Thursday, December 30, 2010

It Ain't Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings: Faustina Bordoni and the Battle of Kesselsdorf, 1745

 A Little Night Music
Some readers may have heard the title Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, by Mozart, which in English would be A Little Night Music. The film Amadeus is recommended not only for its brilliance but also in part for its relatively easy availability, compared with other music from the 18th Century, for setting a mood for the enthusiast.  There is more to the musical scene than just that, so we'll take an excursion to the Opera along with the king. He wanted to hear Faustina Bordoni.

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Not only is the year 2010 grinding to its frozen end here, but the Second Silesian War ground to its end around this time of year in 1745, after the tremendous two-hour battle at Kesselsdorf. The peace of Dresden was actually already largely sorted out by the diplomats before the battle occurred. Once it did happen, the Saxon army was in bad shape and they and the Austrians of Prince Charles of Lorraine had to get out of town, and went east and south as the Prussians came in.

In the next few days the Prussian king showed up from Meissen, congratulated and thanked the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau on the victory, and there was some recognition for the troops. After that the king entered Dresden, and the military histories are content to leave it at that. Sometimes a little attention is paid by the biographers of Frederick to his reactions in the aftermath, as he had been impatient with the Old Dessauer beforehand, became grateful when he saw the scene, but some time later in his writings said something to the effect that if he was there, he would have attacked further to the right.

Some 'What If?' Possibilities for Gaming
That statement makes for some interesting possibilities for 'What If?' scenarios for the wargamer. The Kesselsdorf situation is that the Old Dessauer had been under pressure to hurry up for some time, and so here he marched up and attacked the enemy outside of Dresden, without waiting for the king to catch up with the reinforcements, who have just crossed the Elbe downstream, to the north and west at Meissen.

What if he had waited? What if the king had come up and taken command, with the larger force?

On the other hand, Graf Rutowski also fought the battle on his own, with the Saxons, and there were two forces of Austrians nearby who did not do as much as they could have done, for various reasons. Remember that his half-brother, Marshal Maurice de Saxe, had only several months earlier smashed up the British/Dutch/Imperial army at the famous battle of Fontenoy by means of an ingenious defensive position. Rutowski was trying to do the same thing here at Kesselsdorf when he set up his position.

He did think, too, that Prince Charles should bring up the 18,500 or so Austrians to extend the line, but in the event that did not happen. Well, what if it had? What if they also went to the right, or had set up to extend the position further left past Kesselsdorf?

General Gruenne's force had come from the west, often given as either 6,000 or 7,000 men, but the column had originally been of 10,000. They were on the field, but far to the right, and not especially engaged, when the fight took place on the left and the center. There was one Austrian Grenadier Battalion, Le Fee, who are said to have started the unfortunate counterattack movement, and to have lost about 150 men. They were detached and serving with the six Saxon Grenadier battalions on the far left at Kesselsdorf itself.

General Gruenne was sick in Dresden during the battle, and General Elverfeld was in command of the Austrians on the field in his place. Besides the Grenadier battalion on the far left, there are two Austrian heavy cavalry regiments deployed as a second line behind the right of the Saxon first infantry line.

Whether or not the deployment of the cavalry behind the infantry was such a good idea is something also debatable and as is well known the final argument of kings is best decided by letting the cannon speak. or in a wargame to let the dice decide. In reality the conditions of the ground and the weather, and also the condition of the horses and men in this freezing cold weather, merit special consideration in forming opinions on this question. It does also snow on the enemy.

The main body of Gruenne's column was deployed to cover the right wing, behind the Zschoener-Grund, as far as the Elbe several kilometers to the east of where the battle actually developed, and at the time no one knew what Frederick's later statements tell us about his own coup d'euil and impressions when he took a look at the field.

 In Dresden itself also several kilometers to the east is the army of Prince Charles of Lorraine, estimated as 18,000 or 19,000 Austrians. Our campaign sources may have mentioned that since earlier there were some 2,500 Saxons with Prince Charles, remaining from a larger force, when he had marched to Dresden.

The Dirk Brendler article posted December 15 for the anniversary of the battle has some insight towards the bottom about Prince Charles' reasons or excuses concerning why he did not intervene in force to help the Saxons, citing a letter he wrote. He says it would have been against all the rules of war, among other reasons.

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I have some materials here also about Faustina Bordoni, indicating that on the night Frederick entered Dresden from Kesselsdorf he arranged to go to the Opera to hear a performance by Faustina of her husband's opera Arminio. In the link from Project Gutenberg the very beginning section about Faustina tells of the famous quarrel she had when Francesca Cuzzoni was jealous in London, back in 1726-27. Both had been introduced in London by Handel. Faustina may have been 26, or in the Wikipedia she is 3 years older, when all that drama happened. Further down at the end of section II is a paragraph telling about the performance at Kesselsdorf. This is in the first several pages of the book on the great singers by George T. Ferris.

Next the Wikipedia article about Faustina Bordoni to help clarify the story. It looks to me like that famous catfight was actually staged, but turned real.

And finally, a link to help explain the English phrase used in the title. The baseball player said it ain't over 'til it's over, according to this.

Faustina Bordoni, by Rosalba Carrera

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Grosser Generalstabswerk: 3rd Band, 2nd Part-- Battles of Soor and Kesselsdorf

 The General Staff Work (Prussian)
The General Staff Work is a massive series completed around the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries by the Historical Section of the Great General Staff of the German Army, telling the stories of the wars of Frederick the Great. They also produced some other works. I don't think they ever quite finished the last part, but what they did get done is superb, as a concise retelling of the course of the campaigns from the Prussian point of view.It got up to somewhere around 1760 or so, not quite to the very end of the story.

Even though it is a massive work in several volumes, the style of the writing still merits the word concise, in my way of looking at it. As a foreigner, I find it relatively easy to read this particular German, compared with even a normal daily newspaper. Of course much of the vocabulary consists of military terms, but for it to seem easier to me means that the sentence structure must be unusually straightforward for German, otherwise I wouldn't get that impression. I can read it noticeably quicker.

For the enthusiast of Frideriziana or 18th Century military history, this work provides something like a 'gold standard' with which other works can be held up for comparison, or as the beginning of a huge argument. For example, Hans Delbruck did not always agree with them, and famously carried on an argument as to whether Frederick's strategy was one of decisive battle, for annihilation, or of attrition, or some third explanation. This went on for years in various publications.

The old historians became very angry with one another during these debates, and cited other articles, dissertations and research as if launching cannonballs at each other, or cavalry charges. However much they would turn red and pound their fists on the table in carrying on the discussion, it makes for very interesting reading. Outside of very obscure articles, there is some of this in Delbruck's books, especially deep in the footnotes and appendices.

Regardless whose points are right or wrong, without the argument many of the points would never have been made at all, so it adds to the value of the discussion as I see it. They are probably both right and wrong, but they would also argue with that characterization.

