Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Seven Years' War Convention 2016

Dear Readers,

For those interested, the Seven Years' War Convention is being held this year on April 1st and 2nd, (2016) at the Waterford Estates Lodge in South Bend, Indiana. Dr. Christopher Duffy will be presenting a lively talk on the Battle of Kolin.

The Seven Years' War convention is always a high point of the year for me, as a time to converse with other students of the period, shop for rare books, and listen to famous historians speak on this pivotal conflict.

If you have questions, please direct them to

Monday, August 31, 2015

Defining Modern and Early Modern: The Seven Years War.

Dear Readers,

I know it has been a while- too long, in fact. I've been teaching the last year at Indiana Wesleyan University, and applying for Ph.D programs. Good news- I'm currently working on my doctorate at West Virginia University, under the direction of Dr. Tyler Boulware, and Dr. Katherine Aaslestad. 

There isn't much time, so I wanted to run an idea by you. In the historical field, we separate the past five hundred odd years into two fields: early modern, and modern. According to the standard interpretation, the early modern period lasts from about 1500 to somewhere in the eighteenth century, usually the French Revolution, and the modern takes up the story until now. I'd like to propose a new way of looking at this idea. 

The Seven Years War gives us the modern world. This war, so decisive, unlike many eighteenth century conflicts, defines the eighteenth century. Fred Anderson has argued as much in Crucible of War. What if the Seven Years War isn't just the defining moment of the eighteenth century, but also separates the modern and early modern?

This war gives England control of North America (for the moment), puts the pieces of the British Raj in place, begins to define white and Native American as separate races in the minds of people living in Colonial America, increases Russian presence and power projection in eastern Europe, and assures the survival of a strong, Protestant state in Germany. The debts, ideas, and territorial changes of this war are truly revolutionary. Could this war be the defining line of the modern world?

What do you think?

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Prussian Journals: IR 3 at Lobositz

Prussian Musketeers from the IR 13 open fire

Dear Reader,

Today, we have another selection from Urkundliche Beiträge. In this selection, another IR 3 NCO describes his experiences at Lobositz. The soldier sent this information home in a letter to his father,  dated October 6th, 1756. 

On the first of October, a glorious day, God assisted the Prussian arms, and so I send you this account.  On September 30th, our army marched out of camp at Johnsdorf, and moved in the area of Lobositz. We left around 12am, without the slightest idea that the enemy army was so near.  At daybreak, we knew they enemy was not very far from us, because they  had already saluted us with some cannon fire. Our Majesty the King shook out the whole column, consisting of 30,000 men, in order of battle, and marched out towards the enemy army, which we had heard from deserters and prisoners consisted of as many as 60,000 men.  We met the same (the enemy) in such an advantageous  and cunning posture, that I felt compelled to make note of the details.

The area in which the enemy stood was a long series of vineyard slopes, some of which were at certainly twice as tall as the so-called "red tower," in Halle.  In these vineyard slopes, there were collections of raised stone walls,  behind which 4,000 Pandours and Hungarian Infantry had taken cover. Along the top of these ridges, their whole army had taken up position, with strong right and left wings, with many heavy guns in prepared positions. A second line was positioned in hollow ditches, which the whole line could use to protected themselves if they were forced to retire. They had an astonishing amount of artillery standing before them, and their army seemed as well situated as could be thought, that it seemed impossible to evict them from such an awesome position.

All this notwithstanding, our Majesty the King decided to attack this position. Accordingly, about 7:30am, our cannons began to play at the vineyards. The dreadful heights prevented our guns from having the desired effects. Now, as our army, in its advance, approached the vineyards, the Pandours and infantry behind the stone walls poured a veritable hail of bullets on us, they  threw their guns over their shoulders, and scrambled like cats up the mountain. We advanced at once without being led astray, behind them up the slopes. This whole time, we were forced, without returning fire, to endure an unbearable cannon fire. However, we finally advanced under their guns and ascended the slope, and then we saw the whole enemy cavalry in front of us, and they prepared to hew at us. But our cavalry, which came up from our second line, counter-charged the enemy cavalry. The Austrians, seeing this: that our cavalry was advancing on them hotly, retired in good order behind their cannons and strongpoints. 

