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Battle of Bladensburg

RS Bladensburg 2



Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814 harbored serious strategic consequences for the United States, for it released thousands of veteran British soldiers for service in the War of 1812. Worse yet, the British government, angered by the burning of York (Toronto) in April 1813 and Port Dover, Ontario, in June 1814, authorized British senior commanders to embark upon an officially sanctioned policy of retribution. Ross, with his single brigade of four veteran regiments (Fourth, 21st, 44th, and 85th) under Cols. Arthur Brooke and William Thornton, were about to become the cutting edge of that policy. He was conveyed to Chesapeake Bay by Adm. Alexander Cochrane and united with a squadron under Adm. George Cockburn. On August 19, 1814, Cockburn landed Ross’s force of 4,500 men at Benedict, Maryland, while he sailed up the Pautuxent River in search of Commodore Joshua Barney’s gunboat flotilla. Barney subsequently destroyed his fleet and marched overland to Washington, D. C., which was only lightly defended. Cockburn then left the fleet to join up with Ross at Upper Marlborough and prevailed upon him to advance upon the American capital, 28 miles distant. To take such a small but veteran force, lacking any cavalry whatsoever, through the heart of enemy country was an audacious ploy, indeed. But danger was Ross’s calling, and he undertook the task with abandon.

The British soldiers advanced in excellent order as far as Bladensburg, Maryland, where, on August 24, 1814, they encountered a force of nearly 7,000 militia under Gen. William H. Winder. Winder squandered his numerical advantage by deploying in three mutually unsupportive lines, and Ross decided to attack immediately. Thornton’s brigade was ordered to charge across a heavily defended defile to his front while Brooke’s men attempted a flanking movement. The leading British elements were badly shot up and Thornton seriously wounded, yet Winder was unable to coordinate his withdrawal. In the ensuing fracas, the entire American army panicked and stampeded. The only real resistance came from a small knot of sailors and marines under Commodore Barney, who stood his ground magnificently until surrounded. Ross, having sustained 300 casualties-and having lost another horse-personally directed the final battlefield activities of the army. He then resumed advancing and occupied Washington that night. However, while accompanying the vanguard, he was fired upon by two snipers, who killed his mount. Ross was unhurt, but he ordered the house from which the shots originated burned-and the British began implementing their retaliatory policy with a vengeance.

Accordingly, the White House, Congress, and all public property were summarily reduced to ashes. Ross, however, was never happy with the practice of state-sponsored vandalism, and he strictly forbade his soldiers from looting private property. Several unlucky violators were caught and summarily flogged. Then, having humiliated the United States thoroughly and garnered additional laurels for himself, the general retraced his steps back to Benedict, where he reembarked on August 30, 1814. From beginning to end it was one of the War of 1812’s most spectacular and remarkable episodes. The entire affair underscored the military unpreparedness of the United States, especially when dealing with so talented and capable an enemy as England.

The Marines and Sailors

The British force of 4,000 men under General Ross landed at Benedict, Maryland on 19 August 1814, and from there set out for Washington. Five days after landing, impeded only by the Maryland sun which prostrated twelve men, they reached the village of Bladensburg just outside Washington, where they came in contact with Winder’s men. ‘On first sight,’ recounted a supercilious British officer, ‘the Americans might have passed off very well for a crowd of spectators come out to view the approach of the army.’

To the west of the village of Bladensburg was the River Anacostia, and Winder’s militia were drawn up on high ground on the far side with the seamen and Marines astride a road in the rear on the right flank. After delivering their Congreve rockets, Ross ordered his army to cross the river and attack the American position. At the first whoosh of the rockets, Winder’s militia threw away their muskets and fled. The Marines and seamen, however, stood fast. The Commodore Barney busied himself with his guns and Marine Captain Miller deployed the Marines as infantry. Ross pushed on unconcernedly until his advanced guard reached the rising ground on which Barney and Miller had sited their guns and formed the Marines. Boldly the British charged. The Commodore himself checked the laying of each piece. Then at last he gave the order to one gun to fire. As he reported, ‘I reserved our fire. In a few minutes the British advanced, when I ordered an 18 pounder to be fired, which completely cleared the road.’ The Commodore was guilty of no exaggeration, for the British afterwards said that the seamen gunners’ initial blast of grape and canister blew an entire company off the road. As the sailors stood to their guns, a hail of musketry swept down on the advancing foe from the Marines. Twice more the British re-formed and charged; twice more they were thrown back. The last repulse was actually followed by a counter-attack by the Marines and cutlass-swinging sailors shouting, ‘Board ’em! Board ’em!’ But by now both the Commodore and Captain Miller had been wounded. And General Ross, having seven times Barney’s force, worked flanking columns expertly round the thin line of Marines and seamen. With more than a fifth of the Marines killed or wounded, and with a bullet through his own thigh, Commodore Barney gave orders to retire. Although the redcoat had been stopped for two hours and had suffered 249 casualties, they could not be kept from their goal. Almost every public building in Washington was put to the torch, including the White House and the Capitol. The Commandant’s house was the one structure that escaped; legend has it that General Ross spared the house because it ranked as ‘married quarters’.

The Medes

Achaemenian Cavalry Attendants, Officer, Cavalryman, Saka Archer 5 BC

Achaemenian Asabari (Cavalry) Early 5th Century
L – R: 2 Asabari Attendants, Hazarabam (Colonel), Asabari Spearman, Saka Horse Archer with Sharp Hammer at 5 BC


The Persian army was made up mostly of light troops of varying types, nearly all of which were in large numbers (the population of the Empire was immense, both due to sheer land area and relatively dense populations in some regions). Equipment varied greatly depending on where the soldiers originated from, since each man fought according to the national style (and in the national costume) of his homeland.