Something roughly comparable to this would be the 'Historikerstreit' of the past few decades, about interpreting the Second World War, with various points of view. That can be looked up in the Wikipedia under that search phrase for more on that. (The article mentions our own 18C favorite Professor Christopher Duffy, author of many books about the 18th Century Austrians, Prussians, Russians, Scots and Irish, as well as fortifications and siegecraft.)

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What Does This Book Cover?
 The 3rd Band, of the 2nd Part, is about the last part of the Second Silesian War. The earlier Bands were about the disastrous campaign in Bohemia in 1744, and then about when the tables turned in the spring, culminating in the glorious charge of the Bayreuth Dragoons at Hohenfriedberg, June 4, and the defeat of the Austrian and Saxon army.This particular volume came out in 1895, 115 years ago.

This volume picks up the story right after Hohenfriedberg. It covers campaigning in Upper Silesia and Bohemia, with a battle at Soor,  fights at Trautenau, Cosel, and Hennersdorf, and then the battle we have been looking at more closely, Kesselsdorf. After that a chapter on the aftermath and the peace which was signed in time for Christmas of 1745.

Unfortunately there are some drawbacks to this. First for about 100 years the books have been nearly impossible to obtain. They are very rarely found anywhere, and then they are prohibitively expensive, such as 500 to 1000 or more dollars for even partial sets. Then they are written in German, and then complicating that the German is set in Fraktur type.
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This ftill leads to miftakes in tranfcription, fo to fpeak. (fic)
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All that aside, it is still a good book and well worth the effort.

Thoughts on Translating This Chapter or Book
I've translated the only volume I own, the 11th Band of the Seven Years War series, on 1759, about 50 to 75 percent, for my own personal use and enjoyment, but I am not too sure about doing that in a public forum. I don't know what the copyright implications would be for something like that.

The chapter here on Kesselsdorf runs 18 pages, and I could probably make a passable translation in several hours' time, for myself, but would be chary about posting such a thing. Any publishing attorneys are welcome to chime in.

In any case I tend to favor a bombastic translation retaining the original word meanings so that the
colorful terms used are emphasized. Professional translators would edit that away to render it all the way to completely smooth- sounding English, with other words,  and in so doing lose all the flavor from doing it my way. The rough translation from the machine on the computer actually does capture some of that flavor, by mistake. I like it like that, if I can figure out what was intended.

As an alternative for someone really determined, 'simply' retype the 18 pages in Roman type to feed it into the Google Translate machine located front and center of the blog. Those who have Google Chrome might find it easier. I'm not sure whether it can handle Fraktur. I didn't even try, instead I sat there reading it myself the hard way, and taking notes on fresh information not given elsewhere.

There are many facts, figures, details and anecdotes here in 18 pages that exceed anything I've ever seen in English on this battle. I've never seen an English account more than two or three pages, if that, even when they are based on this narrative. They cut out a lot.

Details emerge about Saxon counterattacks, what went wrong, how the guns were divided into Brigades or batteries, and that sort of thing you just can't find in English. Which Saxon cavalry regiment lost its standard, who captured the kettledrums, which regiments were able to play the Grenadiers March as a reward, and which regiment got a further honor in the form of a special badge?

Unfortunately, now that the book is available online, right here and now and does not cost 1000 dollars,  there are still a couple problems, in that the Anhang 26 in the Appendix section at the end, the sheet showing the detailed order of battle, better than all others we have seen, was apparently scanned without unfolding the sheet. Also the maps are not there, and diagrams. There is still an Anhang 28 after that with a regiment by regiment casualty count for the Prussian side. These are at the very bottom, at the end of the book.

The fourth chapter, covering Kesselsdorf runs from page 226 to 244, very close to the end of the volume. That is an 18-page chapter.

General Staff Work, Part 2, Band 3 (Google Books)

EDIT: I've got half of the answer I was looking for:  Once the book is up, there is a place to click for Plain Text, and clicking that will convert four pages at a time from Fraktur to Roman (English-type) letters. But the copy-paster function doesn't work for me to feed it into the translator. Any ideas out there?

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Thomas Carlyle, Provided That It Works, Vols 6 and 7

Adam from Lancashire has been kind enough to provide an additional link for the Thomas Carlyle book I had posted, I think, yesterday or the day before, and I will try posting it here in the hopes that it will work in case the other one is problematic as it was for him. He got only the excerpted version, which is broken up, probably with some pages missing.

On a personal note, I've somewhat lost track of time because I had to unexpectedly do 16 hours in the salt mine, so that my coworker could get her hair done for the upcoming events.

If you will have a look on the sidebar at the blogroll, Adam's blog is the one called Golden Sun, and it includes many more such links to books, so I look up to him as a Google-Book Link provider. 

On the link I provided in the previous post to this one, the printing is from 1871 and Volume 6 for me was there in toto, from pages before 1 to 453, and covers from before Fontenoy, actually the winter of 1744-45, up to the end of the Second Silesian War, which ends right after Kesselsdorf when peace was made for that part of the war on Christmas. In other words, Volume 6 covers the 12 months of 1745.

Now in this next link from Adam, I cannot find the date of the printing, but the type font and pagination are different, each page holding more words, so that instead of 453 pages this edition runs from page 1 to 317. But the link also has Volume 7, for another 290 pages, and this one tells of some episodes between the wars and the first couple years of the Seven Years War, carrying the story forward to just after the Battle of Leuthen, and the aftermath of it so somewhere around Christmas of 1757.

So, if the link works properly, this now provides another 300 or so pages, for reading when you get a chance. On page 284 of Volume 7, Carlyle does his own translation of the first four lines of the Leuthen Chorale song we looked at on December 5. Here is the new link. It is set up to land on page 108 where the chapter on Kesselsdorf  begins. Enjoy.

Carlyle's Friedrich, Vols 6 and 7

Now a note for those whose first language is not English, the style of Carlyle is very interesting, something like an artist or poet might use language, and not quite the way people usually talk in English, and that is part of its appeal. The biographical piece in the English Wikipedia also in the previous posting goes far to explain why he wrote it like that, and what he was trying to get across.

He has had a few problems with the modern PC point of view, to be sure, but I would like to think that the reader can handle that in a mature fashion, and by that I mean even if it is sometimes your own ox being gored.

Among lots of examples that could be dug up, let's pick on the English this time, look at how he describes  his Grace the Duke of Cumberland, also known as 'Butcher Cumberland' or 'Stinking Willie,' in the chapter about the unfortunate Battle of Fontenoy. The chapter is called something like "Martial Boy versus the Laws of Nature.' It's lively writing, you've got to hand him that. No one said we have to agree with it all.

And another swipe, this one at the French, from the beginning of Volume 6, a chapter subtitle: 'The French fully intend to behave better next Season to Friedrich and their German Allies; but are prevented by various Accidents (Nov 1744...)

He did spend seven years working on this huge book, and it is jam-packed with insights and tidbits of great interest which would nowadays be cut out and edited away, causing many anecdotes to be lost to history.