By this strategy, the lead elements of our cavalry came in danger, as the enemy  artillery received them with canister loaded. As a result, they had to withdraw behind our infantry screen. Then our infantry advanced, heedless of danger, in such a way that they fled out of their ditches. This was the beginning of our happy success. Their infantry had sat down, in order to see the cavalry of both sides attacking each other, and in what ditches remained, they awaited us. The enemy cavalry, seeing that our infantry would be advanced again, retired as before. Our cavalry, did not sit idly by, but made for the infantry, and for the second time advanced beyond us. They advanced heartily in good order, and the whole enemy force was thrown into the greatest angst and confusion, and was forced to quit the field: a sign of our perfect victory.  This battle, as long as the world stands, will not be surpassed in bravery or length. 

While our NCO might seem to have a flair for the melodramatic, he records some useful experiences. 

Thanks for reading!

Alex Burns 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

American Journals: Sgt. Major John Hawkins describes the Battle of Brandywine

A modern artist's reimagining of the 2nd Canadian Regiment

Dear Reader,

Today, we are going to look at some choice remarks by Sgt. Major John Hawkins, who served in the Second Canadian Regiment of the Continental army at the Battle of Brandywine. I thought this particular entry might please the reenactors among our readership, as a result of the detailed description of what Sgt. Hawkins had in his knapsack. This source appeared in the 1896 issue of the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography:

      "September 11, 1777. — About one o'clock the enemy appeared in motion advancing towards us. Our regiment was posted on the right of the Army, and was the first attacked and among the last to leave the field. A heavy fire of artillery and musketry was carried on by both sides the whole afternoon with scarcely any intermission. The enemy were much superior to us in numbers, as but a small part of our army were engaged, the greater part being awav on the left. In justice to the brave officers and men of our regiment, Col. Hazen thought himself obliged to affirm, that no troops behaved better, nor any troops left the field in greater order. Four officers, and seventy-three non-commissioned officers and rank and file of the regiment were killed, wounded and taken prisoners. " In the engagement, I lost my knapsack, which contained the following articles, viz. 1 uniform Coat — brown faced with white; 1 shirt; 1 pr. Stockings ; 1 sergeants sash ; 1 pr. knee buckles ; } lb Soap ; 1 Orderly Book ; 1 Mem° Book, of Journal and state of my company ; 1 quire paper ; 2 vials ink ; 1 brass Ink horn ; 40 Morning returns, printed blanks ; 1 tin gill cup ; A letter and a book entitled Rutherford's Letters. I likewise lost my hat, but recovered it again.
       The weather was very warm, and tho my knapsack was very light, was very cumbersome, as it swung about when walking or running, and in crossing fences was in the way so I cast it away from me, and had I not done so would have been grabbed by one of the ill-looking Highlanders, a number of whom were fireing and advancing very brisk towards our rear. The smoke was so very thick that about the close of the day I lost sight of our regiment, and just at dark I fell in with the North Carolina troops, and about two o'clock in the morning (Sept. 12), arrived at Chester just as the whole of the baggage wagons were leaving. I saw several regiments which had been halted for a rest. I searched around for tidings of my regiment, but could only find one officer and three or four men. I rested oy one of the camp fires until day, when I heard that my regiment was coming. About 8 o clock it reached Chester, when the whole body of troops that was there marched towards Darby. On a hill, just beyond Darby, we halted and rested for two hours, and then marched until we came to the Lancaster road. near Gardner's Place, where we halted and at the edge of a woods rested for the night."
       " September 13. — The different regiments marched down to the Middle Ferry on Schuylkill, crossed on the Floating Bridge, and proceeded through the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia to Germantown, just back of which we halted and pitched our tents. 
       "September 14. — Tents struck, baggage sent off to Bethlehem, and marched to Swede's Ford, crossed, the water up to our middle, thence to Merion meeting-house, when we turned into the Lancaster road and kept on until we came near the eleven mile stone, when we halted in the woods and rested for the night. Here a number of our men joined us, whom we thought had been captured.''[1] 

I hope you've enjoyed this series, feel free to share as you like.  If you have a particular army or war within the Kabinettskriege era you would like to see represented, let me know in the comments! 

