Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year! (Battle of Quebec City, 1775)

The Battle of Quebec by Charles Williams Jefferys

Happy New Year to all of the readers here on Kabinettskriege!

It may surprise you to learn that January 1st was not the beginning of the year for many people living throughout the Kabinettskriege era. While Catholic states had adopted the Gregorian Calendar (which places the new year on January 1st) in 1582, many Protestant states did not adopt this calendar until 1700, and England and Sweden did not adopt this until 1752 and 1753, respectively.

Like Christmas, a battle occurred on New Year's Eve in the Kabinettskriege era. This was brought to my attention by my good friend and fellow historian Andrew Dial, who will be doing a guest post about France in the Kabinettskriege era.

Defending Quebec from an American Attack December 31st, 1775 by F.H. Wellington 
On New Year's Eve, 1775, Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold attempted to storm Quebec City, in order to drive the British from a potential 14th colony: Canada. They hoped to repeat the success of James Wolfe in 1759, by defeating the defenders of Quebec City, and liberating this colony. British governor Guy Carleton marshalled the defenders and led a desperate defense. While this could be viewed as an American invasion of Canada, like the later war of 1812, some Canadians joined this invasion, such as James Livingston's 1st Canadian Regiment.

This mix of American colonists and disaffected Canadians attempted to take Quebec City by storm. They were decisively defeated by Carleton, the British garrison, and a French Canadian militia. Richard Montgomery was killed leading his men forward, Benedict Arnold was wounded in the leg, and when Daniel Morgan took the attack, he was captured by the British and Canadian militia defending the city.
The Death of General Montgomery by John Trumball

The rebel colonists were outnumbered by a 2 to 3 margin, roughly 1200 to 1800 men. In addition, the Canadians had the assistance of the heavy fortress cannon defending the city. Richard Montgomery was shot through the head by a canister blast from one of these cannons. This death scene, depicted above by John Trumball, was an attempt to show the similarity between the heroism of General Montgomery and General Wolfe, who died during the British attack in 1759. This battle ended the rebel hopes of conquering Canada.

Have a happy time bringing in the New Year, with best wishes from us at Kabinettskriege!

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Glass in the Kabinettskriege Era

Various Glassware-mostly Prussian in Origin
Dear Readers,

Today I had the singular fortune to go to the Corning Glass Museum, in Corning, NY. While there were many wonderful pieces at the museum not related to Kabinettskriege era warfare, I managed to find to find a few pieces that might be of interest.

A glass bearing the arms of William VIII of Hessen-Kassel

The eighteenth century German section was very impressive. There was an entire section of glassware made in Silesia, the province which Frederick II captured during the War of Austrian Succession.

A commemorative glass celebrating Frederick II of Prussia
However, the most interesting piece- at least to me, was this:
A commemorative glass, recording the Prussian armies victory in, "The Battle of Busau"
Prussian infantry in three ranks

According to the plaque, this glass depicts, "the Battle of Busau,"  in 1742. Strangely- this battle never occurred. Busau, (or as it is currently known, Bouzov,) was a town in the province of Moravia. My first thought was that this might be a alternate name for the Battle of Chotuwitz, which was fought in 1742. However, upon closer inspection, something else appears to be in the offing.

As stated above, the town of Busau (Bouzov), was in the province of Moravia. While it was not the sight of a battle, it was the site of some activity during the war. The back of the cup reads, "Sejour agreable," or in English, "a pleasant stay." Finally, the town of Busau is only 32 km from the town of Olmütz, a major fortress, which fell to Field Marshall Schwerin and the Prussians on December 26th, 1741. From there, the Prussian corps with Schwerin went into winter quarters in the towns around Olmütz, including Busau. It appears, during the winter of 1742, these Prussians had, "a pleasant stay."

Thanks for Reading,

Alexander Burns

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas from Kabinettskriege!

Christmas in 1795

Dear Readers,

Merry Christmas! During the Kabinettskriege era, the only major conflict to occur during the Christmas holiday was the attack on Trenton, on December 26th, 1776. In this battle, roughly 6,000 American soldiers attacked, defeated and captured 1500 Hessian soldiers.

So True
Over the years, many have claimed the Hessians were drunk, or that the Americans caught them while sleeping. This is not true. Historian David Hackett Fischer has thoroughly debunked this myth in this work, Washington's Crossing, which discusses this campaign. The Americans defeated the Hessians as a result of a 4 to 1 numerical superiority, and a massive advantage in artillery.

Christmas was a often popularized by Germans in this period, such as Baroness von Riedesel, who attempted to popularize the tradition of Christmas tree in Canada and America.

Anyway, Merry Christmas from the staff here at Kabinettskriege! I hope you and your families have a holiday season full of joy.

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

Friday, December 20, 2013

Game Review: Final Argument of Kings

Cover Art
Dear Readers,

Today, I am going to review another rule-set, designed for European battles between 1734 and 1763. This rule-set is, Final Argument of Kings, by Dean West. This game is designed to simulate larger European land-battles, but its greatest strength is games with between 7,000 and 25,000 troops per side. More than that, and the game tends to bog down.

The game is designed with the the battalion as the basic unit, with 4 bases of miniatures making up one infantry battalion. One inch equals roughly
A FAOK game, put on by Dean West and myself at the Seven Years' War Convention
Final Argument of Kings has an excellent system of fire and movement rules, which accurately simulate the troops in the late Kabinettskriege era. The rules for charging are slightly complex, and often bog down the turn, but usually provide a historically accurate result.  One of the key features in Final Argument of Kings is the front-to-flank maneuver, which allows a unit to move into column, march a short distance, and move back into line. This maneuver is historically accurate, and provides a great deal of flexibility to players.

Final Argument of Kings is the rule-set which I use in most of my miniatures battles, although, as I have already said, I recommend Warfare in the Age of Reason for beginning players. Final Argument of Kings accomplishes what it sets out to do, namely, it allows players to recreate medium sized battles from the War of Polish Succession to the Seven Years' War.

This rule-set uses the principle of simultaneous movement. The players secretly mark their units with a set number of orders, such as form, move, fire, hold, or disengage. These orders must be followed, creating realistic command and control dilemmas for players.

The French advance at Sandershausen
In Final Argument of Kings, players use true line of sight. This is tested by whether a measuring stick can touch both the base of the firing unit to the base of the target unit. This encourages players to get down close to the terrain when positioning their cannon. If the artillery sets up with no line of sight, there is no option except re-positioning the guns-a process which wastes precious time.

