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19th Century Sections
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19th Century Articles
Invention of Counterinsurgency
Alfred Thayer Mahan: Advocate for Seapower
Americans in the Boer War
Marching to Timbuktu
Charge of the Polish Light Horse at Somosierra
The War between Norway and Sweden 1808
Gonzales: Crucible of Texas Revolution
Sheridan's Southern Plains Campaign
Milvern Harrell: Dawson Massacre
Mexican American War
Giuseppe Garibaldi
Solferino: Slaughter and Rebirth
Battle of Lundy's Lane
Battle of Paris
Stephen Douglas and Popular Sovereignty
Napoleon's Campaign Of 1809
Capture of USS President
The Fenian Raids
Military History of War of 1812
Austerlitz: Napoleon Makes His Own Luck
The Failures at Spion Kop
Combatants in Black Hawk War
Tunisian Army in Crimean War
Giuseppe Garibaldi
The Mitrailleuse
The Grande Armee of 1812 in Russia
The French Campaign of 1859
The French Intervention in Mexico
The Master's Misstep
Trafalgar Remembered
Rorke's Drift

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19th Century Articles

Member Article: Romolo Gessi Pasha: Early Counter-Insurgency Lessons from an Italian Soldier of Fortune’s Campaign in Central Africa
by Dr. Andrew McGregor

Successful counterinsurgencies typically combine the deployment of superior weapons, competent logistics, advanced tactics and the ability to win the “hearts and minds” of the non-insurgent population. What is striking about the success of Italian soldier-of-fortune Romolo Gessi Pasha (1831-1881) against insurgent Arab traders and slavers in the south Sudan was his ability to overcome a much larger group of fighters who possessed similar weapons, had greater experience in both irregular and conventional warfare, held fortified positions, were at home in the terrain and had wide public support in the most influential parts of Sudanese society, including the military. Ultimately, Gessi Pasha would go down in history as the relentless weapon used by Sudanese governor-general Charles “Chinese” Gordon to smite the Arab slavers of Bahr al-Ghazal and destroy their expanding influence. Gessi is believed to have attended military schools in Germany and Austria before finding work as an interpreter for British forces in the Crimean War, where he would first meet Captain Charles Gordon of the Royal Engineers, later governor of Sudan’s Equatoria Province (1874-76) and governor general of the Sudan (1877-79).
Read more... 8,414 words
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Member Article: Alfred Thayer Mahan: Advocate for Seapower
by Larry Parker

In 1865 the United States Navy mustered 700 ships (many of them iron clad and steam powered), mounting 5,000 cannon (many of those rifled, shell guns of the latest design), crewed by 6,700 officers and 51,000 men. In just five years 92.6 per cent of the fleet had been sold, scrapped or laid up. Only 52 ships mounting 500 guns remained in active commission. These, with a few notable exceptions, were crewed largely by the dregs of the waterfront for, as promotion and advancement opportunities stagnated, officers and enlisted personnel left the service in droves taking with them hard won battle experience and years of training. In this environment the eighteen knot USS Wampanoag[1] , first warship to employ super heated steam, was scrapped as congress mandated a return to sail in order to save money on coal. A post war, isolationist, defensive mentality exacerbated the rush to disarm. Costal fortifications were deemed less provocative and considerably less expensive than a credible blue water navy.
Read more... 2,810 words
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Member Article: Marching to Timbuktu: The Unwanted Conquest of Mali that Made a Marshal of France
by Dr. Andrew McGregor

When French troops launched a military intervention against Islamist militants in Mali in January 2013, many of those advancing on the legendary city of Timbuktu may have been unaware that it had been 119 years since a French colonial army column under Major Joseph Joffre had entered that ancient trading capital. Rather than a triumph for France, the 1894 occupation was in fact a planned act of insubordination by Joffre and other French colonial officers. The truth was France didn’t want Timbuktu. Joffre is best known as the commander of all French armies in World War 1 after his victory at the Marne in 1914 was credited with saving France. At the height of his fame in 1915 his military report of the 1894 occupation of Timbuktu was reprinted under the title My March to Timbuctoo. Unfortunately, Joffre’s account of his campaign along the Niger River disappoints adventure seekers; it is instead a model of dryness and economy of words devoid of personal observations or impressions. Brevity was no doubt called for, as the true story of insubordination, atrocities and war for war’s sake that was behind the conquest of Timbuktu was hardly the material with which to build the reputation of a Marshal of France.
Read more... 2,372 words
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Member Article: The War between Norway and Sweden 1808
by Kai Isaksen

