Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Niagara and Ticonderoga as Defensive Positions


Ticonderoga (left) and Niagara (right)
Dear Reader,

When it comes to eighteenth-century fortifications in North America,  writers often lean towards extreme hyperbole. Louisbourg, Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Niagara, and West Point have all been described as "the Key to a Continent."[1] Suffice it to say that many strategists labeled their next target or theater of war as, "the key to the continent". Leaving aside these grandiose visions, I would like to compare the defensive records of two prominent fortifications during the 1754-1815 period. Fort Ticonderoga (originally French Ft. Carillon) and Fort Niagara.  Both of these fortifications repeatedly changed hands in the course of this era, and were roughly handled by their occupiers and attackers.

According to European conventions, fortifications were primarily in place to delay the enemy long enough for relief to arrive. For a massive citadel such as Lille in Europe, a siege of forty days might be normal.[2] There were many instances where this system permitted the besieged to hold out against the besieger, such as the sieges of Prague and Olmütz in the European Seven Years War. I have addressed the topic of siege generally in this era in a different post, so let's focus in on Niagara and Ticonderoga. First, we will examine the fortifications themselves, before moving on their military record as defensive positions.

First of all, there are broad similarities between the two positions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both were sites were selected as defensive positions by French explorers or engineers. Both use local high ground and water to make approaching the fort costly, and limit avenues of attack. Both sites benefit from the use of waterways, to speed communications and reliving forces.

A period map showing the Carillon positions of 1758
Ticonderoga possesses a number of flaws as a defensive position, which has handicapped it throughout its military record. The site of the fort is dominated by high ground to the northwest and southwest: the heights of Carillon, and the Sugarloaf hill or Mt. Defiance. When attackers ignore these advantages, and defenders occupy them, Ticonderoga becomes a formidable position.

Plan of Niagara during the War of 1812 era
Niagara possesses weaknesses as a position as well, these weaknesses did not become apparent until later in the history of the fort. The high ground to the west/southwest of the fortress, what is now the Canadian side near Niagara on the lake and Ft. George, proved to be a severe handicap during the War of 1812, but was not utilized by attackers until that point. As a result of its position on a bit of high ground jutting into the lake/Niagara River, Ft. Niagara is a bit more difficult to approach than Ticonderoga.  Having examined the positions, let us turn to the defenses at Ticonderoga and Niagara. Both were constructed in the era of the trace italienne, or bastion fortifications. Both forts utilize both a main series of bastions and curtain walls combined with outerworks. So, with that in mind, which fort possesses the stronger design?

Detail from above image of Ft. Carillon
Fort Ticonderoga (or Carillon, as the French called it during this era) had the dubious distinction of being constructed just in the nick of time before the French and Indian War. Construction started in 1755, and had been mostly finished by time of the 1758 British attack. In addition to the bastions and curtain walls, the fortress was defended by two ravelins, facing west and north. Ticonderoga is the smaller of the two forts, perhaps 250 feet across between the curtain walls.

Plan of Fort Niagara, dating from 1755
Though not as symmetrical, Niagara is a bit larger, measuring perhaps 400 feet from the lake to the curtain wall. As a result of primarily defending towards the east, Niagara possess only two bastions, but has a much more developed system of outworks, possessing a great central ravilen 100 feet across, flanked by two lunettes. The 1755 map above additionally shows two traverses, protecting the troops on the covered way from artillery enfilade fire.  In comparing the two positions and defenses, while I would argue that Ticonderoga is a much more complete fortress, Niagara is both situated in a more defensible position, and is a much tougher nut to crack in a formal siege as a result of the significant outerworks. Having examined both fortifications from a positional and engineering standpoint, let us now turn to their record in defense.

French troops garrison Ticonderoga 
During the French and Indian War, both Niagara and Ticonderoga were taken by enemy forces. Somewhat famously, the Marquis de Montcalm defended Ticonderoga in 1758 with around 3,600 men against 15,000 British opponents. In this battle, the French defended earthworks set out in front of the fort, and repulsed a series of British assaults made without artillery support. If the British had opted for a formal siege, it is possible that they would have enjoyed more success.

Reenactors depict the defense of Carillon in 1758
It is worth pausing for a moment to consider the foundation of Montcalm's success. Realizing that Ticonderoga was too small to contain all of his troops, (and possessing a number of doubts regarding its viability as a fortress[3]) Montcalm choose to occupy the heights of Carillon as his primary defensive position. The British commander, James Abercromby, failed to grasp the significance of the Sugarloaf hill, and wrecked his force in futile assaults on Montcalm's prepared earthworks. 1758 is the showy year, the year which made Ticonderoga's reputation. However, it seems that 1759 provides a better parallel view of the two fortresses under siege at the same time.

