Colonial North America

After the Spanish destroyed the French pirate base at Fort Caroline (near St. Augustine in Florida) in 1565, subsequent French and English settlements in North America were made much farther to the north. There is a tendency among modern historians to ridicule the English colonists for having brought along soldiers rather than farmers and artisans, but the very real fear of Indians was less a reason for being well-armed than knowing how Spaniards dealt with heretics who intruded into lands they might want to exploit themselves at some later date.

There were many misunderstandings of what the natives in the American woodlands were like. First of all, no one should have called them Indians, but Columbus believed that he had reached Asia, and the native peoples did not look or dress like Chinese; moreover, the name America was first used for the new continents only in 1507, when a cartographer got it into his head that a Florentine traveller, Amerigo Vespucci, had actually discovered the New World, when all that he had done was to demonstrate that these lands were not in Asia. As for what to call the tribal leaders, ‘king’ seemed appropriate at first, reflecting as it did a hope that the explorers had come upon a great kingdom, and afterward the title of chief, or chieftain, prevailed.

Modern misunderstandings abound as well. Everyone could see the different skin colours, but racism did not yet exist. If Europeans were confused and sometimes appalled by the customs they encountered, so too were the peoples the Europeans were meeting.

There would eventually be great nations in North America, but only after English colonists interacted with the native peoples on their periphery, then in bits and pieces occupied their lands. Within a century and a half of the first colonists establishing rude settlements on the coast there were over two million English-speaking peoples pushing up to the Appalachian Mountains and a few venturing beyond. These people were, as it were, on the periphery of the British Empire; and they were increasing unhappy about being treated as outsiders, an unhappiness that eventually led to the American War for Independence.

No one anticipated this when the first English settlements were founded shortly after 1600. The region between Chesapeake Bay and Labrador was not a terra incognita, since explorers and fishermen had visited the coasts often, but relatively little was known about the interior. Tropical crops such as sugar were impossible there, but the climate was good for familiar crops and animals which could feed Caribbean slaves, and there was a new crop, tobacco, that could be grown by slaves without the horrendous death toll of those used to harvest sugar cane. The early emphasis was on trade—mainly fur—and on catching cod for sale in Europe, enterprises supported not by royal aid, but by joint stock companies. Trade with the natives was often justified as a first step in converting them to Christianity; the Indians, however, were generally as resistant to English religious practices as they were to English clothing. What the Indians wanted was military aid in their wars against other Indians, or at least weapons that would allow them to seize their neighbours’ hunting grounds.

The Indians appreciated some Western technologies, and they soon became addicted to trade goods such as cloth, iron pots, rum and good tobacco. Wise men warned that European goods would undermine their society, and that contact would bring diseases which could destroy them. But few could afford to listen—once the Indians were involved in global commerce, they could not turn their backs on it. The losers in inter-tribal wars generally fled westward, sometimes pushing other tribes farther west and sometimes amalgamating with them. Since many tribes had moved great distances over the centuries, migrating west would have been no great hardship if the circumstances had resembled returning from their summer hunt to safe winter quarters. Now, however, there were no fields of maize waiting. Hard hit by disease and starvation, their women and children captured and enslaved, the refugees nursed a terrible anger. They sought allies who could perhaps help win back their lost lands or, at a minimum, save them from yet another mass flight westward. They found these allies in representatives of the kings of Spain and France.

The Spanish had trading posts and missions in Florida and along the Caribbean coast all the way to Mexico. The one gap in their chain of possessions was in Louisiana, where the French had built a large town at New Orleans. The Indians’ principal complaint about the Spanish was their reluctance to sell them firearms—the king wanted to discourage warfare and encourage conversion.

The French, who had settled in Canada and Louisiana and along the rivers linking these places, limited emigration. This was partly to ensure royal control of the economy and guarantee that the Roman Catholic Church was not challenged, and partly to persuade the Indians that they were not intending to take their lands. The large reinforcement to the Louisiana colony by French refugees from Arcadia was allowed because they had been expelled by the British, who had renamed their peninsula Nova Scotia. These newcomers, known in America as Cajuns, spread through the swamplands along the coast; wherever war made navies too busy to search for pirates, they assisted buccaneers in robbing European colonists.