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns

[1] Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography,  Vol XX, pg 420-421. 

British Journals: Letters on the Battle of Rocoux, 1746

The Battle of Rocoux, by a contemporary artist 
Dear Reader,

Today, we are looking some letters from British soldiers at the Battle of Rocoux, fought on October 11th, 1746. In the War of Austrian Succession, the British military intervened on the continent against the French, trying to safeguard to the Austrian Netherlands.

Both of these letters were reproduced in a rather unlikely place: the journal of British preacher and early Methodist John Wesley. I usually like to give you a picture of a soldier from the regiment being written from, but that requires you going to another website today. The link will take you to David Morier's painting of the 11th Regiment of Foot (Graham's) who fought alongside our authors for today. Her Majesty the Queen has graciously made these beautiful images available to us via the Royal Collection.

"I have long had a desire to write, but had not an opportunity till we came to our winter quarters. When we came over we thought we should have had brother Haime with us, as formerly; but we were disappointed. We were about three weeks upon our march, and endured a great deal through the heat of the weather, and for want of water. At Villear camp, we lay so near the enemy, and were forced to mount so many guards, that we had hardly any time to ourselves, nor had John Haime time to meet with us. We left this camp in twelve or fourteen days' time, and wherever we marched, we had the French always in our view; only a few days, when we were marching through woods, and over high mountains. Coming back to Maestricht, at some camps we have lain so near the enemy, that their sentries and ours have taken snuff with one another; having then no orders to fire at or hurt each other. But the day we came off we found it otherwise ; for at eleven o'clock the night before, orders came for us to be ready to turn out an hour before day, which was the 30th of September. At day break orders came to our regiment, and Colonel Graham's, to ad vance about a mile and a half toward the French. We were placed in a little park, and Graham's regiment in another, to the right of us.

We lay open to the French ; only we cut down the hedge breast high, and filled it up with loose earth. Thus we waited for the enemy several hours, who came first with their right wing upon the Dutch, that were upon our left. They engaged in our sight, and fired briskly upon each other, cannon and small shot for two hours. Then the Dutch, being overpowered, gave way, and the French advanced upon us, and marched a party over the ditch, on the left of Graham's, and fell in upon them ; notwithstanding our continual firing, both with our small arms and four pieces of cannon. So when the French had got past us, our regiment retreated, or we should have been surrounded. In our retreat we faced about twice, and fired on the enemy, and so came off with little loss ; though they fired after us with large cannon shot ; I believe four-and- twenty pounders"

Another letter picks up the story:

"Ever since the 22nd of July, our army and the French have lain so close, and marched so close together, that we have expected them to come upon us almost every night, and have had, for many nights, strict orders not to take off our accoutrements, but to be ready to turn out at a minute's warning. And almost every day, some of our out guards have had skirmishes with them. On September 29, at night, Prince Charles had intelligence that they designed to fall upon us with all their force. So we had orders to be ready, and at break of day our regiment and Graham's were ordered to march in the front of the army, with two Hessian, two Hanoverian, and a part of the Dutch. We marched a mile forward into little parks and orchards, a village being between us and our army : in this posture we remained about three hours, while their right wing was engaged with the Dutch, the cannon playing every where all this time. But we were all endued with strength and courage from God, so that the fear of death was taken away from us. And when the French came upon us, and overpowered us, we were troubled at our regiment's giving way, and would have stood our ground, and called to the rest of the regiment, to stop and face the enemy, but to no purpose. In the retreat we were broke ; yet after we had retreated about a mile, we rallied twice and fired again. When we came where we thought the army was, they were all gone. So we marched good part of the night ; and the next day, about four o'clock, we came to this camp. We left our brother Mark Bend in the field ; whether he be alive or dead we cannot tell ; but the last of our brothers that spoke to him, after he was wounded, found him quite resigned to the will of God.We that he has spared a little longer, desire you to return thanks to God for all his mercies to us."

Both of these letters described the Battle of Roucoux, a rather heavy defeat for the English forces. The writers were both part of a growing Methodist movement within the British army, and gave reports on their experiences to John Wesley.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Prussian Journals: Anonymous NCO at Lobostiz

The Von Schmalen's engraving of IR 3 

Dear Reader,

The following correspondence is from a NCO in the Alt-Anhalt Regiment (IR 3) describing the Battle of Lobositz, on October 1st, 1756. This source comes from Curt Jany's Urkundliche Beiträge, a massive source collection published in 1901. Any mistakes in translation are mine.                 

"On the 30th of September, our column broke camp at Türmitz at 6am, but a heavy fog delayed our start until 10am, since we had to connect with our column from Gartiz. We marched with renewed vigor through the area of Wellemin over a height, the king himself with a few persons performed a reconnaissance, and met with an enemy forward post of 50 men. A hussar tried to press the matter by shooting at the King with his pistol, but it failed him both times. So God protected his anointed. The King was aware of the attempted shots, and because of firing, and the darkness (it was after 7pm) the King withdrew. He ordered that our regiment should advance to the front. This was done, but the enemy did not stand and fight. Many regiments remained standing ready, and our regiment pulled back through Wellemin and another hill with another part of our column. so that we halted about 10pm. Our whole army remained under the open sky, and passed the night in cold and hunger. About midnight, Lt. von Krosigk asked me if I would bring up the blankets and packhorses, in order for us to be warm. I walked around for almost an hour in order to try and resist the cold, now and then stopping around a fire, and I came to a carriage guarded by four grenadiers. Immediately I heard the sound of several hundred muskets discharging. The king stuck his head out of the carriage and asked, "what is that?" A grenadier answered, "the enemy are attacking our people." Because I was somewhat removed from the regiment, I made my way back. We afterwards learned that some of the regiment of Quadt and Manteuffel made an error in the dark and stumbled onto some of the Austrian outposts. I brought my Lieutenant no blankets, but my Tornister served us as a pillow, with the earth as our bed, and the heavens as our blanket.

With the coming of morning on October 1st, our army left the camp where it had experienced hunger, thirst, and cold, and in addition  at 8am endured some rain which came in between the mountain and the valley. The King placed the infantry in two lines and the cavalry in reserve. Our left flank consisting of the grenadiers and regiments Itzenplitz, Manteuffel, etc, marched into high ground with vineyards, but had highly sour work, the like of which you will read in almost no war stories. They marched loosely, finding enemies in hollow ways, deep trenches, and behind walls, and purchased every step with precious Prussian blood. Their work lasted from 8am to 2pm, in constant fire without the slightest cessation. Our left wing had really almost given way,  as its 60 cartridges had been shot away, therefore from the right wing, 30 cartridges from each man were sent during an opportunity from our regiment. During this transfer, 2 men were killed and 2 men were wounded. After 2pm, they succeeded with God's help, the enemy were driven from the hilltop through the town of Lobositz, on the Elbe. The Markgraf of Baden-Baden was responsible for the pursuit, and set his cavalry on the infantry. But before it could come to this, our cavalry had to pass through our infantry and attack the Austrian cavalry. Because they stood in the way of much cannon fire, they had to retreat in disorder and they halted at the foot of the mountain under the protection of our regiment. They attacked again and put to enemy's cavalry to flight. The King stopped behind me and asked the adjutant, "what is that?" He responded, " The Austrian cavalry is in retreat." The king then took his eyeglass and said to FM Keith, when he found the adjutant was correct, "Sir, the battle is won." I could see with my eyes that he was correct. The Austrian cavalry withdrew from hollow way, and the Austrian infantry of the second line were forced to move, so the cavalry could pass by. Our cavalry hesitated, as they saw many enemy soldiers still capable of resistance in front of them, and still were receiving fire from two artillery batteries. So they fled in the greatest disorder. The king cried, "Front" but it was "Surdis narratur fabula," (a story told to the deaf)  and they rode up to the mountain in ones and twos. The King sent the adjutant Count Frederick to them and commanded them to once more attack, and said to us, "Take heed what the officers command, don't let the cavalry through, shoot them down." Thereupon Count Frederick returned, and said to the Colonel, "What has ruined the cavalry, that the infantry have improved and become gentlemen? You fellows, you will again do well!" So he pushed through our battalion and brought the King a report, but I could not understand what he said.  

The King said to FM Keith, "We want to move out and attack." FM Keith objected, and the attack was aborted. Finally, the King allowed our ruined and battered cavalry to withdraw behind the infantry, but they did not remain there long. For our left wing had moved further into the hills, moving with both the first and second line, but as this was not long enough, they were joined by the cavalry of the first line, but this cavalry remained as inactive as the cavalry on our right wing. Meanwhile, the Austrian cavalry moved into the village of Sullowitz, where the Margraf had a beautiful animal park, and then came through and made as if they were going to attack us. Then the gunners of our battalion set the village on fire with two cannon shots. In this way, the enemy cavalry was forced from the village, they moved hastily out of the village in the utmost disorder. Our Green Hussars stood at the foot of the mountain, some Austrian hussars hunted and provoked them. Ours gave fire at the same, without injuring them. 

Our right wing had been watching for several hours, when finally our left wing managed to dislodge its enemies, which consisted of 3,000 pandours and eight grenadier battalions. The greater portion of these enemies fled into Lobostiz, but since they came under our cannon fire, fled in great disorder through their remaining cavalry and infantry. Now our army received new life, as our long serving and experienced officers, who had been in doubt about the outcome of the battle, realized that all was going to be well.  Our army was quite small, only about 28,000 men, while according to rumor the enemy numbered 66,000 men. The enemy wounded and prisoners swore firmly to this, and unanimously agreed. For the most part, our infantry had not had anything since September 30th, and had fought a Battle on October 1st. The horses and cavalry had not eaten in 48 hours and had only had water once. On the other hand, the enemy had on the 30th been given some wine, and their officers had made them great promises for bravery. They also were promised great plunder should they come to Brandenburg. Notwithstanding God and our just cause, our impoverished people would have been prostrated before a strong enemy."

While this NCO, name, alas unknown, gets some of the details wrong in terms of number, (there were 29,000 Prussians and 34,000 Austrians at this battle) he still provides many interesting details which given insight into the operations of the Prussian army. 

Thanks for reading,

Alex Burns 

Marlburian Journals: John Marshall Deane at Blenheim

British Soldiers of the Marlburian Age 
 Dear Reader,

Today we are going to look at the diary of a soldier in the Queen Anne's First Regiment of Foot Guards during the War of Spanish Succession. John Marshall Deane, a private sentinel, recorded this of his experiences at the Battle of Blenheim.  This diary is taken from the Army Society for Historical Research Special Publication No. 12, on pages 10-13. For ease of reading, I have modernized the spelling, but kept the grammar and wording as it appears. You might want to listen to this song, penned in 1706, while reading.

"August the First. We being joined this day by Prinz Eugene, both our armies drew out to give the enemy battle, but in two hours we returned home to our camp again. August the 2nd.  The General beat at 2am, and there halted till a little light; and then marched and approached the enemy about 6am, and as soon as ever the enemy got sight of us they fired their great guns upon us, but we played none at them till toward 9am.

Monsr. La Count d' Tallard, head general field marshall, his headquarters was at Hoguestadt, and the Duke of Bavaria, general, likewise, both of the enemies army.

Prinz Eugene commanded the right wing that day and made a bold attack upon the enemy and the enemy did as bravely stand it and so stoutly behave themselves that Prinz Eugene was forced to give way,  but my Lord Duke of Marlborough hearing and seeing that, took some certain squadrons of Horse and assisted Prinz Eugene and regained the ground that was lost, but abundance was killed on both sides on that wing.

