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