A large number of archers were included in the foot troops, drawn from territories across the Empire. The sheer number of arrows they could fire meant they were a deadly component to the army, if vulnerable when caught in a melee. The infantry was scarcely better off, often fighting in nothing more than soft clothes. Nonetheless, they were extremely numerous.

No documentary evidence from the Medes themselves has been found. Few confidently identified Median sites have been excavated, and many questions remain about those that have been. Simply identifying a “homeland” of the Medes is a difficult task. The modern city of Hamadan, ancient Ecbatana, served as a capital, which we know from later traditions about Cyrus the Great’s victory over Astyages. Median settlements are mentioned in Assyrian sources, starting from the ninth century, throughout the central and northern Zagros Mountains, especially along the Great Khorasan Road towards modern Tehran.

We are thus beholden to Herodotus’ account of the rise and organization of the Median Empire, although he was not unique in his consideration of the Medes’ importance. Despite the problems with Herodotus’ portrayal, until recently it had been generally accepted – at least in outline – as an accurate rendition of the Medes’ rise to power. It has thus served as the basis for the picture of the Median Empire that is so prominent in modern scholarship. This is despite its clearly literary elements, and despite the fact that it is hopelessly conflated chronologically. In other words, Herodotus’ account of the Medes must be considered more legend than history. Nevertheless, read carefully, Herodotus has things to teach us about the Medes. If for no other reason than a lesson in historiography, a sketch of Herodotus’ telescoped tale (1.96–106) is useful.

A Mede named Deioces had designs on taking power, and he took advantage of the general lawlessness of the land. His reputation for justice brought more and more Medes to him to settle their disputes. As his influence grew, Deioces then stepped back; he refused to neglect his own affairs for the benefit of others. When lawlessness soon increased, the Medes decided to make Deioces their king. Once he had accepted the job, Deioces insisted on a bodyguard of spear-bearers and a fortified capital: Ecbatana, constructed with multiple walls, two of which purportedly had battlements plated in silver and gold (1.98). Deioces consolidated his position and then removed himself from sight, thereby making himself exceptional and emphasizing the august status of the king. He further secured his position by implementing certain behavioral protocols, for those few who did gain audience, and by establishing a network of spies and informers. This description matches in theme and outline accounts of the rise of tyrants in Greek city-states, though taken to another, grander level. With regard to the king’s exceptionality and the behavioral protocols, historians have noted the parallels with the later Achaemenid court, or rather, the Greeks’ stereotypical image of it. Many scholars thus take for granted the literary quality of Herodotus’ account of Deioces’ rise.

To resume the story, Deioces’ successor Phraortes subjugated the Persians and battled the Assyrians. Herodotus then notes a Scythian invasion, which put on hold (for twenty-eight years) the reign of Cyaxeres, who was Phraortes’ successor. Despite numerous ingenious attempts, modern scholars have not been able to reconcile large-scale Scythian invasions anywhere in the Near East in the late seventh century BCE. Assyrian evidence testifies to the Scythians’ and Cimmerians’ threat roughly a generation earlier, during the reign of Esarhaddon. But there is no Assyrian or Babylonian evidence for a “Scythian interlude” during Cyaxeres’ rule of the Medes. If this interlude is not simply a literary device, which is the most likely explanation, it seems that Herodotus or his sources conflated the history and chronology of this part of the narrative.

It is important at this point to extend the discussion of the early Medes beyond Her odotus and the Greek tradition. In the last decade, an increasing number of scholars have come to assert that even the outline of Herodotus’ account of the Medes, not just the particulars, is inaccurate. With an increase in the accessibility of Assyrian information on the Medes, reconsiderations of this important people and their place in ancient Near Eastern history are currently underway. Assyrian royal inscriptions and correspondence of the eighth and seventh centuries, until circa 650, provide a wealth of detail about the Medes and their interactions with Assyria. Some patterns have emerged. First, the Medes mentioned dwelled in fortified settlements, each headed by a city-lord (the Akkadian term bel ali). Assyrian incursions into Median territory were undertaken to control important commercial routes and to capture horses, for which the Assyrian appetite – to ride, not to eat – was insatiable. There is a striking consistency in Assyrian texts in descriptions of Medes as horsemen, and on sculptures of Sargon’s palace at Dur-Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad in Iraq) the Medes are all portrayed with horses. By the end of the eighth century, many areas, especially along the Great Khorasan Road, that the Assyrians identified as “Median” were incorporated into the Assyrian Empire. The Median city-lords of these now Assyrian-held territories were bound to the Assyrian king by loyalty oaths. Evidence for the Medes becomes sparse during Ashurbanipal’s reign (669–c. 630 BCE). It is precisely in that period in which we would expect to find a fledgling Median Empire, if such an empire existed. But Assyrian sources for the three decades before Assyria’s collapse in the 610s are thin in detail, which makes historical assessment problematic.

The Assyrian evidence is not easily reconciled with the Greek tradition. Through the mid-seventh century, there is no indication of a centralized, Median authority, that is, a sole king, one who could be equated, for example, with Herodotus’ Deioces. Modern scholars have attempted to identify some Medes named in Assyrian sources with those of early Median kings mentioned in the Greek tradition. Median local rulers Dayukku (late eighth century) and Kashtaritu (early seventh century) have been equated with Herodotus’ Deioces and Phraortes, respectively, but beyond the linguistic gymnastics involved the historical context of each does not offer a good fit. Even if Dayukku and Kashtaritu left an imprint on subsequent Median tradition through oral traditions long since lost, there is no way to forge the two perspectives, Assyrian and Herodotean, into agreement.