Besides the precautions about old books and  modern PC sensibilities where needful, the other precaution I might advise is to keep an eye on the clock because reading this man's prose can be addictive and one may well lose track of time. But that's good.

Thanks again to Adam, and do be sure to visit his blog frequently, as well as the others.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kesselsdorf 1745: The Campaign, as Incomparably Related by Thomas Carlyle

The account for today, in contrast with the previous one, is not only Prusso-centric, but Frederick-centric, and is written in a particular style by its author, Thomas Carlyle, to illustrate a wider point that he was trying to make about heroes, generally, and to do so by talking about this one in particular.

Carlyle is described in his wikipedia entry as 'controversial,' and I had spent some years searching libraries far and wide for his books and wondering what sort of crummy library would be without his works while having the sort of rot they do have. I did not know why that was, and there was no explanation given. It's just not there. Not much in the way of criticism, biography, anything, it's almost like he is untouchable to the literary types. They've got all sorts of other junk, so it made me wonder what was up.

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us.
The greatest university of all is a collection of books."                                    -Carlyle 

I did find Sartor Resartus, a novel he wrote early on, but I was looking for the magnum opus he spent seven years writing, the History of Frederick II of Prussia, Called Frederick the Great. And what I did read in Sartor, I didn't understand what in the world was he on about, with his strange way of talking. It did sound cool, but not in a way I could easily master what he meant by it all.

And now that I have an idea what it's about, I may read the whole thing. Previously I had only found excerpts of around a chapter or six at a time in an anthology of English Literature, meant to give a taste of many authors all in one book. I did notice he had a very unusual way of writing, but I liked it and wanted more, but it was not and in fact still is not available in  my town. Sartor Resartus, but nothing else.

So the reason he spent his last big BIG effort writing many volumes of step by step, present tense, watching-the- hero- face- crisis- after- crisis- compounded- by- other- adversity- and- disaster prose was because he was trying to make a point, philosophically, about heroes and the importance to men of a leader.

It's Because He Annoyed His Old Friends By Changing His Mind, And Then He Was Stubborn About It

Er, not that there's anything wrong with a Scotsman being stubborn, especially if he thinks he's right, and of course it doesn't imply anything about Scots, and my old school song was Scotland the Brave, in bagpipes of course, and just because I said thinks he's right doesn't mean he is or isn't. I do love that song, from way back. Rather stubborn myself, if not obstinate.

And so then the reason why this massive work is unavailable has probably got to do with a couple levels of political correctness, which leave him out of fashion. So I leave that to the reader to contemplate, along with his wikipedia biographical entry to see as an exercise if he can spot the couple telltale references that caused him first to lose his old friends in his own time, and then to face obstacles in the last generation or two, not really his doing dead for 60 years already, but blocking any attempts in the PC scholarly world at rehabilitation. Although there is one thing, I'll mention towards the bottom, in the 1984 Newspeak part.

I think I found the problems. Well, no wonder, and it's really about time I took the trouble to find out what the problem was all this time, why I can't get the man's work except in occasional excerpts. I've got a Creasy's Decisive Battles with a chapter on Liegnitz, but that's about all, in my collection. But, Gott sei Dank, Google has got some in the Google Books program, and so finally I can read more, after having just had a few chapters to taste of this remarkable prose.

Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And to think Nietzsche, of all people, called him a 'muddlehead' anyway, for all the trouble the PC crowd gives him. They say no publicity is bad publicity.

In part what I'm on about is the allusions I had made some time previously about a metaphorical bird and swine flu along with some other metaphorical psychosomatic things, whatever I had said, this is some of what I was getting at. I enjoy reading this book, and many others, and I don't care if some brainwashed peabrain doesn't like it. I'll decide what to read, and some birdbrain trying to censor what is available will only find it all comes back down on his head one day.

I'll use my own human mind and heart to sort out for myself what my understandings will be, and reserve the right to constantly modify them back and forth, based on what I take in. Trying to hide it will only backfire.
It's quite possible to ignore the entire back story of all this and enjoy the narrative, if you can get hold of it.

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So to Turn the Tables Back, Let's Use this Little Story To Illustrate a Wider Point,
Which is What He Was Doing For Seven Years and Eighteen Volumes--The Seven Years Writing Project
And then he almost married a Shia Muslim half-Indian woman, but she had to discriminate against him for being too poor with too poor prospects. There's a 2002 book about this story somewhere, and it becomes hard when the same person is held as PC and Un-PC at the same time. Why, it's like something out of a racy Jane Austen story. Well, that is what 1984 double talk was supposed to be like.

So, two pieces of meat for today, first the link to the wikipedia entry on Thomas Carlyle, with photos, explanations, etc.

And then Chapter XIV, of Volume 6, in the History of Frederick, courtesy of Google Books. This chapter tells the campaign of Kesselsdorf and I think it has the story of the king going back to Berlin where someone called him 'Great,' and he turned away to go visit Duhan. Unless I was reading ahead into the next chapter...
You can expect it to run twenty or thirty pages but the action-packed style makes it fly by quickly.

Chapter XIV, Volume 6, The Battle of Kesselsdorf

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kesselsdorf 1745 and A Fall of Dresden: A Saxon Account

Today marks the 265th anniversary of the Battle of Kesselsdorf, 15 December 1745, in which the old Prussian army smashed the old Saxon army even more convincingly than before, occupied Dresden and imposed a punishing peace just in time for Christmas.

Book Recommendation: Reed Browning, The War of the Austrian Succession
As mentioned in an earlier post the overall War of the Austrian Succession is notorious, even remarkable for its on-again, off-again nature for different countries at different times, including changing of sides for some, pretenses of peace while being hostile in another area, entering and re-entering the war with different treaties, self-serving actions and the like.

To sort it all out does require a scorecard from the attentive reader, and I highly recommend the recent book by Reed Browning, The War of the Austrian Succession, in which he suggests doing just that to understand this war. He particularly suggests writing down all the various characters named Carl, for instance.

I also enjoy his innovative use of languages in the text, although it can be a bit confusing when he uses original or current names for places I am glad of it nevertheless. Thus the German Pilsen would be Plzen, rendered in Czech, and various other examples abound.

I'll be getting another copy soon myself because the one I've got has been worn out from rough usage, including rolling over on it in my sleep many times and also being smashed up in a travelling duffel bag, but those are strong recommendations if you think about it, in themselves.
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Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men, in Time for Christmas
In this episode there was peace on earth at Dresden, provided one was a Saxon, as they pull out of the war in the aftermath of this disastrous battle.

At what price came peace is something that the thoughtful reader might contemplate among his musings.

This mode of contemplation comes especially naturally at this time of year. It's a time of taking stock and thinking about what has happened. I might draw a parallel to the process of digestion, after having taken a meal. Taking spare moments during the day to absorb lessons will prove rewarding to the reader who thinks to do it, and adds considerable value to the particular manner of bringing out the lesson in and of itself.