In addition, the cannons only have enough rounds for six turns of fire, ensuring that more cautious players do not simply sit back and bombard their enemies for turns on end. The morale rules encourage players to maintain period correct formations, as in Warfare in the Age of Reason. 

For players who have wargamed a bit already in the Kabinettskriege era, I highly recommend Final Argument of Kings. 

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Game Review: Warfare in the Age of Reason

Cover Art

Dear Reader,

Today I have the extreme privilege of reviewing an excellent miniatures rule set- the product of many years of discussing the period in question. Warfare in the Age of Reason, by Tod Kershner and Dale Wood, was the first wargame rule set which I tried for the Kabinettskriege era. They attempt to provide a rule set for roughly 1700 to 1783, or from the Great Northern War to the American War of Independence.

Warfare in the Age of Reason is highly enjoyable- one of its finer features. The game is fast-moving, allowing players to move through fairly large conflicts in reasonable time spans. I have wargamed many battles with this system, including battles from the western German theatre of the SYW, the Seven Years' War in North America, the Battle of Campo-Santo in the War of Austrian Succession, and others.

This rule-set combines historical accuracy with the need to move along game play, and troop movement, infantry fire, and artillery fire are all very historically accurate and well thought out. The battle withdrawal chart, and the use of multiples of 6 as a factor for inflicting casualties make the game easy to understand and enjoy.

In fact, I would encourage anyone new to Kabinettskriege era wargaming to begin with these rules. While I believe that the Final Argument of Kings rule-set by Dean West is slightly more historically accurate, (and I will review it in an upcoming post,) Warfare in the Age of Reason is unsurpassed in the areas of ease-of-learning, playability, and coverage of the whole of the Eighteenth century. While Final Argument of Kings may be more historically accurate, and Batailles de L'Ancien Regime may look more impressive on a grand scale, no other rule-set gives the player the ability to quickly become familiar with such a large period.

Troops based for Age of Reason

Indeed,  the other rule-sets above only attempt to cover the 1740-1763 period. Warfare in the Age of Reason does justice to the 1700-1783 period, and is highly enjoyable to boot. In addition, Warfare in the Age of Reason alone, among all the eighteenth century rule-sets, gives a bibliography and further reading suggestions, which make again, make it useful for an introduction to the period.

If you only want to buy one eighteenth century rule-set, start here, with Warfare in the Age of Reason. Even if, as in my case, you move on to different rule sets, Warfare in the Age of Reason is a necessary starting place, and will give gamers new to the period a foundation to understanding the basics of eighteenth century warfare.

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns

Game Review: Empire Total War

Cover Art
Dear Reader,

While most of my readers are likely familiar with the title, Empire Total War, produced by Sega and the Creative Assembly, I thought it might be fun to review it. This game is set between 1700 and 1799, or, roughly, in the second two-thirds of the Kabinettskriege era. 

Here at the outset, it should be noted that I will be reviewing the game on the merits of its historical accuracy, not play-ability or comparison to other strategy titles. In fact, many fans of the series  criticized this title. While many reviews noted that Empire Total War exceed previous games in map size, some reviews criticized the naval battles, and the power AI performance.

However, with that being said, the game is quite historically accurate. The game places you at the head of one of a selection of European powers, such as Great Britain, France, Sweden, Prussia, or Austria. You are in charge of directing your nations development between the years 1700 and 1799. Many random, historically accurate events can occur, such popular revolutions against Absolutist monarchy, or the creation of the United States. One of the good parts about this game is that each play-through is unique, but all retain a measure of historical accuracy.

In the campaign map, one turn is two seasons, meaning the game is split between winter and summer. The research of technology is quite important. You can decide whether you want to focus on military technologies, such as cadenced marching and platoon firing, industrial technologies, such as steam engines and blast furnaces, or Enlightenment technologies, such as citizenship and social contract theory.

There are no different uniforms for soldiers of the same nation, though many modders have created the uniforms for the various regiments of the period. Some of the various downloadable content packs have specific units, such as Prussia's, "Death's Head," Hussars, and other famous units.

One of the most technologies is, "Fire-by-Rank," in which each of the ranks of a particular unit fire in turn. This idea was not actually pioneered during this period, in fact, many of the European nations had discovered the much more effective, "platoon fire," by the 1710s. In the game, platoon fire is actually less effective than fire-by-rank.

The use of battalion squares also presents a problem in terms of historical accuracy. Forming a square took around 5 minutes, much slower than the 30 seconds in the game. This makes square formation much more effective than it was, by ensuring that the cavalry will not reach the infantry before the square is formed.                                                                                                                                                                
Finally, cannons, particularly when using roundshot, are capable of sniping enemy leaders, which is not very historically accurate.  However, despite these problems, this game is definitely the best video game to deal with the Kabinettskriege Era. I have logged an incredible amount of time with this game, and despite its flaws, manages to recreate a passable facsimile of eighteenth century video game.

Let me know what you think of Empire Total War in the comments below!

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

End of the Semester!

The semester has ended! I will be traveling over the next few weeks, and so I thought I would do some fun posts, that won't require much work.

Is there anything that you would like a post about? Let me know in the comments below. I'll probably be working on some reviews of fun stuff- miniatures, games, etc.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Homeschooling vs. Public Schooling in the Kabinettskriege Era

An 18th Century Classroom
Dear Reader,

I recently read a blog post attempting to link compulsory public education laws, with Obama, and Adolf Hitler. Sadly for those wishing to link public schooling with the Nazi party, the idea of compulsory public education has a rich tradition, dating into the early modern period. In fact, the Kabinettskriege era saw the rise of compulsory education for children, especially in Europe. One of the reasons why we know so much about eighteenth century armies, battles and soldiers is the letters which these soldiers left behind. Throughout the Kabinettskriege era, literacy was on the rise, thanks, in part, to compulsory education.

