Friday, November 15, 2019

Should You Reenact the European Seven Years War in North America?


The author reenacting the European Seven Years War in the United States

Dear Reader,

This post has been bouncing around in my head for some time, brought to the fore by planning a European Seven Years War event at a historic site in Virginia next year. Since I began reenacting the European Seven Years War in the United States during 2015, I have seen and heard a number of criticisms of this practice. I want to take a moment today to respond to these criticisms: first by answering five common criticisms, and then by giving five reasons I believe that it is useful, and even important, to reenact the European portion of this conflict in North America. As a Ph.D candidate in who studies this era, and a reenactor who has developed a number of impressions between 1740-1789, I have a great deal of interest in this topic.

Five Common Criticisms:

1. Reenacting the European Seven Years War is wrong in North America, because the fighting in that part of the conflict took place in Europe. This same criticism could be leveled against reenacting World War One, or World War Two in North America. No shots were fired in anger during those conflicts by large formations of troops in North America. By this logic, the only appropriate reenactments should be training exercises and prisoner of war camps.  Although I am not personally involved in the reenacting of either of those conflicts, I believe that events like Newville are immensely useful and enjoyable for those who take part. Beyond this, Europeans frequently reenact wars which occurred in North America: such as the American Civil War, or American War of Independence.



2. Reenacting the European part of this conflict is disrespectful to the men who served in the North American theater of war.  Reenacting is respectful or disrespectful to the men being reenacted based upon the quality of the impression, not purely the location it is being reenacted. There are instances where reenacting a certain impression is disrespectful to a site, to my knowledge, that has not occurred (to date) in the reenacting of the European Seven Years War in North America.  Demanding that every unit in the North American theater of war be reenacted before any other theaters of war are reenacted would be akin to demanding that every unit of National Guard troops must be represented in World War Two before any forces from Imperial Japan or the United Kingdom are reenacted. After all, they were present in the United States, and not the other forces.


A recreated Prussian drummer from Prussian IR 13


3. Reenactors who reenact the European Seven Years War in North America aren't Progressives/Harcores

As a historian of the Seven Years War era who identifies as a progressive reenactor, (a term which means a serious reenactor, for all you non-reenactors reading this) I find this criticism inane. Among those who reenact the European Seven Years in the United States, there are individuals who have horrible commitments to material culture, and those who take their responsibilities to the past as seriously as the most serious progressives in reenacting the French and Indian War or the American War of Independence. There are a range of commitments, just like in every other era and genre of reenacting. (I mean, have you seen the state of F&I reenacting?)

Secondly, most of the reenactors who are interested in European reenacting before 1789 have their work cut out for them. In order to reenact these impressions well, these reenactors take on the challenge of having to research in one or more languages other than English in order to properly understand their impression. I know a reenactor who has acquired a complete set of Hans Bleckwenn's 30+ volume study of the material culture of eighteenth-century Prussia. A commitment to research is something that occurs on a individual/unit wide level, it is rarely enforced by an umbrella organization, and that is true in all eighteenth-century reenacting I have taken part in.

A Gemeine of Prussian IR 13 (Itzenplitz)

4. Reenactors of the European Seven Years War in North America aren't committed to portraying history responsibly, or is just plain silly.
As a reenactor of the Seven Years War, I have spent dozens of hours hand-sewing reproduction clothing, and hundreds (and hundreds, and hundreds) of dollars acquiring accurate accoutrements and weapons. From drafting gaiter patterns to dealing with The Rifle Shoppe, I pursue my hobby as seriously as anyone in eighteenth-century reenacting. Also, I "do history" for a living, so I do have a genuine interest in portraying the past in a responsible manner. If you want to reenact the European Seven Years War in North America, you need to take extra care to select sites and events which are appropriate for your impression. 

On the point of sillyness, far be it from me to criticize any group of people who want to spend their weekends camping in handsewn wool clothing firing blank ammunition at other groups of campers, but when it is done well (see below), it is no more or less "silly" than any other form of reenacting.