The meal for today will be a Saxon-centric account of what happened, at Kesselsdorf. It probably runs about five or six pages all told with some original photographs of the field today and a map hand-drawn by the author, as well as a good article. He wrote it for the anniversary in December 2001, and now it's available to a wider audience in a number of other countries by the expedient of the Google Translate tool installed front and center on the blog.

You'll also find a Saxon and Austrian order of battle which varies in some particulars from that of George Nafziger, given in the previous post. There's only some information on the Prussians in the OB section, and Brendler by way of apology asks that you will please excuse him for focusing more on his own countrymen
than on the opponents, because a Saxon stays a Saxon. He also mentions his sources, and for the OB that they are from Saxon reports.

Recommended Use of the Translate Tool
That tool can handle smaller bits such as a word or phrase right here on the blog. But for something more substantial I would recommend using your computer to open different windows to copy and paste sections at a time, I spent a wonderful hour or so doing that but it could be done in half the time by someone more interested in reading, than researching with close reading as I was doing. I found that the paragraph structure lends itself well to doing about two paragraphs at a time.

To do that, go to the tool and instead of trying to plug in large passages here, look for a tiny blue link called Translate Homepage. This does not translate my homepage here on the blog, but instead takes you to Google Translate's homepage, where you can then copy and paste larger chunks of text as needed, switching languages to whichever ones you need. Set the original text for Brendler's German, plug it in and in a few moments it will be rendered passably into whichever language you select.

One other point is that even without the translation, and even if your own command of German is minimal, there is still the set of images and also the hand-drawn map to be immediately taken in without needing to absorb the text the first time around. Also the Order of Battle is presented in a chart format with commanders and regiments and that can probably be absorbed understandably in the original well enough, at first glance.

Strange Words in Translations
It's not perfect but it is way better than the nothing we would have without it. In English you will see anomalies such as 'boiler village' for Kesselsdorf, because a Kessel is a Kettle. Or the White Ritz, when it mentions Weisseritz. No human translator could be that dumb, but this robot is for all of that a great improvement over the alternative of not reading the account, and thus never hearing the story from another point of view, and I ask your indulgence to use your human mind to sort it out. Actually I enjoy the linguistic insights gained from this exercise, myself. So did Thomas Carlyle, about whom more anon.
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Further Disquisitions Meant for Your Further Ruminations
Before the meat as it were of the link to the Saxon-centric account, I have some other introductory  remarks, observations and disquisitions to try to get in before heading back to the Salt Mines. I might not actually make it in time.

In the near future we will see a much more Prusso-centric account and before doing that I would call your particular attention to two things among the many others that will then be brought forth.

 One, we will see how it came about that Frederick II, King of Prussia, came to be called Frederick the Great. It came after Kesselsdorf.

Two, having seen that we will immediately see how he had but little interest in that, dodged out of everyone's welcome home ceremonies and instead made a beeline directly to see his old French tutor from his youth, M. Duhan, who at that very moment lay dying in a cold bedroom away from the adulation.

M. Duhan the tutor who talked to him about history, kings, cabbages, philosophy, French, the arts, he who planted mere seeds and attitudes that grew to fruition in the mature imagination.

Now you know Duhan couldn't have said everything there is to say but his enthusiasms and seeds grew into what Frederick liked about himself later on. As a rebellious son and a punished one some of his father's lessons must have also sunk in, but decidedly not quite in his father's way.

I Did It My Way
Frederick as an old man must in his own ruminations have presaged the emotions behind Frank Sinatra's famous song, My Way. And doing it that way was what he respected about himself later.

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 The Prusso-centric account alluded to will be in a further posting soon. The link today is to Dirk Brendler's article Kesselsdorf 1745: Eine Winterschlacht bei Dresden.

Kesselsdorf was a disaster for the Saxons and Dresden came under occupation by the Prussians over the following few days, as their own army's remnants limped along with the relatively intact Austrians east towards Pirna and further points south.

In the English language most accounts have heretofore been Prusso-centric and that is not so much for sympathy, which changes anyway, so much as for reasons having to do with publishers and their ideas about demographics and the marketplace.

Consider, too, that the English were to some degree or other, (see Browning) at war with Prussia during the WAS because they were allies, from time to time, of the French. It was later during the Seven Years War that
the British allied with Prussia, due to some other changes that took place. At this time George II, Frederick's uncle, from Hannover in Germany but King of Great Britain, saw his nephew as a crude upstart who was not looking out for the best interests of Germany as a whole in seeking to upset the apple cart only to benefit himself, which is not what Prussia was then accustomed to doing. I bring this forth to put some insight into what publishers of books think and have thought English readers want, which plays a role in their deciding what to publish.

This vicious circle sustains itself. It's not even as simple as the trite expression sometimes seen that history is written by the victors, and so it is His-Story. It doesn't have to be, for one, and second that only works in English. In German the word is Geschichte, and one never hears anyone break that word up to say Geschichte is written by the victors, so it is Ge-Schichte.

Geschichte als Ge-Schichte?
Until now, that is. Breaking it down the Ge- in a noun can imply a collection of something, and the Schichte could be seen as layers, as in layers of paint.

A Da Vinci Code in the Mona Lisa
This very week the papers are howling that they have found yet another secret Da Vinci code,  the number 72 and some other cryptic messages are found inside the layers of paint on the Mona Lisa, in the pupils of her eyes, and have been there all along for the people who have stared into them.

With Dirk Brendler's article let's add another layer of paint to our own understanding, in the spirit of Duhan awakening the ruminations of his pupil so long ago, and awakening his mind, to widen his horizons. We can widen our own by seeing what the Saxons have to say about it all.

And speaking of painting, for those painting Saxon troops there are further Brendler works on Saxon uniforms and organization.

Dirk Brendler on Kesselsdorf

Dirk Brendler on Saxon Uniforms and organization

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kesselsdorf 1745 Order of Battle

Nine out of ten professional historians are willing to settle for less, and that's why I prefer to look at what the amateurs can do. An old lady at the local historical society is worth more than a random selection of university types in interest and accuracy, as well as in judgment, as three is to one.

When it comes to OBs for battles, here is a good place to start. We haven't got an old lady but George Nafziger has done stellar research work, and much of it although not exclusively with OBs, as well as translations and publication of obscure foreign works. I recommend that persons interested in these subjects also look into him by searching on his name.

George Nafziger Collection OBs
Here are the George Nafziger Orders of Battle for the Saxon Army at Kesselsdorf, and then for the Prussian Army at Kesselsdorf, on December 15, 1745, for our commemoration of the 265th anniversary of the battle.

First the Saxons, a 2-page pdf

And the Prussians  

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 Appreciation, Gratefulness and Constructive Criticism

Although it is possible and even advisable to constructively criticize these and many other OBs from the Nafziger Collection, and any other sources,  it is also possible and advisable to appreciate them, and I would push for that emotion of gratefulness most strongly. A double thank you to George Nafziger, q.v.