English kings did not provide the kind of planning and consistent enforcement that the Catholic monarchs proudly made central to colonial policy. They, like Parliament, saw America more as a convenient place to send religious radicals, the occupants of work houses, and petty criminals—the kinds of people the French kings would never allow to settle in their colonies—and to get needed raw materials—lumber, tobacco, and food for Caribbean slaves. As a result, although French fur traders eventually formed close ties with Native American tribes and spread along the Great Lakes and Mississippi River, the number of colonists in Canada remained small; in contrast, England’s settlements grew in size beyond anyone’s expectations. Apparently there were more undesirable Protestants in England than saintly Catholics in France.

The Americans, as the English colonists were eventually called (because it was too awkward for writers to list even the most important colonies on the mainland and in the seas roundabout), generally remained confined east of the Appalachian mountains, but many adventurous individuals considered the Indian lands to the west to be essentially empty—in short, farmers had priority over deer.

Through these years Great Britain (as England and Scotland were known after the 1707 union) fought a series of desperate wars with France, relying on allied powers to tie down French armies in Europe while the British navy dealt with its French counterpart. Indian tribes, their numbers reduced by epidemics and intertribal wars, chose sides reluctantly, but the most important Indian confederation—the Iroquois—realised that British numbers would prevail over the French; with British weapons they swept their native enemies from the hunting lands in Ohio and Kentucky.

The Indian tribes thus evicted from ancestral homes found themselves with no good options. They lived with memories of ancient wrongs inflicted on one another, they had no common tongue to facilitate communication, and tribal and clan leaders had only limited ability to make individual warriors follow their decisions. Freedom was the boast of the warrior, but it was so extensive a freedom that it precluded the organisation of a modern state with a standing army, tax gathering powers and judicial bodies. Male pride discouraged commerce and industry—even farming was women’s work. Men were hunters and warriors, but since they were responsible for feeding their families, they were reluctant to risk becoming crippled or killed. To avoid casualties they attacked by stealth and surprise, and they so strongly objected to pitched battles or storming battlements that Europeans incorrectly thought them cowardly. This put them at a disadvantage in fighting Europeans armed with muskets and cannon, who were not only more numerous, but also accustomed to risking everything in hand-to-hand combat. While the Indians did what they could to buy muskets, they could not produce these weapons themselves, and gunpowder and lead were difficult to obtain. Alliances with the French and Spanish helped, but the monarchs of those states believed that restricting the availability of firearms would reduce the number of wars.

The only way for Indians to stop the decline in population from disease, alcohol and war was to avoid contact with Europeans as much as possible, and to steal women and children from other tribes—not as slaves, but to increase the number of warriors; this encouraged the continuation of tribal wars, and those tribes which fled westward were not likely to join the British or the Americans who had supported their Indian foes. The French and the Spanish were natural allies, but the Indians remained minor players in the Great War for Empire that was known in Europe as the Seven Years War (1756-63), in America as the French and Indian War.

The long string of British successes between 1689 and 1763 ended only when a constitutional dispute with the American colonies led to Holland, France and Spain making a worldwide assault on British colonies and markets. Outnumbered even in the number of ships-of-the-line, Britain was on the defensive from 1778 to 1783, with a declining economic base. Imperial overstretch and overbearing attitudes, however, were matched by France’s self-destructive desire for revenge.

This had been foreshadowed a decade earlier by Britain’s own suicidal polices in America. At first it had seemed quite logical to ask Americans to bear part of the immense tax burden brought on by the Seven Years War. As Niall Ferguson noted in Empire, the average Briton paid 26 shillings a year in taxes, while the average American paid one; as a result, Americans seemed wealthier, hence better able to pay. Americans, in contrast, understood how British efforts to avoid inflation made it almost impossible to pay taxes in hard cash; their economy stressed barter and credit. Moreover, they believed that they had paid their share of the costs of the war in blood and suffering—contributions that British officers and politicians had mocked. In any case, given the nature of British trade policy and the practices of British banks, ready money was hard to come by. However, the bone of contention was not taxation, but a constitutional principle that Americans summarised as ‘no taxation without representation’. That is, America had no representatives in Parliament. British leaders haughtily responded that most Englishmen and Scots didn’t, either, but that the elected members of Parliament represented everyone, which included all colonists; thus, even distant Americans had, in the words of the day, ‘virtual representation’. Americans did not agree. More importantly, Americans resented being treated as outsiders, as a lesser people, more like Scottish tenants or Irish cottagers, than a swiftly developing society with scientists, artists and political leaders of talent and energy. This was the sticking point, where the pride of the parliamentary leaders and the army prevented compromises that would have defused the explosive situation—and, as some Whig leaders tried to remind the government, kept the rapidly growing American population loyal to the crown. Restraints would have changed British history forever, and probably for the better, but long term prospects were sacrificed for short term taxes that the government had little chance of collecting.

