Queens Elizabeth

O’Byrne’s corpse was butchered and for months the head and quarters hung on pike staffs on the wall over Dublin Castle drawbridge. Several months later the pickled head was presented to the council secretary at London by an English adventurer, who was disappointed to find that the head-silver due on O’Byrne* had already been paid in Ireland. The queen was angered that, “the head of such a base Robin Hood was brought solemnly into England“.

(source)

Read enough Irish history and you gain a grudging respect for Queen Elizabeth I.  She’s always delivering withering remarks and savage putdowns to people giving her bad news.

 

In 1603, Elizabeth had seemed a foolish old woman, as men looked expectantly to a Stuart king. By 1630, when Stuart kings had proved rather a disappointment, she had become the paragon of all princely virtues.

At this remove, who can say if Elizabeth was a foolish old woman or one of history’s canniest power players, but I’m team power player.  She managed to survive rebellions, armadas, assassination attempts, plagues, you name it!

Just surviving as a queen is tough.

The (current) Queen did not seem that into the wedding. The Crown may have fooled us into thinking the Queen is more woke than she is.

* was reading about O’Byrne after seeing convo on Tom Ricks’ twitter about the origin of “firebrand”


Cowpens

Believe me, it killed me to drive across South Carolina and not have time to stop and make a study of the battlefield at Cowpens.

Cowpens is an American story about local amateurs beating foreign professionals, with an A+ villain in Banastre Tarleton.

Tarleton painted by (who else?) Joshua Reynolds

How satisfying must it been to have kicked this guy’s ass?!  Tarleton, a rich boy dandy, was in command at age 25.  Very cocky.  At Cowpens he charged right into a trap.

The Americans:

 conducted a double envelopment of Tarleton’s force, and suffered casualties of only 12 killed and 61 wounded…  Morgan’s army took 712 prisoners, which included 200 wounded. Even worse for the British, the forces lost (especially the British Legion and the dragoons) constituted the cream of Cornwallis’ army. Additionally, 110 British soldiers were killed in action, and every artilleryman was either killed or incapacitated by wounds. Tarleton suffered an 86 percent casualty rate, and his brigade had been all but wiped out as a fighting force.

But don’t worry!

Tarleton was one of around 160 British troops to escape.

Tarleton went on, of course, to a career in politics.

He is especially noted for supporting the slave trade, which was highly important to the port of Liverpool. Its ships were deeply involved in slave trading. Tarleton was working to preserve the slavery business with his brothers Clayton and Thomas, and he became well known for his taunting and mockery of the abolitionists.

His romantic life?

For 15 years, he had a relationship with the actress and writer Mary Robinson (Perdita), whom he initially seduced on a bet.

LOL this guy.  What?  Mary Robinson was at the time a notorious babe and former mistress of the King:

Prior to [Tarleton], Robinson had been having an affair with a man named Lord Malden. According to one account, Malden and Tarleton were betting men, and Malden was so confident in Robinson’s loyalty to him, and believed that no man could ever take her from him. As such, he made a bet of a thousand guineas that none of the men in his circle could seduce her. Unfortunately for Malden, Tarleton accepted the bet and swooped in to not only seduce Robinson, but establish a relationship that would last the next 15 years.

Tarleton was famous for killing prisoners trying to surrender — “Tarleton’s Quarter” – after the Battle of Waxhaws.  In Tarleton’s version of the story this was because his guys were so upset that he was hurt:

Colonel Tarleton’s account, published in 1787, said that his horse had been shot from under him, and that his soldiers, thinking him dead, engaged in “a vindictive asperity not easily restrained”.

Then came Cowpens.

via Wikipedia via the US Military Academy history department

The charts and diagrams that are used to explain battles have always interested me but they have some real problems.  In a word they are bloodless.

What we’re talking about here didn’t look like a bunch of tidy arrows and lines.  It was violent chaos, a bunch of guys murdering each other in fire and smoke.

But a little more reading suggests Daniel Morgan, the Continental commander, with the benefit of some time to plan, made some good moves.

Daniel Morgan turned to his advantage the landscape of Cowpens, the varying reliability of his troops, his opponent’s expectations, and the time available before Tarleton’s arrival. He knew untrained militiamen, which composed a large portion of his force, were generally unreliable in battle, and in the past had routed at the first hint of defeat and abandoned the regulars. (The Battle of Camden had ended in disaster when the militia, which was half of the American force, broke and ran as soon as the shooting started.) To eliminate that possibility, he defied convention by placing his army between the Broad and Pacolet rivers, thus making escape impossible if the army was routed.

More:

Morgan asked the militia to fire two volleys, something they could achieve, and then withdraw to the left, to re-form in the rear

Tarleton meanwhile drove his foodless, sleepless men all night in a damn hurry to get another victory.

 

John Eager Howard quoted Maj. McArthur of the 71st Highlanders, now a prisoner of the Americans, as saying that “he was an officer before Tarleton was born; that the best troops in the service were put under ‘that boy’ to be sacrificed.”

This detail:

An American prisoner later told that when Tarleton reached Cornwallis and reported the disaster, Cornwallis placed his sword tip on the ground and leaned on it until the blade snapped.

 


Daytona

Happened to catch the end of the Daytona 500 – super dramatic!  That is Austin Dillon’s dad.  Dawned on me that a reason men love sports is the emotions are so intense inhibitions break down and they can express love and tenderness for each other.  (War too?)

source: Al Chang for the US Army, 1950.

(Talking cis-straight men here, friends and fathers and sons and comrades and teammates, gay male affection a different topic)


McPeak vs Earthman

Have we entered a new way of war in which air power isn’t as important? That this is America’s asymmetric challenge and air power isn’t as wanted?