In the American War of Independence, Hessian soldiers, or as we should properly call themSubsidientruppen, left an incredible amount of information. Even common, private soldiers, such as Johannes Reuber, Johann Conrad Döhla and Johann Andreas Bense, (German mothers likes the name John, apparently) wrote about their experiences. Where did they learn to write? Compulsory public schools, which were slowly being mandated in western Germany throughout the eighteenth century. Now of course, this public education had drawbacks- women were usually excluded, but many eighteenth century noblewomen, such as Baroness von Riedesel, had education at home, which brings me to my next topic: 

Elite homeschoolers with a tutor

Homeschooling in the Kabinettskriege Era

Kabinettskriege era homeschoolers were very different from the modern homeschooling movement. (Though, admittedly, if members of the tea party, they may dress somewhat similarly.) While the modern homeschooling movement was founded on primarily religious grounds, in the Kabinettskriege era, homeschooling was a sign of elite culture. While we generally think of homeschooling in this period as instruction with a tutor- this was not necessarily the case. In some cases, the parents schooled the children, as in the modern homeschooling movement. 

 While many eighteenth century officers were educated publicly, this was the exception rather than the rule. Christopher Duffy comments: 

'Most of the continental aristocrats were educated at home. This sheltered upbringing produced fiery Prussian hussars like Georg Chirstoph von Natzmer and Has Joachim von Zieten, as well as deep-thinking individuals such as Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick:
"Ferdinand's education was entirely confined to his parental house... This is not normally the environment best suited for forming a prince, but such an education can be most successful providing it is supervised by intelligent and vigilant parents who set a good example in all things. So it proved in this case." (The first paragraph is Duffy, the second is a nineteenth century historian.)"'
 I like to think that it proved so in my case as well, for, as many of you know, I was homeschooled. Perhaps the most famous (fictional) case of homeschooling in the eighteenth century was that of Candide and Cunegonde, tutored by Pangloss in Voltaire's satirical novel, Candide. Again, this fictional representation of displays homeschooling as an affectation of elite culture. Sadly for the homeschoolers in this novel, their hired tutor is somewhat wrong about everything. 

Home education was also a feature of life for the very poor in this period, who could not afford let their children go from working or begging. However, as the eighteenth century continued, more and more students attended school, even from poorer families. One of the effects of the Enlightenment was that education began to have more value,  and public schools gained additional students. 

Bernard Bailyn and Gordon S. Wood have suggested that a rise of Enlightenment values brought about the American Revolution, through the use of pamphlets and radical newspapers. Republican ideology spread through the writings of John Locke and the Commonwealth men, in Britain. However, these writings could not have produced such as devastating effect if they had no readers.  The rise of public education throughout the eighteenth century increased the literacy rate of the American colonists, not just in New England, but in all parts of the colonies. Thus, it could be argued, that public schools assisted with the oncoming of the American Revolution, and the spread of Enlightenment ideas.  

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns  

If you liked this post, let me know in the comments below! Feel free to follow the blog! 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"The Eight Years' War"

The Battle of the Chesapeake
In 1763, the British signed off on the peace treaty which secured the domination of their global empire. The peace of Paris, in 1763, gave French Canada to the British. This ended the Seven Years' War, and to us, today, seems to signify the end of the Imperial Wars period. After all, the next war, the American War of Independence, was not an Imperial War at all- it was a fight between the English speaking people of North America, and the English speaking people of Great Britain, right?

It turns out, this is not really the case. The American War of Independence was just one facet of a much larger war. In this war, the British found themselves pitted against an alliance of the rebellious colonists, the French, Spanish, Dutch, and Native Americans. In this war, the British were joined by the western German states who had supported them for much of the eighteenth century.

The opening stages of this war will be familiar to many of my American readers- after all, in America, we learn about the first shots at Lexington and Concord. However, many of the events of this global war will seem very unfamiliar. I will refer to this as the global, "Eight Years' War," 1775-1783.

The single most important battle of this global conflict was the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, which resulted in the surrender of the Northern British army under General Burgoyne. This directly led to the entry of France into the conflict, on the side of the rebellious American colonists. The war immediately took on a global aspect. On the 27th of July,  1778, the French and British fleets met in the naval battle of Ushant. Also in July, the French captured Grenada from the British. A young Swedish officer, Kurt von Stendingk, who served with the French, recalled his experiences of the attack on the fortress at Grenada:
"We marched without firing a shot, palisades were torn down, the entrenchments carried one after the other, the charge was beaten, and wounded and dying in chorus shouted, "Long live the king!" It is difficult to imagine how the soul is exalted in these times, and how man becomes more than man: each soldier was a hero."
This Swede was not fighting for American Independence-he was fighting as a participant in a traditional eighteenth century Kabinettskriege. While he would later be made a member of the Society of the Cincinnati, his loyalty remained French.

Cowpens by Don Troiani

The French also fought the British fleet off the coast of America, and the most decisive battle of the war was the Battle of the Chesapeake- pictured in the painting at the top of the post. In this battle, the French prevented the British fleet from rescuing Lord Cornwallis' forces. The French also provided the necessary siege guns to bombard the British in Yorktown. For those who believe that divine providence played a role in America's Independence, make sure that God is thanked for French cannon. They played a much larger role than the tactical skills of George Washington.

In addition to fighting in North America, the Caribbean, and the oceans of the world, fighting also took place in India. The French and British fought in India starting in 1778, and the Dutch joined the war in 1780. From 1781-1783, the French and British fought a bitter conflict in India, with neither side gaining much ground. These campaigns were mostly composed of sieges, and naval battles.

I have already discussed the Spanish operations in North America during the Eight Years' War, but let me say a few words the Siege of Gibraltar. This siege lasted from 24th of June, 1779, to the 7th of February, 1783, or over three years and seven months. The mountain fortress of Gibraltar was besieged by a combined arms force of the French army and navy, and managed to hold out.

In 1778, another war broke out, the War of Bavarian Succession. Fought between Austria and Prussia, this war was also an attempt continue the imperial struggle started in the Seven Years' War. Prussia was attempting to play a greater role in the politics of the Holy Roman Empire, by pressuring the Austrians, who were in turn, attempting to create allies within the HRE.

Thus, while the conflict started in North America, in the relatively familiar venue of Lexington and Concord, the Eight Years' War was truly a global conflict. After the opening stages in North America, the conflict spread to the coasts of France and Spain, Gibraltar, the Caribbean islands, Central Germany, and India. Individuals were involved from across the world: from Native Americans, to African slaves, to Sepoys from India, to American Colonists, to Swedes like Kurt von Stedingk. However, for some reason, this conflict is viewed as minor part of the American War of Independence. Is it not more likely that the American War of Independence was simply part of this larger conflict, which happened to start in North America? While certainly vital for the development of America, it is important that we do not view this war as simply an American affair.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Readers,

In America, we are celebrating Thanksgiving. While this holiday is about 20 years too early for the Kabinettskreige era, (1621) I thought that my American readers might be interested in reading the primary sources which this holiday is based on.

