Leuthen, 1757: Victory for Quality


…furthermore called his generals and senior field grade officers to his tent where he delivered a rousing speech, calling on them to do their duty and uphold their honour, explaining his basic plan to attack the Austrians at Breslau.






The summer and autumn of 1757 were not kind to Frederick. He had been forced to abandon his invasion of Bohemia after lifting his siege of Prague and had suffered a sharp defeat at Köln, before retiring to Saxony. Moreover, he found himself with more enemies when France, Sweden and Russia all declared war against him, and without his key ally, as Britain withdrew from the war in order to preserve her territorial interests in Hanover. Frederick was, however, able to stabilize the situation in Saxony with a decisive victory over a large force of French and Imperial troops at Rossbach on 4 November. The victory had tremendous implications internationally, bringing Britain back into the war and with her the cash subsidies to support Prussia, and the help of her troops in northern Germany.

But Frederick still had problems on his eastern flank. His forces in Silesia, the casus belli back in 1740, under the command of the duke of Bevern, were on the run. They had been defeated by an Austrian army under Charles of Lorraine and the veteran commander Field Marshal Leopold Daun outside of Breslau on 22 November and were driven back across the River Oder. Shortly thereafter Bevern himself was captured. Frederick had already begun moving to re-inforce his army in Silesia with 18 battalions of infantry and 23 squadrons of cavalry. He sent Hans von Ziethen, the commander of Prussia’s hussar regiments, to keep Bevern’s force together until he arrived. On 2 December, Frederick joined Ziethen and his troops. His original plan was to get Bevern’s forces ready for combat and attack the Austrians at Breslau, but the overall strategic situation forced Frederick to move almost immediately.

The stage was set for the Battle of Leuthen, which was fought just three days later. In this battle Frederick demonstrated the effectiveness of the Prussian army when led by a commander who understood its capabilities. In the course of this battle Frederick used the great manoeuvrability of his infantry to execute his oblique order of attack and to concentrate his outnumbered troops against one wing of the enemy. It also demonstrated the firepower that the well-disciplined Prussian infantry could deliver in the attack. Frederick’s first task was to restore confidence to the officers and men of Bevern’s command. The king strolled through the Prussian camp, talking to the troops, offering encouragement, and giving promises of rewards for merit in the action that was ahead of them. He likewise told the officers that they could redeem themselves in the battle they were about to fight. Frederick also encouraged interaction between the forces that had been defeated in Silesia and those returning from Saxony, flushed with the victory of Rossbach the previous month. Frederick hoped that the veterans of Rossbach would help raise the morale of the rest. He also took particular care to look after the comforts of his men, distributing additional rations and spirits to the troops to fortify their strength and courage. He furthermore called his generals and senior field grade officers to his tent where he delivered a rousing speech, calling on them to do their duty and uphold their honour, explaining his basic plan to attack the Austrians at Breslau. But he also promised punishments for failure, noting that cavalry regiments that failed to charge would be dismounted and downgraded to garrison service, and infantry regiments that did not press the attack would be disgraced, losing their colours, swords and having the facings cut from their uniforms.

Frederick allowed his troops to rest on 3 December but the next day advanced on Breslau. While on the march Frederick learnt that the Austrians had left the city and had deployed their army around the village of Leuthen. Frederick had looked for a decisive battle to restore the situation in Silesia and was grateful to Charles and Daun for this move. The Austrians certainly had reason to be confident since they outnumbered the Prussians by nearly two to one, with great advantages in both infantry and artillery. The Austrians had some 66,000 men and more than 200 artillery pieces, compared to the Prussian’s 39,000 men and 170 guns. Moreover, about two-thirds of the Prussians had been part of Bevern’s force, which they had already defeated. Frederick seems mistakenly to have believed the Austrians were comparable in strength to his own forces.

The Austrians were encamped along a front about five kilometres (four and a half miles) long between the small hamlets of Nippern and Sagschiitz, with the village of Leuthen behind their lines. Charles and Daun seemed ready to give Frederick an open battle, relying on their numbers to give them the victory. The Prussians made their advance to the battlefield beginning about 4 AM, and were deployed in two large infantry columns each flanked by a column of cavalry. There was also a sizeable advance guard of light infantry, including some rifle-armed Jager, and hussars led by the king himself.

Battle is Joined

The action began with the Prussian advanced guard easily brushing aside a small force of Saxon dragoons and Austrian light horse, taking 200 captive. Frederick ordered these men to be paraded past the army as it advanced, to raise the morale of his troops. As Frederick viewed the long white lines of Austrian troops deployed in front of Leuthen the great size of the enemy’s army became clear to him and it was plain that they had the numerical edge. But, using the coup d’oeil for which he was famous, he noted two key features of the battlefield’s topography. The first was that the Austrian left had not taken advantage of some marshy ground to anchor their left flank, which was consequently left exposed, although they had hastily constructed some barricades and redoubts for their batteries there. Moreover, there was a small ridgeline that ran in front of the Austrian left, which could be used to conceal his movements in front of the Austrian left flank.

Frederick quickly determined to take advantage of the vulnerable Austrian flank and to use the low ridges to mask his manoeuvre. To keep the enemy occupied, the Prussian cavalry of the left wing supported by some of the Prussian foot would feign an attack to keep the Austrian centre and right wing distracted. The idea of splitting an inferior force and marching a large part of it across the length of the enemy’s line, all the while presenting the flank of advancing columns to musket and artillery fire, might have seemed suicidal, but because of the nature of the terrain and the speed and manoeuvrability of the Prussian infantry Frederick was willing to take the risk. By 11 AM Frederick had made his deployments, with his left-flank cavalry, supported by a small force of infantry, slowly advancing against the right flank of the Austrian line. The Austrian commander there immediately called for assistance, assuming that his flank was the object of Frederick’s main assault. Charles and Daun responded by shifting their reserves to support the right, and galloped over to the right wing to oversee the engagement in person. In the meantime, the bulk of the Prussian infantry and their right-wing cavalry had begun their movement across the front of the Austrian line. The infantry, formed in two columns, moved with amazing speed due to their disciplined cadenced marching. In less than two hours they had started to form a line of battle at right-angles to the Austrian left flank, with the right-hand units extended slightly behind the Austrian line. The assault troops consisted of three excellent line infantry battalions, supported by a column of four additional battalions, three of grenadiers and one more from a crack line regiment. There were also 20 heavy twelve-pounder guns in support. The majority of the remaining Prussian infantry were deploying en echelon behind the assault force and spreading out to its left. Frederick retained 53 squadrons and six battalions in reserve. What made this manoeuvre possible was the low ridgeline that obscured the Prussians’ movements. The position was strengthened by the fact that the Austrian commanders had moved over to their left flank, and so were even less likely to discern Frederick’s intent. Indeed, although they noticed the Prussians moving behind the hill, they could not determine numbers or directions and assumed them to be in retreat. By 1 PM Frederick’s forces were in position and ready to begin the assault.