Reenactors portray the 1759 siege
In July of 1759, 5,000 British troops under John Prideaux used waterways to approach Niagara. Arriving on July 6th, Prideaux's troops summoned the French commander Pierre Pouchot de Maupas to surrender. The French garrison number approximately 600 men. Captain Pouchot's writings on the siege provide one of the best descriptions of a garrison's commander's role during a siege and remain one of my favorite primary sources from the eighteenth century.[4] Pouchot, understanding the gravity of the situation, immediately called for relief forces then at Presqu'isle (modern Erie, PA). Prideaux called for Pouchot to surrender on July 9th and opened a formal siege that evening after Pouchot's refusal.

British map of the siege
The British opted to dig their approach towards the northern bastion, and opened a series of batteries. The siege continued, Prideaux was killed by a prematurely exploding shell fragment on July 20th, and Sir William Johnson took over command of the attackers. French relief forces arrived on July 24th, resulting in the Battle of La Belle Familie, where the British defeated the reinforcements. Pouchot, realizing the helplessness of his situation, surrendered on July 25th. Niagara was taken, but the fort itself had achieved its purpose: allow the garrison to hold out until relief arrived.

A French soldier near the Dauphin battery, Niagara

Fort Ticonderoga was also besieged in 1759, by a much larger army than Prideaux's 5,000 men at Niagara. Jeffrey Amherst and approximately 11,000 men moved to attack Ticonderoga in July of 1759. French commander, François-Charles de Bourlamaque, despite having nearly the same amount of men (3,500) as Montcalm the previous summer, retired to the fortress as soon as the British troops landed on July 22nd. Deciding that defending Ticonderoga was hopeless, Bourlamaque withdrew all but 400 of his men on the 23rd of July. This garrison held out for three days, before blowing up the "Gibraltar of the North" and evacuating on the 26th.

The South Redoubt at Niagara
During the period between the Seven Years' War and American War of Independence, Fort Niagara was equipped with two large redoubts (they often initially appear like Pagodas to the untrained eye.) These structures were designed to allow the garrison to hold out in case of a surprise attack by Native Americans, and are somewhat unique in eighteenth-century fortress design in North America.

American troops garrison Ticonderoga in 1777
The American War of Independence saw Niagara's use as a base of operations for the British Army, but the fortress was never seriously threatened, even during the Sullivan Campaign of 1779. On the other hand, Ticonderoga changed hands a number of times, forever cementing its place as, "America's Fort." Surprised on May 10th 1775, Ticonderoga was taken with no loss of life by American forces under Ethan Allen. Ticonderoga's cannons would play a vital role for the young American military. During the Burgoyne Campaign in 1777, Ticonderoga was abandoned by the American's after British forces began to erect batteries on the Sugar Loaf hill in early July.

Brunswickers garrison Ticonderoga
The rebel forces, not to be outdone, attacked troops which Burgoyne left to garrison Ticonderoga on September 18th, 1777. This event, known as "Brown's Raid" as it was led by Colonel John Brown, liberated 100 American prisoners, captured approximately 4 companies of the 53rd Regiment and occupied the old French trenches from 1758.[5] The letters from the Brunswick troops of the Prinz Friedrich regiment who garrisoned Ticonderoga make it clear that it was simply a lack of artillery ammunition which prevented the American rebels from capturing the fort.[6] After the rebels had expended the approximately 100 rounds of ammunition that they captured from the outlying batteries, they were unable to threaten the garrison. The Brunswick troops deterred a surprise attack against the fort itself by a combination of vigilance and firing at movement near the fort.[7] After realizing that he had insufficient artillery on hand to take Ticonderoga, Colonel Brown withdrew. With Burgoyne's defeat, the British and Brunswickers abandoned the fort in November, damaging it as they departed. Ticonderoga would no longer play a significant role in military operations.

View towards Ft, George during the War of 1812
During the War of 1812, Fort Niagara once again became a center of military activity. The Americans possessed a disadvantage from elevated cannon emplacements at Fort George across the Niagara River but they turned buildings into makeshift gun batteries and used heated shot to decimate Fort George in 1813. The British, not to be outdone, surprised and assaulted Niagara in December of 1813. A British assault force captured American pickets in Youngstown, and learned the watchword of the day from them, and proceeded to the fort. The American troops defending the fort held out in the South Redoubt, a large building constructed after Pontiac's War in 1763, designed to safeguard the fort against surprise by Native Americans. The British eventually took this building, executing the defenders who had refused to surrender.