The first is from Edward Winslow in Mourt's Relation:

"our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a
special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day
killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time
amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and
amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we
entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the
Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be
not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far
from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

The second is from William Bradford in, Of Plymouth Plantation:

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and
dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good
plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about
cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion.
All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached,
of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And
besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison,
etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn
to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends
in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

Both of these, and more info, is available here:

Enjoy your day, and thanks for reading!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Historical Events and the Passage of Time

Yep. This is what I want to be.

Dear Readers,

I recently received the question:
"As an historian, do you believe that the passage of time provides greater clarity on historical events? I've always been under the impression that there's a "sweet spot" of clarity that occurs anywhere from immediately after a major historical event, to perhaps a generation or two later, after which it gets over-analyzed, dissected, and distorted. What's your take on that?"

This is a really great question, and I thought that you readers here on Kabinettskriege might be interested. How does the passage of time effect our perception of what really happened in the past? 

For the moment, let us take look at a non-Kabinettskriege era event which occurred within relatively recent historical memory: World War One. How did World War One start? 

If you asked someone in 1915 (a year after the start of the war,) the answer probably would be, "the enemy started it." Thus, a close temporal position to the event does not necessarily give a better look at the event, rather, it makes the people looking at the event more biased. 

If you asked someone in 1943, who started World War One, the answer, in non-German parts of the world, would be, "the Germans." This is because the Germans started the Second World War, and most of the world blamed them for the start of the First World War as well. 

Oddly enough, as the 20th century wore on, American scholars began to blame the Russians for World War One, as, after all, they had undergone a full mobilization before any of the other powers. The reason for this is clear-Russia and America were now enemies. 

Thus, historical interpretations continue to change, even after the people who are involved in the events are long dead. Every generation looks at the past with their own historical lens. Thus, when I look at World War One, what I see is different from someone who will live fifty years in the future. 

 In popular perception, there may be a sweet spot in understanding, and I would argue that it takes about a hundred years to arrive at this point. We are fast approaching the hundredth anniversary of World War One, and I think that we may never understand the First World War better than we do now. The reason is, we no longer have living members who experienced the event around to cloud the picture with their biases, so in this example, we realize that most of the European nations actively contributed to the World War One crisis.  

However, the professionalization of history allows us to understand many parts of the past better than we have in previous generations. While the popular perception of history may become more mythic as time passes, (for example, the almost God-like qualities which most Americans see in the founding fathers) scholarly professional opinion allows for a, "sweet spot," of understanding to continue. In the example of the founding fathers, the current historiography of the American Revolution allows us to better understand groups which have been previously ignored, such as women, slaves, and Native Americans. 

Now, moving on to the claims of over-analysis. This is indeed a problem of American history. That is one of the reasons why many professional American historians are calling for a "synthesis," of history. Books such as Alan Taylor's American Colonies, and Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought, are moving us back towards a, "sweet spot," in understanding the past, by incorporating the various arguments into a narrative, and updating previous historical knowledge with new arguments. This allows us to retain past understanding, while bringing to light new documentation, which may slightly alter our way of looking at the past. 

Thus, returning to our World War One example, we have reached a measured consensus where we realize that all parties were at fault, although some might be more at fault than others. However, this consensus can still be updated by professional historians who seek to examine smaller facets of the war, such as the role of women, or the role of the minor Balkan states. Those ideas can then be re-incorporated into the body of knowledge via a large, "synthesis," style history.

In essence, popular understanding of a past event reaches a sweet spot a few generations after the event, while academic historians seek to preserve and improve upon that sweet spot with new research, and then add their new research into the collective understanding. In addition, this research allows us to see how each generation perceives historical events, as a result of their circumstances.

Thanks for Reading,


Monday, November 18, 2013

Sweden in the Kabinettskriege Era

Bringing home the body of Karl XII-Gustaf Cederström
Dear Reader,

In the modern mind, Sweden is viewed as a sort of Scandinavian socialist paradise. The Swedes have given us great writers, like Henning Mankell (Wallander), and great actors, such as Max von Seydow. However, during the Kabinettskriege era, Sweden was known for something else: its empire. During this start period, the Swedes founded an overseas colony, New Sweden, in modern day Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. While the colony was taken over by the Dutch in 1655, small traces of Swedish culture still remain in the area. In addition, the Swedes possessed overseas colonies in Africa between 1650 and 1663. Interested in a timeline of the Kabinettskriege era? Click here. 

However, the Swedes never really possessed a large overseas empire, most of their imperial holdings were in Europe. At the height of Swedish power, the empire included  much of the North German Baltic sea coast, as well as portions of the current Baltic states, such as Latvia and Estonia, the whole of Finland, and a significant part of Norway.

The Swedish Empire (Sweden is Tan, Swedish conquests are in Orange)
While the Swedes were on the rise in the early Kabinettskriege era, by 1721, they had lost most of their overseas possessions in the Stora Nordiska Kriget: The Great Northern War.  Despite an excellent military, the Swedes had been defeated by an alliance of Russia, Denmark, Poland, and Prussia. What is surprising is not that they were defeated, but that they managed to hold out for twenty one years.

They were able to survive for so long as a result of one of the most controversial figures in Swedish history, Karl XII of Sweden, and his Karoliner. The Karoliner were some of the most effective soldiers of the Kabinettskriege era. The Swedish Karoliner used incredibly effective Gå-På (or "Head-On") tactics. These tactics meant that the soldiers would hold their fire until point-blank range, which caused massive causalities to the enemy. After a devastating point-blank volley, the Karoliner would charge fearlessly into close combat, and their panicked enemies would usually flee.

In modern times, many Swedes are atheists, but in the Kabinettskriege era, the Swedish army was held together by a strong belief in the Christian God. The Swedish in this period were Lutheran, and a mix of faith, and Gå-På tactics kept this small, but highly effective, army fighting against impossible odds.