Where the Prussian attack hit the Austrian left the troops were composed mostly of soldiers of varied quality from those minor German states whose contingents were combined to form the Reichsarmee. They were under the command of General Franz Nadasdy, a bold Hungarian hussar general. The Prussians advanced on the troops of the Reichsarmee and engaged them in a fierce firefight, routing the Württembergers and pushing them back into the Bavarians, who joined in the rout. The firepower delivered by the assault troops must have been crushing – they were running out of ammunition by the time the supporting units arrived. Fortunately Frederick had brought ammunitions wagons with him. These units drew more cartridges and remained in the battle line. Nadasdy tried to restore the situation by attacking the Prussian foot with his dragoons and hussars, but he was countered by the 53 squadrons of Prussians from Frederick’s reserve under the command of Ziethen. The Prussian cavalry overthrew the Austrians. Rather than pursuing the cavalry, they turned to complete the destruction of Nadasdy’s broken infantry, taking over 2000 Württembergers and Bavarians prisoner.

Having realized that the attack on the right was a diversion, Charles and Daun tried to turn their centre 90 degrees to face the advancing Prussians. The Austrian line was to be anchored on the village of Leuthen itself. But there was little time to plan the redeployment and units were sent in piecemeal, not properly deployed into firing lines. The manouevre was much more difficult for the Austrians, who did not manoeuvre in the closed columns of the Prussians. As they performed it they were subjected to intense Prussian musketry and the fire of 40 twelve-pounders now moved up to the high ground overlooking Leuthen. At about 3:30 the Prussian infantry began their assault against the new Austrian position. After a sharp struggle they cleared Leuthen, which had been admirably defended by a few Austrian units and a Wiirzburg regiment of Reichsarmee troops. Another Austrian cavalry charge was made but was driven back by the Prussian cavalry. At this point, the Austrian army broke. Frederick attempted a pursuit but the weather, time of day and exhaustion of his troops prevented this being very effective.

Leuthen was a great victory for Frederick but it was also a costly one. Frederick lost 6000 men, nearly one-fifth of his forces. He in turn inflicted 10,000 killed and wounded, took more than 12,000 prisoners, and captured more than 100 cannon. A further 17,000 Austrians surrendered when Breslau capitulated later in the month. Leuthen demonstrated just what could be accomplished in the age of linear warfare with an army as disciplined as that of Prussia, especially when commanded by one of the ‘Great Captains’ of the period.


Battle of Trenton





December 26, 1776


Trenton, New Jersey, on the Delaware River (eastern United States)



[2]Hessian mercenaries


[1]General George Washington

[2]Colonel Johann Rall

Approx. # Troops




Restores confidence in Washington’s leadership and in the possibility of ultimate American victory in the war

Continental Army commander General George Washington’s first military campaign ended in disaster. In July 1776 British commander in chief Major General William Howe and 32,000 British troops (the largest expeditionary force in British history until the 20th century) landed in New York and proceeded to drive Washington’s troops from Long Island and Manhattan. Washington suffered one defeat after another; often his men simply broke and ran. Washington then left an isolated garrison at Fort Washington on the Manhattan side of the Hudson River. In mid-November, supported by ships in the Hudson, British forces cut off the garrison and captured it along with 3,000 prisoners, 100 cannon, and a huge quantity of munitions. The same thing almost happened a few days later to the colonials at Fort Lee, across the Hudson in New Jersey.

Washington fled to the interior. Howe pursued in dilatory fashion, ignoring the Hudson to go after the Continental Army. Washington got away, his army safely behind the Delaware River. On December 13, 1776, British forces caught up with Major General Charles Lee, who had rejected Washington’s orders to join him. The British captured him and some of his 4,000 men near Morristown, New Jersey. The British then went into winter quarters, their forces covered by a line of outposts. The most important was located at Trenton, New Jersey, and was held by Colonel Johann Rall’s Hessian mercenaries. What was left of Washington’s force was deployed across the Delaware River from Trenton.

Washington’s position was critical. Smallpox ravaged his force, and half of his 10,000 men were sick. To make matters worse, enlistments for most would expire in a few days, at the end of the year. Washington decided to risk everything and mount a surprise attack on Trenton. Everything depended on getting the men across the icy Delaware at night to achieve surprise. Crossings by 5,500 men, horses, and artillery were to occur at three separate locations, with the forces converging on Trenton. If circumstances allowed, they could then advance on the British posts at Princeton and New Brunswick.

The attempt was planned for Christmas night, December 25. The crossing was to start at 5:00 p.m., with the attack at Trenton scheduled for 5:00 a.m. the next morning, but weather conditions were terrible, and the troops were slow to reach their assembly areas. As a consequence, the men began loading an hour later than planned. Shallow-draft wooden Durham boats, 40–60 feet long by 8 feet wide, transported the men across the river. Perfect craft for such an operation, the Durham boats had a keel and a bow at each end. Four men, two to a side, used setting poles to push off the bottom and move the boats, which also had a mast and two sails. Horses and artillery went across the river in ferries.

All did not go smoothly, as a storm swept through. Of the three crossings, only the major one at McKonkey’s Ferry under Washington with 2,400 men occurred in time for the planned attack. That force was divided into two corps under major generals John Sullivan and Nathanael Greene. Colonel Henry Knox commanded 18 pieces of artillery. Conditions were horrible. The men had to contend not only with the dark but also with wind, rain, sleet, snow, and chunks of ice in the Delaware. The password for the operation, “Liberty or Death,” reflected its desperate nature.

Washington had planned for the crossing to be complete by midnight, but the last man was not across until after 3:00 a.m., and it was nearly 4:00 a.m. before the army formed and began to move. Washington’s men were poorly clad for such an operation; some actually had no shoes and wrapped their feet in rags. The men thus marched the nine miles to Trenton.

Washington was determined that the attack would succeed. When Sullivan sent a message to him that the storm had wet the muskets, making them unfit for service, Washington replied, “Tell General Sullivan to use the bayonet. I am resolved to take Trenton.” Washington’s will, more than anything, kept the men going. On nearing Trenton, Washington split his force into the two corps to follow two different roads for a converging attack on the British outpost.

The attack began at 8:00 a.m., with the two columns opening fire within 8 minutes of one another. The battle lasted some 90 minutes. The Hessian garrison consisted of three regiments, 50 Hessian Jägers, and 20 light dragoons—about 1,600 men in all—along with six 3-pounder guns. Continental Army forces soon drove the Hessians back. Artillery played a major role, and here Washington enjoyed a 6 to 1 advantage, with his guns deployed to fire down the streets of the town. The battle itself was a confused melee of men fighting in small groups or singly. Rall rallied his men, intending a bayonet charge down Queen Street, but was soon mortally wounded, and the Hessians were cut down by individual Americans with muskets and rifles and by artillery fire.

The Hessians lost 22 troops killed and 92 wounded; 948 were captured. The remaining Hessians would have also been taken had the other columns gotten into position in time. The Continentals also secured a considerable quantity of arms and booty. The Americans lost only 2 men, both frozen to death, and 5 wounded. With little food or rest for 36 hours, Washington’s men needed relief, and he was thus forced to suspend operations. On December 27 the Continentals were back across the Delaware.