5. The European Seven Years War isn't really related to the History of the United States. 
Nothing could be further from the truth. While FM Leopold von Daun or Frederick II of Prussia might not be household names in the United States, the Seven Years War had a wide impact on the modern world, and the United States. The debt created by the war helped cause the American and French Revolutions, gave the British control of Canada and India, and created the possibility of a North German center of gravity in the Holy Roman Empire. Figures like Frederick William de Steuben and Frederick de Wotdke who traveled to fight for the United States had previously served on these European battlefields. Beyond this, knowing a bit of history outside the history of the United States might not be a bad thing.



A Prussian Musket from the era of Frederick William I on display at Fort Ligonier


Five Reasons why you should reenact the European Seven Years War in North America

1. The Seven Years War was a global war. There are museums relevant to the history of the European Seven Years War in North America. Museums such as the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, VA, Fort Ticonderoga, and Fort Ligonier have objects or collections relevant to the history of the European Seven Years War. When these sites want to emphasize those collections or objects, having volunteers with a high standard of material culture benefits both the museum and the visitors. Not all of these museums accept the European Seven Years War reenacting, but importantly, some do.  European Seven Years War reenactors have been invited such as Fort Ligonier, where they have developed a positive working relationship with the site staff. Reenacting this part of the war assists these museums by lighting specific portions of their collections, and by driving up attendance numbers with events.

An Early Modern Germanic Farm House at the Frontier Culture Museum

2. Portraying different theaters of a global war provides a transnational perspective, which is helpful for addressing myths which develop around specific national experiences. 
Understanding the Seven Years War and American War of Independence through the lens of a particular national experience can lead to the public missing the wider story of a war, or believing various local myths which develop about the nature of a conflict. Understanding the broader context of a war allows for the public to see the way in which the eighteenth-century world was globalized. The story of the Seven Years War is not an exclusive European, North America, or even Asian story, but was born out of all of these places. By reenacting the European (and Asian) portions of the Seven Years War in North America, the wider war is presented to the public.

Check the index of the Bouquet Papers for Prussia
or Frederick II, sometime. 
3. Soldiers who fought in North America were often deeply interested in European Warfare. Setting aside the experiences of individuals like Freiherr de Steuben, Casimir Pulaski, and Kurt von Stedingk, figures who we traditionally associate with fighting in North America had an interest in Europe. If you examine George Washington or Henry Bouquet's papers during the Seven Years War, they are very interested in reports of the fighting in Europe. George Washington had busts of two European military figures in his study at Mount Vernon: Charles XII of Sweden and Frederick II of Prussia.



4. Developing an understanding of the European Theater of War assists in understanding the specific context of war in North America. 
As a reenactor with a foot in multiple theaters of the Seven Years War, and American War of Independence, I believe that my understanding of the material culture of the European Seven Years War brings aspects of the American War of Independence and French and Indian War into clearer focus. Reading descriptions of material culture in Central Europe is helpful in understanding the context that many French and Indian War soldiers came from. Most of the soldiers of the 60th Regiment of Foot during the French and Indian War, for example, were born in the 1730s in Central Europe. Understanding the European context of their experience (say, by reading memoirs of European soldiers drawn from similar regions) allows you to better understand their origins and motivations.

The author and Dr. Thomasz Karpinski at a 
reenactment in Germany

5. Reenacting the European Seven Years War in North America makes you a part of an international community of reenactors. 
Joining the community of European Seven Years War reenactors puts you in contact with people from across the Atlantic World who are interested in the same topic. In the process of working on my Seven Years War impression, I have met and worked with reenactors from Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and the Netherlands. These individuals add immensely to your understanding of the period, as well as just being enjoyable friends. I have had the wonderful experience of communicating with serious reenactors from all over Europe, as a result of my decision to reenact the European Seven Years War. In the process, I often get questions regarding warfare in North America. Who knows, perhaps your reenacting in North America will someday translate to attending European events.
A recreated Austrian officer from IR 4 (Teutschmeister)

Final Thoughts

If you are going to reenact the European Seven Years War in North America you should take the time to do it well.
I would argue that like any type of reenacting, you should attempt to tailor your impression to fulfill a specific goal. Be intentional with how you design your kit, seek out help to make your impression the highest quality possible, and most importantly, choose when and where you choose to reenact the Seven Years War with care. It would be best to reenact this conflict at museums and historic which invite you to do so, at events specifically designed to explain the nature of the global conflict to the public, or at immersion events where the public is not present.  It is important to keep in mind that some people in reenacting will react negatively to what you are doing. Don't mind them, and be confident in your decision to do the impression well.