What remains in the dark is the critical period circa 650–550 BCE, when the Medes were at the height of their power. It remains unclear how we are to move from Assyrian descriptions of the Medes as seemingly independent city-lords to the Medes as a unified force that Cyaxeres (Umakishtar in the Babylonian sources) was able to unleash against Assyria with such devastating effect in the 610s. Recent approaches have postulated that the Medes were the leaders of a large coalition of mostly Iranian peoples from across northern Iran, a coalition unified by a forceful personality such as Cyaxeres and only for the purpose of defeating Assyria. This coalition, in conjunction with the Babylonians, was successful at that task, but afterwards the coalition splintered. If this reconstruction is accurate, it remains to be reconciled with accounts of the Medes as a major power through the first half of the sixth century, an impression given not only by Greek sources but one alluded to in Babylonian and biblical traditions (such as Jeremiah 25:25–26 and 51:27–28) as well.



German Assault on Moscow – The Final Push




The German offensive was resumed on 15 November 1941 in clear and frosty weather.

Reinhardt’s 3 Panzer Group and a part of Strauss’s 9 Army drove in Khomenko’s 30 Army on the left wing of Konev’s Kalinin Front in an attack towards Klin.

Stalin’s reaction was immediate. Lelyushenko, who was recovering from a wound he had received a few weeks earlier when his 5 Army command post had been overrun by German tanks, was ordered to go to 30 Army and replace Khomenko. Lelyushenko’s arrival was the first inkling Khomenko had that he was to be relieved, this being Stalin’s normal method of replacing unsuccessful commanders. Khomenko went off in disgrace and, Lelyushenko hints, to punishment. What form this took is not known but Khomenko reappeared two years later in command of 44 Army where, wounded and blinded, he died, so it is said, in German captivity.

On 16 November Hoepner’s 4 Panzer Group attacked Rokossovsky’s 16 Army on the right wing of Zhukov’s West Front and started to thrust towards Istra, and two days later Guderian’s 2 Panzer Army took up the attack from the area of Tula.

The twelve divisions of Hoepner’s 4 Panzer Group had gone into battle with only three-quarters of their first line ammunition and two and a half refills of vehicle fuel, sufficient for only 200 miles’ normal consumption. Hoepner had been reluctant to attack without the cooperation of von Kluge’s left flank, which was to stand idle, since an unsupported advance by the two panzer groups to the north of Moscow would give rise to a dangerously exposed salient. He was unsuccessful in his urging, however, and the OKH confirmed that von Kluge was not to participate. In consequence Hoepner was obliged to protect his own right flank, and the committing of formations to this task was to rob his main striking force of its impetus.

Hoepner’s initial attacks against Rokossovsky’s 16 Army had been made in thick mist, and in the very early stages of the offensive there had been some heavy fighting. 78 Sturm Division of 9 Corps had good fortune when it hit upon a poorly defended locality; the defenders gave way to a short and sharp frontal attack and the attackers penetrated deep into the enemy rear and started to roll up the front. Red Army headquarters, artillery and reserves were taken by surprise, often still asleep, and were quickly mopped up. The count of Soviet prisoners was high, against negligible German casualties, and by the evening of the first day 9 Corps had reached a point five miles behind the enemy.

The second day was no less successful, although the enemy resistance was hardening so that each locality had to be fought for. The Moskva River and its tributaries were frozen and could be crossed but the usual difficulties were met in getting vehicles down the steep overhanging cliff-like river banks of the balki; these were impassable even to tanks. Mines had been sown everywhere. As Hoepner feared, the protection of his southern boundary, roughly along the line of the Moskva Rier, slowed the progress of 9 Corps.

Further to the north the other infantry corps made steady progress against a dogged enemy, and not before 26 November did 40 Panzer Corps take the city of Istra, known before 1930 as Voskresensk, with its famous New Jerusalem monastery, built in the seventeenth century after the model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Istra, which had a population of only a few thousand, was about twenty-five miles from the original start line and only thirty from Moscow. The Germans held it against determined enemy tank and infantry counter-attacks.

About a third of the German tanks had fallen behind because of breakdown or obstacles, and those still battle-worthy were beginning to run short of fuel. The maps were bad and many localities shown simply did not exist on the ground; all sign posts and place names had been removed by the Russians. Except on the beaten tracks the snow could not be crossed easily, for although its surface was frozen it would not bear weight, so that men and vehicles fell through into the twofoot- deep soft snow underneath.

On 16 November, 5 German Corps, part of Hoepner’s force to the north-east of Moscow, had been counter-attacked by Caucasian troops but these were held, even though rifle company strengths were down to less than thirty men. Two days later 5 Corps itself went over to the attack to the south of Klin. By 22 November the Red Army troops facing 35 Infantry Division were withdrawing fast and for a short time it appeared that enemy resistance might be broken; there were numerous Red Army deserters and line-crossers. Meanwhile the extreme cold continued, the thermometer sinking at night to minus 40 degrees centigrade.

Strauss’s 9 Army and Reinhardt’s 3 Panzer Group to the left of Hoepner stretched as far north as Kalinin, and only two corps, one an infantry corps, could be spared for the eastward thrust on Klin and Dmitrov. Schaal’s 56 Panzer Corps, originally consisting of only one panzer and one motorized division, made good progress, routing the two Soviet cavalry divisions which were defending the area. Klin, once a flourishing textile center but now a deserted ghost town, was taken on 23 November, the area being heavily mined and booby-trapped.

