Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Fiction and the ‘45: Occupied Scotland before the Last Jacobite Rebellion

You could just as easily replace Randall with Tavington.
Dear Reader,

The scene is ingrained into the consciousness of much of the English-speaking world: Barbarous red-coated soldiers, acting under the direction of their effete noble officers, brutalize or kill innocent people in an effort to spread their "law and order." Fictionalized depictions of this kind are common in the United States, Ireland, and Scotland. Usually, witnessing this type of violence cements ideological resistance to the redcoats in some hero-figure. In these narratives, red-coated barbarity is the justification for acts of rebellion and war. Compared with these fictionalized portrayals, events are somewhat less dramatic. This post argues that Scotland was relatively peaceful just before the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

British Grenadier, Morier, 1740s/1750s
Writing about violent imperialism is never an easy task, as it is often one of heightened emotions for all parties involved. Suggesting that Scotland was peaceful before 1745 does not mean that British troops committed no crimes, simply that it was peaceful compared with the bloody atrocities which followed the rebellion, as well as portrayals of the pre-rising era in fiction and film. Challenging this narrative vital, as it has been constructed in order to make the rebellion appear justified in the face of English Imperialism. Whether or not the rebellion was justified need not detain us, nor is any resolution likely on that score. Furthermore, regardless of the justification of the rising, the repression after the rising was questionable as a matter of deterrent, as Christopher Duffy has recently argued in his magisterial Fight for a Throne: The Jacobite '45 Reconsidered.  With that rather weighty disclaimer, let us turn to the fictional portrayal of Scotland on the eve of the '45 rebellion.

Outlander portrays a harsh occupation by a large British Army before 1745. 
In both Chasing the Deer, and Outlander, the British military presence in Scotland on the eve of '45 rising seems quite significant. Chasing the Deer shows Brian Blessed's character drilling troops, while Outlander portrays a fictitious low-intensity war raging between British dragoons and highland rebels (in 1743!). In both media, the British Army of red-coated troops seems to be everywhere, and it follows that ordinary people in Scotland would have seen them on an almost daily basis. It may come as a surprise, then, that the British Army maintained a very small footprint in Scotland until after the '45 rising.

On the eve of the '45, there were just under 4,000 British Army soldiers deployed in Scotland.[1] Large parts of the country were entirely beyond their reach. Indeed, Scotland was one of the least militarized places in Europe, with perhaps 1 soldier per 315 civilians.[2] By comparison, the ratios for Prussia, France, Austria, and Russia are all greater than 1 soldier per 150 civilians.[3]  The Hessian allies of the British had military to civilian ratios as high as 1:14. The British Army did indeed increase its force in Scotland after the rebellion and for 10 years almost 11,000 troops were deployed in the region.

The number of British Garrisons
exploded only after the rising
The Stennis Historical Society has recently compiled a map of the garrison locations, but remember, this is after Culloden. For those interested in the occupation after the rebellion, the Stennis Historical Society has also made transcriptions of archival troop cantonments available. Troops local to the highlands, the Royal Highland Regiment, had been moved to continental Europe to fight in the War of Austrian Succession. Interaction with army also helped teach the Scottish highlanders English, so that in the eighteenth century, English-speaking highlanders often possessed less of a "Scottish" accent than lowlanders did.[4]

Samuel Johnson observed:
Those Highlanders that can speak English, commonly speak it well, with few of the words, and little of the tone by which a Scotchman is distinguished. Their language seems to have been learned in the army or the navy, or by some communication with those who could give them good examples of accent and pronunciation. By their Lowland neighbours they would not willingly be taught; for they have long considered them as a mean and degenerate race.[5]
So, if there were 4,000 British troops in Scotland in 1744-45, what was their task? In fiction, these troops are portrayed as violent butchers, conducting raids, murders, rapes, and mass executions. Once again, this is a fictional viewpoint.

A portion of a mass-execution sequence in Outlander
The British government did not conduct any mass executions before the 1745 uprising, indeed, there were only 38 executions in Scotland between 1740-1749.[6] This figure does not include executions after the '45 rising, but only 80 Scottish Jacobites were executed in the wake of the rising (when you remove the 40 executions of Manchester Regiment deserters.) A far larger number of men were likely murdered by the British Army during bloody reprisals directly after Culloden. Before the rising, British soldiers certainly committed unsanctioned acts of violence against Scottish civilians. However, these acts took place outside the law, and soldiers were frequently found guilty, punished, or even executed for committing them.[7] Before the '45, the British Army was not conducting executions, nor was it spending most of its time destroying the countryside by fire and sword.

What was it doing, you ask?

Hunting smugglers. The army was indeed engaged in a low-intensity war, not against Jacobites, but smugglers. Anti-smuggling operations were quite common, and sometimes, smugglers were suspected of being Jacobites. However, it runs a bit contrary to fiction that the British Army would not have been most familiar with the highlands, but with the coastal regions traveled during anti-smuggling police work.