How can we evaluate this record? Ticonderoga has the distinction of warding off two attacks (1758, 1777) completely, however, neither attack was prepared to formally siege the fortress with proper amounts of artillery. Both fortresses were successfully surprised (1775, 1813), although Niagara, as a result of the redoubts, was able to temporarily resist the surprise. Niagara was successfully besieged after a siege of 15 days (1759), which allowed relief forces to arrive. Ticonderoga was abandoned by its defenders in the face of larger forces three times (1759, July 1777, November 1777), and managed to resist a siege for 3 days in 1759 before being abandoned. On the whole, it seems that Niagara is more defensible, while Ticonderoga rightfully plays a more prominent role in American memory. Both places remain an integral part of American military history.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns



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[1] (West Point) Letter to George Washington from John Adams, 6 January 1776 (Niagara) “Reflections on the Present State of Affairs at Home and Abroad,” by A. Y[oung], Esq., author of the “Theatre of the Present War in North America,” London, 1759; (Ticonderoga) Edward Hamilton, Fort Ticonderoga: Key to a Continent; (Louisbourg) Fairfax Davis Downey, Louisbourg: Key to a Continent. 
[2]Duffy, Fire and Stone, 103-4.
[3] Carroll Lonergan, Ticonderoga: Historic Portage, 25.
[4] Pierre Pouchot, Mémoires sur la dernière guerre de l'Amérique Septentrionale : entre la France et l'Angleterre, Vols 1-3, (Yverdon, 1781). English translations of this memoir have been available since the early nineteenth century, the most recent was published in 2004 by the Old Fort Niagara Association.
[5] Letter from von Hille, September 28th, 1777.
[6] Letter to Riedesel from Ernst Schröder, September 26th, 1777.
[7] Letter from von Hille, September 28th, 1777.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Cornwallis, Lafayette, and Old Fritz: The Prussian Autumn Maneuvers of 1785


Dear Reader,

Today, we are going do something a bit unusual. As opposed to examining the average soldier, or the mechanics of battle, we are going to examine high commanders, and military preparations in peacetime. Throughout the reign of Frederick II "the Great' of Prussia, the Prussian army conducted parade ground reviews in summer, and realistic combat training in autumn. Understandably, the entire army was not present, but Frederick often maneuvered between 30-45,000 men in the course of these mock battles and campaigns.

The Duke of York presents Cornwallis to Frederick II of Prussia

In 1785. French, British, and American officers were given the chance to observe the Silesian review and maneuvers, which occurred in August and September. Many of the leading military figures of the Seven Years' War and the American War of Independence were present. The two paintings above, depict this collection of military giants. General Charles Cornwallis and the Marquis de Lafayette were present, as were a number of more minor military figures, such as the Duke of York and Albany (the second son of George III), Prince Frederick William of Prussia, British Colonels Abercromby, David Dundas, and Thomas Musgrave, French Generals Duportail and Gouvion, and American Colonel Williams Stephen Smith.

A painting based on Chodoweicki's print, of Old Fritz

During this review, Lafayette provided perhaps one of the most iconic descriptions of "Old Fritz": the pudgy king of Prussia who won the War of Austrian Succession had sunken into a skinny and frail man. However, Lafayette indicates that though the king's body was frail, his mind remained active.
"notwithstanding what I had heard of him, could not help being struck with the dress and appearance of an old, broken, dirty corporal, covered all over with Spanish snuff, with his head almost leaning on one shoulder, and fingers almost dis torted by the gout ; but what suq)rises me much more is the fire, and sometimes the softness, of the most beautiful eyes I ever saw, which give as charming an expression to his physiognomy, as he can take a rough and threatening one at the head of his troops."[1]

Soldiers engaged in mock battle
During their maneuvers, the Prussian military attempted to conduct realistic combat training in appropriate terrain, not just on the drill square. In the 1750s, the Prussians began conducting mock battles with opposing forces, not merely targets representing enemy troops. Ulrich Bräker, observing (and taking part in) a maneuver in the 1750s, left this account:
Then every day we went outside the city gates and fell to manoeuvring, advancing on the left and right, attacking, retiring, charging by platoons and by divisions, and whatever else that the god Mars teaches. At last we were ready for a general review, and then there was such a coming and going that the whole of this little book could not compass its description, and even if I wished, it would be beyond my powers to describe it....So this much only: immense stretches of country were thickly strewn with men of war, and many thousands of onlookers filled every hole and corner. Here stand two armies in mock battle array, already the heavy artillery roars from their flanks. They advance and fire, making such a horrible noise of thunder that each man cannot hear his neighbour nor see him for the smoke. Here some battalions attempt firing by alternate files, here they fall upon the enemy's flank, here they blockade the batteries, here they form a double phalanx. Here they march over a pontoon bridge, there cuirassiers and dragoons join in the battle, and some squadrons of hussars in every colour of uniform rush upon each other, so that clouds of dust roll up over horses and men. Here a surprise attack is made upon a camp; the vanguard, in which I have the honour to serve, strike tents and flee. But once more, I should be a fool did I think to have described a Prussian general review. Therefore I hope people will be content with this much, or rather be ready to pardon me, now that they no longer have to listen to this rubbish.[2]
After witnessing the maneuvers in 1785, David Dundas recalled that the training occurred in "corn country, and a light dry soil, and the operations only take place before the crop is sown and after it is off the ground. The movements of the troops are performed in the ploughed or stubble fields, in the woods and under such circumstances as actually present themselves in service."[3] This reviews occurred in various types of weather. During the 1785 review, Frederick, despite his advanced age, continued to observe maneuvers in a thunderstorm which sent foreign officers running for cover.[4]