Washington followed up Trenton by an attack against Princeton. Recrossing the Delaware on January 2, 1777, he routed 1,700 crack British troops at Princeton under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mawhood. These two small Continental victories changed the entire campaign. Washington called Trenton “A glorious day for our country,” while British minister for the colonies Lord George Germain exclaimed, “All our hopes were blasted by the unhappy affair at Trenton.” Trenton helped end the Continentals’ fear of the Hessian troops. More importantly, the two battles of Trenton and Princeton added immensely to Washington’s prestige, which was at a low point a month before, establishing his reputation as a general and a leader of men. The battles also restored Continental morale, which had been at its lowest point since the start of the war. In two weeks Washington had snatched victory out of the jaws of death and fanned the dying embers of American independence into flame again.

References Fischer, David Hackett. Washington’s Crossing. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Ketchum, Richard M. The Winter Soldiers: The Battles for Trenton and Princeton. New York: Anchor Books, 1975. McPhillips, Martin. The Battle of Trenton. Parsippany, NJ: Silver Burdett, 1984. Ward, Christopher. The War of the Revolution, Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan, 1952.

Ottoman Redoubts at Balaclava, 25 October 1854


True Heroes of Balaklava

A4, 20pp., illustrated, published by the Crimean War Research Society, 1996.

A review of the role of the Turkish forces at the Battle of Balaklava. Treated as cowards at the time, and blamed for many of the reverses of the battle, this work re-evaluates the contribution of the Turkish troops and concludes that their stubborn defence of the redoubts along the Causeway Heights, no less than their often-ignored contribution to the Thin Red Line, makes the Turks the true heroes of Balaklava.
“a reasoned attempt to revise and sharpen our perceptions of the Turks and their conduct at the battle [of Balaklava]… well-illustrated with diagrams and maps… a valuable reassessment.” – Andrew Sewell in the War Correspondent.


Battle of Balaclava. Ryzhov‘s cavalry attacks over the Causeway Heights at approximately 09:15. Both branches of the attack happened almost simultaneously.

The Ottoman guns from No.1 redoubt on Canrobert’s hill fired on the Russians at around 06:00 – the Battle of Balaclava had begun. Lucan despatched Captain Charteris to inform Raglan that the redoubts were under attack. Charteris arrived at around 07:00, but those at the British headquarters had already heard the sound of the guns. Lucan himself rode quickly back towards Kadikoi to confer with Colin Campbell, commander of the Balaclava defences. The two men agreed that this was not another Russian feint, but an attack in force with the intention of taking the British base. Campbell prepared his 93rd Highlanders to meet the enemy, whilst Lucan returned to the cavalry. Leaving the Light Brigade where it stood, Lucan led the Heavy Brigade towards the redoubts, hoping his presence might discourage any further Russian advance on Balaclava. Realizing his show of strength had little impact, however, Lucan led the Heavies back to their original position alongside the Light Brigade. The Ottoman forces were left to face the full force of the Russian assault almost alone.

Whilst Gribbe’s artillery continued to shell No.1 redoubt, the Russian columns under Levutsky, Semyakin, and Skyuderi began to move into the North Valley. Although the Heavy Brigade had pulled back, the British did send forward their available artillery to assist the Ottoman forces on the Causeway Heights. Captain George Maude’s troop of horse artillery, I Troop, unlimbered its four 6-pounder and two 12-pounder guns between redoubts 2 and 3, whilst Captain Barker’s battery, W Battery, of the Royal Artillery, moved out of Balaclava and took its position on Maude’s left. However, the artillery duel was a very one sided affair. The heavier Russian guns (some 18-pounders), particularly No.4 battery under Lieutenant Postikov, together with the riflemen of the Ukraine regiment, took their toll on both men and ordinance. Running short of ammunition and taking hits, Maude’s troop was forced to retire, their place taken by two guns from Barker’s battery (Maude himself was severely wounded). As the British artillery fire slackened, Semyakin prepared to storm No. 1 redoubt, personally leading the assault together with three battalions of the Azovsky Regiment under Colonel Krudener. “I waved my hat on both sides.” Recalled Semyakin, “Everybody rushed after me and I was protected by the stern Azovs.” The Ottoman forces on Canrobert’s Hill resisted stubbornly. Although the attack had begun at 06:00, it was not until 07:30 when No.1 redoubt fell. During that time the 600 Ottoman defenders had suffered from the heavy artillery bombardment; in the ensuing fight in the redoubt and subsequent pursuit by the Cossacks, an estimated 170 Ottomans were killed. In his first report of the action for The Times, William Russell wrote that the Turks ‘received a few shots and then bolted’, but afterwards admitted that he had not been a witness to the start of the battle, confessing, ‘Our treatment of the Turks was unfair … ignorant as we were that the Turkish in No.1 redoubt lost more than a fourth of their number ere they abandoned it to the enemy’. Later Lucan and Campbell too acknowledged the firmness with which the assault on No 1 redoubt, which was not visible from their vantage point, had been resisted; it was not until this had been overwhelmed did the defenders abandon redoubts 2, 3 and 4. Of the estimated 2,500 Russians who took part in the assault the Azovsky Regiment lost two officers and 149 men killed.

The remaining redoubts were now in danger of falling into the hands of the oncoming Russians. The battalions of the Ukraine Regiment under Colonel Dudnitsky-Lishin, attacked redoubts Nos.2 and 3, whilst the Odessa Regiment under Skyuderi, advanced on redoubt No.4. The Ottoman forces in these positions, having already watched their compatriots flee the first redoubt and realizing that the British were not coming to their aid, retreated back towards Balaclava, pursued by the Cossacks who had little trouble dispatching any stray or isolated men; the few British NCOs could do nothing but spike the guns, rendering them unusable. The Ottoman forces had gained some time for the Allies. Nevertheless, by 08:00 the Russians were occupying redoubts 1, 2 and 3, and, considering it too close to the enemy, had razed redoubt No.4.


The role of the Ottoman division during the initial stage of the siege is not clear. Most probably it also took part in the costly French attack. Additionally, thanks to the miscalculation and neglect of allied quartermasters, it suffered further casualties because of poor diet and lack of provisions. But, its role in the Balaclava (Balýklýova) battle is well known, albeit not with glory. The Russian main army group attacked the relatively weakly defended allied security perimeter around Voronzov Ridge. At least four Ottoman battalions reinforced with artillery gunners, some 2,000 men (more or less) manned five poorly fortified redoubts that established the forward defensive line. What happened at these redoubts during the early morning of October 25 is still shrouded in mystery. According to the commonly accepted version, the Ottoman soldiers cowardly fled when the first Russian shells began to land, leaving their cannons behind. The day was saved thanks to the British Heavy Cavalry Brigade and the famous ‘‘thin red line’’ of the 93rd Highlander Regiment. The alleged cowardly behavior then became so established in the minds of the allied commanders that Lord Raglan refused to assign Ottoman troops to reinforce his weak defensive forces at Inkerman Ridge just before the battle of the same name.