About 3pm our English on the left was ordered by My Lord Duke to attack a village on the left full of French called Blenheim, which village they had fortified and made so vastly strong and barricaded so fast with trees, planks, coffers, chests, wagons, carts, and palisades that it was almost an impossibility to think which way to get into it; but however there was orders for the battalion of Guards, my Lord Orkney's 2 battalion regiment, and brigadier Meredith's regiment and Lt. General Churchill's regiment and 1 regiment of Hanoverians to attack the village in which there were 26 battalions of the enemy. and each battalion as many men in it as a regiment of ours. Yet we according to command fought our way into the village which was all on fire, and our men fought in and through the fire and pursued others through it, until many on both sides were burnt to death.

At length, the enemy making all the force they could upon us forced us to retreat and to quit the village having lost a great many of our men but we rallied again, having received some fresh ammunition, resolving to give the enemy another salute. So that as soon as they perceived our design they beat a parley and fired all their pieces up in the air and Lt. General Churchill went to hear their conditions, which was to surrender as prisoners of war, to his Grace the Duke of Marlborough. The village was set on fire before we came to it by the enemy whereby they thought to have blinded our gunners, but great and grievous were the cries of the maimed, and those suffering the the flames after we entered the village and none is able to express it but those that heard.

Th battle went on from right to left very brave, the horse charging most furiously on both sides, and I must say our confederate forces behaved with themselves to a miracle being led on by brave and prudent generals and commanding officers, having made lanes through them, cutting and hewing them to a degree, that it seems rather a battle fought by Divine hand then to be fought by men; driving several squadrons of them in to the river Danube where they all perished, men and horse, and likewise abundance of them taken prisoners.

Their general and many other principal officers were taken in this battle, and I will endeavor to give the best account I can at the end of this particular journal. The number of prisoners taken are generally computed to be thirteen thousand thirty nine.  As for those killed upon the spot, I believe few or none can pretend to give that account being a thing seeming almost impossible; but this I can and will affirm that the earth was covered in a manner for three English miles together with dead bodies of both armies so that from any more such sights good God deliver me. The French and Bavarians were that day 6 thousand men stronger then we, by reason of Prinz Louis of Baden was left at Ingoldstadt to besiege it."

While Deane's account contains many flaws in terms of exact figures, and the precise timing of events, he nonetheless conveys a very personable narrative, which shows the fierce nature of the fighting at August 13th, 1704, at Blenheim in Bavaria. I hope you enjoy this primary source- we will likely be looking at him more in the future.

2015 Seven Years War Convention Report

Quite a  group of Seven Years War enthusiasts. From left, you have Dean West (standing), designer of the Final Argument of Kings wargames ruleset, Jason Doerflein , (standing, with musket) commander of the Regiment von Itzenplitz reenactors, Alex Burns, (standing) Visiting Professor of History, Indiana Wesleyan University, Jason Buckreis (standing) Epicurean philosopher, Dr. Patrick Lebeau (seated, facing away from camera) Professor of American Indian Studies, Michigan State University, Ken Bunger (standing, background) designer of the Tricorne wargames ruleset, and Dr. Christopher Duffy, (standing, with sword) well-known Seven Years War author and writer.

Dear Reader,

I apologize for my long absence! I've been rather busy with work, but I hope to fill you in on some of what I've been doing over the weekend. Last weekend there was a rather large event for those interested in the Kabinettskriege era: the Seven Years War convention in South Bend, IN. This convention saw an excellent lecture by Dr. Christopher Duffy on efforts to preserve the battlefield at Culloden in Scotland. The convention also reached 102 attendees, up from around 60 last year. Here are some of the highlights:

Professor Jim Mc Intrye , editor of the Journal of the Seven Years War Association

Some of Dr. Duffy's spectacular research
Some of the excellent gaming available at the convention

The Seven Years War in India

A beautiful Great Northern War game