On 24 November Reinhardt was ordered by von Bock to continue his progress eastwards to protect Hoepner’s left flank. Schaal’s 56 Panzer Corps, the strength of which had been increased by a further panzer division, attacked towards Dmitrov and Yakhroma, both on the Moskva-Volga canal, against spirited ground resistance which was, however, sporadic and uncoordinated. Although enemy air activity was strong Reinhardt had formed the impression that Khomenko’s (later Lelyushenko’s) 30 Army was unprepared for combat and was very weak in numbers, as indeed it was; Reinhardt thought that with reinforcements he could have easily broken through, and he urged in vain that the main striking force should be transferred from 4 to 3 Panzer Group.

This appeal fell, however, on deaf ears. Schaal kept up his rapid movement and on 28 November crossed the bridge over the Moskva- Volga canal near Yakhroma, a cotton-milling center on the east bank, thirty-eight miles north of the capital. There, Reinhardt secured a bridgehead.

The exploitation of this bridgehead was no part of the OKH plan, since Reinhardt had been given what was, in effect, only a subsidiary task, that of protecting Hoepner’s flank. He was ordered by Army Group Center merely to hold the line of the canal and advance southwards down the west bank to keep a closer contact with Hoepner. In these circumstances there was nothing else to be done but give up the bridgehead. Reinhardt ordered Shaal to hold the line west of the Moskva-Volga canal while Model’s 41 Panzer Corps, which had come from the area of Kalinin to join Schaal, took over two of the 56 Corps panzer divisions and moved directly southwards in the direction of Moscow.

The change of direction brought with it a change in the nature of the fighting. Snow had begun to fall heavily and the temperature stood at about minus thirty degrees centigrade. Artillery could not be relied on; the mortar, which has no working parts, being nothing but a barrel and fixed striker stud, had come into its own. Petrol was smeared continuously on the sliding parts of machine-guns to keep them from freezing. Motor trucks were left behind and even the tracked vehicles could not keep moving. The ground was sown with enemy wooden box mines with a particularly sensitive detonator which caused many a soldier to lose his foot.

So Model progressed slowly through a great area covered by luxurious dachi, the summer residences of the communist hierarchy. Prisoners and guns were taken, the latter usually being destroyed on the spot. A wounded woman in Red Army uniform, captured in a Russian tank, said she was a radio operator who had accompanied her husband to the war. Part of 23 Potsdam Division, one of the formations of 41 Panzer Corps, was surrounded by the enemy and Model had to take energetic action to free it. It was noted that as the strength of the German formations ebbed that of the enemy seemed to grow.

Farther to the south the advance of Hoepner’s 4 Panzer Group had been beset by greater difficulties than those experienced by Reinhardt. The resistance of Rokossovsky’s 16 Army had been considerably stiffer than that to the north. Although he continued to make progress eastwards, on 29 November Hoepner reported that the moment might soon arise when enemy superiority on the ground and in the air could bring the advance to a standstill.

When 35 Infantry Division, one of Hoepner’s formations, eventually arrived at the town of Kryukovo, the Moscow suburbs were only fifteen miles away. Red Army infantry was making a poor showing but the enemy had plenty of tanks and artillery. Yet the German troops were already in a desperate state; the weapons were failing and the troops were without protection from the bitter winds. At dusk came the desperate scramble for the shelter of the villages. Their neighbors a little further to the south, 3 Infantry Division, were in a similar plight.

In spite of the weather, Reinhardt’s and Hoepner’s advance was rapid, for in ten days they penetrated nearly fifty miles, almost to the northern outskirts of Moscow.

Luftwaffe versus Operation Torch


Dornier Do-217M and Fritz X.


The German response to “Torch” led to a major transfer of bombers and fighters into the theater. As early as November 4, Luftflotte 4 gave up a fighter group to the Mediterranean. Moreover, the North African invasion forced the Germans to shut down attacks on the Murmansk convoys and to send additional antishipping units into the Mediterranean. German bomber and fighter forces operating from Tunisia, Sicily, and Sardinia inflicted considerable damage on Allied shipping and ground forces. The Allies faced two problems in bringing airpower to bear on the bridgehead. The first was one of logistics. Tedder’s air forces, still located on Egyptian bases, were too far away to intervene effectively, while the bases that Eighth Army captured in its march along the North African littoral took time to repair and stockpile. Similarly, the air forces in Algeria and Morocco found it difficult to marshal the logistical effort needed in eastern Algeria where it counted.

I./KG 26 left German occupied Norway in November 1942. The Gruppe was ordered to Grosseto to counter Operation Torch, the American landings in Morocco and Algeria on 8 November 1942. I./KG 26 attacked Allied shipping and lost 11 He 111s in November. On 22 December 1942, Ju-88s from III Gruppe’, KG 26 torpedoed and damaged the British troopship Cameronia. Strikes were made all along the African coast. Allied air attacks cost the unit four aircraft on 8 February 1943 when the units base at Cagliari-Elmas, Sardinia was bombed. In July 1943 the unit also contested Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily. On 12 August the unit struck at Allied shipping in the western Mediterranean losing 10 machines for little result. On 8 September I./KG 26 attacked the Allied beaches at Salerno without success. In late August early September the unit moved to southern France at Salon-en-Provence. On 26 November 1943 the unit flew its last mission off North Africa. Until July 1944 I./KG 26 continued to fly anit-shipping missions off Anzio and western Italy.

In August 1942 6.III./KG 26 moved to Grosseto, Sicily. On 10 August 1942 it sank two freighters from the convoy Pedestal. 6 staffel continued operations off North Africa until May 1944.

III./KG 26 operated in the Mediterranean. Missions continued against the Torch, Anzio and Normandy landings.