Recent research, however, including battlefield archeology, provides a completely different story and corresponds to the version of events contained in the modern official Turkish military history. According to these recent findings, the Ottoman battalions in the redoubts, especially the ones in Redoubt One, defended their positions and stopped the massive Russian assault for more than two hours with only their rifles; the British 12 pounder iron cannons located there could not be used without help. Their efforts gained valuable time for the British to react effectively. The battalion in Redoubt One was literally annihilated and the others, after suffering heavy casualties, were forced to retreat. They did not flee, because we know that some of them regrouped with the 93rd Highland Regiment and manned the famous ‘‘thin red line.’’ It is evident that Ottoman soldiers were also heroes at Balaclava. However, because of factors including racial xenophobia, language barriers, and lack of representation at the war council in Crimea, their valor was tarnished, and they were chosen as scapegoats and blamed for many of the blunders that occurred during the battle.

Teutoburg Forest


Reconstruction of palisade. The building of this palisade is indicative of Arminius’s careful planning, as was his use of terrain to nullify the superior equipment and training of the Romans.



Date: autumn AD 9 Location: Kalkriese, Germany

In the field, the bones of the soldiers lay scattered about, each where he had fallen either standing his ground or trying to flee. There were bits of weapons, and the bones of horses amongst them, and human heads had been nailed to the trunks of the surrounding trees. TACITUS, ANNALS, 1.61


  • c.35,000 men
  • Commanded by Arminius
  • Unknown casualties


  • 20,000 men
  • Commanded by Publius Quintilius Varus
  • 20,000 dead, plus c. 3,000 civilians

In the early years of the 1st century AD the emperor Augustus tried to bring Germany under his control. An unconquered Germany was uncomfortably close to Italy, and Augustus may have felt that a defensive line along the Elbe was easier to maintain than the current one along the Rhine.

By AD 9 Germany seemed sufficiently conquered for Augustus to send a governor whose main concern was the Romanization of the province. This was Quintilius Varus, former governor of Syria and husband of Augustus’s great-niece.

Varus commanded three legions – the XVII, XVIII and XIX. Also, some of the many tribes of Germany were allied with the Romans. Among the young German aristocrats who served with the Roman legions for military experience was Arminius, son of a chieftain of the Cherusci tribe.

Varus was unaware that the despoiling of his native land had made Arminius a bitter enemy of Rome. From the moment Varus arrived in Germany, Arminius plotted to unite the tribes and bring about the Roman leader’s downfall.

These tribes sent to Varus and asked for garrisons to be stationed with them. Varus agreed readily and sent detachments, thus weakening his main force. Finally, in AD 9 Arminius arranged for reports of trouble in a distant part of the province to reach Varus. It was now autumn, and Varus seems to have decided to move his whole camp and deal with the problem on his way to winter quarters. Another German leader, Segestes, pleaded passionately with Varus not to trust Arminius, but he was ignored.


Arminius’s guides led the Romans astray. Then the Germans attacked. Initially these attacks were pinpricks – ambuscades which melted at the first sign of serious resistance, and the threat seemed minor. The Romans had armour, equipment and training, while many Germans fought naked. Though some warriors had swords, others had merely a crude spear (the frameo), sometimes with only a fire-hardened wooden point. But the Romans were uncomfortable in the dense forest, and were made more miserable by a series of thunderstorms. Near modern Kalkriese, on the edge of the Wiehen hills north of Osnabrück, Arminius had prepared an ambush. Here, the forest extended almost to the edge of an impenetrable marsh. The Roman army was caught on the narrow stretch of land between the two when the Germans attacked.

The Romans were penned in by a wall at the forest edge. This was part-rampart, but mostly a fence woven with branches between the trees, of a type that the Germans used to stop their cattle from straying. The Romans were probably split into pockets by the first attack and unable to coordinate their efforts. In confused skirmishes and a running battle lasting several days, the trapped Romans were steadily worn down.


Varus was either killed or fell on his sword. Others followed his example, for the Germans had a grisly way with prisoners. In the end, not one single Roman survived. What we know of the battle is from reconstruct ions, the first by the Romans themselves, who returned to the scene a few years later. They found places where senior Roman officers had been messily sacrificed, and the bones of the dead scattered where they had fallen.

Gradually the site of the disaster was forgotten. A massive monument to the battle was eventually erected at Hiddesen, south of Detmold. This was some 50 km (31 miles) from the actual site of Teutoburg Forest, which was discovered very recently by Major Tony Clunn, an amateur archaeologist. He found Roman metal artifacts which suggested a battle, and professional archaeologists confirmed that this was the site of the Varusschlacht – where Varus’s legions had been destroyed. Arminius’s victory ensured that north west Europe had a Germanic rather than a Latin culture. This in turn profoundly affected subsequent European history, and thus the history of the world.

Germanicus – Rome’s Revenge




Defeating Arminius

“It was a great victory, and without bloodshed to us.”

TACITUS, The Annals, II, 18

It was the summer of AD 16, and Germanicus Caesar had used a fleet of 1,000 newly built ships to return to the heart of Germany in search of Arminius and his German allies. At midmorning, the Roman army came marching down beside the Weser River from where it had camped for the night. With a small force left at the camp to guard the baggage, the legions were marching in battle order.

This time, the Germans were not only ready for Germanicus, but their leader had chosen the location for a decisive battle, and had sent men posing as defectors to lure the Romans into a trap, in the same way that he had lured Varus into a trap seven years before. The chosen place, called Idistavisus by the Romans, was just east of the Weser on a rolling river plain between ranges of low hills. The so-called Great Forest ran along the eastern fringe of the plain, with grassland extending for 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) over low hillocks from the trees to the Weser. Fifty thousand German tribesmen stood waiting on the grass, massed in their tribes and clans, their ranks extending from the forest to the river. [Warry, WCW]

In addition to Arminius and his Cherusci, tribes represented are likely to have included Arpus and his Chatti; Mallovendus and the remnants of the Marsi, plus the Fosi, Usipetes, Tubantes and Bructeri; the Cauchi, who had captured one of Varus’ eagles, were probably present, along with young men of the Angrivarii—in defiance of their tribe’s latest treaty with Rome; and Tencteri and Mattiaci from the Rhineland opposite Cologne, as well as Langobardi and Ampsivarii from along the Weser and Hunte rivers.

As the Roman army rounded the river bend and met the sight of the waiting German horde, Germanicus, riding in the middle of the column, calmly gave orders for his units to deploy. To the 28,000 men of his eight under-strength legions he had added the 2,000 men of two Praetorian Guard cohorts sent to him from Rome by Tiberius. It was unique for Praetorians to fight in a field army when the emperor was not present. Their presence had more to do with Tiberius’ unfounded fear of his adopted son using his legions to topple him from the throne than from a genuine desire to help Germanicus.

