Category: History

The Battle of Hanging Rock

Like Isaac Shelby’s assault on Thicketty Fort on 30 July 1780, Colonel Thomas Sumter sought to strike the British and Loyalist outpost on the Catawba River at Rocky Mount, South Carolina. Rocky Mount was a sub camp of the main British and Loyalist training camp at Hanging Rock about 15 miles to the east. Garrisoned by New York volunteers, Sumter thought the camp was ripe for the taking. Unfortunately a loyalist spy informed the garrison, and Sumter didn’t collect the men that Shelby did (They went with Shelby). Sumter’s 300 South Carolina militia and Catawba Indians did not surprise the 600 man garrison, though they did manage to set several buildings on fire, but a thunderstorm promptly put them out.

Much more success was had by Sumter’s subordinate, Major William Davie. With a company of dragoons and some smaller militia companies, Davie launched a diversionary attack on Hanging Rock, to prevent its 1600 loyalists and regulars from coming to the aid of Rocky Mount. During his leader’s reconnaissance, Davie found three loyalist companies bivouacked around a house outside the camp. His 40 dragoons approached them as if they were loyalists, and when at the house, opened fire. Cutting off their escape route back to the main camp, Davie chopped them up, looted the house, stole 60 horses and all of their arms, powder, and equipment. Davie and his men got away before anyone in the main Hanging Rock camp reacted.

Sumter, frustrated with the failed attack on Rocky Mount, decided to capitalize on Davie’s success and attack Hanging Rock, especially after he learned they sent reinforcements to Rocky Mount. Himself reinforced by militia who heard about Davie’s successful raid, Sumter set off to surprise Hanging Rock. Based on Davie’s information, Sumter divided his 800 men into three mounted columns to strike the left, center, and right simultaneously. On the morning of 6 August 1780, about two miles from Hanging Rock, Sumter’s army split and the three columns set off on their own.

The British and Loyalists were ready. Their 1400 men were formed up outside their camps waiting. On the British left were the loyalist recruits from the South. In the center, the loyalist provincial militias mostly from the north were formed. Onn the right were the Loyalist and British regulars: detachments from the 63rd and 71st Regiments, part of Tarleton’s British Legion, and the loyalist regulars of the Prince of Wales American Volunteer Regiment. Made up of Connecticut loyalists, the PoWAVR was arguably one of the finest loyalist regiments in North America. In addition to the powerful positions, the British had pickets out further than they had the week before.

In trying to avoid the pickets, all three American columns attacked the North Carolinian loyalists on the left, who were promptly overrun and destroyed. Unengaged on the right, the Prince of Wales Regiment brought the Americans under a wicked crossfire when the Americans advanced to engage the center. However, American marksmen dismounted, and quickly killed almost all of its officers, except for the commander, Major John Carden. Nearly leaderless, the rank and file of the PoWAVR withdrew into the British right. The British right was not engaged and formed a square to protect itself from the rampaging horsemen that seemed to be everywhere. In the confusion they couldn’t tell that many of Sumter’s men stopped fighting and began looting the British camp.

Command paralysis wracked the British square. Carden was the senior officer in the square but didn’t take charge. In fact he lost his nerve, and resigned his commission on the spot. Furthermore, the square was a great target for Sumter’s sharpshooters. While the British and loyalist officers dithered in the center, many of their men fell with alarming regularity, particularly those manning the two three pound cannon. Several attacks by American dragoons on the square were beaten back, and the sharpshooters and militia firing from the trees were deemed much more effective. A pulse charge led by a British Legion captain gave some reprieve, but the British and Loyalists were stuck in the open field, unable to obtain the will to move. Only a lack of water among the Americans on the stifling hot day, and their limited ammunition, prevented the garrison’s complete destruction.