I./KG 77 was reformed as I./KG 6 on 31 August 1942, after the unit ceased operations over Great Britain. However I./KG 77 was reformed again on 10 September 1942. The Kampfgeschwader carried out operations in the Mediterranean and North Africa until June 1943, taking part in the Siege of Malta and the Second Battle of El Alamein. The unit also resisted the Allied invasion of Sicily, probably destroying the U.S. Liberty ship SS Robert Rowan on 11 July. KG 77 made constant night attacks against Allied Naval forces from 10 July – 25 August 1943. After retraining naval attack methods, the unit could now operate with effective torpedo methods. I./KG 77 operated from Salon in southern France from March – July 1944, attacking American convoys of the coast of Algeria.

The II. Gruppe / KG 100

In December 1941, the III./KG 26 became II./KG 100 when the former Kampfgruppe 100 was officially transformed into Kampfgeschwader 100. The II./KG 100 served in the middle sector of the Eastern Front in early 1942 but was moved to Greece at the end of April 1942 where it operated until April 1943.

The III. Gruppe / KG 100

The III./KG 100 was not formed before September 1942 when the former Aufklärungsgruppe 126 became III./KG 100. It served in Greece in 1942 and early 1943.



The only Luftwaffe unit to deploy the Fritz-X was Gruppe III of Kampfgeschwader 100 Wiking (Viking), designated III./KG 100, the bomber wing itself evolved as the larger-sized descendent of the earlier Kampfgruppe 100 unit in mid-December of 1941. This unit employed the medium range Dornier Do 217K-2 bomber on almost all of its attack missions, though in a few cases toward the end of its deployment history, Dornier Do 217K-3 and M-11 variants were also used. Fritz-X had been initially tested with a Heinkel He 111 bomber, although it was never taken into combat by this aircraft. A few special variants of the troublesome Heinkel He 177A Greif long-range bomber were equipped with the Kehl transmitter and proper bomb racks to carry Fritz-X and it is thought that this combination might have seen limited combat service, at least with the combinations known to have been involved in test drops.

Fritz-X was first deployed on 21 July 1943 in a raid on Augusta harbor in Sicily. A number of additional attacks around Sicily and Messina followed, though no confirmed hits were made and it appears the Allies were unaware that the large bombs being dropped were radio-guided weapons.

On 9 September, the Luftwaffe achieved their greatest success with the weapon. After Pietro Badoglio publicly announced the Italian armistice with the Allies on September 8, 1943, the Italian fleet had steamed out from La Spezia and headed to Malta. To prevent the ships from falling into Allied hands, six Do 217K-2s from III. Gruppe of KG 100 (III/KG 100) took off, each carrying a single Fritz X. The Italian battleship Roma, flagship of the Italian fleet, received two hits and one near miss, and sank after her magazines exploded. 1,255 men, including Admiral Carlo Bergamini, died. Her sister ship, Italia, was also damaged but reached Malta.

The American light cruiser Savannah was hit by Fritz-Xs at 10:00 on 11 September 1943 during the invasion of Salerno, and was forced to retire to the United States for repairs. A single Fritz-X passed through the roof of “C” turret and killed the turret crew and a damage control party when it exploded in the lower ammunition handling room. The blast tore a large hole in the ship’s bottom, opened a seam in her side, and blew out all fires in her boiler rooms. Savannah lay dead in the water with the forecastle nearly awash and took eight hours to relight boilers and get underway for Malta.

Savannah’s sister ship, Philadelphia, had been targeted earlier that same morning. While it is often believed the ship was hit by a Fritz X, in fact the bomb just missed the ship, exploding about 15 meters away. Damage was minimal.

The light cruiser HMS Uganda was hit by a Fritz-X off Salerno at 1440 on 13 September. The Fritz X passed through seven decks and straight through her keel, exploding underwater just under the keel. The concussive shock of the Fritz X’s underwater detonation close to Uganda’s hull extinguished all her boiler fires, and resulted in sixteen men being killed, with Uganda taking on 1,300 tons of water. The Uganda was towed to Malta for repairs.

Two merchant ships may have been hit by Fritz X bombs at Salerno, though the evidence is uncertain. SS Bushrod Washington was hit by a glide bomb, either a Fritz-X or a Hs 293, on 14 September while offloading a cargo of gasoline. SS James W. Marshall was set afire by a conventional bomb, Hs 293 or Fritz-X on 15 September. As with the Bushrod Washington, the nature of the weapon that damaged James W. Marshall is uncertain. A witness aboard a ship nearby, Joseph A. Yannacci, attributes the attack to Ju 87 “Stuka” dive bombers, which were too small to carry glide bombs. While an attack with a Fritz-X cannot be ruled out, there is at least an equal case to suggest that, if a glide bomb was involved, the culprit was actually a Hs 293 from II./KG 100; Luftwaffe records show that II./KG 100, armed only with Hs 293 glide bombs, was active over Salerno that day.

KG 100 scored another success with Fritz-X while the British battleship Warspite was providing gunfire support at Salerno on 16 September. One bomb penetrated six decks before exploding in number 4 boiler room. This explosion put out all fires and blew out the double bottom. A second Fritz-X near-missed Warspite, holing her at the waterline. She took on a total of 5,000 tonnes of water and lost steam (and thus all power, both to the ship herself and to all her systems), but casualties were few. She was towed to Malta by tugs Hopi and Moreno, then returned to Britain via Gibraltar and was out of action for near 9 months; she was never completely repaired, but returned to action to bombard Normandy during Operation Overlord.

The last Fritz-X attack at Salerno again lightly damaged the light cruiser Philadelphia with two near misses on 17 September. This attack is sometimes reported as taking place on 18 September. However, according to US Navy records, the cruiser Philadelphia departed Salerno the night of 17/18 September. Moreover, according to Luftwaffe records, III./KG 100, the Luftwaffe unit armed with the Fritz-X, flew its last mission on 17 September. Other ships damaged by Fritz-X included Dutch sloop Flores and destroyer Loyal.