In addition, the Roman army of 74,000 men included 30,000 auxiliaries from Gaul, Raetia, Batavia, Spain and Syria, 6,000 men from allied German tribes, and 8,000 cavalry including 2,000 mounted horse archers. One of Germanicus’ German auxiliary cohort commanders was none other than Flavus, brother of Arminius. Germanicus was not concerned at seeing the Germans waiting for him—the tribesmen sent to lure him here had confessed that Arminius planned to entrap him, telling of the Germans’ location and numbers. [Tac., A, II, 16]

Germanicus was also confident of the morale of his legionaries. In the days leading up to the battle, a German had ridden to the Roman camp ramparts in the night and called out that Arminius would reward every Roman who changed sides, with a German wife, a plot of land, and 100 sesterces a day while the war lasted. Germanicus had heard one of his men yell back, “Let daylight come, let battle be given! Then we’ll take your land, and carry off your wives!” [Ibid., 13]

As the Roman infantry spread with drilled precision in three battle lines, German tribesmen with massive spears up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) long began spilling down the slopes toward them. Germanicus turned to Lucius Stertinius, and ordered him to execute a prearranged cavalry maneuver; the general rode off and led the Roman cavalry at the gallop along beside the tree line. The Roman infantry front line was filled with auxiliaries. The second line comprised the ALR legions: the 1st, 5th Alaudae, 20th and 21st Rapax, with Germanicus and the two Praetorian cohorts in the middle of the line. Behind Germanicus in the third line were the AUR legions, the 2nd Augusta, 13th Gemina, 14th Gemina and 16th Gallica.

The legionaries stood in their ranks, waiting to meet the German rush, stock still, like statues, the sun glinting on their standards and military decorations, the horsehair plumes on their helmets wafting in the morning breeze. This would be one of the last times that legionaries wore plumes in battle; before long, they would be relegated to parade use only.

One of Germanicus’ aides then pointed to the sky. “Look, Caesar!”

Germanicus looked up. Eight eagles were flying overhead—one for each of Germanicus’ legions. As the Romans watched, the birds dipped toward the forest. Germanicus called to his troops: “Follow the Roman birds, the true deities of our legions!,” then ordered his trumpeter to signal the front line to charge. [Ibid., 17]

With a determined roar, the auxiliaries surged forward. Behind them, a line of foot archers loosed off a looping volley of arrows at the oncoming tribesmen. Soon, Germans and Roman front line were locked together.

Stertinius and the cavalry drove into right flank and rear of the German horde. The impact of this cavalry onslaught drove a mass of Germans away from the trees, where they collided with thousands of other Germans running toward the forest to escape the cavalry attack from the rear. Cheruscans on the hill slopes were forced to give ground by their own panicked countrymen. After his men had charged without waiting for his orders, Arminius, on horseback, had been forced to join them. In the midst of the fighting, he was soon wounded.

Realizing that the day was already lost, Arminius smeared his face with his own blood to disguise his identity, urged his horse forward, and with his long hair flying, headed toward the Roman left wing, by the trees, which was occupied by Chauci Germans from the North Sea coast. These men had fought alongside Arminius in the Teutoburg, but had since allied themselves with Germanicus. Tacitus was to write: “Some have said that he was recognized by Chauci serving among the Roman auxiliaries, who let him go.” [Ibid.]

Arminius escaped into the forest, and kept riding, as, behind him, Germanicus sent his legions into the fight. The struggle between 128,000 men went on for hours. “From nine in the morning until nightfall the enemy were slaughtered,” said Tacitus, “and ten miles were covered with arms and dead bodies.” Arminius’ army was routed. “It was a great victory, and without bloodshed to us,” Tacitus declared. But Arminius himself was still at large. [Ibid., 18]


After the bloody defeat of Idistavisus, Arminius was determined to have his revenge on Germanicus and his legions. In years past, when the Angrivari tribe was at war with the Cherusci, they had built a massive earth barrier to separate the tribes. The Weser river ran along one side of the Angrivar barrier; marshland extended behind it. A small plain ran from the barrier to forested hills. It was here at the barrier that Arminius planned to defeat Germanicus Caesar.

Word reached Germanicus that Arminius and his allies were regrouping at the barrier and receiving thousands of reinforcements. From a German deserter, Germanicus also learned that Arminius had set another trap for him, hoping to lure the Romans to the barrier. Arminius would be waiting in the forest with cavalry, and would emerge behind Germanicus as he attacked the barrier, to destroy him from the rear. Armed with that intelligence, Germanicus made his own plans. Sending his cavalry to deal with Arminius in the forest, he advanced on the Angrivar barrier in two columns.

While one Roman column made an obvious frontal attack on the barrier in full view of its thousands of German defenders, Germanicus and the second division made their way unnoticed along the hillsides. He then launched a surprise flanking attack against the Germans. But, in the face of determined defense, and devoid of scaling ladders or siege equipment, Germanicus’ troops were forced to pull back. After bombarding the barrier with his legions’ catapults, keeping the Germans’ heads down, Germanicus personally led the next attack, at the head of the Praetorians, removing his helmet so that no one could mistake who he was. The men of eight legions followed close behind their bareheaded general and the Praetorians. On clambering up the barrier they found a “vast host” of Germans lined up on the far side, commanded by Arminius’ uncle Inguiomerus, who, with blood-curdling war cries, surged forward to repulse the Romans.

The intense hand-to-hand combat continued for hours. Germanicus ordered that no prisoners be taken. The situation was equally perilous for both sides. “Valor was their only hope, victory their only safety,” said Tacitus. “The Germans were equally brave, but they were beaten by the nature of the fighting and the weapons,” for they were too tightly compressed to use their long spears effectively. [Tac., A, I, 21]

Pushed into woods, trapped with their backs to the marsh, the tribesmen were slaughtered. At nightfall, the killing stopped. The Germans had been dislodged from the barrier and butchered in their thousands. Inguiomerus escaped, but took no further part in German resistance. That night, Germanicus was joined by Seius Tubero, commander of the Roman cavalry that had gone after Arminius in the forest. Tubero, a close friend of Tiberius, had certainly prevented Arminius from attacking Germanicus in the rear, but after indecisive fighting had allowed the German cavalry to escape. While the battle at the barrier had been another crushing Roman victory, Arminius had again evaded capture.

The Roman victory was soured when, on the return voyage to Holland, a number of Germanicus’ ships were wrecked in a storm. To prove that the legions were still to be reckoned with, Germanicus immediately regrouped his forces and led a new raid across the Rhine, this time returning with another of Varus’ lost eagles.

The Senate heaped honors on Germanicus, and the adoring Roman people sang the prince’s praises. But Tiberius was unimpressed. When Germanicus asked the emperor for another year to complete the subjugation of the Germans, he recalled him. Germanicus returned to Rome, “though,” said Tacitus, “he saw that this was a pretense, and that he was hurried away through jealousy from the glory he had already acquired.” There would be no further Roman expeditions east of the Rhine during the reign of Tiberius. [Ibid., 26]

After Germanicus celebrated his Triumph in Rome in AD 17, Tiberius made him supreme Roman commander in the East, and in Syria, in AD 19, Germanicus, Tiberius’ heir apparent as emperor, would die—apparently poisoned, with Tiberius the chief suspect. Ironically, in Germany that same year, Arminius would also die, and also at the hands of his own people. Many hundreds of years later, Arminius, or Hermann, would become the hero of German nationalists.