British arms were sufficient to win most of the battles in the ensuing war, but the number of redcoats in America was insufficient to occupy the vast region; and when European powers, both ancient foes and recent allies, saw this as an opportunity to embarrass the over-mighty Britons, they aided the rebels. The lesson: superpowers are always viewed with jealousy and suspicion. The British government, recognising that it could not afford to waste its army and navy on an area peripheral to its main interests, reluctantly made peace with the Americans.

In the future British governments would permit appropriate measures of self-government in the remaining colonies, more for those settled by Britons, less where Britons were few in number. For some colonies already existing—Ireland, the West Indies and India—the inertia of tradition was too strong for reform proposals to prevail. Resistance sometimes led to proposals for reform, which, since they failed to satisfy everyone, were followed by another revolution. Repression just required more repression.


The Crusading Brienne Family

From left, Walter I, Duke of Athens, Knight Reginald de la Roche, descending from the first Duke, Hugh of Brienne and an archer.

A great French aristocratic family that provided rulers for the kingdom of Jerusalem, the Latin Empire of Constantinople, and the duchy of Athens.

The lords of Brienne were vassals of the counts of Champagne, holding lands near Troyes. The family had a long tradition of crusading. Erard I took the cross in 1097. His son Walter II took part in the Second Crusade (1147-1149), as did his son Erard II, who also joined the Third Crusade in 1189 and took part in the siege of Acre. Walter III originally agreed to go on the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) in the army of the count of Champagne, but he was allowed to substitute service in southern Italy against Markward of Anweiler, a move that enabled him to press the claims of his wife, Elvira, to the county of Lecce and the principality of Taranto. His younger brother John was perhaps the most famous member of the family to involve himself in the crusading movement. He became king of Jerusalem in right of his wife, Maria (1210-1212), and regent of Jerusalem for his daughter Isabella II (1212-1225). Later he served as marshal of the papal armies in Italy opposed to his own son-in-law Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, and subsequently he became co-ruler of the Latin Empire of Constantinople (1230-1237) along with Emperor Baldwin II.

John’s nephew Walter IV, count of Brienne and Lecce (1205-1250), became count of Jaffa in 1221. Thereafter the family interests became centered in Frankish Greece. Hugh of Brienne (1250-1296) was influential at the Angevin court of Naples. He married first Isabella of La Roche (1277) and subsequently Helena Doukaina, the widow of his former brother-in-law, William of La Roche (1291), and thereby became bailli (regent) of the duchy of Athens for his stepson Guy. On the latter’s death in 1309, Hugh’s own son Walter V of Brienne became duke of Athens (as Walter I). He was killed at the battle of Halmyros against the Catalan Company in 1311 and was thus the last French duke of Athens. His son Walter VI was titular duke of Athens (as Walter II) until his death, fighting against the English as constable of France at Poitiers in 1356. In 1331-1332 he mounted a considerable campaign against the Catalans, but they refused to give battle. The cost effectively ruined the Brienne family. His only child, also called Walter, predeceased him in 1332

Battle of Halmyros, (1311)

A battle fought on 15 March 1311, between Walter I, duke of Athens, supported by many of the leading knights of Frankish Greece, and the Catalan Company, the duke’s former mercenaries, whom he was trying to dismiss from his service and remove from his duchy.

