You’ll never know until you ask.
I was going through my DTPO database (loving the Keyboard Maestro macros, BTW), and I came across mention of an intriguing reference in a London Gazette newspaper from 1693. As is too often the case, the secondary source I took the note from failed to quote from the issue in question, making it critical for me to see the original. And while I do have 1,400 issues from the London Gazette, those only cover the years 1701-1712.
Without access to the online Burney newspaper collection, I attempted a Hail Mary and checked Google. Lo and behold, the company responsible for the London Gazette, sometimes known as the British government, is still around, and has actually gone to the expense (err, expence) of providing a screen to search back issues.
What the hell – I thought – I’ll just type in 1693 for the year and see what happens. It’s not like they can take away my Historian’s license if their archives only go back to 1815. And to my utter amazement, this popped up:
It’s a thing of beauty I tells ya.
So download ‘em while ya got ‘em. (If you have a macro app, you could probably even make a macro to navigate through the pages and either download or take screen shots of each.)
One warning though: the search apparently doesn’t realize that the official government calendar back then started the year on March 25 (Lady Day, the day of Jesus’ supposed conception). Regular readers know what I’m talking about. So, for example, I’m looking at an issue dated “Thursday 15 February to Monday 19 February 1704″, which mentions how the garrison of Verrua was still defending itself. The problem, of course, is that the mountaintop fortress of Verrua wasn’t invested until mid-October 1704, and it defended itself into early April of 1705. Or you could check a dozen other factual references in each issue and discover the same. You might even be able to tell those first three months are out-of-order from the issue numbers printed on the first pages – but there are sometimes typos in those. ;(
It must have been confusing for contemporaries as well, given the frequency with which we can find handwritten notations such as the following:
So caveat emptor!
The SMH released its program for the upcoming annual conference in April. Several panels of note to EMEMHians:
- Your now-standard panels on Ancient warfare and early American warfare, while Chinese military history continues to go strong.
Panel on LOGISTICS, DIPLOMACY, AND INTELLIGENCE IN EARLY MODERN WAR
Chair: Margaret Sankey, Minnesota State University at Moorhead
Feeding Mars in the Indian Ocean: Portuguese Logistics in the 16th Century
Roger Lee de Jesus, University of Coimbra, Portugal
A Wilderness of Uncertainty: Intelligence during the Battle of Trenton, 1776
Brice Coates, University of Calgary
The Promise of War: Military Subsidy Treaties and Payments, 1688-1714
Thomas Nora, University of Hull
Panel on CROSS CULTURAL REPRESENTATIONS OF TERROR AND SAVAGERY IN WARFARE, CA. 1500-1800
Chair: Joseph F. Guilmartin, Ohio State University
“They Will Burn Us within the Blockhouse while They Escape with Their Lives…”: Native American Responses to European Violence in the South East and Beyond
Matt Jennings, Macon State College
Death, Savagery, and Survival in Early Modern European Siege Warfare
Mario Rizzo, University of Pavia
Terror in Pre Colonial African Warfare
Tim Stapleton, University of Trent
Creating a Den for the Yellow Tiger: Accounts of Zhang Xianzhong’s “Cleansing of Sichuan”
Kenneth M. Swope, University of Southern Mississippi
Panel on PERCEPTIONS OF WAR IN THE EARLY MODERN WORLD
Chair: John F. Guilmartin, Ohio State University
The American Crisis: Perceptions of War, 1775-1777
Jonathan Romaneski, Ohio State University
Methodical Preparations and Unnecessary Delay: British and Cherokee Perceptions of Warfare in the 1758 Forbes Campaign
Jessica Wallance, Ohio State University
The Exact and True Relation of Bloody Battle: English Perceptions of the Nature of the 30 Years War, 1629-37
James Tucker, Ohio State University
A True and Godly Cause: Religion as a Casus Belli in Reformation Europe
Denice Fett, University of North Florida
- Panel on ALBION BETWEEN THE WARS, 1748-1756Chair: Kristofer Ray, Austin Peay State UniversityThe Sources of Military Reform: The British Army and the Inter War Years, 1748-1756
Patrick Speelman, US Merchant Marine Academy
The Defense of British North America between the Wars, 1748-1754
Thomas Agostini, South Dakota State University
Britannia Aggressor?: Posturing for Peace or War in the Atlantic World, 1748-56
Matt Schumann, Eastern Michigan University
I won’t be attending, so somebody needs to take good notes for me.