Lafayette as a young man

By the 1780s, the Prussian reviews had become matter of consequence across military Europe, and educated military men traveled from as far away London and Paris to attend the reviews. Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, travelled through Cassel on his way to attend the 1785 review. In a letter to Washington, Lafayette recalled meeting with General Knyphausen, and other, "Hessian friends." Lafayette portrays the meeting as friendly, saying: "I told them they were very fine fellows; they returned thanks and compliments. Ancient foes can meet with pleasure; which, however, I think, must be greater on the side that fought a successful cause."[5]

Indeed, on the whole, Lafayette's entire description of his Prussian journey seems upbeat. The language he employs, such as "endearing charms, honest heart[s], rational ideas," indicates that he was sincere in seeing the military caste of Prussia, and perhaps Prussia as a whole, with the "highest satisfaction."[6] By contrast, Lafayette's defeated enemy, Charles Cornwallis, appears to have had a gloomy shadow across his countenance during his time in Prussia. Cornwallis, perhaps a bit touchy so close to Yorktown, recalled, "My reception in Silesia was not flattering; there was a most market preference for La Fayette; whether it proceeded from the King's knowing more of France, and liking better to talk about it, I know not."[7] Cornwallis ended his letter with the sentiment, "I shall not quit Germany with much regret."[8]


Cornwallis was also dismissive of the Prussian army:
"The cavalry is very fine; the infantry exactly like the Hessian, only taller and better set up, but much slower in their movements. Their manoeuvres were such as the worst General in England would be hooted at for practising; two lines coming up within six yards of one another, and firing in one another's faces till they had no ammunition left: nothing could be more ridiculous."[9] (Descriptions from the 1770s at the National Army Museum indicate that the Prussians usually opened fire at 250 yards during their reviews) 
His descriptions stand in contrast to those of Lafayette and Dundas, so it is possible that Cornwallis was in a difficult place in his life. He had recently lost a close personal friend, Thomas, Lord Tortworth. Near the end of the letter, he comments, "I am concerned and shocked beyond measure at the loss of my poor friend...it really for the moment makes me unfit to attend to anything, and I fear you will find this letter very confused."[10] However, Cornwallis reserved a measure of admiration for the King himself. Frederick, in Cornwallis' view, was an "old man," but "however the strength of his body may be impaired, the faculties of his mind are still perfect."[11] In contrast, Lafayette found much to admire about the Prussian army. After describing the process of the review, he wrote to Washington,
"For eight days, I made dinners of three hours with [Frederick], where the conversation was pretty much confined, at first, to the Duke of York, the King, and myself, and then to two or three more, which gave me the opportunity to hear him throughout, and to admire the vivacity of his wit, the endearing charms of his address and politeness...Lord Cornwallis being there, [Frederick] took care to invite him at table to a seat by me, having the British king's son on the other side, and to make a thousand questions on American affairs."[12]

That is certainly the image which British artist Edward Cunningham chose to depict in his masterpiece of the 1785 Review: Frederick, Cornwallis, and Lafayette. Three masters of eighteenth-century warfare together in one place. Compared with Cornwallis, Lafayette was quite flattering to the Prussian military:
"It is with the highest satisfaction that I saw the Prussian army. Nothing can be compared to the beauty of the troops, the discipline that is diffused throughout, the simplicity of their movements, the uniformity of their regiments. It is a plain regular machine, that has been set these forty years, and undergoes no alteration but what may make it simpler and lighter."[13]

The Americans had been trained by a Prussian at Valley Forge,
so Lafayette's comparisons may be more apt than it might appear.
Comparing the Austrians and Prussians to the Continental army, Lafayette indicated:
"I have also seen the Austrians, but not together. Their general system of economy is more to be admired than the manoeuvres of their troops;... our regiments are better than theirs, and what advantage they might have in a line over us, we can surpass with a little use. Indeed, I think there is more instruction of detail in some of our best regiments, than those of the Prussians, but their line manoeuvres are infinitely better than ours ; the Austrian army is much more numerous than either, and costs much less than the French."[14] 

Frederick, Duke of York and Albany
Regardless of his opinion of the maneuvers, Cornwallis's description is piercingly accurate when it comes to evaluating the leadership skills of the next generation elites. Of Frederick, Duke of York, George III's second son and future British general, Cornwallis comments:
the Royal Person' whom I saw first does not give much hopes, further than a great deal of good nature and a very good heart. His military ideas are those of a wild boy of the Guards, the uniforms and promotions of that corps, about which He is vehement to excess. One cannot, however, help loving him. There is no maintien—no distance—any impudent blackguard may be as familiar as he pleases.[15]
Frederick William II, the future King of Prussia
Not content to snipe (correctly) at British royalty, Cornwallis also expressed his doubt's regarding the future of the Prussian monarchy.  Cornwallis evaluated the future king Frederick William II thus:
The Prince of Prussia' is loved to adoration in that coun try, and appears really to deserve it. He is warmly disposed to a connexion with England; but whether he has abilities to maintain the importance of that sandy desert, time only can discover.[16]
Lafayette also noted his doubts about the Prussian heir, saying that though Frederick William was, "a good officer, an honest man, a man of plain and good sense, but does not come up to the abilities of his two uncles."[17] Lafayette had spent a good deal of time with Frederick's brother, Prinz Heinrich (Prince Henri) of Prussia, and developed a warm respect for him.

