Archive for August, 2008

26
Aug
08

Colonial American Troops 1610-1774 (3)

Following the division of Carolina into the colonies of South Carolina and North Carolina (see below) in 1710, the organization of South Carolina’s 1,500 militiamen remained largely unchanged. In April 1715 the Yamasee with the Creek and other hostile Indians made a devastating attack, destroying many settlements south of Charleston; some 400 settlers perished, and the colony’s militia mobilized. The Cherokee Indians, at first neutral, later joined in the defense. By August, some 1,400 men divided into three temporary regiments held a line of forts south of Charleston. Also present were two companies of African-American militiamen led by while officers, one of which remained with the friendly Cherokee Indians; half of the other company garrisoned Fort Moore on the Savannah River. A series of counter-attacks scattered the Yamasees and finally the Creeks in November 1715, after which most of the embodied militiamen were sent home. Skirmishes continued and, in December 1716, two companies of mounted Rangers were authorized for a year’s service to patrol the western frontier.
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26
Aug
08

Colonial Troops 1610-1774 (2)

Suspicious of the nearby Indians, in 1622 the Plymouth colonists were organized into four militia companies by Miles Standish. The first meeting house in Plymouth was a sturdy affair with a flat roof upon which were mounted six cannons. Isaack de Rasiere mentioned in 1627 that, for a church service, the men “assemble by beat of the drum, each with his musket or firelock, in front of the captain’s door; they have their cloaks on, and place themselves in order, three abreast, and are led by a sergeant without beat of drum. Behind him comes the governor in a long robe; beside him, on the right hand, comes the preacher with his robe on, and on the left hand the captain with his side-arms, and cloak on, and with a small cane in his hand; and so they march in good order, and each sets his arms down near him. Thus they are constantly on their guard night and day.” The early settlers of Plymouth colony had access to various types of firearms, edged weapons and armor. Corselets and helmets were in use until about the mid-1630s, but muskets alone were carried from 1643. More “trainband” companies were organized in new villages as Plymouth Bav colony expanded. In 1658 a troop of horse was organized, as well as a senior staff headed by a major. The colony suffered losses to King Philip’s hostile Narraganset warriors in 1675-76. In July 1676 a “Company of Volunteers of about 200 men, English and Indian, the English not exceeding the number of 60” was raised for full-time service, to be led by Capt. Benjamin Church. This was a Ranger-type unit made up of woodsmen, which eventually napped and killed King Philip. The colony of Plymouth Bay had remained small and, in 1691, it was amalgamated into its neighbor, the colonv of Massachusetts Bay.
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26
Aug
08

Luftwaffe Air & Ground 1939-45

In 1941 the successes of the Western Blitzkrieg were replicated on a smaller scale in the Balkans, Mediterranean and North Africa, mainly against the RAF and Royal Navy. From June 1941 the invasion of the USSR brought staggering early success; the Luftwaffe completely outclassed the Red Air Force in quality of equipment and aircrew skills, and vast numbers of Russian aircraft were destroyed. During 1942, however, the strain of fighting on three fronts simultaneously began to tell; Britain was no longer alone. The first USAAF daylight raids across the Channel began in August, and early losses did not deter a steadily increasing effort. During the summer a strengthened RAF Desert Air Force outnumbered Rommel’s air support in Africa, while his vital supply lines from Italy were ravaged. In Russia the Red Air Force, buying time by dogged sacrifice, was slowly increasing in numbers and capability. The turn of 1942-43 brought catastrophic defeat in Africa and at Stalingrad, costing many aircraft and experienced crews. The weakened Luftwaffe would have little serious effect on military operations in Italy in 1943-45.
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26
Aug
08

Napoleon’s Guards of Honour 1813-14

Outside France, in Italy, the prefects found the men needed in spite of the hesitation of some local councils and leading families. For the 27th, 28th and 29th Military Divisions special measures were decreed. Large numbers of men were already serving in one of the local Italian Guard units (e.g. Guard of Honour of Turin), in the Velites, and as lieutenants and sub-lieutenants of the 14th Hussars. Stationed in Mainz, these men could apply to serve in the Guards of Honour and their numbers would be deducted from the required local quotas. Forty-four of them took the opportunity to transfer into the 4th Regiment. In the meantime the first detachments left Italy for France: 50 men from Piedmont left Turin on 23 June; and on 15 July another 81, commanded by a captain and former officer in the Gendarmerie, left Alessandria. The Stura department sent four different detachments to Lyon between 17 June and 24 July. Those who travelled from Tuscany and Rome took their time, only reaching Tours in October. In total the Italian departments mustered 204 men from Rome and Trasimene (the former Papal States) for the 1st Regiment; 236 men from Genoa and 144 from Piedmont went to the 2nd; 256 men from Tuscany were selected for the 3rd; and 356 men mainly from Piedmont were directed to the 4th Regiment.
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26
Aug
08

Prussian Staff & Specialist Troops 1791-1815

The man to whom this concept can be attributed was Gerhard von Scharnhorst (1755-1813), the son of a Hanoverian fanner who had joined the Prussian Army to further his military career – one of those so-called ‘foreign mercenaries’ that certain misinformed historians despise. The lesson that Scharnhorst learned was that it did not suffice to adopt the division and army corps of all arms in the absence of a leader with the talent of Bonaparte to command it. As such leaders were rare, to defeat that man and his system it was necessary to build a collective and systematic leadership trained along common guidelines. Scharnhorst founded the modern general staff, and laid down the principles of leadership in modern warfare which apply even today. As the Elder Moltke (1800-1891) put it in his Lessons of War: ‘There are commanders who need no advisors, who can consider and decide for themselves; their retinue is there only to execute orders. However, these are stars of the first order, which appear once a century, if that. In most cases the commander of an army cannot do without advice. That may come from a council… whose training and experience makes it capable of giving the correct judgement.’
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26
Aug
08

The US Army of World War I

The 92nd (NA) Division was formed with black draftees and was trained at several different “stateside” bases: local communities would have been upset by large numbers of black soldiers at any single location. With poor leadership and minimal training, the 92nd went into the line in August 1918. The division’s service would prove to be undistinguished, but it was almost doomed from the start by low expectations, bad officers and inadequate planning. Two of its regiments had some success against the Germans in the last days of the war, and one battalion was cited for the Croix de Guerre; but two regiments ended the war on road-building detail. A significant number of American Indians served in the AEF. The 36th (NG) Division was especially noted for the number of Indians in the ranks; Choctaws were employed in the division’s 142nd Regiment as code talkers on the field phones. (Interestingly, Iroquois soldiers were also used for this same purpose in Canadian units.)
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26
Aug
08

Wellington’s Peninsula Regiments (1) – The Irish

Fleeing Ireland to escape retribution for their part in the rebellion, a number of Irishmen sought sanctuary in France and employment in the ranks of its army. Taking foreign pay had become a tradition followed by thousands of Irish soldiers of fortune, who over the years had sold their senvices to countries other than England, where their Catholic religion precluded them from commissions or enlistment. Mostly they went to serve in the armies of France, Austria and Spain; but whilst the Irish Regiments Irlanda, Hibernia and Ultonia were still in Spanish service at the time of the outbreak of the Peninsular War, those regiments of the Irish Brigade serving the French monarchy had lost their foreign identity by being mustered as numbered regiments of the line in 1791. A second abortive uprising took place in Dublin in 1803, followed by a fresh exodus of Irish refugees, which prompted Napoleon to sanction the raising of an Irish battalion, later an ‘Irish Legion’.
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