There are many books and articles on battles with a lot less than this, for one thing, and further, these OBs have only very recently become available freely for interested persons.

I could also pass similar judgments on wikipedia, both the positive and negative, and incidentally cite it as part of the proof of my assertion that nine out of ten historians will settle for less. Also any number of books can be put forth the same way, and more so as the field of history has become the ken of the so-called professional.

In future episodes, we will go ahead and specifically constructively criticize, however, because that is what one does with an OB, after spending perhaps centuries, not just years or decades, trying to find one.

And for the anniversary itself on Wednesday the 15th December, a Saxon view of the battle. Kesselsdorf is in the western suburbs of Dresden, a few miles out of the  city center. Shortly after the battle the Prussians came in and a peace was made in time for Christmas. The big wigs could celebrate in Dresden, and outside the quiet people had a chance to get a few days' work.

Ein Paar Groschen
For ein Paar Groschen or a few pennies one could get a job burying and liming the dead, since the Prussians would not help, if one was willing to hack at the frozen ground and help the animals to get the cart up the hill, with the snow and all. They didn't have enough gloves.

I used to work at a racetrack, and I can remember trying to figure out where to lay hands on a dead horse--the tail, the ear, the side, maybe the leg, no, that's not the heavy part--it's not a pleasant thing to remember, but I have done it more than once. There were 1400 dead horses on this field. The answer for them was to burn them on the spot.
Somebody's gotta do it.
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A part of the problem in the English language, historically, the reason why we cannot obtain this type of information in anywhere near the level needed to satisfy demand, has to do with marketing, demographics, and cost-effective publishing. All that is in a process of change for the better with the advent of the Internet.

Similarly, what information we do have is also affected by such factors, so that certain subjects over and over receive the lion's share of attention. For example, most of our accounts of such battles as these have focused either on the person of Frederick the Great, or even more so characters a bit later like Napoleon, Wellington, and Nelson. Or the Duke of Marlborough, maybe Louis XIV, else it's on to George Washington. So...

That explains why Kesselsdorf is neglected, especially in English,  because Frederick the Great could not get there in time. He came up with the reinforcements a couple days later, and looked over the field where the farmers must already have been getting started with shovels, carts, and loads of lime.

The Old Dessauer, or der Alte Dessauer
It was Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau who got the credit, and the glory, of scoring the victory, and Frederick had to simply look it over and approve, and get on with taking the town and seeing to the details of the peace. He didn't really like the old prince with the rare moustache, he was really an old friend from way back of Frederick's father. But there was no doubt about the victory. Leopold is known by his nickname, the Old Dessauer, or the Alte Dessauer. It helps distinguish him from his sons who also figure in the stories.

Since our books that even come close to talking about Kesselsdorf are frequently based on Frederick and his career, and he was not quite there, that's why even the good books skim quickly over this battle. He was close, though, and coming up quickly. So were others.

The Austrians were mostly in town sleeping in relatively warm beds, and that was a big part of why things went as they did. Prince Charles was right there in Dresden with 18,000 men, and did not see fit to come out and help the Saxons before or during the fight. It was all over in two hours, but the aftermath. The decision was done.

Actually it was really something, at the time, and was important for the Saxons. Considering what their leaders were actually up to at the time, it was important for the Prussians as well. For the overall War of the Austrian Succession, it was another episode among many.
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I've got a frozen car to try to start, to get to the Salt Mines.  It's about eight below, wind chill factor, with snow and ice caked all over it no doubt. Need my groschen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kesselsdorf 1745 and More Storms

The 265th anniversary of the Battle of Kesselsdorf is coming up this Wednesday. Some places you will read that it was December 14 but it was the 15th. By an odd quirk of mathematics this year the days of the week and the dates match up with the ones in 1745, so for the people back then it was also coming up on Wednesday. exactly the same as now.

Even as things are happening in more than one place now, so they were then. Of all the 18th Century wars under examination here the War of the Austrian Succession must be the most complicated one to follow and understand, because of the numerous sub-plots all happening at once, the players changing sides, and having pretenses of peace here and there, leaving allies in the lurch, and pursuing interests of their own at various times.We've become accustomed to such pretenses in our time as being at peace in one theater while providing auxiliary troops elsewhere to a conflict without having an official or legal war. A lot of that went on in the WAS.

When Voltaire wrote a book about it he called his book La Guerre de 1741. Then there are the War of Jenkins' Ear, the Pragmatic Sanction, the Austrian Succession, and most simply of all, the Forty-Five.
It started and ended at different times for different people, and that's the nature of it.

The Forty-Five refers to the Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland of 1745, to keep it distinct from several others such as the Fifteen of 1715, and other troubles. In this one Bonnie Prince Charlie had landed and the volunteers came out to fight. The English called on their foreign troops to help as the Jacobites came down in the increasingly cold weather for London itself, and right about this time were coming up on Derby.

The Dresden area in Saxony was the focus of action on the European Continent at the same time, and that is where the Battle of Kesselsdorf comes in as the deciding battle.

We will also have a look at something mentioned previously, how did Frederick the Great come to be called 'Great?'

Even as the Austrian Succession was complicated, our weather here and now is so complicated as to beggar easy description. We had a storm last night of about half an inch of snow, following several extremely cold days, after the previous storm which came out ultimately as an official five inches of snow.

What comes next for us is more storms, followed by even more extreme cold than we have just had. It was averaging about five degrees Fahrenheit at night. Anyway I'll soon find out because I am heading off for another 12-hour night in the Salt Mines de la Chin Gada.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Leuthen Chorale Lyrics for the 253rd Anniversary of the Battle

On the 253rd anniversary of the Battle of Leuthen, Dec 5, 1757, I thought it would be fitting to put up the lyrics of what came to be known as the Leuthen Chorale. This is a Christian hymn that the men of the army started to sing in the twilight of the aftermath of the battle, and it was picked up by 25,000 voices joining in.

There are other hymns that are also recorded as having been sung by the old Prussian army back in those days, but I'll just stick to this one for Leuthen Day. This date used to be the occasion for a wargame get-together for the Seven Years' War Association. In the context of the Seven Years' War, this is one of the most famous battles for a few good reasons.

It's because anyone in their right mind would have given up hope and gone into winter quarters, but instead Frederick came from four weeks' march away to turn things around completely in this far-away province, outnumbered and with half his men beaten in November and the rest in June, here he came from his most lopsided victory over the Empire and the French at Rossbach outnumbered there too, to knock the Austrians off this field. It was extraordinary, and came down as his greatest glory.

It might be helpful for a quick review, because there is some confusion among casual students as to why, for instance, Frederick the Great came to be called the "great," when a closer look after the initial praises shows that sometimes he lost battles. In fact he lost several battles out of twenty or so big ones that he was involved in, and he even famously ran away in the first big victory at a time when things didn't look so good, yet, a topic he was quite sensitive about afterward. It was old Field Marshal Graf von Schwerin who took command when the king decided to leave, and as it turns out, Schwerin won the battle after all.