The war and battles described in this article are on a very small scale compared to the major battles that raged in Europe around the same time. In general the battles included from a few hundred up to 2-3000 men, and generally lasted a few hours. The area of operations was also relatively limited, stretching from the southern border between Norway and Sweden and north to the border town of Kongsvinger, a distance of some 150 km, in the counties of Hedmark (northern part of the battlefield) and Østfold (southern part).
Read more... 8,996 words
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Member Article: Gonzales: Crucible of the Texas Revolution
by Garland R. Lively

Gonzales, Texas is the current county seat of Gonzales County and is located at the confluence of the Guadalupe and San Marcus Rivers. It was surveyed by James Kerr and established as the capital of De Witt's Colony in 1825, being named after Rafael Gonzales, governor of Coahuila and Texas.
Read more... 14,521 words
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Member Article: General Phillip Sheridan's Southern Plains Campaign of 1874 - 1875
by Garland R. Lively

At the conclusion of the American Civil War bands of plains Indians consisting mainly of the Comanche, Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, Arapahoe, and the Southern Cheyenne were raiding at will all across the southern plains.[1] Several expeditions were mounted to subdue the plains Indians and although they severely punished them they were never able to force them to remain on their reservations and cease raiding the settlements.
Read more... 10,286 words
Member Article: Milvern Harrell: Survivor of the Dawson Massacre
by Garland R. Lively

Milvern Harrell was born March 24,1824 near Troy in Lincoln County, Missouri, the son of William Harrell and Minerva Woods. He was the grandson of Zadock Woods who was an early Texas Pioneer that came to explore Texas in 1822. Zadock returned to Missouri enthusiastic about the vast and fertile lands of Texas and the prospects of obtaining a league of land (4,228 acres) for himself and each married man plus a smaller amount for unmarried men.
Read more... 7,695 words
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Member Article: A Brief History of the Mexican-American War
by Phillip Muskett

The United States has fought many wars in its two centuries of existence. These wars were fought for state’s rights or against fascism and communism. The Mexican American War of 1846 was fought for land and sixteen years later this war nearly destroyed the Union.
Read more... 4,791 words
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Member Article: Giuseppe Garibaldi, A Blue Shirt?
by Matt Duffy

Were it not for a bit of bad timing and a government bureaucrat overstepping his authority, we just might be thanking an Italian rather than General Grant for defeating the Confederacy and saving the Union. After Fort Sumter was fired upon in April, 1861, President Lincoln was facing the greatest crisis of his career, civil war.
Read more... 5,013 words
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Member Article: Solferino: Slaughter and Rebirth
by Eric Niderost

In June 1859 long columns of blue-clad French troops marched east though the sun-baked plains of Northern Italy. Normally Lombardy was blessed by the most fertile soil in the peninsula, nourished by the mighty Po River and its many tributaries, but this summer was unseasonably hot, scorching man and beast alike and desiccating the normally bountiful fields.
Read more... 5,165 words
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Member Article: The Battle of Lundy's Lane
by Birrion Sondahl

The Battle of Lundy's Lane was fought on July 25, 1814 between the British army of General Sir Gordon Drummond and the American army of Major General Jacob S. Brown. After their recent victory at the Battle of Chippewa (July 5, 1814), the American army was advancing north towards Queenston.
Read more... 4,797 words
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Member Article: Indiscreet Message Intercepted: The Fall of Paris, 1814
by Eric Niderost

On Sunday, January 23, 1814, some 700 officers of the Parisian National Guard assembled in the Salle des Marechaux of the Tuileries Palace. The Salle des Marechaux was cavernous, it’s two-story walls echoing with the booted footfalls of the officers.[1]
Read more... 6,766 words
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Member Article: Belated Triumph: The Capture of the Frigate President
by Caleb Greinke

Britannia's trident had rusted over by the War of 1812. At sea, the conflict, largely initiated by antagonistic British policies concerning the impressment of American sailors, had produced a number of spectacular American victories over British men o' war. The Constitution soundly trounced two frigates already, and the smaller brigs, sloops, and corvettes of the tiny American navy managed to compile a respectable battle record.
Read more... 2,845 words
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Member Article: Austerlitz: Napoleon Makes His Own Luck
by Lonny L. Grout