However, this divine protection did not, contrary to Swedish belief, stop musket balls. At the battle of Poltava in 1709, the Swedes were defeated and Karl XII fled to the Ottoman Empire. Refusing to make peace, Karl XII continued the war beyond any hope of Swedish victory. He was eventually killed in Norway, while attempting to besiege a fortress. His death, and the tremendous losses absorbed by Sweden during this war, crushed the Swedish Empire. In addition, this defeat paved the way for the Russians to move into central Europe, with consequences leading up to the present day.

With that knowledge, let us return to the original painting which began this post.

This painting, by Swedish artist Gustaf Cederström, shows the Karoliner bringing home the body of Karl XII, during the so-called, "Karolinian death-march." A Swedish hunter, his son, and their dog, make way for these soldiers. On the hunters back, an enormous bird of prey hangs dead. This death of this majestic bird is intended to mirror the death of the great Swedish king. This epic painting shows the despair of Swedes at the end of the Great Northern War. 

After the death of Karl XII, Sweden's empire never fully recovered. The Swedish empire passed to his sister, Ulrika Eleonora, and her husband, Friedrich I of Hesse-Kassel. While the Swedes were able to defeat the Russians in the war of 1788, and take Norway in 1814, the Sweden's glory days were over. However, now, the Swedish have created a state which is the envy of other Europeans, and an economy which shows signs of strength. 

If we have any Swedish readers, what do you think of Karl XII? Was he responible for the loss of the Swedish Empire? What do you think about Sweden's history in the Kabinettskriege era?

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns 

Heroes, Villains, and History

Don Troiani's Parker's Revenge
Dear Reader,

The above painting shows British soldiers early in the American War for Independence. When you look at the above men, what do you see? Heroes or Villains?

Who were the, "Heroes" of the Kabinettskriege era? And above all, what does reducing things into the terms of, "right and wrong," achieve in our understanding of the past?

William Potter, an American historian who works for Vision Forum, released an audiobook, entitled, Bayonets! Heroes, Villains and Character Lessons from the American War for Independence. You can find this book here. In this book, Potter attempts to draw spiritual lessons from the American War of Independence. In Potter's view,  the British are the evil villains of the American Revolution, while the Christian Americans were on the side of right. Potter gives excellent and insightful details about the American War of Independence, but I continue to wonder whether his conceptual lens offers any positive results.

While the book is obviously targeted for children, there is no reason why we should portray history, particularly such vital history as the founding of the American nation, in simple, moralistic terms. If the American War of Independence is a simple moral tale, why did so many Americans own slaves? American Slavery shocked and appalled both Hessian and French writers during the revolution.

And what about the idea that the Americans were Christians, and the British were godless? After all, weren't the Americans rebelling against a government, which the Bible instructs Christians to respect? The British soldiers were just as devout as the Americans, as is extremely evident in their letters. The Hessian Subsidientruppen who fought for the British were just as pious, and they often felt disgusted by what they saw as an American lack of religion.

What about the European Seven Years' War? Are there heroes in this context? Why is it we are so eager to say that God and right was on the side of the Americans, but do not have a quick answer for who was right in the contest between Austrian and Prussian?

If we simply want to view the Americans as right, is there truly a need to view the war in terms of heroes and villains? Individual humans are not good or evil. Their actions display both good and evil. They are complex, and it is a disservice to history to portray the past in the simple terms of a morality play.

For our international readers, I have a question: Does this effort to portray the past as a simple battle between good and evil occur in your countries? If so, what form does it take?

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

Friday, November 8, 2013

France in the Kabinettskriege Period

Map of France 1675-1726
Dear Reader,

Throughout the Kabinettskriege period, France was the largest single state in western Europe. The French had not suffered the same type of economic and demographic drain from the Thirty Years' War as the German states. In addition, by virtue of the unified nature of the French state, it could afford to raise much larger armies than the smaller, dis-unified states of Germany. Also, as a result of the nature of Absolutism in France, afford to maintain a much larger standing army in peacetime than the English, making mobilization for war much quicker. This has led scholars to refer to France, in the early modern period, as, "The eight hundred pound gorilla of Europe." Why then, in the course of the Kabinettskriege period, did the French lose much of their empire overseas, and not win ground in Europe?

The French Victory at Ticonderoga-1758

Explanation One: The French haven't the Nature for War. 

To this day, in English and American circles, the French are accused of cowardice, effeminacy, and laziness. A common joke is that the French "salute" is raising your hands in surrender. In Last of the Mohicans, there is a scene where a British general expresses these exact views. It should not come to as a surprise to anyone that this is completely anachronistic. During the Kabinettskriege era, the French had an excellent military-one that often terrified their opponents.

During the early part of the Kabinettskriege period, the French military under Louis XVI threatened to destroy the balance of power in Europe. Some of the largest battles of the Kabinettskriege period occurred during the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of Spanish Succession. (See a timeline of the period here.)

While the English choose to focus on this period of history as a time when John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, was winning his spectacular victories against the French, the truth is that both sides achieved victories, which is one of the reasons why the war dragged on for almost fifteen years.  During this period, the French were repeatedly able to raise large, well trained armies, which required large alliances of minor powers to stop.

In the middle of the Kabinettskriege period, the French were able to defeat the British again and again during the War of Austrian Succession. British histories of this period choose to focus on the successes in North America, the success against the Jacobite rebellion, or indecisive win at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. The truth is that the French won three out of the four major field battles of this war: Fontenoy, Rocoux, and Lauffeld. In the absence of a large force of Austrians to protect the Austrian Netherlands (modern-day Belgium,) the French turned battlefield success into strategic gains time and time again. At the end of the war, the French were forced to give back these conquests to have their own overseas losses returned to them.

Finally, as we have already seen repeatedly on this blog, the French were able to defeat the British in the global Eight Years' War which surrounded the American War of Independence. Thus, we have clear evidence of French capability in the early, middle and late Kabinettskriege era.

Having thoroughly disproved the notion that the French soldiers or armies were somehow inferior, we must move on to-

English Cannons at the Siege of Louisbourg (1745) 

Explanation Two: The French had different objectives during the Kabinettskriege era

This idea indicates that the French somehow valued their overseas colonies less than the British during the course of the eighteenth century. Sadly, this idea is also not true.