That was at Mollwitz, in April 1741. The horse Frederick rode away on--like 25 miles away--was retired and cared for after that and was ever known as the Mollwitz Gray, or Mollwitzer Grau.

Frederick was considered great in part because of his military competence and in part for other reasons. There is more involved in raising a country up to a higher status in the world than the simplistic idea that anyone meriting the title 'great' must have won every battle, captured every town, and intimidated the quiet people. It's more than just that.

I think the confusion arises because many of the people nowadays interested in him come from the ranks of enthusiasts in particular of military history and put more emphasis on battles at the expense of understanding other parts of a bigger picture. He had canals built, villages, brought poor soil to cultivation, he saw to it that potatoes would be grown more widely, and plenty more besides. He is a complicated and fascinating figure for historians and biographers to try to interpret. It's not just battles alone.

On the other hand he did 'win' more than half, and got through a number of years of war without losing, and was able to build back up from the damage done. In the seven years war he took on three fourths of Europe it sometimes seems single-handed, but he did have a hard core of men who marched with him wherever he felt he had to go next, and those men gave him what he required of them.

But they were not superhumans, they were men, and for all we hear that they were some sort of machines or robots, here again I think the case is overblown and a closer study would reveal that that is an exaggeration, and only relatively true to a certain extent.

By twilight on the day of Leuthen, when the Austrian army was in retreat and the Prussians had won the day for the king, he went off with a small force to try to head the Austrians off at the bridge, unable to just let go after such an experience, and the other 95% of the men broke into this song, looking over what they'd been through and giving thanks to God that they had survived it.

The song was written by a pastor who had been besieged by the Swedish army in Eilenburg, a town in Saxony, during the Thirty Years War, and so great was the suffering there that he was doing fifty funerals a day, after the other pastors in town also died. Personally I can't drink fifty cups of coffee in a single day; if it was only a twelve hour day that would be over one funeral every 15 minutes, and I suspect that it was over a twelve hour day for him. The mindset of the gratitude he shows to God in these trying circumstances is striking.

Depending on who is writing the explanation, the sentiment is ascribed to certain Old or New Testament verses: 2 Cor2:14
           Sirach, Ch 50, verses 22-24  (aka Ecclesiastes)

This is the song that spread from regiment to regiment on the bloody, snowy field after the sun went down and the only Austrians left were the dead and wounded and the prisoners.

The siege mentioned for Martin Rinkart, the pastor who wrote the words, was in 1636 and it is thought he wrote it  then. It was published in Berlin in a book in 1647, and with music, and the author of this book is credited with having written the music. That is Johann Crueger. A third person much later became involved in the story of the song, Catherine Winkworth who in 1856 translated the lyrics to English. The matchup is not word for word. She believed that Martin Rinkart also wrote the music, but we'll probably never know for sure about that. That's just the way it is in history.

Johann Sebastian Bach also used the music to work it into a cantata. All that can be looked up for those interested in the different versions. As for my purpose here, the story is told. Since there is a motion picture by the name, the Leuthen Chorale, those searching You Tube will run into the whole movie rather than just the song. The song itself is either Nun Danket Alle Gott, or else Now Thank We All Our God.

Then you can also find versions by choirs, organs, the Bach, and I forgot to mention Franz Liszt.

 All those can be found but I've selected a skit much in the style of the History Channel, but this is in German, but do not let that stop you from the 3 1/2 minutes of SYW battle visuals of the Alte Fritz. In the last 30 seconds you'll see the troops singing the song. Links to the short youtube vid and then the lyrics follow so you can sing along from the beginning.

(link removed)EDIT

Nun danket alle Gott
Mit Herzen, Mund und Händen,
Der grosse Dinge tut
Ans uns und allen Enden;
Der uns an Leib und Seel
Von früher Kindheit an
Unzählig viel zu gut
Bis hieher hat getan.

Der ewig reiche Gott
Woll uns in unserm Leben
Ein Immer fröhlich Herz
Und edlen Frieden geben,
Und uns in seiner Gnad
Erhalten fort und fort
Und uns aus aller Not
Erlösen hier und dort.

Lob, Ehr und Preis sei Gott,
Dem Vater und dem Sohne
Und dem, der beiden gleich
Im höchsten Himmelsthrone,
Dem dreimal einen Gott,
Wie er ursprünglich war
Und ist und bleiben wird
Jetzund und immerdar!

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessèd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

First Snow Storm in the Midwest

We're experiencing our first major snowstorm now in the Chicago area. It started at 2330 hrs last night and continued all night at different levels of intensity while I was trapped at work in the middle of a 12-hour shift.

The forecast was for three to five inches, which in centimeters are 2.5 cm per inch, so the whole five inches means 125 mm or so. But I was able to drive home after seven hours of it, and the stuff on my car at that point averaged about two inches or 5 cm.

 Luckily work ended, and I left about 45 minutes ago, and here to post about the storm already .A trip that normally takes about 20 minutes took 25 minutes due to the challenging driving conditions. I did not post right away but brewed up some of that Ethiopian Yergacheffe coffee, possibly the first coffee drunk by man, and handily won game number 20,758 in Free Cell before posting. It's still not an hour since I left work

In addition to the extra driving time, there were another five or so minutes added because I had to sweep off the two or so inches that fell on the car during the night. It would take longer if there had been certain changes in temperature and/or any freezing rain, but this was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit and it was decent packing snow, suitable for snowballs.  That kind comes off fairly easily without  needing a lot of scraping.

This storm is forecast to continue for quite a while, maybe almost up to the Bears game Sunday at noon in Detroit. So that's got to be close to 36 hours, although for some parts of that time the chance is only 30% of it continuing during some of those hours, others 60, 80 or 100% chance.

This intermittent snowfall always messes up my count. The past couple years I counted something like 39 snowfalls before spring, but when it starts and stops in the middle, then might start again  hours later, I end up confused after a while and find my numbers are different from the official weather people. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will probably all three count as snow days, but the radar makes it look from outer space like one big storm.

Down here on the ground, if I go to sleep, wake up, and then it snows again, I'll be sorely tempted to count that as "two."

On the way home about one mile out I found the road blocked by five cop cars and a sixth one driving up. It turns out someone had crashed, probably because of either sliding when they tried to turn or else when they tried to hit the hooks because the light turned red. I was sliding about thirty to fifty feet when braking, so that probably explains that one.

Last year in the same area I did a 180 degree spin on a patch of black ice, but luckily no other cars were around, or else I'd have hit them. If something like that happens you simply can't stop until there is traction, or as in my case I swung around far enough to ram a six-foot tall wall of snow on the side of the road, so I stopped then, and turned around and continued on my merry way.

As long as you know what you're doing, and you test in a safe place how far you're likely to skid when you try to stop, it was all right. The one thing I don't like is being anywhere near the other cars out there, and it's the red lights that cause much of the trouble since they make everyone bunch up and try to stop right next to each other, then try to start up again, which causes a lot of sliding into the wrong lane.

So the final result, including five minutes with the heavy-duty brush and five minutes to get around the cops, plus maybe 15 seconds to look at another car in the ditch with a state trooper already there, and driving extra slow for the situation, all told ten minutes and 15 seconds longer than usual to get home and beat Free Cell.
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Worst is Yet To Come

The Worst is Yet to Come, oder 
Das Schlimmste Kommt Noch

Almost all holidays for many years, ever since schooldays,
I have been scheduled to work in the Salt Mines of La Chin-

Gott sei Dank I remember one dark December night, dark
early like it is now, when I was more or less alone in
garrison at Schtuattgart-Suedwest-Vaihinga, in
Schwaobenland, and the cold moist winds combined with the
early darkness, and the prospect of spending the
holidays like that was not encouraging. I was trying
to learn to pronounce French, and Jimmy Carter was
the president at the same time.

And then appeared out my window a party of 30-50
children from the schools to do some Christmas caroling,
and it really was just the thing.

But however this year the as I calculate it 253rd anniversary
of the Battle of Leuthen falls on a Sunday, and I am
scheduled to have a day off from my night job, as luck would
have it.

That will free me up from one type of work, to concentrate
on another type, and so to commemorate the great victory
which in itself, and in its follow-up, really was extraordinary,
I plan to post up the lyrics to a song that sprang up from one
soldier in the darkness of the early twilight of the fifth of

It's an extraordinary episode in itself that has come down
to us in history as the Leuthen Chorale. Over the scenes
of bloody snow, maiming and killing--just the magnifi-
cent death in battle of General Lucchesi alone would be
something, when he was beheaded by that cannonball--
and lots of other drama besides, when the darkness fell and
most of the killing was done the Lutheran hymn arose
spontaneously and we are told 25,000 men took up the
song by the light of torch, campfire and what reflected
off the snow.

Not Frederick II of course, but he heard them. It's a celebrated
scene of the eighteenth century, and we shall have a
look at that coming up this Sunday.

So I'll be posting that very soon.

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Metaphorical Swine Flu

I'm feeling all right physically but metaphorically I've
got a combination of the Swine and Bird flus with some
bronchitis, to put it delicately.

 That would entail a
feeling like nausea, headache, phlegm, snot and vomit and
diarrhea all at once...and it may be that the best way to
handle it is just to go off in the woods alone and projectile-
blast it all off in one or two mighty spasms from every
available barrel. Once it's out it's done and there may
be a chance at recovery.

I am already trying to separate it all into coherent sentences
right now with some success, but I suspect it may be vague
to the reader, trail off, incoherent...I've just got to blast it off.

It came up in the research, and it is where the other bloggers
fear to tread.

It has had me blocked up for these many months now, debating,
and so the whole thing will be healthier once exposed to the
light and perhaps shrivel up to a pile of ashes.

Then it'll probably seem like nothing at all, and let the world
wonder at how it stopped me up so long.

I'll spit it out before Christmas while it is still 2010. But before that
the Leuthen Chorale, as a study in contrasts, and to prepare
the ground in advance of this other stuff.

Also on Leuthen Day, I expect the 8 and 3 Chicago Bears to beat
the 2 and 9 Detroit Lions, more convincingly than the last time
when the Incident occurred, where a technically new rule about
feet or something robbed the Lions of a Phantasy touchdown.

I'd better get back A La ChinGada.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Anyone Notice the Giant Jackrabbit in the 1737 Painting?

How About a DIY Painting?
During May I had an idea that was actually based on that second, 1737 painting, that I would sign up for a local course in painting with acrylics. In that course I would paint my own version of that Tabakskollegium and see if I couldn't make those kids look less primitive. Many viewers are struck by something odd about their proportions. Those are the teenaged Frederick, later the Great's, royal brothers. Frederick himself does not appear in this painting. Only three years after this he was king and launching the War of the Austrian Succession by his precipitate invasion of Silesia.

In 1737 the Prussians were on Austria's side in the War of the Polish Succession, and although it wasn't fully diplomatically resolved yet, the military issues had been pretty much decided and now they were thinking about what to do about, as it was then said, 'the Turk.' The Russians and Austrians both, separately or together, had to deal with the Turkish frontiers heating up to a boil from time to time, however much they might agree or disagree about what to do with (or to) Poland in the interim.

So they would be discussing these sorts of issues at that table, and with a pro-Austrian point of view at that time, as Austria won the decision about who would be King of Poland, but lost much else in the war, especially the Two Sicilies which means southern Italy based on Naples and Sicily. That fell into Spanish Bourbon hands. Old Prinz Eugen had captured it for the Austrian Hapsburgs in 1707.

 Considering George Lisiewsky was a professional artist at the Prussian court, and I am a part-time blogger, that may have been a tall order, to try to repaint his painting, but I do remember thinking it nevertheless. Of course I expect it would turn out the whole thing looks more primitive, and then maybe the kids' proportions wouldn't stick out as much, like masking the pain of a stubbed toe by smashing your thumb with a hammer. I've done things like that more than once before.

There would have to be some sort of project to do in class, and that was a plan I had in the back of my mind.
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How About Painting Anyway, Class or No Class?

As it turns out, there was overtime at work, and the timing was not conducive to committing to a class, so it did not happen. I'd have paid the fees, but could not spare the time to go somewhere else, regularly.

By August, I was painting after all with acrylics but without an instructor, except from those who wrote books. I still haven't tried doing a Tabakskollegium, nor anything related, but I did find that once you get started you learn a lot as you encounter problems along the way, and figure out how to deal with them.

What I did instead were a very small format called Artist Trading Cards, which are 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches, and would fit in a plastic sleeve in a binder, designed to hold something about the size of playing cards or business cards. That is a useful size of project for practicing technique, and produces miniature masterpieces of an almost throwaway size. The idea is to trade them with other artists using a variety of other media, and in so doing it does actually serve as a special sort of business/networking card, specifically for artists.

I haven't got a clue how to to put them up on the website, even if my printer were capable of it, as I have neither read the instructions nor plugged it in yet. Perhaps we shall see later.
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Until I Read the Scanning Instructions, What Else Can I Do Instead?

In the fall I have been researching for some of the military events after the War of the Spanish Succession, when Malplaquet occurred. I read a biography of the Bourbon prince for whom that war secured the throne of Spain. The ambitions of this King Philip V, or Felipe V, and fueled by talking with his Italian wife, Queen of Spain, Elizabeth Farnese, to secure likely thrones for their sons, provide one of the important themes of the wars that followed after the WSS.

So I expect to post something about the wars not very well known nor studied in the English language for the reason that the English either did not participate, as in the WPS, or were ALLIED WITH FRANCE as in the WQA. For the Americans these two wars did not or barely even occurred as far as American history is concerned, except as a sort of prelude to the WJE.