A 19th-century depiction of the Porteous Riots
This work could sometimes lead to violence, as it did during the Porteous Riots of 1736. In this event, public outrage over the looming execution of two smugglers caused the crowd to hurl stones at British soldiers, who eventually opened fire, killing between 5-10 individuals. Captain John Porteous, the commander of the soldiers, was placed under arrest. During the next few days, 4,000 people assembled to demand Porteous' execution. Despite a jury finding Porteous guilty, the mob believed that the judicial system was taking too long, and lynched the unfortunate man. This episode demonstrates that British soldiers were not figures of terror, but individuals who could be held accountable by the Scottish public.

The Tay Bridge, constructed by Marshal Wade's troops in 1735, photo by
Dr. Will Tatum
In addition to hunting smugglers, soldiers spent a great deal of their time building roads. Between 1730 and 1745, Marshal Wade constructed 250 miles of road in Scotland.[8] 500 men of the army in Scotland were consistently employed in roadbuilding during this era, and these soldiers were offered extra pay for their work.[9] These were undoubtedly roads designed to carry English imperialism into Scotland, but, in my mind, building roads is a far less nefarious activity than conducting armed patrols of the countryside à la Vietnam. In Scotland, men like William Blakeney, Edward Cornwallis, and James Wolfe gained valuable road-building experience which would continue to serve them in other parts of the British Empire.[10] Rather than attempting to intimidate the Scottish population by overwhelming force, imperialism and brutality, the British Army deployed a small number of men relative to the Scottish population, constructed roads in Scotland, and punished some of its own men who did commit acts of violence. 


David Morier, "Culloden"

This lack of violence makes sense if we acknowledge the fact that there were no bloody reprisals after the most recent Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1719. Rather, after these risings:
a policy of reconciliation and had been pursued by the moderate whigs-- typified by John Drummond of Quarrel, MP, who used his extensive commercial contacts to find posts for a large number of the defeated Jacobites, and so reintegrated them into Scottish society and public life.[11]
The clemency after these uprisings resulted in a relatively peaceful Scotland for twenty-five years, but it failed to prevent the '45 itself. When viewed through this lens, the Government response to the '45 becomes more understandable, if perhaps not forgivable. The 'highland army' of '45 was rebelling not only against the King, but against the peaceful Scotland created by government clemency in the 1710s and 1720s. Describing the situation in Scotland, Norman MacLeod wrote in July of 1745 about the prospect of a renewed uprising, "I've heard nothing... but peace and quiet, I think you may entirely depend on it, that either there never was such a thing intended, or if there was, that the project is entirely defeated and blown into the air."[12] The prospect of rebellion was so inconceivable to MacLeod as a result of the relative peace which Scotland had enjoyed for over twenty-five years.

For all its historical and costuming flaws, Outlander drives at the generational
 differences which caused support for the '45.
That, then, is perhaps the greatest tragedy of the '45. Rather than a national uprising full of righteous indignation at the barbarities of the English, the rising was a rebellion against compromise. It was a rebellion against the middle-aged men who had made their peace with the Hanoverian Succession in the wake of '15 and '19. In the words of Christopher Duffy, "It was the revolt of a generation against the compromises and hesitations of fathers, uncles, and elder brothers... remarkable was the initiative taken by youthful Lords Lewis Gordon and David Oglivy, Archibald Roy Campbell of Glen Lyon, Young Clanranald, and the representatives of the MacDonald cadet branches[.]"[13] Ironically, this is something that Outlander captures almost perfectly, as the compromising leadership of Colum MacKenzie is challenged by his Jacobite younger brother Dougal, and nephew James Fraser. This complexity is what makes the '45 truly a tragic drama, one which deserves to be remembered in story and song.

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

Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Christopher Duffy, Fight for a Throne: The Jacobite '45 Reconsidered, 38-39; 
[2]Alexander Webster, Account of the Number People in Scotland in 1755. 
[3] Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great, 73-4.
[4] Duffy, The '45, 96.
[5] Samuel Johnson, A Journey through the Western Islands of Scotland, 75.
[6] Rachel Bennet, Capital Punishment and the Criminal Corpse in Scotland, 1740–1834, Chapter Two, Table 2.5.
[7] Victoria Henshaw, Defending the Union, 66-67, 77-78.
[8] Duffy, Fight for a Throne, 36.
[9] Victoria Henshaw, Defending the Union, 78.
[10] See Geoffrey Plank, Rebellion and Savagery, 6.
[11] Duffy, Fight for a Throne, 482.
[12] More Culloden Papers, Vol IV, 12.
[13] Duffy, Fight for a Throne, 482.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Niagara and Ticonderoga as Defensive Positions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A French soldier near the Dauphin battery, Niagara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

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


Dear Reader,

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

The Duke of York presents Cornwallis to Frederick II of Prussia

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

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

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

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

Lafayette as a young man

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks for Reading,



Alex Burns


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