Austerlitz was the battle that many historians have considered Napoleon's masterpiece. Napoleon himself considered this his masterpiece. There is no doubt that Austerlitz was a great victory for Napoleon, both strategically and tactically. So, was it all the genius of Napoleon, or was it merely that luck was on the side of Napoleon's army that day? While researching this question, what came directly to my mind was a saying I once heard someone unknown say, "you make our own luck." This described Napoleon at Austerlitz very well. Napoleon clearly made his own luck.
Read more... 3,815 words
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Member Article: Austerlitz: Napoleon Makes His Own Luck
by Lonny L. Grout

Austerlitz was the battle that many historians have considered Napoleon's masterpiece. Napoleon himself considered this his masterpiece. There is no doubt that Austerlitz was a great victory for Napoleon, both strategically and tactically. So, was it all the genius of Napoleon, or was it merely that luck was on the side of Napoleon's army that day? While researching this question, what came directly to my mind was a saying I once heard someone unknown say, "you make our own luck." This described Napoleon at Austerlitz very well. Napoleon clearly made his own luck.
Read more... 3,815 words
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Member Article: The Failures at Spion Kop
by Robert C. Daniels

In many ways the Battle of Spion Kop was typical of the many battles fought between the British and the joint armies of the Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State from 1899 to 1902 in what is known as the Boer War. It was one of many battles of the war in which the British army, a highly trained, disciplined, and professionally led army, lost to the untrained and undisciplined Boer army, made up of Boers (the Afrikaans word for farmers) and Burghers (storekeepers and town-dwellers), and led by, for the most part, leaders who were unlearned and inexperienced in the techniques of modern day warfare.
Read more... 7,840 words
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Member Article: The Quality of the Combatants in the Black Hawk War
by Robert C. Daniels

As with so many of the Indian wars fought between the United States and the many separate tribes of Native Americans, the 1832 Black Hawk War, named after the Sac [1] Indian Mà-ka-tai-me-she-kià-kiàk,[2] meaning Black Hawk in English and the leading Indian antagonist of the war, was a direct result of the white man's encroachment upon Indian lands. In as much, like many of these wars, it was a war that need not have taken place.
Read more... 9,583 words
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Member Article: The Tunisian Army in the Crimean War: A Military Mystery
by Dr. Andrew McGregor

Though it solved little at a great expense in human life, the Crimean War of 1853-55 remains a much-studied turning point in military history. Despite its name soldiers and sailors from a variety of nations and empires fought the war on seven fronts; the Danube region, the Crimea, the Caucasus, Eastern Anatolia, the Baltic Sea, the White Sea, and the Kamchatka Peninsula on Russia's Pacific Coast. With several other nations on the brink of joining in (including Spain, Austria-Hungary, Prussia, Sweden and the United States), the Crimean War very nearly became the first World War. For the combatants its often-disastrous conduct exposed the need for revisions in military tactics, improved medical services and the creation of efficient logistical systems. The Muslim Ottoman Empire entered into an alliance with the Christian nations of Western Europe against Russia, laying the historical groundwork for the eventual presence of modern Turkey as the second-largest military force in NATO.
Read more... 4,629 words
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Member Article: Giuseppe Garibaldi: Motivations for a Unified Italy
by Guy Nasuti

Giuseppe Garibaldi is as much a hero to Italians today as he was back when he attempted to unify the various Italian states into one nation. Garibaldi’s motivations for organizing and fighting with his Risorgimento was to found a liberal system of government for Italy that was then sweeping most of Europe, to become a leader to men who shared his ideals, and ultimately the establishment of a unified Italy. Giuseppe Garibaldi was a revolutionary from an early age. In 1834, in Marseilles, France, he met a man named Giuseppe Mazzini, who was the leading proponent of Italian unification at the time. Mazzini shared his vision of a liberal republic made possible through political and social reforms with the youthful Garibaldi, and the impression was made. Garibaldi joined the Young Italy movement and the Carbonari revolutionary association.[1]
Read more... 3,035 words
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Member Article: The Mitrailleuse
by Dr. Patrick Marder