Finally, for those of you reading this post who disagree with this practice, I hope I have at least explained some of our rationale for pursuing this part of the hobby. At the end of the day, you may not agree with my points, and that is alright. European Seven Years War reenacting in North America is here to stay, and I hope we can coexist is this crazy hobby.

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


What HBO's "Catherine the Great" gets Wrong: Paul I

Joseph Quinn as Paul I of Russia, and Kevin McNally as Alexei Orlov

Dear Readers,

Today we are continuing the series of posts discussing "Catherine the Great": HBO's recent period drama on that most excellent of monarchs in eighteenth-century Russia. Our first post discussed the role of Peter III in Russian, history, describing some of the ways that he has been misunderstood by historians. This post discusses a main character in the series, and Catherine's son, Tsar Paul I of Russia.

In the closing scene of the HBO miniseries, Clive Russell, playing the court fool, sings a song which opens: "...History is written by crooks and fools...". The implication is that Paul I controlled the narrative of Catherine's reign, preventing the nature of her love with Prince Potemkin from being common knowledge. This belief both crooked and foolish, as in Russian history, Catherine and Prince Potemkin have always been more beloved than Paul I and his father, Peter III, who are viewed as being traitors to the "Russian soul." In claiming to have unearthed a secret narrative of Catherine's life, the HBO miniseries is really just championing the same nationalist view of the Russian past which was common in 19th and 20th centuries. How then, does the series treat Tsar Paul?

Joseph Quinn's Paul I is a fairly-stock villain for Catherine to square off against. When the series begins, most elements suggest that it is pre-1768 (the Russo-Turkish War has yet to break out, Potemkin is referred to as "Lt. Potemkin", Grigory Orlov is responsible for artillery), but Paul is not portrayed as a 8-12 year-old boy he would have at that point. Rather, he is turning age 19, and obsessed with challenging his mother's power. In the first scene where he has major lines, his attitude towards his mother is encapsulated in the line: "my God, how I hate her." Catherine, on the other hand, develops the antagonism between them through well-crafted lines such as: "Why is my son so unattractive?"

Paul I was eight years old in 1762, when his father was died in suspicious circumstances after his mother's coup d'etat. As boy, Paul was in a difficult position, as an unwanted heir to the Russian throne, and a daily reminder for Catherine of Peter III's existence. During the first ten years of her reign (from 1762-1771) Catherine and Paul had a very difficult relationship, and foreign diplomats commented on the lack of affection the Tsarina seemed to have for her son.[1] Following a serious illness in 1771, Paul and his mother reconciled, to such an extent that Catherine complained regarding the amount of time he was in her presence: "my son no longer wants to be a step away from me and ... I have the honor of amusing so well that he sometimes changes his place at table in order to sit beside me."[2]  This aspect of Paul and Catherine's relationship is left relatively unexplored in the HBO miniseries, as it portray's Paul as scheming to replace his mother for most of the series.


Rory Kinnear's excellent minister Panin,
struggles through a difficult conversation regarding the succession

This reconciliation was cut short by Catherine II's resistance to having Paul II as a co-ruler, and the dismissal and exile of Paul's advocate at court, Caspar von Saldern.  Catherine II initially indicated a willingness to be co-ruler with Paul when he reached the age of 18. Maria Theresa and Joseph II of Austria reached a similar arrangement in 1765. In Paul's case, Catherine was unwilling to share power, and despite the efforts of Nikita Panin to shield Saldern, he was exiled when his support for the idea came to light.[3] The HBO miniseries portrays this rather accurately, although Panin, rather than Saldern, is the character who supports the young Tsar.