Prince Henri of Prussia
Lafayette wrote to Washington that,
"Prince Henry, I have kept to the last, because he is by far the best acquaintance I have made. I do not inquire who is the greater general, his brother or he, a question that divides the military world ; but to first rate abilities, both as a soldier and a politician, to a perfect literary knowledge, and all the endowments of the mind, he joins an honest heart, philanthropic feelings, and rational ideas on the rights of mankind."[18]
It is perhaps all we can hope that the same will be thought of us.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------[1] Memoirs, Correspondence and Manuscripts of General LafayetteVol 2, 120-1.
[2] Ulrich Bräker, Arme Mann, 70.
[3] David Dundas, Remarks on the Prussian Troops and Their Movements, 1785, British Library, King's Manuscipts, King's MS 241.
[4]Christopher Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great, 320.
[5] Lafayette, Vol 2, 120
[6] Ibid, 120-123
[7] Correspondence of Charles, first Marquis Cornwallis, Vol 1, 212.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Lafayette, Vol 2, 121.
[13] Ibid, 122.
[14] Ibid, 123.
[15] Cornwallis, 211.
[16] Ibid, 212. (The sandy desert in question in Prussia, whose soil is a bit sandy.)
[17] Lafayette, Vol 2, 122.
[18] Ibid

Thursday, July 19, 2018

An Odd Battlefield Walk: The Berlin Raids of 1757 and 1760


Dear Readers,

A battlefield walk, or prepared visit to any historic place, is one of the delights of the those who are alive to a sense of the past. Many organizations have their own term for this concept. Militaries call them, "staff rides," American Civil War reenactors have their own, less savory term.  After my work at the archive yesterday, I conducted a battlefield walk in Berlin. It is possible to do many of these walks in Berlin, but rather than focus on the Second World War, I examined the ground marked by Austrian and Russian raids on Berlin during the Seven Years' War.

Battlefield walks in urban environments are the most difficult and least rewarding type of staff ride. The ground has changed and the spaces are often crowded, noisy and distracting. But, if I wanted something easy, I shouldn't have chosen the mid-eighteenth century as a focus for my studies. If you are hazy regarding the Seven Years' War, you can pop over to this website for a quick refresher.  For the purposes of our discussion today, you only need to know that Berlin, the capital city of the Prussian state, was being threatened by the Austrian and Russian armies. Before embarking on the battlefield, let's discuss the city of Berlin in the eighteenth century for a moment. The map above is from 1789, while the map below is from just before the Seven Years' War in 1748.



You can see the outline of the city. The city center contained crumbling defenses that had not been repaired since 1740. A small wall, more for taxation than defense, surrounded the entirety of the city. The only real fortress in the area was outside the city itself, slightly northwest in Spandau. In times of crisis, the royal family would flee to Spandau, rather than stay in the city. The customs wall, as it was called, can be seen outlining the city on both maps. The southern side of the city contained extensive pastures and this open land was also enclosed by the customs wall. You can see that feature on the southern side of the city in both maps. Our story today primarily takes place in that open land, and around three gates on the southern side of the customs wall: the Halle Gate (Hallesches Tor), the Cotbuss Gate (Kotbusser Tor) and the Silesian Gate (Schlesisches Tor). It is possible to (roughly) retrace the line of the customs wall, by following the U1 or U3 Ubahn lines traveling to or from the Warschauer Straße Ubahnhof. While the line does not follow the course of the customs wall exactly, and while the stations are not exactly on the site of the gates, it is possible to quickly move to the approximate locations of these former gates. The map below shows the 1757 raid of the city.

Grosser Generalstab Map
In 1757, Austrian FML Andreas Hadik chose to approach the city from the southeastern side, in order to cover the relatively small size of his force.  Hadik had perhaps 7,000 men with which to confront the Berlin garrison of roughly 4,000. Moreover, many of Hadik's troops had been detached, and he knew that Prussian reinforcements were quickly approaching from various quarters. On 11am on the 16th of October, 1757, Hadik began offensive operations against the city.

Looking southeast towards the initial Austrian positions. 
The commander of the Berlin Garrison, Lt. General Rochow, upon recovering from his initial shock, quickly deployed troops to the southern city gates. Around 500 men of the Leon Fusiliers were in the vicinity of the Silesian Gate when Hadik began his attack. Major Tesmar and six companies of the 7th Garrison regiment were dispatched to the Silesian Gate shortly before Hadik began firing towards the defenses with three-pounders.[1] The Austrian gunner Georg Joseph Thun managed to lower the drawbridge across the Spree, by damaging one of the chains suspending it, which precipitated an attack by two companies of Austrian Grenadiers. The troops rushed from the southwest side of the Spree across the now passable bridge towards the Stralauer Tor on the far side, scattering the opposition.