The Mitrailleuse was the world's first machine-gun to actually be used in major combat, during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. Description: 25 barrels of 13mm caliber, bullet weight: 50 grammes, powder weight 12 grammes, muzzle velocity: an extraordinary (for the time!) 530 metres/second (the result of a high propellant/projectile ratio of nearly 1:4; higher than the Chassepot's of 1:5 or of the Dreyse's of 1:6), rate of fire 75 to 125 rpm or 200 rpm max; one battery of six guns carried 9 chests loaded with a total of 43,200 bullets. This ammunition supply allows 7200 rounds (or 1440 25-round 'clips') for each Mitrailleuse, enough ammunition to theoretically permit one and a half hours of continuous fire.
Read more... 5,632 words
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Member Article: The Grande Armee of 1812 in Russia
by Major James T. McGhee

Author and historian David G. Chandler identifies Napoleon Bonaparte as "one of the greatest military minds that has ever existed."[1] Indeed Napoleon's exploits as a military commander and his subsequent rise to the position of Emperor of France and much of Europe has produced an enormous amount of scholarly interest. Historians, political scientists, military theorists and others have published volumes on Napoleon and his times. Napoleon's rise to power was achieved in a large part by his many military successes. His remarkable victories over the combined armies of Europe won him recognition and glory as a general and finally Emperor. However, through the many challenging and bloody campaigns it was the soldiers serving under Napoleon and in the Grand Army and their sacrifices that provided Napoleon with his power over Europe. Napoleon expected nothing less from his troops. He pushed them beyond human endurance to achieve total victory over his enemies. According to Napoleon, "The first qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only the second; hardship, poverty, and want are the best school for a soldier."[2] In 1812, Napoleon embarked on a campaign that would test the limits of these qualifications in his soldiers. Those who endured the brutal march of Napoleon's Russian Campaign of 1812 and survived may be considered, most certainly by Napoleon's standards, some of the most qualified soldiers in the history of warfare.
Read more... 6,657 words
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Member Article: The French Campaign of 1859 (Second War of Italian Unification)
by Dr. Patrick Marder

Despite its possibilities and perspectives, the practical heritage of the Crimean War for the French Army was a meager one. The Historique of the artillery service admitted openly in 1858 that "the fusil d'infanterie [the smoothbore musket] has rendered little or no service "; which is quite a strong statement when one remembers that this weapon equipped 83% of French forces in the Crimea.[1] Essentially then, an overwhelming proportion of French infantry—the men of the line regiments—made little direct military contribution to combat, surrendering the decisive battle role to the elite forces of the Zouaves, Turcos, Chasseurs, equipped with rifled arms and fighting in the light infantry order. And while the usefulness of rifled arms had been recognized, this understanding did not translate into any significant tactical evolution; more perniciously, the idea that success depended on the spirit and élan of offensive charges continued to flourish. Strategically also, there seems to have been no comprehension of what spiraling technological progress in weapons represented. The experience of Africa—much longer and extensive than the war in the Crimea—still upheld audacity, courage, and autonomy, more than weaponry, as the decisive ingredients to victory.
Read more... 11,261 words
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Member Article: The French Intervention in Mexico (1862-67)
by Timothy Neeno, M.A.

Beginning in 1862, while the United States was paralyzed by Civil War, the French under Napoleon III tried to create an empire in Mexico under a puppet ruler, the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Over the next five years of war some 300,000 Mexicans died, and French ambitions were dealt a bruising blow. How had this conflict come about, and how did a weakened, divided nation defeat one of the most powerful empires in the world? From 1521, when an army of conquistadors under Hernán Cortéz marched into the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, until 1821, Mexico was under the harsh rule of Spain. For three hundred years the Spaniards kept tight control of Mexico, limiting her trade to Spain alone and preventing any attempts at self government. After years of unrest and rebellion, the Spanish left Mexico, leaving a land in turmoil. Between 1821 and 1848 Mexico was in a near constant state of upheaval, in which she lost half her national territory to the expanding United States. In the long period of strife before and after independence, three groups grew in wealth, power and influence: the army, rich landowners, and the Church. The Catholic Church alone controlled nearly one half the taxable land in Mexico, while the owners of the great haciendas reduced many ostensibly free smallholders to debt peonage. At the same time the central government declined in authority and prestige. Of a population of nine million people, some five million were Native Americans, with little or nor rights, and three million others were mestizos, people of mixed European and Native American blood, leaving a ruling class of one million European descended Whites.
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Member Article: The Master's Misstep
by Drew Betson