As for Germanicus Caesar, many modern-day historians consider him a mediocrity. Yet Germanicus would be lamented by the Roman people for generations—as late as the third century, his birthday was still being commemorated on June 23 each year. [Web., RIA, 6] Fearless soldier and noble prince, Germanicus was, said Cassius Dio in the third century, “the bravest of men against the foe” yet “showed himself most gentle with his countrymen.” [Dio, LVII, 18]

Walcourt 1689

Our game was representational and not a truly accurate recreation of the battle. For those unfamiliar with Walcourt it stands out as the only Allied victory in Flanders of any significance until Namur fell in 1695. British infantry distinguished itself in an evolving battle which had several distinct phases.

Marlborough was a natural choice to command the British force of 8,000 men sent to the Low Countries in the spring of 1689. He was senior and experienced, and William might have thought it safer to send him to the Continent rather than to Ireland, where James had arrived in March, in case his newly professed loyalty became strained. Marlborough’s contingent formed part of the small army commanded by Georg Friedrich, Prince of Waldeck, intended to hold in check a French army of around 40,000 under Marshal d’Humières, which had moved into the southern portion of the Spanish Netherlands at the beginning of May. The main French effort was to be made on the Rhine, and d’Humières was simply bidden to remain where he was. Waldeck, with roughly the same number of men, felt unable to dislodge him.

Marlborough had made his mark even before his men had fired a shot in anger. The events of the past six months had left the army confused and humiliated. In many regiments officers and men had not yet got to know one another; William’s preference for all things Dutch was especially galling to the foot guards, who saw the Dutch Blue Guards replace them on duty in London, and there were still some Jacobites in the army who, usually when in drink, noisily aired their affection for James II. Desertion, that running sore of the armies of the age, was a major problem, and was not helped by the ease with which an agile man could slip between allied or even enemy contingents, scooping an enlistment bonus every time he did so. Many observers believed that the débâcle of 1688 was a fair comment on the British army, and we cannot blame them. Even Waldeck, not history’s liveliest general, thought that Marlborough’s soldiers suffered from ‘sickness, slackness, wretched clothing and the worst of shoes’.

The campaign that follows is Marlborough in miniature. He had three months to train and discipline his army before exposing it to the test of battle. He drilled it hard, worked tirelessly at getting uniforms, arms and equipment into order, and by July Waldeck was reporting to William that he could not ‘sufficiently praise the English’, and that he found ‘the whole so well ordered that I have admired it, and I can say that Monsieur Milord Marlbrouck and the Colonels have shown that their application has had a good effect’.

On 26 August Waldeck crossed the Sambre near Charleroi and camped, some ten miles further south, just north of the small walled town of Walcourt. He probably did so simply to give a fresh opportunity to his foraging parties. These were not small groups of soldiers striving to buy or steal food for themselves (although some men seized any opportunity to take extra rations or even to desert), but organised parties bent on collecting hay for the cavalry. At this time of the year hay had already been mown, but earlier in the season they would have been compelled to cut grass themselves. The armies of the age usually contained two horses (mounts for the cavalry and officers as well as draught animals for guns and wagons) for every three men. A force the size of Waldeck’s needed to find some 25,000 pounds of hay a day during the campaigning season, and it was impractical to carry it long distances. Like sharks, constantly on the move to keep water passing through their gills, the armies of the era needed to amble across the landscape to bring fresh forage within their reach.

Armies engaged in foraging were axiomatically vulnerable. D’Humières had, in any case, recently been reinforced, and as soon as he saw that Waldeck had his foragers out he attacked them. On 27 August a single British battalion under Colonel Hodges was posted in the valley about two miles south of Walcourt to act as a rallying point for the foragers, and there were Dutch horse and dragoons further south. As the French advanced northwards the Allied cavalry patrols fell back in contact with them, giving the foragers time to get away. Marlborough rode forward at about 10 a.m. to find Hodges’ men, who had ‘lined some convenient hedges’, in good order but under growing pressure, though happily the ground did not allow the French to hook round on either side of the battalion. With the aid of some cavalry of his own, he brought Hodges back, first to a watermill halfway to Walcourt, and then right back to join the rest of his force, on the high ground just east of Walcourt itself, though not before Lieutenant Colonel Graham and Captain Davison had been mortally wounded and about thirty men killed.

At this stage d’Humières could quite well have broken off the action without discredit: if he had failed to catch the foraging parties he had at least brought the process to a premature halt. But, inflamed by the clash so far and unaware that Waldeck had now concentrated his whole army in and around Walcourt (the great hill on the town’s east not only offered excellent fields of fire to Marlborough’s guns, but screened from view the troops behind it), he pressed his attack. It is possible that the poor reputation then enjoyed by British troops induced him to take risks he might have deemed inappropriate with others. The defences of Walcourt itself were old and ramshackle, and the place was held by a single Luneburg regiment. A determined party of Gardes Français piled faggots against the town’s gates and tried to set them alight, but Waldeck reported that ‘most of them were killed’. At about 2 p.m., Brigadier General Thomas Tollemache took his own Coldstream Guards and a German battalion into the town to strengthen its garrison, and further French assaults were beaten off with heavy loss.

Marlborough was to become a master of feeling the balance of a battle, and Walcourt helped him develop this quality. When d’Humières’ men were played out by successive attacks on the town, Waldeck ordered a counterattack. At about 6 p.m. Major General Slangenberg’s Dutch infantry went forward on his right, and on his left Marlborough personally led the Life Guards and the Blues in a charge that broke the leading French infantry (the French acknowledged six guards battalions ‘for the most part ruined’) and decided the battle at a stroke. He would have done even more damage had d’Humières’ cavalry commander, Claude de Villars (a veteran of the siege of Maastricht, where he and Marlborough had been on the same side), not led his own horsemen into the battle to help the beaten infantry limp away. The French lost perhaps as many as 2,000 men (including a brigadier general and the colonel of the Royal-Champagne infantry regiment) and six guns to no more than three hundred Allied casualties.

Although Waldeck was not able to mint any larger currency from this little victory, and the campaign ended with inconclusive countermarching and cannonading, he praised Marlborough to William in the most glowing terms, adding: ‘I would never have believed that so many of the English would show such a joie de combattre.’ His formal report to the States-General noted: ‘All our troops showed a great courage and desire to come to a battle; and particularly the English, who were engaged in this action, behaved themselves very well.’ A delighted William told Marlborough: ‘It is to you that this advantage is principally owing,’ and gave him the colonelcy of an infantry regiment (later the Royal Fusiliers) as a reward. D’Humières, in contrast, dubbed le maréchal sans lumière by his unhappy subordinates, never again enjoyed operational command. When the tide of war lapped across the same region in 1690 that frail but energetic warrior Marshal Luxembourg was in charge. He first trounced Waldeck at Fleurus, and went on to win a string of victories which did much for flagging French morale.