Unlike the British, the French did not benefit from being unconnected to continental Europe. They had no defensive moat to complicate invasions. The only moat they had was the French army. While the French repeatedly tried to invade Britain throughout the course of the Kabinettskriege era, they also had to defend French borders from British amphibious raids, and the armies of continental Europe-something that the British histories of the Kabinettskriege era spend little time discussing. While the French usually had some sort of ally for their European wars, their allies rarely gave them hard physical support, in the way that the British and Western German states supported each-other throughout the Kabinettskriege era. The British population of North America also greatly outweighed the French speaking population, which allowed the British to raise numerous militia type forces to assist in combating the French. While the French also raised militias, they were very small compared to the British militias.

Why didn't the French send more support to America, and carve out an overseas empire during the eighteenth century? I can only answer that they sure didn't do it for lack of trying. They simply had their hands full.  That leads us to:

Victor-Francois, Duc de Broglie
Explanation 3: Poor Higher Command

While the French often had excellent commanders, such as the gentleman above, they also suffered from a number of poor commanders, particularly in the European theater of Seven Years' War. Since these often mediocre generals commanded, as we have seen above, a large portion of the French military, their poor decisions had an out of proportion effect. To a lesser extent, they also suffered from "victors' disease" from the War of Austrian Succession. They had successfully defeated the British on the continent during the last three battles of the War of Austrian Succession, so there was no reason to improve the army in the intervening years before the Seven Years' War. This, combined with continental obligations, caused the French to lose their overseas empire in Canada during the Seven Years' War, which was the only truly decisive conflict of the Kabinettskriege era.

Sorry-this one ran WAYYY long. I'm thinking about doing posts like this (but shorter) for each of the main European nations in the Kabinettskriege era. Do you like this plan? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

Feel free to follow the blog if you liked this post. It's free, and let's me know that you enjoy what I write-basically the only reason I do this blog! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Battle of Rossbach: 5th November, 1757

Map of Rossbach from-Rossbach and Leuthen: Prussia's Eagle Resurgent
Dear Readers,

When we last left our heroes, the Prussian army was shadowing a larger French and Reichsarmee force. (The Reichsarmee was made up of troops from a motley collection of small German states.) While the French and Reichsarmee had the advantage in terms of number of soldiers, (about 40,000 to 22,000) the Prussians indisputably outmatched the allies in terms of quality.

On the morning of November 5th,  the allies began a wide flanking move in an effort to get around the Prussian army, and potentially destroy it with a flank attack. The supposedly "Great" king, Frederick, failed to notice this movement on the part of the enemy, he was busy having lunch.  The first Prussian to notice the movements of the enemy was Frederick's young Flügeladjutant, Captain Friedrich Wilhelm Ersnt von Gaudi. According to historian Christopher Duffy, Gaudi reported to the king, "who was lunching with Prince Henry (his royal brother) Seydlitz, and a number of officers in the chamber below. If there was anything Frederick disliked more than having his monologues interrupted, it was signs of panic in a junior officer." Frederick told Gaudi that he was wrong about the flanking movement. Later, when the commander of a Frei-Battalion charged with watching the French, (the same Frei-Battalion a certain young Baron von Steuben was serving in...) reported the same, he was met with similar disdain from the great king.

Frederick dismisses Gaudi's (on right) report

However, Frederick is not, as historian Franz Szabo claims, totally at fault. After all, he had created a system in which these younger officers could report to him, and encouraged initiative among his advisers.  While I agree with Szabo that Frederick was in the wrong in this instance, I can not share his opinion on the Prussian military, which encouraged initiative, so that the army would not be destroyed if the king was at fault.

In time, when the movements of the enemy became more clear, subordinate Prussian officers made plans for movement in spite of the king's indifference, a move which undoubtedly saved the Prussian army. Frederick, finally awakening to the danger, moved prepared his infantry to move, and instructed General Seydlitz to take command of the Prussian cavalry.

The map of the Battle of Rossbach, from Christopher Duffy's: Prussia's Glory, pg 67.

Seydlitz immediately sprang into action, and his cavalry attack shattered the allies advanced guard. Young Fahnen-Cadet von Barsewisch, who we heard from in the last post, described the battle from his place with Prussian Regiment von Meyerinck (IR 26), on the map, von Meyerinck is right by the box which reads, "Final Attack."  Barsewisch describes the battle:

"To that end, His Majesty had re-positioned eight Battalions, of which our regiment was one, because of the re-positioning of the enemy.  There we stood, calmly, and went about our lunch, while awaiting further orders.  At roughly 2 O’clock in the afternoon, the enemy suddenly shifted their march left towards Rossbach, in an effort to turn our left flank, and began to march up. The speed with which we broke down the camp, formed battle array, and began to march up was indescribable. About 3 O’clock in the afternoon, a cannonade began, and the army stood in battle order. Our cavalry on the left wing, under the command of General Seydlitz crashed into the enemy cavalry, and on the second shock, the enemy cavalry took flight, and threw many of the infantry behind them wholly into ruin.
 Our infantry battalions from the left wing appeared from under our cannon, and engaged the French Swiss corps in such a way that they were still in columns. These columns were in the form of an ancient Phalanx, and through want of time and space to deploy, they were situated in rows of men a hundred deep. In this manner, they attempt to charge. This unstoppable Swiss Phalanx of left thousands of dead behind, and the whole of the French army was in such confusion, that they attempted to escape and flee, and by nightfall, they had left their cannons behind and were totally defeated by our left wing."

In essence, the Prussian cavalry attacked, defeated the enemy cavalry, and then reformed. The Prussian infantry regiments advanced on the allies, who were still in marching columns. Desperately, these marching columns attempted to charge and break the Prussian infantry through force of shock. The incredible firepower of the Prussian infantry and artillery stopped this attack, which developed into a firefight. This phase of the battle is artistically represented below:

Painting from- Rossbach and Leuthen: Prussia's Eagle Resurgent 
 However, by this point in the battle, General Seydlitz had reformed the Prussian cavalry, and they attacked the flank of the allies, throwing their army into a total rout.  The Prussian's lost 548 men, while the allies lost 5,000 dead and wounded, and 5,000 prisoners. Franz Szabo deliberately misrepresents these casualty figures, stating that the allies only lost 5,000 total men.

 While Frederick may have been slow to recognize the danger, and even slower to accept the advice of his subordinates, his handling of the main infantry line enabled the allies to be caught between the anvil of the Prussian infantry, and the hammer of Seydlitz and Prussian cavalry.