On 14 October, 1806, French forces achieved decisive victory in pitched battles against Prussian forces in the fields near the towns Jena and Auerstadt. As the battle commanded by Napoleon at Jena approached its finish and the Prussian lines began to break, Napoleon maintained many of the elite foot soldiers of the Imperial Guard in tactical reserve.[1] After overhearing a soldier yell "Forward!" Napoleon retorted, "This can only be a young man with no beard who wishes to prejudge what I am going to do; let him wait until he has commanded in thirty pitched battles before pretending to give me his opinion."[2] This vignette plays to the common perception of Napoleon as the singular man with decision-making ability in his Grand Armée. While it was true that on his level of command, Napoleon was his own operations and intelligence officer and dictated orders from the movements of corps to the state of supplies, Napoleon's actions on campaigns provides for the historian a truly amazing military mind.[3]
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Member Article: Trafalgar Remembered
by Nitin K. Shankar

The sea battle of Trafalgar fought in 1805 is strongly linked to memories of my school history lessons in 1951, a visit to the HMS Victory in Portsmouth in 1957 and a day spent in Cadiz in 1987.  My school history book described the victor of the battle, Horatio Nelson, as a 'weak and sickly child' who distinguished himself through great personal courage and went on to become the Royal Navy's greatest admirals. It was the combination of Nelson's puny appearance and daring that inspired me to read more about him. Born in 1758, Nelson entered the Royal Navy at the age of 12. He passed his lieutenant's exam more than a year under the official age in 1777 and was made post-captain at the age of 21. His youthfulness stood out and even the Prince of Wales, who was then a young midshipman on board Admiral Samuel Hood's flagship, the Barfleur, noticed Nelson. The future King William IV described Nelson as 'the merest boy of a captain I ever beheld.'
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Rorke's Drift
by Gilbert Padilla

By the middle of the nineteenth century Great Britain held two colonies in southern Africa, the Cape Colony and Natal. These stretched from the southern tip of the continent (the Cape) upwards along its eastern coast (Natal). In the interior of the region were two independent Boer republics, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Among these European enclaves were the remnants of the original African nations, the strongest of which was the Zulu kingdom, just north of Natal. To Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere, the British government’s High Commissioner for Southern Africa, this simply would not do. To Frere, the fiercely independent Zulus posed a serious threat to the policy of “Confederation”, which he advocated. The object of this policy was to ensure stability by bringing all of these groups under British control. In 1877 Britain annexed the Transvaal, thereby inheriting a border dispute with the Zulu kingdom (Zululand, or KwaZulu). Further, in 1873 King Cetshwayo kaMpande had initiated a series of internal reforms with the goal of revitalizing and strengthening the Zulu nation. To remove this perceived threat to the authority of Queen Victoria, Frere determined to orchestrate a military confrontation with the Zulus for the express purpose of breaking their power. To the British Army commander in the region, Lieutenant-General Sir Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, this seemed a task that would require neither much time nor much effort. Chelmsford estimated that King Cetshwayo could muster an army of over forty thousand warriors, but this was a part-time citizen force armed with mostly traditional weapons, i.e., spear and shield. No matter what training or discipline such soldiers might possess, both Frere and Chelmsford judged them no match for a well-trained, well-equipped, and well-led modern professional army.
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Recommended Reading

Letters from the Battle of Waterloo: Unpublished Correspondence by Allied Officers from the Siborne Papers

Waterloo: The Truth At Last: Why Napoleon Lost the Great Battle

Fighting the British: French Eyewitness Accounts from the Napoleonic Wars

History of the Third Seminole War: 1849-1858

Chitral 1895: An Episode of the Great Game

Guide to Sieges of South Africa: Anglo-Boer Wars;Anglo-Zulu War; Frontier Wars; Basuto Wars

1815 The Return Of Napoleon

Nelson's Victory: 250 Years of War and Peace

Napoleon 1814: The Defence of France

Wellington: Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace 1814–1852

Russian Eyewitness Accounts of the Campaign of 1807

The Eagle's Last Triumph: Napoleon's Victory at Ligny, June 1815

1809: Thunder on the Danube - Napoleon's Defeat of the Habsburgs, Vol. 1: Abensberg

French Guardsman vs Russian Jaeger: 1812-14

Wellington: The Path to Victory 1769-1814

The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo--and the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation

Wellington's Wars: The Making of a Military Genius

They Shall Not Pass: The British Battalion at Jarama - The Spanish Civil War

The Defence of Lucknow: T.F. Wilson's Memoir of the Indian Mutiny, 1857

From Corunna to Waterloo: The Letters and Journals of Two Napoleonic Hussars, 1801-1816

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