Long-time readers may have blocked out the memory, but when this blog first started, I was feeling my way as a blogger and trying out a variety of different types of posts. One genre was the venerable Caturday meme. And guess what – it’s back! Thanks to a recent story in the Daily Mail about 16C rocket cats. Yes, you’ve probably heard of WW2-era bat bombs, and now we have German rocket cats (and birds).
And here I wasted 380 pages talking about cannons and trenches and mines. (Admittedly, I did mention stratagems, so I get partial credit.) How could I have missed the obvious, revolutionary impact of animal explosives? Now there’s your Military Revolution!
On a serious note though, is this more than just another example of some crank repeating a crazy idea here? For example, do we see more cases of such fanciful deus ex machina proposals when the trace italienne is still dominant? Is this an example of a more general tendency for people to fall back on wishful thinking when they face a difficult challenge?
A new book (soon to be released) from John Childs, building off of his earlier work on the Williamite Wars in Ireland.
Another contemporary English merging of the seasons of Mars and Venus – this one a bit more technical, not to mention more genteel, than the previous post.
A Letter from an Engineer in Flanders to his Mistress in London.
This is now the fourth time I have summon’d you to Write me an Answer to my former Epistles. I am now set down before the strong Town of Tournay [besieged 1709]. I believe it will rob us of a great deal of Time, Men, and Money, before we can be possess’d of that Fortress: Nevertheless, you may assure your self, as soon as it falls into our Hands, I shall make bold to lay close Siege to your Cittadel, howsoever Fortified.
If you have ten thousand Charms I have as many Compliments at my Command: I am a Man of Honour, and so much Generousity, as to let you know on which Side I shall attack you, though contrary to the Rules of War. If I break Ground the first Night, though it be with the Expence of some Blood, I shall value that no more than a Templer does an Oyster Women, or a Hackny-Writer does Engrossing Bills at Nine Pence per Skin. If I have but the good Luck, when I attack the Horn-Work of your Stays, as not to suffer a Repulse, I shall then, with more Courage, place my Digites upon your Demi-Bubbylunes, which will enable me to force the Counterscarp of your Hoop-Petticoat; Batter the Stockades of your Gambrils, the Pallisades of your Toes; make a Breach in your Curtell with my Culverin; pass your Fossee o’er the Gallery of you Affections; force you to Beat a Chamade of Love, and yield your self a Prisoner at my Discretion.
Alas, that fictional engineer would have had to wait: the bloody battle of Malplaquet and yet another siege – of Mons – awaited him in Flanders.
Or, as the t-shirts have it, “Engineers Do It with Precision.”
In honor of the impending Valentine’s Day holiday, I present you with an early modern love story. I’m not a Romantic (ask my wife); I much prefer the Enlightenment over the Romantic age. So I offer this ditty of ”vulgar humor” (as the EBBA catalog categorizes it) from late in the 17C. Yes, it’s shocking to learn that late-17C Englishmen and women thought about sex. But they also thought about sieges, and the parallels (get it?) were obvious, as Christopher Duffy noted thirty-five years ago (see Siege Warfare, 256-257). The fortress as an unconquered maiden was a not uncommon trope, the French memoirist Jean De La Colonie, for example, referred to Namur as la pucelle, a stronghold whose defenses had never been breached. So here we have yet one more example of how war got all mixed up with contemporary sexual concerns, in the guise of that age-old ‘siege of the sexes.’ Read More…
My exuberant Mercenaries! snark prompted a reignition of the complex question of how we define the term. Motivations, labor relations, national-vs-regional identity: they all get tangled up in one big early-modern Gordian knot.