The modern far side of the Spree, and bridge towards the Stralauer Tor. 
Hadik deployed more artillery, and his six-pounders smashed the Silesian Gate itself, which permitted around 1,400  Austrian troops to make their way inside the city.

Looking northwest towards Berlin. 
Although most of the formerly open land has been built up, there are a few parks which give a better sense of the space confronting Hadik and his troops. Hadik's troops moved inside the wall to the northwest, and began to notice Prussian reinforcements approaching. Major Tesmar and the six companies of Garrison Regiment 7 wheeled to anchor their right flank on the customs wall, and began to move towards the Austrians pouring through the Silesian gate.[2] The situation can be seen below.

A detail showing the combat at this point. 

A modern version of the view from the perspective of the Prussian reinforcements,
under Major von Tesmar
Hadik used the relative openness of the terrain to outflank and charge the Prussian troops. The six companies were charged from the front by 700 hundred cavalry, while attacked in the flank by an indeterminate number of Croats. The Prussians immediately opened a 'heavy fire' on these approaching forces, but numbers and combat experience took their toll, and the Austrians quickly routed the Prussian troops in the ensuing melee.

The view northeast between the Silesian and Cotbuss Gates 
Having failed to stop the Austrians, Lt. General Rochow retreated with the remainder of his forces towards Zitadelle Spandau. Hadik had too little time to effectively disable the Prussian capital and made some minor demands which were granted before he withdrew. The Austrians were on the road southwards by 10pm, having extracted 14 carriages of currency from Berlin. According to legend, Hadik also demanded 20 pairs of gloves for Maria Theresa. 


The interior of Charlottenburg Palace was badly damaged during the 1760 raid
The Prussian capital would come under attack again in 1760, when forces under Austrian FM Lacy and Russian General Chernyshev concentrated on the city in October of 1760. As opposed to the previous raid, major forces were involved, and by the 7th of October, perhaps 15,000 Prussians faced over 30,000 Austro-Russian allies around the city. Prussian General Johann von Hülsen defended the south approaches to the city against the Austrians, while Prinz Eugen von Württemberg guarded northeastern side against Russian troops. Seeing that the allies possessed almost double their numbers, the Prussian commanders decided to avoid a Maxen-like debacle and withdraw their forces. In essence, to Hülsen and Württemberg, the army was more important than the capital. 

Hülsen's view looking south from the Halle Gate
 towards Austrian positions near Tempelhof
Russian General Totleben had been in negotiations with the commandant of Berlin, the venerable Prussian Lt. General Rochow. Among the generals of the eighteenth century, Rochow possesses the infamous distinction of having lost his prince's capital twice. Rochow and Totleben concluded terms without consulting the Austrian commander Lacy, who was furious. Totleben was a man with a reputation for nepotism and kleptomania, and personally profited a great deal from his military career. 

The courtyard behind the Halle Gate, by which Lacy and the Austrians entered.


The Zeughaus, or armory, which now houses the German History Museum,
was heavily damaged.
Lacy, as a result, did little to stop his troops from looting the city, in violation of Totleben's agreement. The Russians targeted their fury on state-owned buildings, while the few Austrians who managed to get into the city before the agreement was ratified destroyed whatever property they could. Eventually, Russian troops ostensibly guarding the city (for their own, sanctioned, looting) fired on Austrian looters to force them to desist. By the 11th of October, word had reached the capital that the Prussian main army was on the move. The Austrian and Russian forces left a badly damaged Prussian capital and rejoined their main armies. 

Both raids on Berlin had the effect of badly slightly weakening the Prussian war economy, and causing Frederick to lose face before an international audience. However, despite the paintings lost and treasure stolen, losing Berlin did not prevent the Prussians from continuing the war effort. Indeed, the raids on Berlin were less strategically significant than losing a Silesian fortress such as Glatz or Schweidnitz. If you seek to walk the Berlin raids, print off a large period map, and bring both a readable secondary account of the action, as well as print-offs of the relevant articles on Kronoskaf. All three are invaluable in orienting you to the actions which occurred. 

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns 



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[1]Duffy, By Force of Arms, 69.
[2] Ibid, 70. Hadik claims that nearly all the Prussians were taken prisoner, and only six colors were captured. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Seniority and Organisation in the French Infantry of the Mid-Eighteenth Century

Interpretive Staff portray French Troops in North America

Today, we have an excellent guest post by author and historian William Raffle.[1]
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Dear Reader,

In this post I want to bring your attention to the composition of a typical French Battalion and its intricacies and idiosyncrasies. Through translating a number of sources on this period, I have found it interesting to see how rank and seniority was embedded within almost all aspects of the French army even in attempts with attempts to make the army more efficient.