So to spell out the acronyms, in the near future I am looking at posting about:

WQA- The War of the Quadruple Alliance
WSS- The War of the Spanish Succession
WPA- The War of the Polish Succession
WJE- The War of Jenkins' Ear
WAS- The War of the Austrian Succession
SYW- The Seven Years' War
And of course TBK for Tabakskollegium, Mekelnborg that is.
And also on some related topics as the mood strikes. I'll try not to write about all of them at once.

 Also thinking about installing a translator, but it is a big bandwidth hog. It may be needed, since I'm reading in Spanish, French, Dutch, German, English and now Italian to gather materials. Da, sometimes Parussky too, as needed. But we can't expect everyone to do that across the board. Only part of it is easy for me, as it is. I will try to translate words as I go along where I use individual, military-type terms, but the translator would be good for larger chunks of text. An example: Cuirassier, corazero, Kuerassier. English often adopted the French terms for military vocabulary. Sometimes like here, German adapted them.

Did anyone notice on the 1737 painting, all the way at the back of the table, a very large Hare, much larger than the average Jackrabbit? Look for a pair of gray rabbit ears.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Paul Carl Leygebe, 1710, Tabakskollegium am Hofe Koenig Friedrichs I. in Preussen

King Friedrich Wilhelm the First, born 14 Aug 1688, reign 1713-1740

King Friedrich Wilhelm the First believed in peace through strength, and he lived it. He was notoriously cheap in most areas of his life, but did spend what treasure he built up on his army. He did however leave a large accumulated treasury to his son and heir, who would be known as Frederick the Great, when he died and left the throne to the youth in 1740. Although he was loath to spend what he accumulated, he is known to have always paid the same consumption tax he had himself imposed upon his subjects.

Quite a large heap of gold and silver were found down in the basement at the palace when F.W. died.

                                                              *        *        *
The Battle of Malplaquet:  September 11th, 1709

Friedrich Wilhelm was a veteran of the great and bloody battle of Malplaquet which occurred on September 11th, 1709. He led his Regiment in very heavy fighting, penetrating the woods at the French Left Wing, where the French troops were waiting under the cover of fieldworks and entrenchments, with a crossfire of  over sixty pieces of cannon from hidden batteries.

The Prussian troops were under the command of Prinz Eugen, also called Prince Eugene of Savoy, one of the great captains of history. As a side note, when much later in 1941 the German battleship Bismarck came out to sea to fight the British Royal navy, the cruiser that accompanied the Bismarck was named the Prinz Eugen, after this same Prinz Eugen.

The overall commander of the Allied armies was the Prince and Duke of Marlborough, an ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill.

Because the casualties were extremely heavy, although the British claim that Malplaquet was a British victory on the grounds that they and their allies held the field at the end of the day, one might more objectively say that if it was a victory, it was certainly a Pyrrhic victory. It was the bloodiest battle of the entire eighteenth century, and was only exceeded at Borodino in 1812 when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia, and had an even worse bloody battle. (That one is the subject of the novel by Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace.)

                                                               *       *       *
So, who won? A Pyrrhic victory is one where the winner does technically win, but the price is so heavy that it is hardly worth that kind of a win. The term dates back centuries to when Pyrrhus of Epirus invaded Rome, and  won a couple Pyrrhic victories at such cost that his own army was left very much weakened, despite the technical wins. In his case his casualties were about half what the Romans lost, but he could ill-afford it because he was outnumbered two to one. So Malplaquet was actually worse.

We do know that King Louis the Fourteenth of France also celebrated a victory when he heard the news of the battle. The reports vary considerably, so the truth is not exactly known, but I believe that the Allies under the Prince and Duke of Marlborough lost over twice as many men as the French, something like 25,000 casualties versus about 11,000 or so for the French.

The French did retreat, but they point out that holding the field only allowed the Allied army to sleep there with the dead, of which there were a very large, even unheard of number. And as far as strategy in the war is concerned, this great battle prevented the Allies from making any further invasion of France that season, and indeed they never again had such a good chance.

Malplaquet is located exactly on the border crossing post, or Douane, between Belgium and France, and the Allies were approaching from the Belgian side, so to visit the field today one would mostly be looking around the field in Belgium, but to see the whole French side and where the lines were late in the day would actually require crossing the border into France, as it did back then also.

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And so, what about the blog?

Well, to explain, I'd like to use the idea of a Tabakskollegium to create an atmosphere. The name derives from a painting from the 17th Century, not originally from the one shown above, but a different and oddly modern-looking one by the Flemish painter Abraham Teniers, called Tabakskollegium von Affen, or Smoking Party of Monkeys.

It shows a bunch of monkeys in a dining room of a house, sitting around the table, or walking around the place, many of them smoking long-stemmed clay pipes, and it is funny to see them acting human, with decks of cards, having drinks, and so forth.It is especially nice to then notice the looks on their faces, and see that they are putting on airs.

Why I say oddly modern is because the same theme is repeated today in posters throughout the land, usually showing a pack of old dogs playing poker around a green table, or other variations on the theme. Teniers lived from 1629-1670, and also did a barbershop painting with monkeys and cats, while he was at it. Thus the idea of the personified animals is about 350 years old.

Somehow it developed into a tradition for European princes to set up a Tabakskollegium of their own, first in the Netherlands and from there we know that Friedrich Wilhelm's father, the first King in Prussia, Friedrich I, had one, which in a painting by Paul Leygebe from 1710, more reminds me of a family room than the one shown below, where we see how it was in 1737. It is known that as the first in Brandenburg-Prussia to enjoy the royal dignity, instead of  "only"
being an elector, Friedrich the First was known for his love of ceremony, quality decorations and entertainment, regardless of the cost, to show that he was level with the other kings. It looks very posh to sit in such a place all dressed up and sipping Tokay wine.

But of course his son Friedrich Wilhelm, back from the wars, was a very different personality. He has a much more down-to-earth approach to his Tabakskollegium. There he could sit around with his friends, and his cabinet of ministers, and smoke their pipes, drink beer if they wanted, and talk and play games and to a great extent control the kingdom from that chamber.

You can see the walls appear dirty; it was believed that the pipe smoke was healthy and served to keep out the ill-effects of fresh air.You don't see them in there bothering about the women, and any fancy French ways were no longer welcome once he got back from the wars and took over. After all, he had had to fight his way through the French at Malplaquet! The bloodiest battle ever!

No elector or king had previously considered beer to be hoffaehig, or worthy of the court, but Friedrich Wilhelm said that from then on, it was. Some other things he is famous for besides being the difficult father for Frederick the Great are his famous Regiment of  Potsdamer Riesengarde, or Giant Grenadiers, and also is said to have been the first person to say that "the Pen is mightier than the Sword."

Painting credits:  Source Tabakskollegium-1. jpg

Georg Lisiewski, 1737, Tabakskollegium Friedrich Wilhelms I von Preussen