After Catherine's ascension to the throne, Paul possessed an unenviable position: his mother viewed him as a remainder of a her hated husband, Peter III. She referred to her son and his wife as, "that difficult baggage".[4] She insinuated that Paul was not Peter III's son in her memoirs, but the fact of the matter is that Sergei Saltykov, her lover in 1752-1754, was not present with her during the timeframe of Paul's conception. Likewise, Peter III wrote to foreign courts that he was pleased at the birth of his son, but acknowledged that Catherine's daughter, Anna, was an illegitimate child of another man.

Paul grew up in an environment where it was common knowledge that his parents hated one another, his mother overthrew and contributed to the death of his father, and then had a series of relationships with other men, who frequently disliked and sometimes humiliated Paul.  Prince Potemkin intercepted mail between two of Paul's supporters, Pavel Bubikov and Alexandr Kurakin, which insinuated that if Prince Potemkin were to be killed, Russia would be better off. Taking this note to Catherine, Potemkin moved against Paul, excluding him from influence at court for the rest of Catherine's reign.[5]

Joseph Quinn as Paul, with his 2nd wife, Sophea Dorothea of Württemberg,
played by Antonia Clarke
The figure of his father, as well as Frederick II of Prussia, remained a powerful force in Paul's life. He admired Frederick, and likely viewed him as a surrogate father figure. Frederick took up a correspondence with the young man, and even went as far as arranging his second marriage. In January of 1774, Paul wrote to Frederick:
"You have been so good to me on different occasions, you express your mark of friendship to me, and you have striven to make me happy by all you have written me and said to others. I unquestionably attribute to you a large part of what makes me happy in life... I could not learn without the greatest sensitivity what part you have taken, Sire, in what my mother-in-law has done to improve the union between my mother and me. Allow me to express my gratitude for this goodness, I will make myself worthy of it by the attachment I devote to you."[6] 
Frederick replied that he would be, "very happy if I contributed in any way to your contentment and satisfaction."[7] After the death of Paul's first wife, Wilhelmina Louisa of Hessen-Darmstadt, Frederick essentially matched Paul with Sophia Dorothea of Württemberg.  Writing to Paul after hearing of his first wife's death, and with the news that he would meet his second while in Berlin Frederick wrote Paul:
"My dear brother, be persuaded that I felt sincere grief at the loss you have suffered. It will be a great satisfaction to me if I can help to repair it. You may count on me to go with all with all zeal and activity. Among the feelings of pain that your situation brought me, I confess that I felt a very great delight in learning that I would have the opportunity of enjoying your presence here."[8]

Christopher Duffy writes this time in Berlin, meeting both his second wife and Frederick the Great, was the most formative experience in Paul's life.[9] Sophia and Paul had a happy marriage, at least in its early years, and had ten children together. The firstborn, Tsar Alexander, figures briefly in the HBO series, as Catherine attempts to separate Alexander from his parents, and turn him against his father by leaving the Russian throne directly to him. Catherine certainly had plans to place Paul's son, Alexander, on the Russian throne, but those plans were not fully realized by the time of her death. If she had lived another few months, Paul I likely would have been entirely excluded from the succession.  She viewed Alexander as her natural heir, and saw Paul as the heir of her hated husband, Peter III.

The HBO series portrays Catherine's death in a horrifying fashion, suffering a stroke, and Helen Mirren is literally left on the floor to die, moaning and attempting to speak, as Paul steps over her and destroys paperwork which would have placed his son, Alexander, on the throne. Largely, this scene is staged to show that the "German"-influenced Paul has no humanity, leading the view to root for his young son Alexander, who witnesses this horrifying spectacle.