The battle was decisive in that many members of the French ruling element in central Greece were slaughtered and replaced by the victorious Catalans. Like other battles of the fourteenth century, it demonstrated how well-drilled foot soldiers with crossbow support could trounce an army of mounted knights. The site of the battle is not securely known. The medieval writers Ramon Muntaner and Nikephoros Gregoras both located the battle on the marshy plain of the Kephissos in the region of Orchomenos; in this they were followed by all writers before 1940, who thus named the engagement the battle of the Kephissos. In 1940 a hitherto unknown letter of Marino Sanudo came to light; written in 1327, it referred to the battle taking place near Halmyros, presumably at or near the modern town of Halmyros, just south of modern Volos on the Pagasaitic Gulf.

European Warfare 1300-1650 I

At the battle of Legnano in 1176 the cavalry of the German emperor scattered the horse of the Milanese and their allies, but the Milanese foot held out in their camp until their cavalry could regroup to put the Germans to flight.

European warfare before 1300 was really dominated by the knight, whose preferred style of war was mounted. This was fundamentally because European states could not afford to raise, train and sustain infantry forces whose strength lies in mass. Yet war in Europe demanded footsoldiers, and as a result knights often had to dismount to fight, thus stiffening the large numbers of poorly armed footsoldiers. Mercenary foot were often employed, but because of the expense they were dismissed as soon as practicable. Yet there were circumstances in which disciplined foot were raised and trained. The city-states of Italy, especially Milan, defended their independence by insisting that all able-bodied men should serve in their militia – the rich as cavalry and the poor as infantry. These men lived and trained together, fighting with their relatives and neighbours against the enemies of the city. At the battle of Legnano in 1176 the cavalry of the German emperor scattered the horse of the Milanese and their allies, but the Milanese foot held out in their camp until their cavalry could regroup to put the Germans to flight.

The cities of Flanders were equally proud of their independence from their count and his master, the king of France. In 1302 some of the cities revolted against the French king, and the combined rebel army, with the militia of Bruges at its heart, besieged Courtrai. They had 10,000 men including a few sympathetic nobles and about 900 crossbowmen. All the Flemings seem to have had iron caps and most wore some kind of armour. They were armed with pikes or the long heavy club called the goedendag (literally Good Day). A French army under Robert of Artois came quickly to the rescue of Courtrai. Artois had about 3,000 cavalry supported by 6,000 lightly armed foot, amongst them 1,000 crossbowmen. The Flemings were trapped between this force and the river Lys, and formed their battle line with the river and the town of Courtrai behind them. However, between them and the French was a network of streams and dykes which they improved and extended by digging pits. Moreover, the weather was poor so the streams were full and the ground which the French had to cross was wet and slippery. Artois reconnoitred the enemy position and secretly bought a map of the obstacles from a defector, and with this he planned his attack.

On 11 July 1302 when battle was joined, the French crossbowmen first went forward and there was an inconclusive exchange of fire with the Flemings. The French cavalry then advanced across the streams to charge into the rebel ranks. But there was insufficient space between the streams and the Flemish ranks for the French knights to develop the momentum of a real charge, so they came to a halt before the pikes of the Flemish foot. A savage scrimmage then developed across the whole line as Flemish foot with swords and goedendags sallied out, doing mortal damage to the knights and their horses. The French pulled back to regroup, but the Flemings advanced and the cavalry were tumbled into the streams in a terrible slaughter. This was a spectacular victory, but like Legnano possible only because the cavalry chose to attack infantry in an entrenched position. At Mons-en-Pévèle on 17 August 1304 the Flemings tried to attack the French army, but movement broke up their dense infantry formations and they suffered heavy casualties at the hands of the enemy cavalry. It had always been recognised that steady infantry in a strong position were very hard to defeat. The difficulty was how to replicate the qualities of bravery and coherence which city militias developed as a result of the upbringing of their citizens.

European states could not yet raise sufficient taxes to train and maintain large standing armies like those of the Egyptian Mamluks, the Delhi Sultanate, and the Chinese. But they were becoming richer and an increasing professionalism was starting to emerge. In Italy constant fighting between the petty city-states in the thirteenth century exposed the limitations of citizen militias – principally that merchants and workmen could not afford to be constantly fighting. The militias were at first augmented and later replaced by hiring mercenaries in companies whose commanders kept them in being. There thus arose a corps of regular professional soldiers whose leaders, the condottieri, bargained with the cities over terms of employment. The city-states kept small standing forces and hired more for short periods, but demand was so great that mercenary companies stayed together, developing military skills, discipline and cohesion. The rewards of this kind of life could be very great. Muzio Attendolo, nicknamed Sforza (1369–1424), was a mercenary leader whose son, Francesco, became duke of Milan (1450–66), founding a dynasty which would last almost a hundred years.