If so, how do we overcome that? How do we get past that, the fact that our adversaries have figured out how we fight?

Merrill McPeak: Well, it’s not so much that the adversaries figured out how we fight.

That’s dead easy. Everybody can see it. I mean, we don’t make any mystery of it.

What we’ve done is taken the risk out of the kind of operations that we do now with officers.

I mean, we’ve got stealth airplanes. So I’m sitting in a stealth airplane and I’m on super-cruise. In the F-22, you’re cruising at 1.7 to 1.8 (mach) in a stealthy machine.

Who’s going to touch you?

I mean, I never felt vulnerable when I was flying an airplane. Period. Not against any kind of earthman.

Got a lot out of this looooong interview with former Air Force chief of staff and Ken Burns & Lynn Novick’s Vietnam War star Merrill McPeak in the San Diego Union Tribune, (ht Tom Ricks of course).

McPeak on Boyd, whom we have discussed:

So they got the argument a little bit wrong. But then along comes Boyd with the OODA Loop and some philosophy kind of concepts and people said, ‘Wow, a fighter pilot with a brain!’

They tended to listen to him when in many respects he was a failed officer and even a failed human being in some ways.

Carl Prine: There’s an entire cottage industry built around him now.

Merrill McPeak: I was at Nellis the night he jumped out of an F-100. I was a student there and he was an instructor in the Weapons School. He had a bet that he could get anybody from his 6 o’clock to his 12 o’clock in 40 seconds, or whatever it was.

He tried his special little trick and the airplane quit on him. It overstretched the hydraulic system, the plumbing, the flight controls, and the airplane went crazy and he had to jump out.

Here he is coming back to Nellis and they went out to pick him up in a chopper. And he’s dragging his parachute back to Nellis. He didn’t look so good that night.

The general likes Mozart:

Carl Prine: I had this image of you, as a general, appreciating the grand, comprehensive, overwhelming symphony and yet you prefer the smaller pieces? The elegant and tiny works?

Merrill McPeak: Well, you know the big G minor symphony? Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta. That’s the famous one, the 40. It’s in there with Jupiter and the later symphonies.

But Symphony 25 has that crystal clear quality to it. If it were a stream, you could look clear through it to the bottom.

There’s something magical about it.


The scum of the earth

(c) English Heritage, The Wellington Collection, Apsley House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class — no matter whether your son or my son — all must march; but our friends — I may say it in this room — are the very scum of the earth. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling — all stuff — no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children — some for minor offences — many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.

Christopher Plummer played Wellington in the 1970 movie Waterloo, an expensive flop:

Final costs were over £12 million (GBP) (equivalent to about U.S. $38.3 million in 1970), making Waterloo one of the most expensive movies ever made, for its time. Had the movie been filmed in the West, costs might have been as much as three times this. Mosfilm contributed more than £4 million of the costs, nearly 17,000 soldiers of the Soviet Army, including a full brigade of Soviet cavalry, and a host of engineers and labourers to prepare the battlefield in the rolling farmland outside Uzhhorod, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union).

To recreate the battlefield authentically, the Soviets bulldozed away two hills, laid five miles of roads, transplanted 5,000 trees, sowed fields of rye, barley and wildflowers and reconstructed four historic buildings. To create the mud, more than six miles of underground irrigation piping was specially laid. Most of the battle scenes were filmed using five Panavision cameras simultaneously – from ground level, from 100-foot towers, from a helicopter, and from an overhead railway built right across the location.

Happened to tape the film onto a VHS off Boston’s TV 38 in my boyhood and thought it was pretty good.

 

is a very compelling book on the topic.  Another great one by Howarth.

Wellington said a bunch of cool quotes:

As quoted in A History of Warfare (1968) by Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: “Sir Winston Churchill once told me of a reply made by the Duke of Wellington, in his last years, when a friend asked him: “If you had your life over again, is there any way in which you could have done better?” The old Duke replied: “Yes, I should have given more praise.”

The phrase “scum of the earth” turns up in some translations of 1 Corinthians 4:13.

On this Veterans’ Day I like to remember unlikely veterans like Larry David:

He wrote a funny essay about his experience in the Army Reserve here.  And:

He was drafted into the United States Army in 1970. He trained as a medic and was stationed in West Germany. After being honorably discharged he used the benefits of the G.I. Bill to enroll in the California Institute of the Arts, and received a BAdegree in drama from The Evergreen State College in 1975.

Thomas Ricks of course has a Veteran’s Day guest post worth reading.


Ken Burns Vietnam

This fall, Ken Burns new documentary about the Vietnam War will be on PBS.

Any one of these clips from it will make you still for a minute.

The intensity of what happened with the US in Vietnam is insane.  The magnitude of the scar is unspeakable.  Literally: we can’t talk about it.

When Ken Burns made The Civil War, about something 150 years ago, it made people cry.  What is it going to be like to watch The Vietnam War, a thing every person in my parent’s generation had to reckon with in some serious way?

I saw that one of the talkers is Karl Marlantes.  His book What It Is Like To Go To War is astounding.

I’m not sure enough people heard about it.  At one time I had the same publisher as Karl Marlantes, which I was very proud of, they sent me his books for free.

Marlantes tells this story about running into Joseph Campbell, by chance:

Absolution.

Imagine having whiskey with Joseph Campbell.

The best discipline:

 

The other day on Reddit “Today I Learned” I saw this.

I went to check the source, the Lodi News Sentinel, 1971:

Preserved at this blog:

There the author gives a question and answer about his own time in Vietnam and after that I would describe as harrowing and illuminating and powerful.

Ken Burns made some darn good movies.


The War Between Mochi and Sake