In reality, Catherine suffered a massive stroke, on November 5th, 1796, and never regained consciousness. Her attendants moved her to her bedroom where she was ministered to by both doctors and priests. Paul I arrived at the Winter Palace on November 6th, was told that nothing could medically be done for his mother, and ordered her to be given the last rites. He then waited for her death, which came at 9:45pm on November 6th.[10]

Paul I as Emperor by Vladimir Borovikovsky

After his mother's death, Paul did indeed hold an embarrassing funeral procession, where Peter III's body was reburied next to Catherine II. As the last scene of the HBO series depicts, Paul ordered the final member of the cabal which killed his father, Alexei Orlov, to carry his father's crown in the procession. The HBO ends the miniseries on the note that Paul ruled Russia, "unsuccessfully." How true is that claim?

Certainly, Paul's reign was short compared with that of his mother, and he made many enemies among the nobility  as a result of his ambitious reforms.  Tsar Paul, far from being a bitter man obsessed with personal power, followed both his father and Frederick II of Prussia in improving the quality of life for ordinary people in his domain, at the expense of the nobility. Paul I, much like his father, discussed below, firmly believed in using enlightenment principles in order to improve the lives of Russian serfs. Paul I placed limits on the amount of labor landowners could extract from peasants: preventing them from working Sunday, and allowing peasants to work for three days of the week for their own interests/profit.[11] Russian serfs now had Sunday's as a day of religious observance, and could pursued their own labor for an equal amount of time as they work for landlords.  Furthermore, he modified the laws concerning the sale of serfs, mandating that serfs could only be sold with their land. This step ensured that families of serfs in Ukraine could no longer be separated when they were sold by their landowners.[12]  However, for all his enlightenment principles, Paul could not bring himself to liberate the serfs, as he was afraid of the consequences to his power.

In the course of his military reforms, Paul made enemies, and on three occasions, he got into a dispute with army officers heated enough that he beat them with a cane. Christopher Duffy notes that Paul eventually apologized on each occasion, and further states that, "there is much evidence to show that Paul was a man of idealism, honesty, and (we  have to say) sweetness and courtesy."[13] Paul's military reforms likewise showed a humane streak, and wrote in his Tactical Rules of 1797, "The soldier must always be regarded as a human being, for almost anything can be obtained through friendly dealings. Soldiers will do more for an officer who treats them well, and receives their trust, than for one whom they merely fear."[14]

The final note in the HBO series deals with the end of Paul's reign, claiming that he was murdered on the orders of his son, Alexander. It does this to make Tsar Alexander appear as Catherine the Great's avenger. In reality, Alexander was unconnected to the coup which murdered his father. Paul I had alienated large portions of the Russian nobility by means of his liberal reforms, and a group of these noblemen burst into his bedroom March 23rd, 1801. They first attempted to force his abdication, and then brutally murdered him when he resisted. Count Christoph Lieven described the seen in the aftermath of the murder. The former Tsar's younger son, Grand Prince Constantine was, "bathed in tears", while the noblemen around him rejoiced, while the new Tsar, asked for Lieven, and "fell on his shoulder, and sobbed, "My father, my poor father."[15]

Paul I's murder at the hands of drunken noblemen was not a triumph for Catherine the Great, it simply continued a generational story of murder in the Russian Court, and the pain of loss that young Tsars felt at the murder of their fathers.

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] Simon Dixon, Catherine the Great, 218.
[2] Sbornik Imperatorskago Russkago Istoricheskago Obshchestava, Vol 13, 265-6. (Translation is Simon Dixon's.)
[3] Dixon, Catherine the Great, 219.
[4] Sbornik Imperatorskago Russkago Istoricheskago Obshchestava, Vol 23, 621.
[5] Sebag Montefoire, Prince of Princes, 240-241.
[6] Politische Correspondenz Friedrich's des Großen, Vol 35, pg. 122
[7] Ibid, 123.
[8] Ibid, Vol. 38, 138.
[9] Christopher Duffy, Russia's Military Way to the West 1700-1800, 200.
[10] Dixon, Catherine the Great, 315.
[11] This manifesto was widely printed, the text can be read here.
[12] See Paul's Decree of October 16th [27th], 1798.
[13] Duffy, Russia's Military Way, 207.
[14] Quoted in Duffy, Ibid
[15] Quoted in Duffy, Ibid, 232. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