Grand Catalan Company

Of all the mercenary companies the most successful was the Grand Catalan Company. This was originally recruited from Spain and consisted of 1,500 knights and 4,000 Almogavars – tough infantry from the frontier with Islam. The Company was a highly disciplined and ruthless force. During fighting in Italy 300 French knights charged a force of Almogavars, who ‘hurled darts so that it was the devil’s work they did, for at the first charge more than 100 knights and horses of the French fell dead to the ground. Then they broke their lances short and disemboweled horses.’ After Italy, the Company served Byzantium in 1303, and was so successful against the Turks of Anatolia that the Byzantines, fearful of its power, assassinated its commander. After devastating much of the Byzantine Empire in revenge, in 1310 the Catalans joined the French duke of Athens, Walter V of Brienne. Once again they were too successful for the comfort of their employer, and Walter recruited 700 knights and numerous foot and confronted them on 15 March 1311 at Halmyros. The Catalans raised field fortifications in a secure position and flooded the plain in front of them, miring the Athenian cavalry charge. They and their following infantry were slaughtered and the Company then took over rule of Athens until 1388. Their strength lay in their discipline and organisation. Leadership emerged from the most important knights, and they were respected and obeyed by all others because the members of the Company appreciated that if they did not stick together and obey they would be destroyed. Logistics and pay were in the hands of a single person, the Procurator General. They were able to absorb Greeks and even Turks into their ranks without losing cohesion or fighting ability.

In northern Europe it was in England that the most important changes appeared. After a sustained peace in the thirteenth century, the English crown under Edward I had to create armies for the long wars in Wales and Scotland which after 1337 merged into the Hundred Years War against France. The Statute of Winchester of 1285 obliged all free men to keep arms for the defence of the realm. When ordered, they were required to parade with them at the muster of the county militia for the king’s service. Such soldiers were rank amateurs and under Edward I the large infantry forces thus recruited tended to melt away through desertion. But increasingly captains concluded indentures or contracts with the crown to supply men-at-arms and archers with all their equipment for a fixed term and recruited these from musters of the militia. As the war after 1337 was fought in France, these companies often stayed there pursuing free-enterprise objectives whose destruction of French resources suited English policy. This gave the English crown access to a regular army of experienced soldiers, without continuously paying all the costs.

The English wars in Wales and Scotland demanded footsoldiers and more particularly showed the value of archers. Continuous warfare made it worth men’s while to practise archery, and the most competent of them equipped themselves with the finest longbows. These were made of yew and cut from the tree where the sap and heartwood meet, providing a draw-weight of up to 150–60 pounds. Such powerful weapons, which could penetrate the best armour, presented a major challenge to the armoured men, whether on foot or on horseback. And these archers were usually mounted, increasing their flexibility, and were trained to work with ‘men-at-arms’. This colourless term came into use in the fourteenth century to denote heavily armoured men who fought on horseback or on foot. It certainly included knights and nobles who served in the royal armies. But in a more diverse society many other careers were open to the upper class so that those who chose to become warriors were specialists. And they fought alongside humbler men, perhaps often their poorer relatives, who chose a military career. They were not precisely mercenaries, but were paid professional soldiers and formed the leadership of the emerging companies. The continuous warfare of the English crown in the later thirteenth and fourteenth centuries offered to all these soldiers not only pay, but also the prospect of plunder and ransom of enemy prisoners, giving a great impulse to the professionalisation of war.

Commanders who could count on better armies could think more boldly about the conduct of war. One indication of this was the multiplication of manuscripts and translations of the Roman military writer Vegetius, who advocated military training and a systematic approach to war. Edward III of England (1327–77) recognised the power of the defensive position and the value, therefore, of forcing an enemy to attack him. In 1346 he thrust into French territory doing enormous damage, and drew the French into attacking him in a strong position at Crécy. His son, the Black Prince, achieved much the same at Poitiers in 1356. At Agincourt in 1415 the English again succeeded in drawing the French into attacking a strong line of battle. In each case the English arranged dismounted heavily armoured cavalrymen into close-order formations. The archers, sheltered behind hedges or lines of stakes, broke up the momentum of enemy attacks, which were absorbed and defeated by the phalanx of heavy infantry. Thus the notion of marrying the strategic offensive and the tactical defensive was very fruitful. Fundamentally the English were victorious because their soldiers were professionals.