When tensions began to rise between Britain and France in North America precipitating the Seven Years’ War, major efforts to codify the French army of Louis XV were taking place. An ‘ordonnance’ was issued in 1754 which laid out new regulations for French and foreign infantry battalions to bring them into ‘exact conformity’.[3] At this time a French battalion consisted of twelve companies of fusiliers (A ‘fusil’ is the French name for a flintlock musket, ‘mousquet’ is the word for the old matchlocks) and one grenadier company. This might give the impression that a French battalion would be particularly sizeable, but a French company was fairly small - under fifty men at full strength.[3] Indeed, the new ordonnance gave instructions that a battalion’s smallest fighting unit was to be two companies together called a peloton or platoon. Platoons were a permanent fixture and its two companies would camp, march and fight together.[4]

The company then was almost irrelevant to the functioning of a battalion so what was the point of it? The answer to this conundrum reveals a characteristic particular to the French army; there were far more officers than other armies. As with most eighteenth-century armies, Captains commanded companies and were responsible for their costs. A Captain’s pay could not keep up with this expense and so the companies became smaller over the course of the eighteenth century. ‘Already in 1740 the French Army was becoming marked in this respect having one officer for every eleven soldiers, as against the Prussian ratio of one to twenty-nine.’[5]

Interpretive staff portray Compagnies Franches de la Marine at Niagara in 1759

The ordonnance of 1754 reflects the obsession with hierarchy and seniority within the army with minutiae verging on the ludicrous and is best illustrated by the arrangement of the flank companies. There were two flank companies per battalion – the grenadier and piquet company. The grenadiers, as most readers will be familiar, were recruited from the best soldiers of other companies. The captain of grenadiers would pay a fusilier captains for their experienced men who were chosen to be grenadiers. The piquet was not a permanent company but were drawn from good soldiers from the fusilier companies when a battalion assembled for the duration of its current operation. (Piquet or picket literally translates as ‘fence’ and should be thought of as meaning ‘guard’ company rather than light company although they did evolve this way.) Even within the ranks, fusiliers and grenadiers were lined up in order of each soldier’s seniority (length of service rather than age). The first rank was made up of the most senior soldiers, the rear rank the next most senior and the middle ranks were made up of the least experienced, presumably to strengthen their resolve by being surrounded by their comrades without easy means to break out of formation! The forty-eight fusiliers of the piquet were arranged so that they would mirror the order of the companies and platoons from which they came and then within order of seniority.[6]

The need to distinguish seniority continued to the position of the platoons when formed in line. It is a commonly written that British grenadiers were always placed on the right flank and indeed, in the French military the right flank was the highest position of honour in respect to the entire army.[7] If a battalion was deployed on the right side of the line, the grenadier company would be placed on the right side of the battalion and the piquet would take the left. However, if the battalion was on the left-hand side of the battle line, the whole arrangement would flip to a mirror image, the grenadiers would be deployed on the left and the piquet on the right. It wasn’t just the flank companies that were rearranged, all of the fusilier platoons in the centre would also be rearranged.[8]

Interpretive Staff portraying French Soldiers

These concerns were not just borne out in a drill manual. Military seniority clashed with social rank and had real ramifications on campaign. A Duke or a Count would not wish to be ordered around by a mere Baron, or, God forbid, a bourgeoisie! A letter from 1758 reveals the herculean task involved with drawing up an order of battle which satisfied quarrelsome officers,
‘M. de Randan wanted to return to the line… M. d’Armentiéres found that it was disagreeable for him to be in the infantry en second under M. de Contades, and desired to be moved to the cavalry. M. de Poyanne wanted to remain with the Carabiniers, that obliged me to move all the officers of the left and right wings and disrupted my plan to put the infantry officers with the infantry and the cavalry officers with the cavalry.’[9] 
The nobility believed that military command was their own preserve. In these circumstances, military professionalization would take a back seat to the preservation of the social order. There was much resistance to a new rank created by the war ministry, that of the aide-major (as the name suggests the role was as a second to the Major, to assist with the logistical running of the regiment). The reason it was not welcome was that it would provide more opportunities for officiers de fortune, or career soldiers from more humble backgrounds, as noblemen tended not to care too much for finding lodgings for their men or organizing bread rations.[10] As the historian Lee Kennet summarised, the French officer corps of this period had little understanding of modern warfare and were highly resistant to change until the humiliation of the Seven Years War forced a reckoning and self-reflection within the army.[11]

In a follow-up post to this I will explore the background of the French army which went to North America and how they relate to these notions of seniority and the way in which soldiers were used in this conflict.

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for reading!