HBO's "Catherine the Great": The Role of Peter III


Tsar Paul with the remains of Peter III
Dear Readers,

It should come as no surprise that I've been watching HBO's new drama regarding the reign of eighteenth-century Russia's enlightened monarch: Catherine the Great. Catherine was an exceptional woman who led Russia successfully for over thirty years. The length of her reign was nothing short of astounding for eighteenth-century Russia, over 4 times the average length of a Tsar(ina)'s rule after Peter the Great.  This alone is an incredible accomplishment, one which vaulted her rule into the (now defunct) category of "enlightened absolutist" monarchs in the eighteenth century. Though English language historians have often focused on her various sexual affairs and "favorites", Catherine deserves to be recognized as a powerful monarch for her achievements, not her scandals.

After seizing the throne, Catherine waged a number of successful campaigns against the Ottoman Empire, reformed the education system of the Russian Empire, making education to a greater (though still small) number of her subjects. Furthermore, as the HBO briefly mentions, her development of the Smolny Institute allowed select women to receive higher education for the first time in Russian history. She was a patron of the arts, and like Frederick II of Prussia a generation before, had graduated to the position of senior stateswoman of Europe by the time of her death in 1796.

Image result for HBO Catherine the Great
Helen Mirren in her portrayal of Catherine II

The point of this post is not to review the HBO miniseries, but to delve into a specific aspect of it. For all its successes, the HBO miniseries falls dangerously short of the mark when portraying both Peter III of Russia (Catherine's husband) and Paul I of Russia (Catherine's son). Despite portraying Catherine as a complex and challenging historical figure, the miniseries leaves Peter and Paul to fulfill the role of fairly one-dimensional villains. Peter III ruled Russia for barely six months in 1762, before the coup which took him from the throne and his death a week later. Paul I ruled for a bit longer, four and a half years between November of 1796 and March of 1801. Like his father, he was deposed by army officers in favor of another ruler.

Both of these men, but particularly Peter III, have had few friends, both historiographically, and during their lifetimes. Largely, this is a result of their decision to rule as distinctly Germanic enlightenment-era monarchs in Russia. The Napoleonic era, and, of course, the experience of the twentieth century convinced Soviet historians that Peter and Paul were Germanic traitors, besotted with Prussia, who essentially got what they deserved. This language is repeated, largely verbatim, in the HBO miniseries. Catherine is portrayed as a woman who hates "Germany", Germans, and the German language.  This first post will discuss how the HBO series portray's Peter III, who is present in the series, in skeletal form. Grizzly. Subsequent posts will examine the life of Paul I, and other aspects of the show.



Emperor Peter III,, 1762, by Fyodor Rokotov

Over the last forty years, historians have significantly revised our understanding of both Peter III. An older generation of historiography, as well as Franz Szabo's recent English language survey of the Seven Years War, portrays Peter as a, "boorish, obnoxious, obstinate, and capricious young man of arrested development and limited intelligence."[1] These characterizations of  Peter III struggle to mesh with his policy record, which even Szabo notes involved the reduction of taxes, releasing the nobility from permanent military service, and forbidding the sale of serfs to large industries .[2] A further examination of Peter III's reign demonstrates that he was an advocate for religious toleration, allowing for the toleration of the Old Believers in Russia.[3] Peter III promoted educational institutions in Russia, and as noted above his wife would continue this policy during her reign.[4] As an enlightened monarch, Peter III decreed that it was a crime for landlords to kill their serfs, and those who did so would be exiled for life, (small steps, to be sure.)[5]

How can we account for this discrepancy between Peter III the mentally disabled (Szabo implies but fails to use this term) and Peter III the reformer?  

If Peter III was a reformer, and relatively effective ruler, why was he deposed? The answer to this riddle lies in his position as a monarch from German Central Europe who was also the ruler of a larger empire. Historian Peter Wilson has suggested that rather than focusing on Peter III's supposed obsession with Prussia, understanding his role as dual monarch who cared more about his position as Duke of Holstein-Gottorp than his position as Tsar of Russia. [6] Peter III of Russia, like George I of Britain, preferred the familiar politics of the small German state of his birth over the imperial politics of his inherited and adopted empire. George I disliked England, likewise, Peter III of Russia disliked Russia. As such, he ended a relatively successful war with Frederick of Prussia (the Seven Years War) in order to pursue aggressive foreign policy against Denmark. Again, his goals were that of a minor German prince, not the Tsar of Russia. In hindsight, this failure to embrace his role as the Tsar of Russia, rather than mental instability or "weakness" brought down his regime. Catherine II embraced her role as a Russian ruler to the exclusion of her former German identity, and as a result ruled a massive empire quite successfully for over thirty years. In order to achieve this, Catherine deposed and murdered in her husband, and her views on Peter III have dominated the historical memory of Peter's reign.

Both Peter III and his son Paul I allowed Prussian military thinking to dominate their regimes, both conducted drills of their own battalions of soldiers. In this way, they followed the example of Peter I "the Great" of Russia as well. Peter the Great had drilled a small, "toy" army of soldiers during the rule of his half-sister Sophia, and eventually used these soldiers to overthrow her. Like Peter III and Paul I, this earlier "toy army" was drilled by German-speaking instructors.[7] Both Peter III and Paul I were afflicted with a especially bad case of Prussomania, and for Peter, his decision to end the war with Prussia quite literally led to his downfall and death.

Another point of contention between historians: was Peter III murdered? Although there is a possibility that his death was natural, brought about by the stress of Catherine's coup d'état, it is much more likely that Peter III was murdered. At the end of the day, this issue is officially unresolvable, but it begs a question. Which seems more likely: that a 34 year-old man would die of complications from hemorrhoids (the official cause of death), or that a politically inconvenient former ruler would be murdered 8 days after his government was overthrown in a military coup?  In a conversation during the first episode in the HBO series, Paul I and Nikita Panin discuss the likehood of this event. As the HBO series clearly depicts Catherine II also ordered the murder of imprisoned former child-Tsar Ivan VI, when it appeared that he would be freed by disloyal army officers.

Peter's legacy remained contested even in his own time, with the appearance of perhaps as many as 40 "false" Peter III's.[8] Of these, the most famous was the Cossack leader Pugachev, but he was far from alone using Peter III's legacy with the common people of Russia.The greatest legacy of Peter III, however, is the way he was remembered by his son, the future Tsar Paul. Paul attempted to fulfill many of his father's ambitions, particularly in his reforms of serfdom, the nobility, and the military in Russia. Paul also receives much more attention in HBO's miniseries, and will be the subject of the next post on this miniseries.

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] Franz Szabo, The Seven Years War in Europe, 381. 
[2] Ibid, 382. 
[3]Carol S. Leonard, Reform and Regicide, 20. 
[4]Ibid, 21.
[5]Aleksandr Sergeevich Myl'nikov, "Peter III" in The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Reconsidering the Romanovs, 121-122.  
[6] Peter H. Wilson, German Armies: War and German Politics, 279.
[7]Duffy, Russia's Military Way13-14, 200-201.
[8]нтонова И.В., Ярыкина И.Г. Интегрированный урок по курсу истории России и литературы в 8-м классе "Емельян Пугачёв: кровавый убийца или народный герой" (Chapter 6)


Thursday, October 24, 2019

"The Uniform of the Several Regiments of Foot": the DAG's Uniform Book of 1771 (36th-70th Regiments)




Dear Reader,

Today, we have  the second part of a collection of soldier images recently acquired  by the Society of the Cincinnati Library.  You can find the first half of the collection here. While these images are printed, and colored in a formulaic way based upon the Royal Warrant of 1768, they do shed light on three important issues. First, different regiments have differing numbers of lace-loops, and those lace loops are arranged in a different fashion. Second, the grenadiers have differing patterns of lace on their shoulders, which are not identical between regiments. Third, the swords carried by the grenadiers have colored different hilts between regiments. So while these images do not represent troops serving in combat, or theater-specific uniform adaptations, they are not without value.























































































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