While the British and Loyalists remained in the square, immobilized by command issues and American sharpshooters, the rest of Sumter’s men looted the camp and set it afire. Some of the American militia found the rum ration and got roaringly drunk in the three hours it took to the strip the camps’ buildings bare. In that time, Sumter heard that loyalist dragoons from Rocky Mount were enroute to reinforce Hanging Rock. Laden with loot and supplies, low on ammunition, and more than a few men drunk and unwilling or unable to fight, with more British on the way, Sumter decided to get away while he could. He chose not to continue fighting and his men casually withdrew from the battlefield in full view of the loyalists in the square.

Sumter had about 50 casualties in the Battle of Hanging Rock. Most of the American casualties were in Davies’ dragoons, who were the first to engage the British left, and took the brunt of the Prince of Wales Regiment’s counterattack. Also, Davies dragoons were some of the only Americans to actually attack the square. Davies blamed Sumter for the poor coordination, and the poor discipline among the militia that had looted and drank rather than fight. Davies never forgave Sumter and vowed never to work for him again.

The Battle of Hanging Rock saw about 330 British and loyalists dead, wounded, and captured. Most of the surviving Carolinian and Georgian loyalist militia deserted. The Prince of Wales Regiment was all but wiped out.

When Lord Cornwallis heard of the Battle of Hanging Rock he was furious and then downtrodden. He said later that no battle in the American Revolution was worse for British morale than Hanging Rock, with the exception of Bunker Hill. The British tried to spin the battle as a tactical victory since they still held the field, but no amount of spin could hide the charred and looted camp nor the gross difference in casualties. The British permanently withdrew from the camp at Hanging Rock, which was the largest and most northerly loyalist outpost in South Carolina. It was supposed to be one of the staging points for the campaign against the fiercely patriotic overmountain men.

The Battle of Hanging Rock further emboldened the Americans in the South. It was also the first military action for one of William Davies’ young messengers, 13 year old Andrew Jackson.

The Battle of Tettenhall

In the late 9th century CE, Alfred the Great, King of the Anglo-Saxons, threw the Viking invaders out of the Wessex and Mercia. However, the other five of the seven kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy East Anglia, Mercia, Kent, Essex, Sussex, and most of Northumbria remained in the hands of the Vikings. Known as the “Danelaw”, the Viking’s ruled over their own petty kingdoms inside the Danelaw.

In 909 CE, Alfred’s son and daughter, King Edward the Elder of Wessex and Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia, launched their own raid into the Danelaw to recapture the relics of Saint Oswald. Saint Oswald was a powerful former founder of Northumbria, and saint who converted Northumbria to Christianity. His relics were held in the Kingdom of Jórvík (York), the southern Viking ruled portion of Northumbria. Edward and Aethelflaed’s successful recovery of Saint Oswald’s relics established their legitimacy among the Northumbrian population, who for decades languished under the pagan Danelaw.

In reprisal for the raid, three “kings” of the Danelaw, the brothers Ivarr, Eowils and Halfdan Ragnarsson sought revenge. In 910, they learned Edward was in the south of Wessex and planned to raid his sister Aethelflaed’s weaker lands in his absence. They gathered a large army, and in their longboats struck up the River Severn into the heart Mercia. Scuttling their longboats, they ravaged Mercia with impunity, gathering a great amount of slaves and loot, with Aethelflaed and the Mercian army just out of reach.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, Edward learned of the raid in advance. He marched his West Saxon army to Mercia’s aid and merged with Aethelflaed’s army. Edward maneuvered his army of Mercians and West Saxons between the booty laden Viking army and forced the three brothers to battle outside the village of Tettenhall.

Not much is known of the specifics of the Battle of Tettenhall. What is known is that Edward and Aethelflaed “trapped” the Viking army. “Many thousands” of Vikings died, including Ivarr, Eowils and Halfdan, and potentially the entire army was wiped out. The massacre was “so terrible… no language can describe.” The devastating Viking loss at Tettenhall broke the Danelaw, and laid it open for invasion and re-conquest by the Anglo-Saxons.

The Viking host of Ivarr, Eowils and Halfdan was the last great Viking raiding army to ravage Anglo-Saxon lands. With the northern Danes defeated, Edward and Aethelflaed reconquered the southern kingdoms of the Heptarchy. Edward’s son Aethelstan continued his father’s and aunt’s reconquest by invading and conquering the Kingdom of York. Shortly thereafter, Aethelstan accepted the fealty of the notoriously proud northern Northumbrians. In 927 CE, Aethelstan was crowned the first King of England.