Will Raffle

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[1]Will Raffle graduated with an MA in Early Modern History in 2018 from the University of Sheffield. He published a translation of a French aide-major, comte Maures des Malartic’s North American journal in 2017, entitled Glories to Useless Heroism.
[2]Instruction sur l’Exercice du Infanterie, (Paris, 1754), p. 1. It was issued in the name of the King by D’Argenson, Louis XV’s minister of war.
[3] Ibid, 14.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Lee Kennett, The French Armies in the Seven Years’ War, (North Carolina, 1967), p. 66.
[6] Instruction sur l’Exercice du Infanterie, (Paris, 1754) 18.
[7] Le Blonde, ‘Poste d’Honneur á la Guerre’, Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, etc., eds. Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert. University of Chicago: ARTFL Encyclopédie Project (Autumn 2017 Edition), Robert Morrissey and Glenn Roe (eds), http://encyclopedie.uchicago.edu/. This place would be taken by the most senior regiment although there was an exception in the most senior regiment in France, the Gardes Française, by tradition deployed in the centre of the line.
[8] Instruction sur l’Exercice du Infanterie, (Paris, 1754) 15.
[9] Clermont to Belle-Isle, June 15, 1758, Correspondance militaire (A-1) Vol. 3503, 141. Archives de la Guerre, Vincennes.
[10] Kennett, The French Armies, 60.
[11] Ibid, 68-71.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Lt. Colonel George Stanhope describes the Battle of Culloden

British reenactors represent troops from the '45.

The following is an account of the Battle of Culloden from British Lt. Colonel George Stanhope, as written in a letter to his brother shortly following the battle. This comes from my research this week in Kent.

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Dear Brother                                                    Camp Near Inverness, April 21st, 1746

I return many thanks for the favour of yours of the 10th instant which I received last night, as well as of the 1st instant that I received at Aberdeen the 8th of this month, and should have answered sooner but have been upon the march ever since. At present writing my fingers are almost froze being as cold in camp as in winter. I shall not trouble you with our particular marches, but ours and the Rebel army about 9,000 strong, and they fired the first cannon shot at us about two in the afternoon, which we answered with great success.[1] The army was drawn up in two lines and a reserve, with horse and dragoons on the flanks. The small arms began about a quarter of an hour after the first cannon shot, and for the time it lasted it was the hottest I ever saw. The rebels after having flung away their fire attacked with sword in hand most furiously, and bent their chief effort after Barrel's [Regiment] that was on the left of the front line, who received them warmly and stood as well as men could do till overpowered and were obliged to give ground...[.] The Rebels pursuing them intermixed with sword in hand upon which our being Regiment next to Wolfe's on the left of the second line and both Regiments outflanking Barrel's of the front line had the finest opportunity imaginable which we did not let slip off.

[Our troops] giving the column of Rebels that was about twenty deep and not forty yards distant from our regiment's right the most infernal flanking fire and saved Barrel's by it, and contributed a great deal to the turn of the whole for the rebels were soon after put to flight. When we marched on to pursue them I never saw such dreadful slaughter we had made. [The Jacobites] lying thick as they had grounded their arms and our men gave no quarter to them. I reckon two thousand of them killed in the field [and by] besides in the pursuit by the horse and dragoons with a great many of their chiefs and upward of a thousand prisoners...

It was a glorious victory and I believe the cheapest that was ever gained our whole loss being under three hundred, chiefly Barrel's with upwards of a hundred killed or wounded, with Robert Kerr, a Captain killed, and their Lt. Colonel Rich much cut in the head, his left hand cut off with one stroke, and his other arm so cut that it is doubtful they can save it, some other [junior] officers killed or wounded. The whole army behaved with the utmost resolution, and our regiment with little loss as well as any.

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If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns





[1] Modern estimates place the Jacobites closer to between 7,000 and 8,000 men, and indicate that the battle began around 12:30 to 12:45pm. It is possible that Stanhope's pocket watch was running behind.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Eighteenth-Century Items in Irish Museums

Detail from "The Dublin Volunteers on College Green", 1779

Dear Reader,

As many of you are aware, I am traveling for archival research this summer, in order to write my dissertation. Along the way, I've seen a few items which might interest you all. These are some of the interesting eighteenth-century military items in Dublin. The artwork is from the National Gallery of Ireland, while the material items come from the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks.

Detail from, "Mrs Congreve with her Children," 1782
Majority of "Captain William Congreve..." 1782
Detail from, "Captain William Congreve..." 1782

Detail from, "The Dublin Volunteers on College Green", 1779
Detail from, "A view of Dublin from Chapelizod," 1796
(Shows the still extant but badly dilapidated "Magazine Fort")

Detail from, "Captain William Congreve," 1782
Detail from, "A view of Dublin from Chapelizod," 1796

Officer's Coat, 101st Regiment of Foot, 1780s

Officer's Coat, 101st Regiment of Foot, 1780s

Coat of the Dublin Volunteers, 1770s

Officer's Coat of the Armagh Militia, 1798

Flag of the Dillon Regiment carried at Fontenoy, 1745
Flag of the Dillon Regiment carried at Fontenoy, 1745
French Ship's Boat lost in Ireland, 18th century

If you enjoyed this post, or any of our other posts, please consider liking us on facebook,  or following us on twitter. Finally, we are dedicated to keeping Kabinettskriege ad-free. In order to assist with this, please consider supporting us via the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the page. As always:

Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns