab after slab, to the height of 1200 or [1500] feet.  A road winds among those massive precipices up to the ruins of Inkermann – a city of the dead and gone and unknown – where houses, and pillared mansions, and temples, have been hewn out of the face of the solid rock by a generation whose very name the most daring antiquaries have not guessed at.  This road passes along the heights, and dips into the valley of Inkermann, at the neck of the harbour.  The Russians planted guns along it the other day, to cover the retreat of their troops, and at night the lights of their fires are seen glimmering through the window and door places from the chambers carved out from the sides of the precipice. 

Looking down from the ridge, these ruins are, of course, to one’s left hand.  To the right the eye follows the sweep of the valley till it is closed in from view by the walls of the ridge, and by the mountains which hem in the valley of Balaklava, and one can just catch, on the side of the ridge, the corner of the nearest French earthwork, thrown up to defend our rear, and cover the position towards Balaklava.  Below, towards the right of the ridge, at the distance of 200 feet from the top towards the valley, is the Sandbag, or two-gun battery, intended for two guns, which had not been placed there on the 5th, because Sir De Lacy Evans conceived that they would only invite attack, and would certainly be taken, unconnected as they would have been with any line of defence.  On the left hand overlooking this battery, there is a road from Balaklava right across our camp through the Second Division’s tents on their front, which runs over the ridge and joins the upper road to Inkermann. Some of the Russian columns had climbed up by the ground along this road; others had ascended on the left, in front and to the right of the Sandbag Battery.   In every bushon every yard of bloodstained ground lay a dead or dying Russian.  The well-known bearskins of our Guards, the red coats of our Infantry, and the bright blue of the French Chasseurs, revealing each a silent horror in the glades, and marking the spot where stark and stiff a corpse lay contorted on the grass, pointed out the scenes of the bloodiest contests.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

The Surprise of Plataea

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THE SURPRISE OF PLATAEA  – 431BC

Greek HelmetsWar had been only threatened, not declared; and peaceful intercourse, though not wholly free from distrust, was still kept up between the subjects of the two confederacies.  But early in the following spring, [431 B.C.], in the fifteenth year of the Thirty Years’ Truce, an event took place which closed all prospects of peace, precipitated the commencement of war, embittered the animosity of the contending parties, and prepared some of the most tragical scenes of the ensuing history.  In the dead of night the city of Plataea was surprised by a body of three hundred Thebans, commanded by two of the great officers called Boeotarchs.  They had been invited by a Plataean named Nauclides, and others of the same party, who hoped with the aid of the Thebans to rid themselves of their political opponents, and to break off the relation in which their city was standing to Athens, and transfer its alliance to Thebes.  The Thebans, foreseeing that a general war was fast approaching, felt the less scruple in strengthening themselves by this acquisition, while it might be made with little cost and risk.  The gates were unguarded, as in time of peace, and one of them was secretly opened to the invaders, who advanced without interruption into the marketplace. Their Plataean friends wished to lead them at once to the houses of their adversaries, and to glut their hatred by a massacre.  But the Thebans were more anxious to secure the possession of the city, and feared to provoke resistance by an act of violence.  Having therefore halted in the marketplace, they made a proclamation inviting all who were willing that Plataea should become again, as it had been in former times, a member of the Boeotian body, to join them.

Excerpt from The Historians’ History of the World Volume 3 by Henry Smith Williams – 1907

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Further Reading and External Links

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

The Peloponnesian War on Wikipedia

War in the East – 4 Nov

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War in the East – 1854

Sebastopol – The Progress of the Siege – 4th November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Saturday – 4th November 1854

There was not much done to-day in the trenches.  The Russians fired about sixty guns per hour, and we replied as usual.  The French burrowed and turned up the earth most vigorously.  Their third parallel is within 250 metres of the place.  Our casualties were very few last night, and to-day we have not had one man of the siege train disabled.  Our ammunition has come to hand, but we have none to throw away.  A number of 10-inch round shot were landed yesterday, but, unfortunately, we have no 10-inch guns for them, except the Lancasters, for which they are scarcely suitable.  Two guns have been added to the batteries of the right attack.  They now contain twenty-three pieces of artillery.  Whenever I look at the enemy’s earthworks, however, I think of the Woolwich butt.  What good have we done by all this powder?  Very little.   A few guns judiciously placed when we first came here might have saved us incredible toil and labour, because they would have rendered it all but impossible for the Russians to cast up such intrenchments and works as they have done before the open and perfectly unprotected entrance to Sebastopol.  Here has been our great and our irremediable error.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East

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War in the East – 1854

Sebastopol – The Progress of the Siege – 2nd November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Thursday – 2nd November 1854

At four this morning we were awakened by a cannonade, which shook the very earth on which we lay.  The Russians have received some information respecting the change and relief of the various covering and working parties, and the result is, that they try their utmost, by flights of cannon shot and shell, to cut up the men and wagons as they go to and fro between the camp and trenches.  We did not reply, and the French contented themselves with a few rounds.  We hear the “distressing intelligence” that 3000 workmen are building huts at Constantinople for the army to winter in, and that they are also fabricating sheds for horses. A “winter” here is a truly dismal prospect.  All that has been written about the beauty of this district and of its fertility is utter rubbish.  There are magnificent mountain ranges over Balaklava, but the country between that town and Sebastopol is a waste, covered with thistles and stones, and intersected by rocky ravines, once full of stumpy brushwood, now full of stumps only.

The weather has been so severe that, for nearly two days, the French could not communicate with their ships.  What would it be with us, who are fed from hand to mouth from Balaklava, if it were taken from us?  The “Emeu,”  which came in yesterday, landed 700 French infantry, of the 3rd Regiment of Foot, to-day, from Constantinople.  There is a great demand for winter clothing just now.  The sales of the deceased officers’ effects are scenes of warm competition for old rugs, greatcoats, cloaks, and horse clothing. A tattered rug fetches 45s. or 50s., a pot of meat 15s., an india-rubber tub 5l., a sponge ll. 5s., a half-worn-out old currycomb and brush may be seen handed over, after a warm contest, for 20s.  Officers perhaps do not know what to do with their money.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

Making of the Athenian Empire

THE MAKING OF THE ATHENIAN EMPIRE (479 BC – 445 BC)

The Long Walls of AthensThe Rebuilding of Athens; the Fortifications of the Piraeus.

After the battle of Plataea and the expulsion of the barbarians from Greece, the Athenians who had found an asylum at Salamis, AEgina, and other places returned to Athens.  They found only a heap of ruins where their city had once stood. Under the lead of Themistocles, the people with admirable spirit set themselves to the task of rebuilding their homes and erecting new walls.

The rival states of the Peloponnesian League watched the proceedings of the Athenians with the most jealous interest.  The Spartans sent an embassy to dissuade them from rebuilding their walls, hypocritically assigning as the ground of their interest in the matter their fear lest, in case of another Persian invasion, the city, if captured, should become a stronghold for the enemy.  But the Athenians persisted in their purpose, and soon had raised the wall to such a height that they could defy interference.

At the same time that the work of restoration was going on at Athens, the fortifications at Piraeus were being enlarged and strengthened.  That Athens’ supremacy depended upon control of the sea had now become plain to all.  Consequently the haven town was surrounded with walls even surpassing in strength the new walls of the upper city.  The Piraeus soon grew into a bustling commercial city, one of the chief centers of trade in the Hellenic world.

1 (478-477 B.C.) . 1A few years after this Themistocles fell into disfavor and was ostracized (471 BC).  He finally bent his steps to Susa, the Persian capital.  King Artaxerxes appointed him governor of Magnesia in Asia Minor and made provision for his wants by assigning to three cities the duty of providing for his table: one was to furnish bread, a second wine, and a third meat.    Piutarch relates that one day as the exile sat down to his richly loaded board he exclaimed, “How much we should have lost, my children, if we had not been ruined I” He died probably about 460 BC.

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Battle of Marathon

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The Battle of Marathon (490 B.c.).

Battle of Marathon The Athenians made surpassing efforts to avert from their city the impending destruction.  Instead of awaiting behind their walls the coming of the Persians, they decided to offer them battle in the open field at Marathon.  Accordingly they marched out ten thousand strong.