I don’t claim to have a better typology than I did when we discussed the issue two years ago, but in the meantime I did find this brief English excursus on the definition of a mercenary in 1712, that I’ve been meaning to post.
For background, this discussion comes from The Examiner, a periodical started in 1711 in the wake of the Tory victories of the previous autumn. Its editors and contributors included Tory figures like Henry St. John (future Viscount Bolingbroke) and Jonathan Swift – thus it opposed continuing the war, which included attacking the Duke of Marlborough’s conduct as well as that of the Dutch. The periodical was a political document to be sure, but it seemed to reflect a significant segment of the English electorate at the time.
The particular incident that the following excerpt discusses took place in mid-1712: the British army formally abandoned its allies in the field and marched home. All the signatories of the second Grand Alliance had relied heavily on German troops – the Maritime powers alone employed almost 100,000 the previous year. Thus when the British commander the Duke of Ormonde ordered his British army home, those foreign regiments in British service needed to make a decision: should they join their British paymaster, and presumably be released from service shortly thereafter, or should they switch sides to continue both the fight and their employment? Not surprisingly, they chose to switch to the pay of the Dutch and Austrians, which likely disappointed the Tories, who sought an end to the war and feared that a reinforced Dutch-Imperial army might upend their negotiations.
Here, then, is the Examiner‘s response to foreign complaints that the paper had previously referred to these troops as “mercenaries.”
The Examiner Vol. 2, #40, August 28-September 4, 1712
“The Writers of the Dutch News-Papers, as well as other Persons of Importance Abroad, have, it seems, taken great Offence at our use of the word Mercenary, when applied to the Foreign Troops, which were lately in Her Majesty’s Pay. And though the Vindication of it may be a Task more proper for the Gazetteer, than for the Examiner; yet to oblige a Brother-Writer, who ’tis likely is otherways engaged, I here observe, that those who make the Objection cannot be very well acquainted, either with Latin or History: For that Word is the only proper one to signify such Troops as are wholly maintained by a Foreign Power; especially if their own Sovereign has no part in the War; which is the Case of the Danish, and some of the German forces. It need not therefore be taken for a Term of Reproach; there being no other Word, which so properly expresses the Thing intended. For Auxiliary Forces, as some would have these called, are only those who engage as Allies; and either wholly or in part provide for their own Subsistence. Suppose however this Word to be taken in it’s worst Sense; (for I own it is sometimes used in no very good one) even then perhaps it would not be ill apply’d, to those who are the Subject of the present Debate. We should have a wrong Notion, sure, of the Wisdom, Sagacity, and profound Politicks of some Princes, were we not persuaded, that when they ordered their Troops so dishonourably to leave their honest old Paymasters, they were well satisfy’d that the Emperor and the States, would at least make them amends for all the Losses they might sustain by such a Desertion; and that they received further Assurances that those Potentates would continue the War, and consequently these Troops in their Service; whereas if they adhered to Her Britannick Majesty, they would be maintain’d at most but a few Months longer. We shall therefore still take the Liberty to say, that in every Sense of the Word, they are Mercenary, very Mercenary Forces.”
What do we learn from this?
- That the period’s newspapers frequently argued with one another in print.
- That the term “mercenary” could be used pejoratively at the time.
- That the historical precedents of the Romans were still relevant.
- That the author made a distinction between mercenary troops (those from a country whose ruler was not directly engaged in the war) and auxiliary troops (whose ruler was an ally, and therefore directly engaged in the war). I can also add that this sense of auxiliary was also used in treatises and histories of the period, e.g. when discussing Roman auxiliaries.
Anything revolutionary in all this? Not really. But it does provide an interesting little window into a contemporary distinction made between mercenary and auxiliary, as well as a hint that these definitions themselves, when applied to specific forces, could be politicized, and therefore up for debate.