Soviet War with Poland I

The war with Poland in 1920 shows the Red Army at the height of its capability after a full two and a half years in existence and extensive combat experience, although by mid- 1920, when there was little danger of a White victory with the Volunteer Army bottled up in the Crimea, the Red Army at over four million strong was unable to defeat a smaller, ill-equipped and uncertain Polish army. A close look at the Red Army in this war shows not only how far it had come, but also how far it still had to go to become a competent, unified fighting force.

The simultaneous collapse of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires led to the resurrection of independent Poland and the Polish romantic and emotional attachment to the historic (pre-1795) eastern borderlands. These borderlands consisted primarily of the western Ukraine. Hence the Polish motivation to secure as much Ukrainian territory as possible before the victorious Allies began redrawing the map of Europe at Versailles and before the Red Army could defeat the Whites and turn all its attentions to the disputed region. The Bolsheviks naturally wanted to preserve as much former imperial territory as possible but also saw the borderlands as the land link to a Europe they needed to flare up in revolution. When the Germans withdrew from Poland and the Ukraine the borderlands acted as a magnet pulling both Polish and Soviet forces into it.

The Polish Army made the first move attacking a small Soviet detachment on 14 February 1919. The “war” lapsed into a lull until the Poles went on the offensive in April with the aim of capturing or “liberating” Vilno, Lvov and Minsk, which they accomplished by the end of August 1919. At that point Josef Pilsudski, leader of Poland, was willing to negotiate with the Soviets who refused. The front remained static for another nine months.

Pilsudski ordered the resumption of hostilities and attacked on 25 April 1920. The Red Army had two armies facing the Poles, the 12th and 14th armies both outnumbered at the outset. More pressing problems than the numerical superiority of the Poles were the mutinies of two brigades made up of Galicians, one of which went over to the Poles in its entirety, and the attacks of Makhno’s bands on the Soviet rear area destroying supplies and bridges and disrupting transportation and communication.

The Red Army fell back in fairly good order after some fierce engagements, giving up Kiev on 7 May without a fight. To meet the emergency, the RVSR reinforced both armies and transferred the Konarmiia from the Kuban to the Polish front. The Konarmiia rode its horses rather than trains. It covered roughly 750 miles in thirty days at a pace that crippled or killed fifty horses per day – rather a lot of wear and tear on a unit expected to be thrown into the fray on arrival.

Trotsky and the Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army, S. S. Kamenev reorganized the enlarged forces into two fronts, the Western (in the north) and the Southwestern (to the south – on the left – of the Western Front). Mikhail Tukhachevskii was assigned to command the Western Front RVS and its four armies, the 15th Army, 3rd Army, 16th Army and 4th Army, all of which were commanded by former tsarist colonels. Tukhachevskii created his own version of the Konarmiia by combining two cavalry divisions and a rifle brigade into III Cavalry Corps (Kavkor). The RVS of Aleksandr I. Egorov, a voenspets, Stalin and Voroshilov commanded the Southwestern Front. It consisted of the 12th Army, the 14th Army and the Konarmiia.

The Red offensive to regain the Ukraine, and possibly more, began on 26 May with the Southwestern Front’s attack followed by the Western Front on 4 July. From the start, Egorov intended that the Konarmiia, headed by Budenny and Voroshilov, with its mobility and shock power, would be the key to success. After ten days of fighting the Konarmiia finally broke through the Polish lines and began to advance uninterrupted for ten weeks. The Polish army abandoned Kiev and by 10 July 1920 were back at the lines they had held in August 1919. The key to the advance turned out to be the Konarmiia’s ability to continually find the Polish weak spots and penetrate quickly into their rear or to turn the Polish flank in the flat wide open country. Budenny defeated Polish counterattacks by holding in the middle and sending horsemen around the flanks of the attackers. Nothing the Poles did seemed to work, nothing the Reds did seemed to fail.

By mid-August the Southwestern Front had penetrated deep into eastern Poland but Egorov’s three armies had spread out from each other. The 12th Army on the right faced west alongside the Western Front but had been bogged down in marshy terrain; the Konarmiia was moving in a southwesterly direction having been ordered to take Lvov, and the 14th Army was oriented more to the south expecting to be ordered to invade Romania. All three armies had lost their momentum, suffered significant losses, and the front was beginning to lose its cohesion.

Tukhachevskii opened the Western Front’s offensive on 4 July after extensive material and ideological preparation. Tukhachevskii went to great lengths to convince the soldiers of the significance of the forthcoming offensive. For example, the 33rd Division, over a period of three weeks, was subjected to a course of political education consisting of eleven meetings, one hundred reading sessions, one thousand discussions, twenty-five lectures, 104 cell meetings, thirty-seven general meetings, and twenty “spectacles”.

The Kavkor spearheaded the Western Front’s offensive. The first main objective was Vilno. The offensive had great success at first, breaking the first Polish defense line in a matter of days. Vilno fell on 14 July. At the end of July, after very heavy fighting, Tukhachevskii’s forces took Grodno. Yet, Tukhachevskii’s attack on Poland failed to smash and surround the Polish forces as planned because they fought stubbornly and counterattacked consistently which took some of the fight out of the Russians. The Poles then retreated to avoid encirclement unhindered by Tukhachevskii’s forces, eventually falling back to a line on the Bug and Narew rivers, roughly the recently pronounced Curzon line (established by Lloyd George of Great Britain on 11 July in consultation with the Polish Government as a pre-condition for opening peace talks with the Russians).