Why is Rossbach important? Why should we "remember remember," THIS 5th of November?

Remember in the last post when I was talking about how the English had been basically knocked out of the war, and the French were going to be able to send more troops to North America? Rossbach changed all that. This Prussian victory gave the British an excuse to get back into the war in Europe, where they were able to prevent French expansion into western Germany. It also tied down French forces in Europe, which allowed the British to conquer Canada, which retains ties with the British to this day. If this battle had not happened, the Seven Years' War would have been much shorter than seven years, with a different victor.

If this 5th of November had not occurred, the whole geopolitics of the Atlantic world could be radically different than it is today. That is why you should remember the 5th of November, 1757.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

If you liked this post, let me know in the comments below! Feel free to follow the blog. Its free, and lets me know that you enjoy what I'm doing-basically the only reason I write this thing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

November 1757

The lead-up to the Battle of Rossbach

Dear Readers,

Tomorrow is the 5th of November. The one day a year college students can pretend to be anarchists for a few hours. "Remember, Remember," the saying goes. Well, today, here on Kabinettskriege, I am going to take you to a different 5th of November. Forget the Gunpowder Plot. This 5th of November has much more significance to British history than a few disgruntled Catholics.

At the beginning of November, 1757, England, and the liberties of Englishmen everywhere, were in much greater danger than in 1605. The French had defeated the forces of the English king at the battle of Hastenbeck on the 26th of July, 1757. This led to the surrender of the army which fought for Britain, mostly comprised of Hessian, Hanoverian, and Braunschweiger soldiers. At surrender following the Convention of Kloster-Zeven, Britain had been all but knocked out of the Seven Years' War in Europe. This would allow the French to send more troops to serve in North America, potentially threatening England's overseas colonies.

The English could only hope for their allies on the continent, the Prussians, to somehow pull their European irons out of the fire. And in November 1757, this did not look very likely. The Prussians were reeling from three important defeats. On the 18th of June, 1757, King Frederick II of Prussia's army had been badly defeated at the battle of Kolin. On the 30th of August, a minor Prussian army had been defeated at the battle of Gross-Jägersdorf. And finally, On the 7th of September, the Prussians were worsted in the small battle of Moys.

The defeat at Moys was particularly damaging to Frederick II of Prussia. His most trusted friend, and confidant, Hans Karl von Winterfeldt, had been killed in this skirmish. Winterfeldt was Frederick's chief of staff, and spymaster. But even more importantly, he was Frederick's close personal friend. After being told of Winterfeldt's death, Frederick responded, "Einen Winterfeldt finde ich nie wieder. Er war ein guter Mensch, ein Seelenmensch. Er war mein Freunde." Roughly translated, "I will never find another Winterfeldt. He was a good man, a soulful man. He was my friend." For spiky old Fritz, close personal friendships did not come easy-he would often recall this as one of the greatest blows of the war.

After a year of repeated defeats, the English and the Prussians appeared as if they were about to lose the Seven Years' War.

In early November, Frederick was shadowing a French and Reichsarmee, which significantly outnumbered his own. Most historians agree that the French and Imperials had an army of between 38,000 to 44,000 men, and Christopher Duffy gives the figure of 44,750. Franz Szabo states without proof that the army had a, "total strength... about 30,000." Even if we accept Szabo's figure, we can generally agree that the French and Imperials had a generous margin of error over the Prussians, which historians agree had 22,000 men.

Ernst Friedrich Rudolf von Barsewisch, a twenty-year-old Fahnen-Cadet (Junior Ensign), recalled his experiences directly before the battle:
"On the 1st of November, near Halle, an Imperial Corps burned 200 Ducats, plundered different locations during the night, and broke a bridge over the river Saale on the 2nd. On this day, we constructed three bridges over the Saale. The 3rd (of November) brought us to pass by Merseburg on the Saale, and we moved one mile passed Merseburg to Braunsdorf, and camped there. We marched three miles. Here, we stood close to the combined French and Reichsarmee force, so that our Advanced-Guard attacked and skirmished with their outposts.  During this night, His Majesty the King reconnoitered the enemy camp. They were met with a violent cannonade. On the Morning of the 4th of November,  the army broke up, and his Majesty the King was minded to attack the enemy with his cavalry and the left wing of the army. But because the enemy army past with their flank in sight, the enemy in four detachments, in such a way that opened the camp, that the cavalry camped behind the infantry in a valley, meanwhile, constantly the Hussars and the Freibattalions  skirmished with the enemy. The headquarters was near Rossbach."

The battle that followed, on the 5th of November, would change the balance of power in Europe, and North America. Tune in tomorrow, to see how the epic battle on this 5th of November occurred, and how it changed western history.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

If you liked this post, let me know in the comments below! Feel free to follow the blog. Its free, and lets me know that you enjoy what I'm doing-basically the only reason I write this thing.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

A Hessian

Dear Readers-Happy Halloween!

Did you know, one of the most enduring Halloween legends, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, has its roots in the Kabinettskriege era?

In this tale, a school teacher is chased out of town by the a ghastly apparition of a cavalrymen with no head!
Legend has it, that the headless rider was actually a Hessian soldier! (See my post on Hessians here.) According to myth, this soldier was decapitated by a cannonball, during the American War of Independence, and now roams the countryside of North America!

This legend has been continued by the new TV series, Sleepy Hollow, but that is a tale for another time!

Have a Happy Halloween, and don't let the Hessians get you!

If you liked this post, let me know in the comments below! Feel free to follow the blog. Its free, and lets me know that you enjoy what I'm doing-basically the only reason I write this thing.

What's Next?

Dear Reader,

What do you want to hear about next on Kabinettskriege?

A. General information about Wars in the Eighteenth Century
B. Battle Anniversaries: I do detailed posts about battles, as they happen during the year
C. Unit Histories: Have a Kabinettskriege era unit you want info about? Let me know and I'll research them.
D. You Pick- Tell me what you want to hear about in the comments. 

Let me know your choice in the comments below. 

Thanks for Reading,

Alex Burns 

The Ottomans in the Kabinettskriege Period (الامبراطورية العثمانية التحليل العسكري)

Al-Niẓām Al-Jadīd parade before Selim III
Dear Reader,

In a previous post, I examined the military units of the Ottoman Empire in the Kabinettskriege period. At the beginning of the Kabinettskriege period, the Ottoman empire stretched from Saudi Arabia to the gates of Vienna, and from Morocco to the Persian Gulf. It was the largest empire in Europe, or Africa, during the Kabinettskriege period. At the beginning of the Kabinettskriege era, the Ottoman Empire was the undisputed master of south eastern part of Europe, known as the Balkans. None of the European powers alone could challenge the Ottoman Empire, so in the late part of the 17th century, several of them joined forces- the Austrian Habsburgs, the Poles, and the Russians. This alliance was known as, "the Holy League," though there was little "Holy" in what they set out to do- dismantle the lands of the Ottoman Empire.

Map of the Ottoman Empire in 1683
This conflict became known as "the War of the Holy League." The combined forces of the three Christian nations proved to much for the Ottomans, and they began to lose the war. 1683 was a significant year for the Ottomans- it marked their last attempt at domination in central Europe. The massive battle of Vienna, (German: Schlacht von Kahlenburg) on the 11th and 12th of September, 1683, blunted an Ottoman offensive towards Vienna.

The Germans wrote a song, "Prinz Eugen der elde Ritter," to commemorate this victory. You can listen to a modern rendition of it today, here. Please be aware that the song presents a very biased version of events.

This loss enabled the Holy League to accomplish its goals. Much of the Balkans returned to Habsburg control, the Poles gained significant parts of the Ukraine, and the Russians took the coastal fortress of Azov on the Black Sea. Here, they were led by a young man, known as Peter I of Russia. He would eventually become Peter the Great.

A young Ottoman soldier trains with a Snapchance Musket
The next major war between the Ottomans and the powers of Europe occurred in the 1730s. Austria and Russia joined forces, (as the Poles had gone into a deep decline) and attempted to conquer more of the Ottoman lands.

Here, the Ottomans recovered, and they were able to deal the Austrians several defeats. The battle of Banja Luka, on the 4th of August, 1737, was an Ottoman victory, despite being outnumbered by the Austrian forces. On July 22nd, 1739, the Ottoman army took up ambush positions near Grocka, and decisively defeated the Austrians, decimating the Austrian cavalry with musket fire. When the Austrian infantry came up, the Ottomans fought until nightfall, and the Austrians withdrew. This battle was even more significant, as it prevented the Austrians from lifting the siege of Belgrade, which fell shortly after the battle. This combination of factors forced the Austrians to sign a separate peace.

Despite these successes, the Ottoman Empire was on a downward slide from power for most of the 16th century. Why? There are a variety of factors. Some include inadequate leadership, failure to keep up with European tactical reforms, and a focus on individual bravery, rather than unit cohesion.

Here is another reason:
Ottoman Weapons of the 18th Century
See these muskets? The majority of the infantry long firearms are snapchance muskets. (I explain muskets in this post.) These muskets are not as reliable as the flintlock muskets employed by the Europeans. In addition, none of these muskets seem to have a bayonet lug. Without a way to attach a bayonet, Ottoman infantry would have been more vulnerable to European cavalry attacks, even if the soldiers were proficient in the use of the sword.

With inferior firearms, and inadequate reforms, the Ottoman Empire was unable to maintain its cutting edge, which had enabled conquests for most of the early portion of its existence.

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

If you liked this post, let me know in the comments below! Feel free to follow the blog. Its free, and lets me know that you enjoy what I'm doing-basically the only reason I write this thing.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

History and Historical Suffering

A Village burned by Napalm in Vietnam
Dear Reader,

The past is serious business. For the majority of human existence, suffering has dominated human experience. People have done awful things to each other throughout history. This has happened, more often then not, during time of war.

There are times when being a historian is all fun and games. This past weekend, I had the chance to go the 18th century market fair at Locust Grove, and meet with professor Daniel Krebs. (I reviewed Dr. Krebs book here.) However, as much as I might try to make it fun, the past remains a dark and dangerous place, full of suffering and death. We make hobbies out of the lives of the dead.

However much we might try to present it as fun, or enjoyable in wargames, or reenactments, it remains a serious business. That is one of the reasons why I respect serious wargamers and reenactors, such as Dean West, and Doug Roush, who are committed to portraying the past accurately to the public, and encourage that the public learn the wider context of the events, not just the micro-history of the unit they study.

On the right, you can see a soldier being forced to "run the gauntlet"-a task which often killed the victim. 
As a historian, especially as military historian, I am faced with human suffering every time I open a book. Baroness von Riedesel, one of the diarists of the American War of Independence, recorded the death of General Fraser after the Battle of Bemis Heights. Her account is as follows:

"Toward three o'clock in the afternoon, instead of my dinner guests arriving as expected, poor General Fraser, who was to have been one of them, was brought to me on a stretcher, mortally wounded. The table, which had already been set for dinner, was removed, and a bed for the General was put in its place. The noise of the firing grew constantly louder. The thought that perhaps my husband would also be brought home wounded was terrifying, and worried me incessantly. The General said to the doctor, "Don't conceal anything from me! Must I die?" The bullet had gone through his abdomen... and through {his intestines.} I often heard him exclaim, between moans, "Oh fatal ambition! Poor General Burgoyne! Poor Mrs. Fraser."

The people of the past lived just as we do. They had hopes, dreams, loves, and friendships. And they died. Often in horrible pain, long before they would have died of natural causes.

There are times when I cannot read source material, because the pain contained in it is too great.

Bodies from the gas attack in Syria, on August 21st
My way of looking at the world was forever changed by the gas attacks this summer in Syria. This attack sent me into a depression. It changed the way I view humanity, God, and the world we live in.

In my mind, there are three ways of dealing with suffering you see around you in the present, but does not directly you:

1. You can choose to feel sympathy, but do nothing, and return to your way of life.

2. You can choose to believe that God is working through the suffering, and will give final justice.

3. You can resolve to take action, and work to address the suffering around you, which you can directly influence. (e.g. I cannot end the war in Syria. I can give the homeless man on my street $5.)

I cannot speak for the my readers, but I plan to take the third course of action. God helps those who help themselves, and help each other.

"We think to much, and feel to little.
More than machinery, we need humanity.
More than cleverness, we need kindness."

"-The Great Dictator"

Some thinking music:


Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Alex Burns 

If you liked this post, let me know in the comments below! Feel free to follow the blog. Its free, and lets me know that you enjoy what I'm doing-basically the only reason I write this thing.