The Mercenary’s Wages of War

Discussion of how to explain military behavior ongoing in this post.

We’ve had a discussion about mercenaries and their ilk in the early modern period – hopefully I’ll have some time in the future to create a summary chart, and maybe the discussion will even pick back up! Lots more works out there to dragoon into service.

Going through my notes database I came across this letter from the English writer Joseph Addison to his friend William Congreve. It poignantly described the wages of war:

“I believe this is the first letter that was ever sent you from the middle Region where I am at this present writing. Not to keep you in suspense it comes to you from the top of the highest mountain in Switzerland where I am now shivering among the Eternal frosts and snows. I can scarce forbear dating it in December tho they call it the first of August at ye bottome of the hill. I assure you I can hardly keep my Ink from Freezing in the middle of the Dog-days. I am here enter­tained wth the prettiest variety of snow-prospects that you can Imagine, and have several pits of it before me that are very near as old as the mountain it-self: for in this country ’tis as hard and as lasting as marble. I am now upon a Spot of it that must have falln about the Reign of Charlemain or  King Peppin. The Inhabitants of the country are as great Curiosities as the country it-self. They generally hire themselves out in their youth, & if they are musquet-proof till about Fifty, they bring home the money they have got and the Limbs they have left to pass the rest of their time among their Native mountains. One of the gentlemen of the place, that is come off with the Loss of an Eye only, told me by way of Boast that there were now seavn wooden Legs in his Family, and that for these four generations there had not bin one in his line that carryd a whole [34] Body with him to the grave.”

Papal Swiss Guards flag

From Joseph Addison, The letters of Joseph Addison, edited by Walter Graham (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941), 33-34. Dated 1 August 1702. This letter was also printed in Richard Steele’s Tatler on 12 November 1709.
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2 responses to “The Mercenary’s Wages of War”

  1. John Grenier says :

    OK, so I’m looking at the Oct 1756 intelligence reports from Rogers’s Rangers on the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga. One of RR’s prisoners reported that Ti held 33 guns (12 18#ers, 12 15#ers, and 9 8#ers) and Crown Point held 18 total, with 18#ers being the largest. I know that is miniscule compared to the numbers in most forts in Flanders, but then again, Crown Point and Ti were (are?) in the middle of nowhere. I wonder, is there some kind of ranking order (1st-rate thru 6th-rate, etc.) for forts, no? Where would a fort with 33 smallish guns, and another with 18, fall in the scheme of things? Of course, these were pretty much stand-alone operations — no mutually supporting forts (unless you consider Ti and CP), garrisons, and magazine systems to help in times of siege. It’s clear by the fall of ’56 that the earl of Loudoun (the Britrish CINC) knew he did not have the transporation system that would allow him to get enough men, guns, and materiel in front of the forts for a siege (yet Montcalm was able to do so the next summer, and had already done so at Oswego). Anyway, just looking for a little context, and I figure this is a good place to ask. Cheers

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