Victories in battle are spectacular and we, like contemporaries, tend to be hypnotised by them. But much of the Hundred Years War was fought by quite different and much more common methods of destruction. The English crown could not afford a standing army capable of conquering France. Instead the royal government raised companies of soldiers whom they encouraged to fend for themselves when there was a lull in the fighting. These independent groups established themselves in parts of France and paid themselves by ravaging and taxing the countryside and towns. The English captain Robert Knolles attacked the area around Orléans:

In the year of Our Lord 1358 the English came to Chantecoq, and on the evening of 31 October they took possession of the castle and burned almost all of the town. Then they brought the whole of the region around under their control, ordering every village great or small to ransom itself and buy back the bodies, goods and stores of every inhabitant or see them burned, as they had been in so many other places. The people appeared before the Englishmen, confused and terrified. They agreed to pay in coin, flour, grain, or other victuals in return for a temporary respite from persecution. Those who stood in their way the English killed, or locked away in dark cells, threatening them daily with death, beating and maiming them, and leaving them hungry and destitute.

Such actions eroded the wealth of France at little cost to the English crown. But ultimately, in France and all over Europe, conquest depended on seizing great cities and fortifications. These were so formidable and so numerous that it was necessary to invest heavily in the latest machines for battering them down: cannon.

The military effectiveness of these new weapons was for long very limited. Saltpetre, the key substance in gunpowder, was expensive because it had to be imported from the east. Only at the end of the fourteenth century did Europeans devise a reliable method of making it, by collecting animal and human dung and urine, laced with calcium-rich materials in the dry environment of a cellar: a saltpetre plantation. But gunpowder posed other problems. If shaken about in transit the different constituents in gunpowder, sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal, separated out, while it was notoriously prone to damp. This led to the process of corning: the fine dry powder was mixed with a liquid such as vinegar and the resultant paste dried into dumplings which held the powder together and resisted damp. These were then ground up into coarse grains immediately before firing. This preserved the powder but created yet another range of problems.

European metallurgy was an art rather than a science. Guns were usually made by forging together iron rods into a long cylinder, and they were never cheap. In 1375 a single cannon took forty-two days to build and cost the French crown 5,000 livres: an ordinary French knight at this time lived on perhaps 250–300 livres per annum. The uncertain quality of metals made all guns very dangerous. Corned powder has a granular structure which allows much greater amounts of air in a charge, and is therefore very much more explosive than fine powder. Smiths had to learn to make guns stronger – and heavier – and loads had to be adjusted to the likely bursting point. At the same time the consequences of granulation had to be explored and appropriate types of powder developed for the various kinds of gun.

Mons Meg

Designing cannon was a complicated business. Siege demanded heavy missiles to demolish walls, and, as powder became cheaper towards 1400, gigantic bombards were produced. Mons Meg, now in Edinburgh Castle, was made in Flanders in 1449 and presented to the king of Scotland some seven years later. It has a calibre of 56 cm (22 in.) and could fire a ball of 180 kg (396 lb) up to 3.2 kilometres (2 miles). This sounds impressive, but it could only be fired 8–10 times a day due to the heat generated and the need to cool the barrel, while moving its 7.6 tons was very difficult. Weapons like this were only good for siege. Loading systems were also a matter of experimentation. Guns often had removable firing chambers which were wedged into the back of the barrel, but the joint tended to leak so that muzzle-loaders came into prominence. Early weapons used stones which broke up against castle walls. By the late fifteenth century iron balls had become the norm. They were more effective on impact and helped to standardise calibres because they could be made in fairly uniform sizes. Soldiers came to realise that guns with long barrels firing balls at high velocity were very effective, and so monstrous calibres fell into disuse. Gradually it was understood that cast bronze provided a good balance between weight and strength. Carriages based on large wheels were devised. By the time the French invaded Italy in 1494, inaugurating a series of wars which would last for half a century, they were able to bring with them relatively mobile cannon which battered down the medieval walls of cities and were sufficiently handy (albeit very clumsy) to be used in battle.

