Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Engraving from 1863 depicting the death of Major Patrick Ferguson at the battle of King’s Mountain, 7 October 1780.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I’ll never forget my first march with full pack, helmet, rolled coat, flask, cartridges, and rifle. I was supposed to lug all this stuff from my apartment to the Platz for parade, but collapsed halfway there and had to ride the rest of the way in a taxi.
German volunteer soldier Adolf Matthias, aged 19 at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian war, 1870. Quoted in G. Wawro, The Franco-Prussian War: The German Conquest of France in 1870-1871, p. 79
Bequeathed by Alexander Wood Inglis of Glencorse (1854-1929) 1929
A neat free-for-download fife handbook from the 1760s, reprinted until the early 19th century; it was helpful when I started figuring out the fingering, and I like the fact it contains the English and Scottish duty.
The Smolensk road  - As we rode through the forests, for a long time I couldn’t understand why the wind sometimes wafted a bad smell from the thickets. At last I asked our driver about it and received an answer that could not be more horrible, spoken with the total indifference of the Russian peasant: “There’s a Frenchman rotting somewhere.”
Nadezhda Durova, The cavalry maiden, p. 164-165
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
In our present life there is nothing so ordinary and nothing that attracts less attention than death. This is its dominion, and it is exactly here that nobody thinks about it or fears it; everyone finds it beneath notice. “And where’s such-and-such?” “Killed.” “Well, then send me so-and-so.” “He’s been killed, too.” “Well, you fool, don’t just keep parroting ‘killed, killed’. Send for a sergeant who’s still alive.”
From Nadezhda Durova's Notes, 1839, translated and quoted in the 1989 English edition of The cavalry maiden, p. 149
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Gentlemen soldiers, do not desert; and you Gentlemen Officers do not hold back the poor soldiers’ pay because this is the cause.
Last words of a soldier in the army of the Duchy of Parma, tried for desertion and sentenced to face the firing squad in May 1702. Quoted in L’esercito farnesiano dal 1694 al 1731, by Mario Zannoni, p. 21 (my translation).
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Louis XV visiting the battlefield of Fontenoy, May 1745 - Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux (1815-1884)
Saturday, February 1, 2014
And then, no history of the sea can be written without precise knowledge of the vast resources of its archives. Here the task would appear to be beyond the powers of an individual historian. There is not one sixteenth-century Mediterranean state that does not possess its charter-room, usually well furnished with those documents that have escaped the fires, sieges, and disasters of every kind known to the Mediterranean world. To prospect and catalogue this unsuspected store, these mines of the purest historical gold, would take not one lifetime but at least twenty or the simultaneous dedication of twenty researchers. Perhaps the day will come when we shall no longer be working on the great sites of history with the methods of small craftsmen. Perhaps on that day it will become possible to write general history from original documents and not from more or less secondary works. Need I confess that I have not been able to examine all the documents available to me in the archives, no matter how hard I tried. This book is the result of a necessarily incomplete study. I know in advance that its conclusions will be examined, discussed, and replaced by others and I am glad of it. That is how history progresses and must progress.
From Fernand Braudel, “Preface to the First Edition,” The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, 18.
- What an elegant description of the challenges of ambitious historical scholarship!
- On “the methods of small craftsmen,” would digital history be a step towards the more appropriate methods Braudel’s hoping for?
I think that his main point is that many historical work nowadays is written secondary sources. Books that were written closer to events that carry information about said events, books written years after those events that carry a snippet of a letter or an important document. Historians ceased to go the archives. They no longer want to see the original; a translation, a transcription suffices. This makes some sense in light of how hectic academic life has become, and there is obviously some overreaction but I say it and I will repeat: an historian has to go to the ultimate source. Learn the languages, look at the documents, feel the paper if you can, despair over how terrible people’s handwriting was.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
The 16th of September we were ordered to stand to our arms at eleven a.m., and were instantly trotted about three miles, (without a halt to draw breath,) to support a battalion of light infantry, which had imprudently advanced so far without support as to be in great danger to be cut off. This must have happened, but for our haste. […] The instant the front of our columns appeared, the enemy began to retire to their works, and our light infantry to the camp. On our return we were exposed to the fire of the Americans. A man in my company had his hat shot through nearly in the direction of my wound, but the ball merely raised the skin; and in the battalion on our left a man was shot so dead when lying on the ground, that the next man did not perceive it, but when he got up to stand to his arms, kicked his comrade, thinking he was asleep, and then found, to his great surprise, that he was quite dead, a ball having entered under the ear, and very little blood having issued from it.
Captain George Harris of the 5th Regiment of Foot describing the battle of Harlem Heights, 1776. Full quote here, at page 41.
On the day before the battle of Piacenza [16 June 1746] all the churches were full of Spanish who were making their confessions and receiving communion. All the inns were full of Frenchmen, who were cursing, making a noise and breaking the windows. When battle was joined the Spanish marched in full daylight across a broad meadow which was swept by ten batteries. They braved the cannon fire with a steady courage which distinguished them markedly from the French.
Karl Gottfried Wolff, Versuch über die sittlichen Eigenschaften und Pflichten des Soldatenstandes, 1776, quoted in Christopher Duffy, The military experience in the age of reason, p. 240