The Curzon line lay just beyond Grodno. To cross it and invade Poland would be to challenge Britain and France. Sensing total victory and perhaps a march on Berlin, the Soviet government rejected the appeal for peace talks. Tukhachevskii ordered his forces to cross the Curzon line and take Warsaw no later than 12 August 1920. The Kavkor reached the Vistula in the second week of August. Of his four armies, however, Tukhachevskii had only one rather weakened army in position to attack Warsaw, the others he optimistically oriented in the direction of East Prussia.

Soviet War with Poland II


Command of Polish Regiment during Polish–Soviet war


Second phase of the Battle of Warsaw: Polish counterattack.

In the days preceding the Battle of Warsaw the Red Army had been victorious everywhere: it had armies poised to finish off Poland, invade Romania, and liberate Germany from capitalism, yet in only a week the fortunes of war would be completely reversed. Even as Tukhachevskii’s forces marshalled for the assault on Warsaw proper, Pilsudski personally drew up a plan, not merely for a counterattack, but for a complete and crushing counteroffensive. In the first week of August 1920, stubborn Polish rearguard actions and energetic counterattacks held up Tukhachevskii’s armies for six days, giving the battered Polish army just enough breathing space to regroup.

The battle opened on 12 August as the lead Soviet division attacked Warsaw’s eastern defenses head on. In savage fighting that day the Soviet attacks were finally beaten off. By the end of the day, because of Polish attacks, counterattacks, raids and successful defense of the eastern approaches to Warsaw, Polish morale and hope had been completely restored. The initiative passed to the Poles, spelling doom for the Red Army. One Soviet division commander later wrote: “The moment had come when not only individual units but the whole mass of the army suddenly lost faith in the possibility of success against the enemy. It was as though the cord which we had been tightening since the Bug had suddenly snapped.” That same day, in a cavalry raid into 4th Army’s rear, the Poles captured much of the 4th Army’s staff and only radio transmitter. The loss of the transmitter left the Kavkor and 4th Army out of contact with Tukhachevskii for days. They did almost nothing in the way of restoring communication, but just followed their old orders. Because of this break in communications, for several days afterward, Tukhachevskii, in Minsk in his special train, remained unaware that morale was at the breaking point and his plans for restoring the situation unviable.

Pilsudski’s plan was to attack Tukhachevskii’s forces in the left flank from the south through a huge gap between the Western and Southwestern Fronts. It worked to perfection taking Tukhachevskii completely by surprise. Three of Tukhachevskii’s armies, the 3rd, 15th, and 16th beat a hasty retreat suffering heavy casualties. By 22 August, Tukhachevskii’s forces had been utterly routed. The Western Front had lost some 5,000 killed, over 50,000 prisoners, and more than 200 artillery pieces. To avoid capture or annihilation, the Kavkor and the entire 4th Army except two regiments and its commander and some of the staff sought internment in East Prussia. The Poles succeeded in annihilating two Soviet rifle divisions. Tens of thousands more men deserted completing the collapse of the Western Front.

Prior to 13 August 1920, when Pilsudski unleashed his counteroffensive, the Red Army had been at its zenith. It was no longer the ragtag bunch of novices of early 1918, but a seasoned, practiced army. After the Battle of Warsaw and subsequent second surge by the Polish Army, the Red Army would not recover its confidence until after several years of peace and reform. Through a near fatal act of hubris Tukhachevskii had thrown away an army, one of the best prepared and trained armies the Red Army had managed to produce to that date. He had lost over 100,000 men. Of the twenty-one divisions he had started with only seven were fit for service when he retreated across the Niemen.

How the Red Army was denied its victory and crushed by a seemingly beaten army became the source of some controversy within and without the Red Army after the war. In truth, no one person can be held responsible for the debacle that overtook the Red Army; as an organization the army suffered from a number of problems at the time, especially regarding decision-making. The Konarmiia and 12th Army were supposed to have been transferred from the Southwestern Front to the Western Front, but Kamenev took two weeks from the time he explored the idea to make up his mind and give the appropriate orders, which were delayed in transmission and were then discussed between himself, Tukhachevskii and Stalin, and then between Tukhachevskii and Stalin. The high command appears to have been overwhelmed by the task of coordinating two fronts simultaneously and was distracted by Wrangel’s breakout from the Crimea. The renewed White threat necessitated a transfer of troops from the Polish operation to the Don. Another problem was that the fronts were rather wide apart which would have involved much travel time for the 12th Army and Konarmiia to make a difference in conditions on the Western Front. Both the Konarmiia and 12th Army were engaged in the advance on Lvov, making it somewhat difficult to disengage, and thus further delaying their transfer to the Western Front. Another problem was that some of Tukhachevskii’s orders to the RVS of the Southwestern Front were senseless and provoked discussion. The absence of a master plan for the whole Polish operation further complicated the work of the high command.

Having stopped and dug in on the Niemen, Tukhachevskii regrouped, absorbing some reinforcements and supplies in preparation for a hoped for return to the offensive. In two weeks he had recouped his losses numerically with the addition of new units and thousands of individual replacements. He even created a new 4th Army. Pilsudski struck first in great strength in what became the Battle of the Niemen which lasted from 20 to 28 September.

The Poles turned Tukhachevskii’s right flank at Grodno and the Lithuanian border after a few days of intense fighting. At first the Red 3rd Army fought well at Grodno against fairly even numbers, but after a few days its units could not keep up the fight and retreated. The retreat went badly but stopped temporarily at the old First World War Russian trenches. The Poles breached these on 2 October 1920 on their first try. The renewed retreat turned into a rout with the front for the most part falling apart.

The new 4th Army disintegrated with two infantry divisions in full flight and a cavalry division defected to the Poles. A third infantry division surrendered in toto. The 3rd Army became encircled and collapsed as an organized entity. The 14th, and 15th armies also retreated. The Battle of the Niemen led to a general advance by the Polish army all along the front.