The Battle of Evesham

During the Second Baronial War in 13th Century England, Simon De Montfort, the Earl of Leicster, and several prominent barons rose in revolt against King Henry III and his son, Prince Edward (the future King Edward I “Longshanks”, the bad guy from Braveheart). Henry III had violated the letter and spirit of the Magna Carta signed fifty years before by demanding more money to purchase the title of King of Sicily (long story). In 1263, England had a famine and they couldn’t pay the extra money, so the barons revolted just as they had against Henry’s father, King John (the Sheriff of Nottingham’s boss from Robin Hood). Simon De Montfort won the Battle of Lewes in 1264 and captured Henry and imprisoned Edward.

In 1265, the 26 year old Edward escaped, rallied the King’s supporters, and convinced several of Montfort’s allies to defect. On 4 August, Edward outmaneuvered Montfort and trapped his small army in a bend of the Avon River (not far from Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown) near the village of Evesham. Edward’s troops outnumbered the Barons’ nearly 2-1 and despite a gallant charge by the Baronial knights, it was not enough to keep them from being surrounded. Bad blood existed between barons’ men and the king’s, and eventually the battle turned into a massacre. Instead of capture and ransom which was the custom for knights and lords, the King’s men outright killed them all, thus breaking the power of the barons for the foreseeable future. King Henry, present at the battle as Montfort’s captive, was only saved from the massacre when one of Montfort’s knights identified him in exchange for his life.

Despite the loss, the barons eventually got what they demanded though it took decades. King Henry III died ten years later and the talent, raw competence, and foresight Prince Edward displayed during the war showed when he became King Edward I. Although despised in Scotland, (Longshanks was nicknamed “Hammer of the Scots”) and Wales (which he conquered and colonized in the 1280s), King Edward I maintained the spirit of the Magna Carta, if not the letter, and reformed England’s administration and Common Law. He was not particularly loved by his subjects but they respected him and he was thought of as the ideal medieval king. He recognized the need for his subjects’ input into the governance of state, if only so they would pay more taxes. i.e. taxation WITH representation. King Edward I formed England’s first permanent Parliament, essentially giving in to the demands of the barons that he slaughtered at Evesham ten years before his reign.

The Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait

On 2 August 1990, four divisions of Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Republican Guard along with the entirety of the Iraqi Special Forces invaded the Emirate of Kuwait.

The reasons for the invasion were many. Between 1980 and 1988, Iraq and Iran fought the devastating and costly Iran-Iraq War, in which neither side could claim victory, but both did. Despite Iraq actually starting the war, it felt that it was defending the Sunni Arabic States against Shia Persian domination. Iraq racked up significant debt to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States; debt that Iraq could not pay back because its economy was wrecked after the war. Moreover, Saddam accused the Gulf States of keeping the price of oil artificially low (Saddam wanted $25 a barrel when it was $7 a barrel) in order to prevent the rise of Iraq, a relatively secular socialist rival to the religious Sunni Wahhabist state of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, Saddam felt that if it wasn’t for British meddling in 1913, Kuwait would have been part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq when it was formed in 1920 out of the British protectorate of Mesopotamia. Ottoman Mesopotamia consisted of four provinces: Mosul, Baghdad, Basra and Kuwait, the first three of which became Iraq. Finally, despite all of this Saddam had little intention of actually invading, he was just posturing for debt forgiveness and concessions. That is until the American ambassador to Iraq, Amb. Abigail Glaspie, told Saddam that America had “no opinion on Arab vs Arab conflict” and did not wish to go to war with Iraq. Saddam took this as a green light by America to invade Kuwait.

Although Kuwait had a modern military of three brigades with a respectably sized air force, the very experienced Iraqi Republican Guard surprised and overwhelmed Kuwait’s small army. Kuwait City, all of its oil fields, all of its military bases, and the Emir’s Palace were occupied by the next day. 400,000 Kuwaitis and 120,000 foreign nationals (mostly Indians) fled the country to Saudi Arabia.

As Saddam Hussein consolidated his hold on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia requested UN assistance because it believed it was Saddam’s next target. On 3 August, the UN Security Council passed a near unanimous resolution condemning the invasion, which surprisingly included France and the Soviet Union, Iraq’s traditional benefactors, and the vote was abstained only by Yemen.

The resolution shocked Saddam Hussein, who didn’t think anyone would care.

The Capture of Thicketty Fort

After Lord Cornwallis’ captured Charleston in May 1780, the Patriot defense of the Carolinas and Georgia fell to partisans and militia until the new commander of the Southern Department, Major General Horatio Gates, arrived with an army from the main encampment in New Jersey. The massacre of Americans after the Battle of Waxhaws turned much of the countryside against the British, but not all. Loyalists recognized that the American Revolution was now a full blown civil war in the south, and everyone needed to pick a side. Emblematic of the situation was the Battle of Ramseur’s Mill in June, where dozens of North Carolinian families had members who fought on both sides.

British Major Patrick Ferguson was tasked by Cornwallis to organize loyalist militia and prevent the fiercely patriotic American “overmountain men” i.e. those frontiersmen from west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, from moving east. One of the loyalist training camps Ferguson established was at Fort Anderson at the rocky ford over Groucher Creek, in upper South Carolina.

Fort Anderson, better known as “Thicketty Fort” for the ever present thickets that dominated the area, was built in the 1760s during the Cherokee War. Thicketty Fort was under loyalist militia Captain Patrick Moore, a Scot-Irish mountain of a man with a fierce loyalty to the Crown. Along with a British regular sergeant major, Moore was training 93 Carolina loyalists to take part in Ferguson’s plan to break up the overmountain men’s mustering camps, such as those at Abingdon, Virginia and Sycamore Shoals, now in Tennessee.

Because of the Battle of Waxhaws, volunteers flooded into American patriots’ camps, not just those from “over the mountains”. In July, North Carolina Colonel Joseph McDowell saw a chance to strike at Ferguson’s camps before he could mass their troops. Col Isaac Shelby, the future first governor of Kentucky, was dispatched with a few hundred militia to take Thicketty Fort. The fort was stout, well maintained, and well supplied. It had to be taken by surprise or subterfuge: any siege would just invite Ferguson’s main body and Chickamauga Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe’s warriors to smash the besiegers.

Fortunately for Shelby, word got out that he was on his way to whack some loyalists, and every militiaman in the area wanted to get in on the action. Shelby’s force gathered men along the way and was nearly 600 strong by the time he arrived outside the fort on 30 July 1780. It still wasn’t enough though, six hundred regulars might have been able to take Thicketty Fort by storm with heavy casualties, but six hundred militia could not. And surprise was lost, the same word that substantially increased Shelby’s force, also alerted Moore to the danger.

When called upon to surrender, the fierce and intimidatingly massive 6’ 7” tall Moore confidently stated he’d fight to the death before surrendering, especially so with the British sergeant major hurling insults from the second floor of the blockhouse.

Out of sight of the fort, Shelby spent the next hour or so organizing his men. In a grand show of force, Shelby marched his men out of the woods and they formed up in battle lines just outside musket range, shouting Indian war cries from their ranks at the fort. The militia marched as if they were regulars, mostly due to the fact that the 18 separate militia companies were quite small, and officer and NCO heavy due to the circumstances of the force’s creation. The demonstration made an impression.

Against this intimidating backdrop, Shelby again demanded Moore’s surrender, and if he didn’t, the result would be Tarleton’s Quarter when the patriots inevitably overwhelmed the fort. If he surrendered, they’d be protected. This was no idle threat: the aftermath of Ramseur’s Mill saw blood raged patriots tomahawk and scalp their own wounded brothers and cousins. The powerful display and the threat of massacre broke Moore, whose great frame no longer seemed so intimidating.

Despite the protestations of the British sergeant major, Moore surrendered the fort. Shelby captured all 93 of the garrison, and another 250 loaded muskets, most stacked by the loop holes of the blockhouse ready to fire. Had Shelby attacked, his men would have assaulted into a meat grinder, and his militia would have melted away. This is no doubt something the British sergeant major would have surely pointed out. Furthermore, they had ample ammunition to defeat a force twice Shelby’s size. If blood would have been shed at any point, there was no way Shelby could have won the battle. But, none was. Shelby took his prisoners and captured provisions, and triumphantly marched backed to McDowell’s Camp at Cherokee Ford.

The bloodless victory was celebrated by the Americans throughout the South. Like Doolittle’s Raid 162 years later, the capture of Thicketty Fort had effect completely out of proportion to the numbers involved. The victory convinced McDowell, Shelby and other patriot leaders, such as Thomas Sumter, to begin a campaign focusing on the vulnerable loyalist training camps and isolated outposts that dotted the South, further separating the population from the British. The fall of Thicketty Fort shocked Ferguson and Cornwallis and confirmed that the patriots would overwhelm the loyalists unless Ferguson secured the back country soon. Rumor had an American army heading south under Horatio Gates. Cornwallis needed his flank secure from the pesky American partisans if he was going to defeat the victor of Saratoga. They accelerated Ferguson’s timeline against the overmountain men and the southern patriot militia massing in the mountains.

The USS Indianapolis

On 16 July 1945, the Portland class heavy cruiser CA-35, the USS Indianapolis, departed San Francisco for the island of Tinian to deliver parts for the first atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan. After successfully delivering the parts, the Indianapolis set off for the Philippines to participate in exercises for the upcoming planned invasion of Japan. Because of her secret mission, neither the 3rd nor the 5th Fleet were tracking her. Furthermore, she set off alone because naval intelligence deemed the waters between the Marianna’s and the Philippines safe.

On 30 July 1945, the USS Indianapolis was struck by a torpedo fired by Japanese submarine I-58. 300 of the 1200 crewmembers died in the initial attack and 900 abandoned ship into the oil slick and shark infested waters. A distress call was sent but none of the three stations that heard it acted on it. For four days and three nights, the survivors endured dehydration, saltwater and oil poisoning, hallucinations and madness, hypothermia, and numerous shark attacks.

On 2 August, a PV-1 Ventura spotted the survivors when the bombardier was rubbing his stiff neck (from changing an aerial) and glanced in their direction. They called it in and soon a PBY Catalina dropped rubber life rafts, water, and lifejackets to the remaining survivors. The pilot violated his patrol orders and landed to pick up stragglers after he watched in horror a shark attack consume one of the Indianapolis’ crew. Several hours later the destroyer escort USS Cecil J Doyle arrived on her captain’s own authority after hearing the PBYs desperate calls for assistance.

Only 317 of the Indianapolis’ 1197 crew members survived.

The Battle of Maiwand

In 1879, the British invaded Afghanistan after the slaughter of their diplomatic mission in Kabul in October. They quickly occupied Kabul, Jalabad, Khost (eastern Afghanistan) and Kandahar (southern Afghanistan). They selected Abdur Rahman Khan as Amir, but in the cutthroat tribal politics of the Victorian era Great Game in Afghanistan, his cousin Ayab Khan rose in revolt.

Ayab Khan was the Governor of Herat (western Afghanistan) and marched on Kandahar, the key to southern Afghanistan, with an army of about 15,000. The British responded by sending an 8,500 strong army to intercept them that included British and Indian troop under British command and Afghan troops under Ayab Khan’s father Sher Ali (Abdur Rahman Khan’s uncle). As Ayab Khan approached, most of Sher Ali’s troops deserted to Ayab Khan and the two armies blundered into each other in the Maiwand Pass, the strategically important connection between the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. The British commander, Brigadier General George Burrows, though now heavily outnumbered, could not retreat because he would face accusations of cowardice, so he attacked.

The 2700 British, Indians and remaining Afghans were more disciplined, better trained, and with certain exceptions, namely artillery, better equipped but were still thoroughly thrashed by Ayab Khan. The attacks quickly turned into desperate defenses against overwhelming odds. The positions were exposed and the British army took a terrible pounding. Ayab Khan’s army was a mix of disciplined Herati and Kabuli regiments, extremely effective modern breech loading artillery, irregular cavalry, and thousands of tribal ghazis armed with swords, spears, and ancient jezails or Afghan muskets. The British were completely outmaneuvered, out fought, and despite their extremely effective Martini-Henry rifles, outgunned. By 1300, the British force was nearly out of ammunition, and their rifles overheated. They broke, and on the 50 mile retreat back to Kandahar, thousands were massacred.

The only bright spot in the battle for the British was the withdrawal of the 66th Regiment of Foot. The remaining 400 men withdrew in good order and covered the retreat for two hours, firing and withdrawing. Their disciplined formation soon caught the attention of the victorious Afghans, who stopped pursuing the routed individuals, and swarmed around the recalcitrant 66th. Around 3 pm, the remnants withdrew into the village of Khig.

According to one of Ayab Khan’s captains, about 200 survivors of the 66th withdrew into Khig. At their first stand in its walled gardens, the 66th inflicted hundreds of casualties, but lost 40 men. Of the 160 who fell back to the next walled garden, 84 died. 56 men made a third stand further back in the village. The final stand was made by just eleven men, calmly firing and reloading. Surrounded by thousands of Afghans, the final eleven “charged out of the garden, and died with their faces to the foe, fighting to the death… The conduct of those men was the admiration of all that witnessed it.”

The 66th’s last stand at Khig allowed hundreds to escape and reach Kandahar. Burrows lost over a thousand with another few hundred wounded who managed to stagger back into Kandahar. It seemed a repeat of the disastrous retreat from Kabul 40 years before.

Ayab Khan couldn’t translate his tactical victory into any advantage because it took him eight days to reorganize his army and march the 45 miles to Kandahar. By then, the British were prepared for a siege. A relief force would smash Ayab Khan’s army on 1 September. Nonetheless, the Battle of Maiwand was a shock to Victorian Great Britain, particularly coming so close on the heels of the loss against the Zulus at Isandlwana the year before. The Battle of Maiwand is the equivalent of the America’s Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The Battle of Maiwand was immortalized in the British consciousness most famously by Rudyard Kipling and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose fictitious Dr Watson was wounded in the battle.

The Swiss Defy Germany

After the invasion of Poland, Switzerland mobilized its full army of 850,000 to defend their country. After the fall of France the Swiss learned of “Case Tannenbaum” or “Operation Christmas Tree” the Invasion of Switzerland for the autumn of 1940.

In 1291, the original eight Swiss cantons rallied with Swiss patriot William Tell (you know: the guy the Lone Ranger theme is named after), and declared the Rutlischwur or Rutli Oath in a meadow off Lake Lucerne. The Rutlischwur established the Swiss Confederacy which remains in place to this day.

On the same meadow, seven hundred years later on 25 July 1940, Gen Henri Guisan announced to the Swiss officer corps that they would not submit to Germany. He reminded them of the Battle of Morgarten where 1400 Swiss peasants defeated 20,000 Austrian knights and that the Swiss National Redoubt had never been conquered. He also reiterated that in accordance with their federalized constitution any surrender announcement by the decentralized Swiss government only applied to that official and those individual civilians who support them. And since the Army will never surrender they would resist to the last drop of their blood.

Hitler despised the Swiss but recognized that conquering Switzerland would be time consuming and difficult. Besides the obvious terrain issues, the Swiss army comprised 20% of the population and an additional 40% were armed in some fashion. In late 1940, Hitler delayed Case Tannebaum until after the Battle of Britain then again until after the invasion of the Soviet Union, and only finally cancelled it after the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944. From 1940 to 1944 Switzerland remained one of the few countries on continental Europe not under National Socialist domination.

The Great Revolt and the Destruction of Jerusalem

In 66 CE, the Jewish people revolted in the Roman province of Judea due to heavy handed Roman taxes. Until Nero’s reign, all taxes not used in the maintenance of the Roman garrison were sent to Rome which enabled local rule and provided little incentive to overtax. Nero changed the tax code to a large flat sum based on each province. But what was worse, anything collected over that could be kept by the garrison. This provided the perfect excuse for the greedy legate of Judea to create new taxes just to enrich the garrison and himself specifically. The Romans already had a dim view of Judaism because they would not accept the supposed divinity of the Caesars (Caligula specifically) and the silver in the Temple was too tempting a target. After seizing it, the Jews resisted and the legate slaughtered 6000. The Jews then slaughtered the garrison, and subsequently destroyed the Roman Syrian Army at the Battle of Beth Horon.

This shocked the Romans and in 67 they dispatched their best general, Vespasian, and his son Titus, with four legions, including the elite Tenth Legion. (The X Legion was “Julius Caesar’s Own”, and the one he decimated i.e. killed 10%, for cowardice in 60 BCE. He then renamed them the Tenth Legion to remind them of the price for cowardice. They never forgot.) For a year, Vespasian reduced the Jewish garrisons in countryside. In 69, Vespasian returned to Rome to proclaim himself Caesar and Titus began the siege of Jerusalem. Titus broke through the first two rings of walls but the Jews were firmly entrenched behind the third with years of food on hand.

Unfortunately for the Jews, there were two factions vying for power inside the city. The Sadducees and Pharisees wanted religious freedom and return to local rule within the Roman province of Judea. The other faction, the Zealots, wanted their own Jewish state outside of the Roman Empire among other demands. Open fighting between both factions occurred regularly. The Zealots thought that the others were not dedicated enough in the conflict with the Romans. So in early 70, they burned the food stores of Jerusalem to galvanize resistance, much to Titus’ satisfaction.

On 21 July 70, the Romans stormed the city and overwhelmed the starving defenders. In retribution, Titus ordered the slaughter of most of the city and destroyed the Temple. Tens of thousands of Jews fled Judea. The Great Revolt began the 1878 years of Jewish exile from Judea and is mostly responsible for the Jewish diaspora.

The Franco-Prussian War

In the 1860s, the Chancellor of Prussia and master diplomat Otto Von Bismarck provoked short wars with Austria and Denmark in order bind the lesser northern German states to Prussia instead of its rival Austria as the leader of the German people. In July 1870, he engineered a deliberate insult to France, knowing that the proud French would declare war. This war would force the remaining southern German states, such as Bavaria, Hesse, Baden, and Wuertemburg, to honor their treaty obligations and go to war against France under Prussian leadership. A successful conclusion of the war would be the perfect opportunity to unite the German states into an empire under the Prussian King Wilhelm I. On 20 July 1870, Napoleon III, Emperor of France declared War on Prussia, and the German states dutifully declared war on France in turn, just as Bismarck expected.

Bismarck made sure the deck was stacked against the French from the very beginning. Not only did the Germans raise twice as many troops, but they also did it twice as fast due to the efficiency, organization, and planning of Helmuth Von Moltke’s (the Elder) superior General Staff. Von Moltke expanded the concept of mission tactics that placed great faith in junior leaders accomplishing their missions without the pain of micromanagement, and German units consistently out fought and out maneuvered larger French formations. The French relied on a 60 year old Napoleonic reputation for fighting prowess, so inevitably they were outclassed in almost all respects. Over the next seven months the Germans kicked the shit out of the French. They trapped most of the French army in Metz in September, captured Emperor Napoleon III at Sedan in October, and occupied Paris in January. In the jubilation of victory, Bismarck wasted no time and convinced the separate German states to willingly unite with Prussia. King Wilhelm I of Prussia was crowned Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany in the Versailles Palace on 18 January 1871.

The German Empire, or Second Reich (Charlemagne’s was the First Reich) completely upset the balance of power in Europe that had generally kept the peace since Napoleon’s fall in 1815. This led directly to the First World War. (Which of course would lead directly to Hitler’s Third Reich and the Second World War.)