Rogers and Marin

On March 10, 1758, Major Robert Rogers left Fort Edward with 180 men. The force cautiously crept up the shore of Lake George. The lake was still frozen but free of snow, so the Rangers used ice-creepers to move north toward the French lines. As the Rangers neared enemy territory they slept during the day and marched in the dark of night. By March 13, they left the ice of the lake and moved into the forests. They cached their rucksacks and sleds and took only their fighting order. Rogers decided to ambush a French patrol as it left their defensive lines. He picked the terrain for the ambush carefully and then divided his force in two. Now it was a matter of waiting.

Rogers had his men hide behind trees overlooking a ravine with a frozen stream. A French column of approximately 100 men, led by Natives, worked its way down the ice of the stream bed, which was easier to travel on than the deep snow. As the head of the French column drew even with Rogers’ left flank, Rogers fired his musket as a signal to attack. The woods suddenly filled with a continuous clap of thunder as the Ranger line fired into the French, Canadians, and Natives. It was as if a scythe cut through their ranks. As the survivors tried to escape, Rogers’ right flank rushed down into the ravine to cut them off. It seemed like the Rangers had bested their enemy.

Suddenly, another wave of thunder reverberated through the winter wilderness. Rogers realized immediately that he had just attacked the vanguard of a larger force. The hunter became the hunted. The Rangers that rushed into the ravine now found themselves overwhelmed and fighting for their lives to escape back up the hill to friendly lines. The Rangers fought from tree to tree and tried to create a defensive perimeter. The Canadians and Natives darted from cover to cover, attempting to infiltrate and cut off the Rangers.

The French attacked relentlessly. The Rangers, realizing their lives were at stake, were able to throw back the assaults. But they could not last forever. Ninety minutes after the first shot was fired, as darkness began to fall, the French succeeded in collapsing the centre of Rogers’ position. Rogers and 20 men fell back on their depth position. They fired a volley and then scattered into the darkness to make their individual escapes.

To speed up his getaway, Rogers threw off his jacket, which held his commissioning scroll. As a result, a rumour that Rogers was killed at the Battle of the Snowshoes circulated in the French camp. It was not, however, true. Rogers had made a narrow escape. Of the 181 individuals who began the expedition, only 54 survived and made it back to Fort Edward. Once again, Rogers had been bested by the French Canadians.

Less than six months later, the two forces would meet once again in a bitter showdown. This time it was the French Canadians who found themselves trapped behind enemy lines. The morning began like many others for Captain Joseph Marin, the veteran French-Canadian partisan leader who was preparing his war party for the next leg of their raid. A sudden musket shot shattered the morning stillness of the Adirondack wilderness. Within seconds two more shots rang out. As they echoed through the forest, Marin realized that the enemy was very close. He quickly and quietly deployed 500 Canadians, coureurs de bois, and Natives into a crescent-shaped ambush on the edge of the forest clearing. Within minutes, his large force practically vanished as they melted into the thick brush, awaiting the arrival of the British-American force that was apparently close by.

Marin and his raiding party had been on their way to strike the English at Fort Edward. They were emboldened by the French victory at Fort Ticonderoga a month earlier, on July 8, 1758, when Montcalm’s force of 3,600 men defeated Major-General James Abercromby’s army of 15,000. In its aftermath, the Canadians and their Native allies mounted a number of raids. In fact, just days earlier on July 28, another French Canadian, La Corne, with 300 Canadians and Natives, massacred a convoy of 116 men and women between Fort Edward and Halfway Brook. Upon hearing of the outrage, Major-General Abercromby immediately ordered Majors Robert Rogers and Israel Putnam, with a combined force of 1,400 men, to hunt down La Corne. Despite their haste they reached the narrow of Lake Champlain too late; La Corne narrowly missed their noose. However, the stage was now set for yet another encounter between Marin and his nemesis Rogers.

Three days later, 11 Rangers patrolling the Wood Creek approach from Fort Ticonderoga stumbled upon fresh tracks of a large Native war party. They followed the trail for four miles, then decided to stop for a meal. In an instant the tables were turned. The Rangers were surrounded by 50 Natives — they attacked and the hunter became the prey. In the desperate and savage struggle that followed, eight Rangers and 17 Natives were killed, and two Rangers were captured. Only one Ranger, Sergeant Hackett, escaped. As he fled to Fort Edward he discovered the tracks of an even larger enemy war party, apparently heading in the direction of Fort Edward.

When Hackett reached Fort Edward he reported what he had seen to Abercromby, who devised a plan to intercept and destroy the unidentified French raiding party. Abercromby sent a dispatch to Rogers and Putnam, who were still in the field, to take 700 chosen men and 10 days of provisions and “sweep all that back country” of South Bay and Wood Creek to Fort Edward in hopes of finding the French-Canadian war party.

On the night of July 31, Rogers, Putnam, and their force camped on Sloop Island. The next day was spent preparing the expedition and on August 2, Rogers and Putnam left with separate groups to set ambushes where the Wood Creek meets East Bay and South Bay. Unfortunately, no one stumbled into either of the traps. Four days later, Rogers and Putnam rejoined forces and marched to the decaying ruins of Fort Sainte-Anne, where they camped on the night of August 7, 1758.

Up until that point, the Rangers hadn’t accomplished much. Other than the near capture of an enemy canoe with six warriors, there was no sign of enemy forces. The men were becoming bored and distracted. One hundred seventy soldiers were released and they returned to Fort Edward. Rogers had just 530 men remaining when they settled in for the night.

The next morning, as the sun began to rise over the hills, Rogers and Putnam prepared for the march west to Fort Edward. For some reason, Rogers, who had literally written the book on light infantry warfare in North America, “Standing Orders of Rogers’ Rangers,” had a lethal lapse of judgment. He and Ensign William Irwin, of Gage’s Light Infantry Regiment, had a friendly argument about who was the more skilled marksman. Things quickly got a whole lot less friendly, and words soon led to action: the two began firing at targets to prove who was the better shot.

Little did they know that the enemy was in the area. As the shots echoed through the forest, the French-Canadian commander, Captain Marin, who was close by, reacted instantly. His trained eye surveyed the ground and he quickly spotted an ideal ambush site. He developed a plan and swiftly deployed his forces. Between the two forces lay a clearing that was choked with alder and brush, cut in half by a single narrow trail that led directly into the forest where Marin had positioned his men. The dense cover would allow the enemy to unwittingly walk right into Marin’s ambush location. By the time they realized the threat it would be too late.

Major Putnam led the column. He had his 300 Connecticut Provincials leading. Behind him followed Captain James Dalyell with detachments of British infantry from the 80th and 44th Regiments. Rogers brought up the rear with his Rangers and the remaining Provincials. Putnam marched right into the ambush. Lieutenant Tracy and three soldiers were suddenly overwhelmed and dragged into the thick brush. Then the French Canadians and their Native allies unleashed a lethal volley on the unsuspecting English troops caught in the open clearing. “The enemy rose as a cloud and fired upon us,” recorded one participant, “the tomahawks and bullets flying around my ears like hailstones.”

Putnam immediately ordered his men to return fire and a deadly melee began in the thick alder brush and forest, but the odds were against them. “The enemy discovering them,” recounted Dr. Caleb Rea, “ambushed’m in form of a Semi Circle which gave the Enemy a great advantage of our men.” The provincial troops quickly broke and fell back behind the regulars, who were led forward by Captain Dalyell.

The battle became centred around a huge fallen tree. Marin pounded the British with four volleys of fire before the “Red Coats” managed to flank the tree and engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. At this point, the momentum of the battle began to turn in favour of the British. Major Rogers was at the back of the column with his men. He quickly moved his forces to the sound of battle. The antagonists were then evenly matched and the action raged on for another hour.

The thick bush and alder at the edge of the forest turned the battle into a series of very personal fights, as the small area prevented much group action. At one point, a monstrous Native chief, who stood six feet four inches tall, jumped upon the large fallen tree and killed two British regulars who tried to oppose him. A British officer, who was trying to help the fallen soldiers, hit the giant with his musket. Although he drew blood, he only enraged the Native, who was about to dispatch the officer with his tomahawk when Major Rogers proved his marksmanship and shot the Native chief dead.

Marin tried to outflank the British by turning their right flank. He made four valiant attempts, however, Rogers and his Rangers gave no ground. As the fight raged around him, Rogers sensed the flow of battle and reversed the initiative. He began to shift his Rangers right in a bid to out-manoeuvre the French Canadians. Some Canadians began to break. Then the Rangers charged. Half the Rangers would fire, while the other half would reload. That way, they kept up a constant fire and forward movement. Under this constant fire and pressure, the remainder of the French Canadians gave way.

However, Marin was no novice in bush warfare. Realizing the situation, he avoided a rout and destruction of his force by dividing his surviving force into small parties and taking different withdrawal routes. The groups reunited later that night and made camp in a secluded location surrounded by impenetrable swamp.

The British chose not to pursue the French. Instead, they stayed on the battlefield and buried their dead. As always, the casualty figures vary, however, it appears that British-American losses added up to 53 killed, 50 wounded, and four taken prisoner. The French Canadians suffered approximately 77 killed.

Once the dead were buried, Rogers and his party continued their march to Fort Edward, carrying their wounded on litters made of strong branches with blankets strung over them. En route, a relief force of 400 soldiers under Major Munster, which included an additional 40 Rangers and a surgeon, met the column. Rogers then encamped for the night. The latest desperate fight combat had no overall effect on the struggle for North America. What the combatants in the depth of the Adirondack wilderness did not yet know was that the strategic tide of the war had begun to shift. Soon, the focus of operations would be farther north.


Joseph Marin de La Malgue (known as Marin) was another legendary French-Canadian partisan leader who struck terror into the English settlements. He was born in Montreal in 1719, into a family steeped in martial tradition. His grandfather was an officer in the colonial regular troops and his father, Paul Marin de la Malgue, was also an officer of the colonial regular troops who became renowned for his diplomatic, trading, and fighting skills. Marin the elder, at the age of 30, took command of Chagouamigon (near present-day Ashland in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior). This appointment carried the customary monopoly of the region’s fur trade, but his primary responsibility was to ensure and maintain the alliance between the Native nations and France.

The young Marin was a famous partisan leader in his own right. From an early age he was brought up on stories and the reality of fighting in the wilderness of North America. His father, who was greatly feared and respected by the Natives, taught the younger Marin his trade. In 1732, at only 13 years old, Marin’s father sent him to explore the Pays-d’en-Haut, which refers to the northwest (i.e., the upper Great Lakes basin). For the next 13 years, as a cadet in the colonial regular troops, he stayed in that area. This experience was critical in his development, providing him with an understanding of the complexities of the fur trade. More importantly, he became skilled at wilderness travel, and knowledgeable about Native culture and temperament. In fact, he became fluent in Sioux and several Algonquin dialects. He also gained military experience during the campaign against the Chickasaws in 1739–40, and he earned his diplomatic spurs when he made peace and trade agreements with the Sioux west of Baie-des-Puants (present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin).

In 1745, Marin and his father were recalled to the east to fight in the war in Acadia and Cape Breton Island. Although his influence was minimal at the time, this latest exposure to war provided more experience. Later that year, Marin, under his father’s command, participated in a large-scale raid against the English, which devastated Schuylerville and neighbouring areas in New York. During the next two years, 1746–48, Marin was busy in Acadia, Grand-Pré, Cape Breton Island, and the New York frontier, learning and plying the deadly craft ofla petite guerre. He was promoted to the rank of second ensign at the end of the conflict in 1748.

The following year, the governor of New France, La Jonquière, gave Marin command of the post at Chagouamigon. Marin found himself in his father’s old job. He was also assigned the responsibility of making peace with the Sioux and Ojibwas who were locked in conflict with each other, as well as the French. He succeeded.

In 1750, Marin was promoted full ensign. He was recalled to Montreal on July 11, 1756, with a large contingent of Native warriors. Later that summer, he participated in the successful campaign to capture the British fort at Oswego, where he and his Menominee warriors continually beat larger British forces.

In August, Marin led a force of approximately 100 on a raid against Fort William Henry on Lake George, New York, and defeated a force of about the same size as his own. His constant raids, particularly because of the brutality and savage nature of the French Canadians and Natives, terrorized both the garrisons of the frontier forts and the settlements at large. In December 1756, Marin led a force of 500 French Canadians and Natives on another raid that tore a path of destruction through New York. Six months later, in July 1757, Marin led a small reconnaissance party to the vicinity of Fort Edward in New York. His force crept up close to the fort and then annihilated a 10-man patrol, and then a 50-man guard. Finally, totally overwhelmed by British reinforcements, he expertly held them off for an hour and then withdrew. In total, the action cost him only three men.

The next major battle took place in August 1758. It pitted Marin against his arch-nemesis, Major Robert Rogers. Rogers and the British force of about 530 men were careless, and Marin and his raiding party figured out that they were outnumbered. Marin quickly deployed his Canadians and Natives and skilfully sprung an ambush that caught the enemy completely by surprise. Although inflicting heavy casualties and capturing several prisoners, the remainder of the British force reacted well and the battle soon settled into a bitter war of attrition. Marin was caught behind enemy lines, between a large force and an even larger pool of reinforcements who were only hours away. So he broke his command up into small groups and they melted away.

In January 1759, Marin was promoted to captain. He spent the first part of the year conducting raids against the frontier settlements in Pennsylvania and Maryland. That summer he joined a relief effort to raise the British siege of Fort Niagara (near present-day Youngstown, New York). However, his force was ambushed and he was taken prisoner. Not surprisingly, his capture was announced as a great triumph in the English colonies.