While the Athenians were getting ready for the fight, a fleet runner, Phidippides by name, was hurrying with a message to Sparta for aid.  The practical value of the athletic training of the Greeks

1 It is impossible to reach any certainty as to the size of the Persian army. The lowest figures given by any ancient authority is 210,000, while the estimates of modern military experts and historians vary from 200,000 to 20,000. This last number is the estimate of Eduard Meyer.

was now shown.  In just thirty-six hours Phidippides was in Sparta, which is one hundred and thirty-five or forty miles from Athens.  Now it so happened that it lacked a few days of the full of the moon, during which interval the Spartans, owing to an old superstition, dared not set out upon a military expedition. 1  Nevertheless, they promised aid, but marched from Sparta only in time to reach Athens after all was over.

The Plataeans, however, firm and grateful friends of the Athenians on account of the protection accorded them by Athens against the Thebans, no sooner had received their appeal for help than they responded to a man, and joined them at Marathon with a thousand heavy-armed soldiers.

The Athenians and their faithful allies took up their position just where the hills of Pentelicus sink into the plain of Marathon, thus covering the road to Athens.  The Persian army occupied the low ground in their front, while the transports covered the beach behind.

1 Such is the reason assigned by Herodotus (vi, 106) for their delay.  Modern historiarns are divided in opinion as to whether or not the alleged excuse was anything more than a subterfuge.  We shall be less likely to regard it as a mere pretext, if we recall that even an Athenian general, in the very heyday of Athens’ intellectual life, acted on a like superstition to his own tragic undoing and that of his city (sect. 261).

After a delay of a few days the battle was begun by the Greeks suddenly charging down upon the enemy’s lines.  These being broken and thrown into disorder by the onset, the Persians were driven with great slaughter to their ships.  A legend of later origin tells how straightway after the battle, Miltiades, the Athenian general who was in supreme command, dispatched a Courier to take news of the victory to Athens.  The messenger reached the city in a few hours, but so exhausted that, as the people pressed around him to hear the news he bore, “he breathed forth his life” with the words in which he announced the victory.

1 The modern “Marathon race” owes its origin to this picturesque story

Excerpt from Ancient History by Philip Van Ness Myers – 1916

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Further Reading and External Links 

iTunes U – FREE Video – Ancient Greek History

The Battle of Marathon from Livius.org

The Battle of Marathon from EyeWitnesstoHistory.com

The Battle of Ticonderoga

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 The Battle of Ticonderoga

Ruins of Fort Ticonderoga

The Battle of Ticonderoga.  At noon of 20 April, 1775, the news of the battle of Lexington reached New Haven, and Arnold, who was captain of the governor’s guards, about 60 in number, assembled them on the college green and offered to lead them to BostonGen. Wooster thought he had better wait for regular orders, and the selectmen refused to supply ammunition; but, upon Arnold’s threatening to break into the magazine, the selectmen yielded and furnished the ammunition, and the company marched to Cambridge.  Arnold immediately proposed the capture of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and the plan was approved by Dr. Warren, chairman of the committee of safety.   Arnold was commissioned as colonel by the provincial congress of Massachusetts, and directed to raise 400 men in the western counties and surprise the forts.  The same scheme had been entertained in Connecticut, and troops from that colony and from Berkshire, with a number of “Green mountain boys,” had already started for the lakes under command of Ethan Allen.  On meeting them Arnold claimed the command, but when it was refused he joined the expedition as a volunteer and entered Ticonderoga side by side with Allen. 

Soldiers storming Ticonderoga

A few days later Arnold captured St. John’s.  Massachusetts asked Connecticut to put him in command of these posts, but Connecticut preferred Allen.

Arnold returned to Cambridge early in July, proposed to Washington the expedition against Quebec by way of the Kennebec and Chaudiere rivers, and was placed in command of 1,100 men and started from Cambridge 11 Sept.  The enterprise, which was as difficult and dangerous as Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps, was conducted with consummate ability, but was nearly ruined by the misconduct of Colonel Enos, who deserted and returned to Massachusetts with 200 men and the greater part of the provisions.  After frightful hardships, to which 200 more men succumbed, on 13 Nov., the little army climbed the heights of Abraham.  As Arnold’s force was insufficient to storm the city, and the garrison would not come out to fight, he was obliged to await the arrival of Montgomery, who had just taken Montreal.  In the great assault of 31 Dec., in which Montgomery was slain, Arnold received a wound in the leg.  For his gallantry he was now made brigadier-general.

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