The Southwestern Front also came in for a pounding in the Polish counteroffensive. From 30 August to 2 September 1920 the Konarmiia was surrounded after having been separated from the 12th Army which was supposed to cover its right flank. There was a major “pure” cavalry battle on 31 August between two brigades of Polish cavalry and elements of the Konarmiia’s 6th and 11th Cavalry Divisions. Both sides took heavy casualties. In its fighting retreat the 11th Cavalry Division lost 2,400 men and 3,000 horses, the 6th Cavalry Division lost sixteen of twenty squadron commanders; the 4th and 14th Cavalry Divisions fared about the same. The Konarmiia, despite its casualties and fatigue, broke out of the encirclement to fall back to the east with the 12th Army.

By the end of September, the Red Army had been pushed entirely off of Polish territory and was losing ground in the Ukraine. On 15 October the Poles took Minsk and advanced to within 90 miles of Kiev. According to historian Norman Davies, the severity of the punishment meted out by the Poles in the pursuit of the Red Army out of Poland, combined with the mutiny in the Konarmiia, desertions and food shortages in Soviet-controlled western Ukraine, caused Trotsky and Kamenev to give up their ideas of forming a new task force to go back into Poland. Total Red Army casualties in the war amounted to some 17,500 combat deaths, 17,400 noncombat deaths, 130,000 prisoners lost to the Poles, 40-50,000 men interned in Germany, and 102,000 seriously wounded and debilitated. On 18 October 1920 an armistice, sought by Pilsudski who had no illusions about retaking Kiev, went into effect. Peace terms, which granted Poland substantial areas of western Ukraine, were formally agreed to in early November 1920.

Bernardo de Gálvez


Bernardo de Gálvez (1746-1786), a Spanish colonial administrator, was captain general of Louisiana during the American Revolutionary War. His heroic exploits against the British during the war won him fame both in Spain and in America.

Bernardo de Gálvez was born in Macharaviaya in the province of Malaga on July 23, 1746. Though poor, the Gálvez family belonged to the Spanish nobility, and young Gálvez was able to pursue an active and successful military career. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Gálvez was assigned the post of commandant of the Spanish troops stationed in Louisiana, with the rank of colonel. He soon became governor and intendant of that Spanish province, assuming office in February 1777. Two years later the Revolutionary War became a world struggle as Spain joined its forces with those of France in the battle against Great Britain. Spain refused to ally itself directly with the United States or to recognize American independence because of its own position as a colonial power. Nevertheless Spain supplied the Americans with secret aid and undertook a vigorous military campaign of its own in America under the leadership of Gálvez.

Even before Spain came into the war, Gálvez had been actively engaged in providing arms to the Americans in the Louisiana area. On Spanish entry into the war, however, Gálvez took direct action against the British, and in three brilliant campaigns drove them out of West Florida, thus securing control of the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico for Spain. Of all his exploits in this period, the most famous was his daring conquest of Pensacola, in Florida, in May 1781. At the end of the war he returned to Spain to receive a hero’s welcome; promotion to the rank of major general; appointment as captain general of Louisiana, East and West Florida, and Cuba; and elevation to the viceroyalty of New Spain.

In 1784 Gálvez went back to America, where he acted as principal adviser to Diego de Gardoqui in preliminary negotiations with the new United States over the Florida boundary question, a treaty of commerce, and the right of Americans to free navigation of the Mississippi River; it was these negotiations that led to the Jay-Gardoqui treaty in 1786. In 1785 Gálvez was responsible for ousting from Natchez, in Mississippi, the Georgia commissioners who had come to establish Bourbon County. That same year, however, he won the thanks of the American government for his part in releasing American merchants being held at Havana. Gálvez died in Mexico on November 30, 1786.



Captured by the Spanish. The unhealthful British outpost and seat of the British government of West Florida was threatened by Louisiana Governor Bernardo de Gálvez in March 1780, when Mobile was captured. Pensacola’s strong defenses convinced Gálvez that he needed a larger force for the attack, and he went to Havana to organize the expedition. However, a hurricane scattered his fleet in October, and it was not until the following February that he was able to sail for Florida. Meanwhile, Governor Sir John Dalling of Jamaica, who was responsible for Pensacola, wanted to reinforce that base with a regiment of American Loyalists but was unable to get the necessary naval escort.

The British garrison at Pensacola was commanded by General John Campbell and counted nine hundred regulars, primarily of the Sixteenth Foot and Sixtieth Regiments, the latter composed largely of Germans, and two battalions of provincial infantry from Maryland and Pennsylvania. The fortifications bristled with cannon. When the Spanish naval commanders saw these cannon in early March, they refused to enter the bay. Not so easily intimidated, Gálvez took command of the brig Galveztown and led his colonial troops aboard a flotilla of smaller craft to land near the British fort. Shamed, the rest of the Spanish navy followed, landing several thousand troops. A rather leisurely siege ensued. It was not until the end of April that the Spanish began firing in earnest upon the British positions. On 8 May one of their shells landed on the fort’s principal magazine, setting off an explosion that killed or wounded nearly one hundred of Campbell’s men and demolished one of redoubts in the process. The Spanish attacked and were being beaten off by the British the first time. But the Spanish then seized part of the fort’s walls and set up cannon with which they could fire down into the garrison. Campbell capitulated the next day. West Florida was now in Spanish hands. Gálvez was rewarded with promotion to lieutenant general and ennobled by Carlos III.

Further Reading The standard account of Gálvez’s career remains Alce’e Fortier, A History of Louisiana, vol. 2 (1904). See also John Walton Caughey, Bernardo de Gálvez in Louisiana, 1776-1783 (1934).


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