The earliest handguns in Europe were miniature cannon mounted on poles – staff-guns. Such weapons had been used in China, where they were called fire-lances, as early as the eleventh century. Corned powder was much less dangerous when used in small weapons and, as a consequence, by the early fifteenth century long-barrelled weapons of narrow bore were starting to be used. The arquebus, a weapon with a length of about a metre, some forty times the bore, seems to have originated in the rich cities of south Germany, perhaps most particularly Nuremberg. City authorities wanted to protect their independence, but were little interested in conquest and the raising of large armies to besiege enemies. However, they were open to new technologies and they had plenty of good metal-workers. As a result they developed the arquebus, whose name derives from Hackenbüchse meaning ‘hook gun’, which describes how it was mounted on walls. This weapon was simple and cheap to make, about half the price of a good crossbow, consisting merely of the proverbial ‘lock, stock and barrel’. In a wooden stock was mounted a simple iron tube closed at the back which was muzzle loaded. The charge was ignited through a small hole at the back to which a burning match mounted in a serpentine fired by a trigger was applied: this was the matchlock whose outstanding virtue was that it was simple to use.

This was the true advantage of firearms. Dependence on ‘native skills’ had always been a major bottleneck for armies. Modern analysis of the skeletons of archers has shown that key bones used in the drawing of a longbow become deformed, the result of long practice from childhood. Relatively few men would have been willing to train so intensively. Equally, the man-at-arms needed to develop athletic skills through constant practice from youth if he was to be effective. By contrast, the arquebus was a simple killing tool which almost any male could be quickly trained to use, so that unskilled men could be recruited easily to make up for losses. Of course, the weapons were not very accurate, but the quality of archers too must have varied enormously in this respect. More importantly, the rate of fire might be slow, but this was compensated for by greater numbers and, in time, careful tactics and drill. There were also logistical reasons for preferring firearms. Arrows were heavy and voluminous. At the battle of Crécy in 1346 the English archers each carried 24 arrows and drew on a reserve of about five million which weighed 55 tons. Powder and shot were much more compact. In fast-moving steppe warfare these were not great advantages, but in Western Europe where geography, agriculture, climate and fortifications conspired to slow the pace of war, they were substantial. It was, therefore, worth the effort of compensating for the obvious weaknesses: slow loading and inaccuracy.

The slow development of firearms meant that there was no sudden change in the way armies fought, and at times they had much less effect on war than, for example, Edward III’s tactical innovations. Cannon came into use in the early fourteenth century and had obvious value in sieges. But although they were employed at Crécy in 1346, they played no part at Nicopolis in 1396 when a western crusader force was crushed by the Ottoman Turks, nor at Agincourt in 1415, when the English defeated the French. In 1420, when the Hussites of Bohemia rebelled against German rule, gunpowder weapons for the first time played a decisive role in field warfare. Jan Zizka, the rebel commander, knew that his untrained and largely infantry army could not defeat the German heavy cavalry. In the open his raw footsoldiers would be ridden down, and the staff-guns and arquebuses were so slow to load that they could offer little protection. He hit upon the idea of putting his men into trains of heavy wagons which were chained together in a laager (circle) when the enemy attacked, the famous Wagenburg. Each wagon held a mixture of crossbowmen, staff-gunners and conventional infantrymen with swords and spears, while heavier guns were placed between the wagons. Hussite commanders were defending, so that if they chose their ground carefully the Germans would be obliged to attack these mobile fortresses. The firepower of the Wagenburg decimated the attackers, and those few who did survive to close could be held off by the conventional infantry, giving the gunners and archers time to reload. In theory the Germans could have destroyed these laagers with cannon of their own, but these were so heavy and clumsy as to be of limited value on the battlefield. In the end the Hussite rebellion collapsed in 1434 because of internal tensions, but the Wagenburg was widely copied because it enabled raw troops to use their gunpowder weapons very effectively.

European Warfare 1300-1650 II

Swiss mercenaries

In the mid-fifteenth century English dynastic disputes opened the way for a French reconquest of her lost territories by 1453. The French established a regular force the Compagnies d’Ordonnance which numbered up to twenty companies, each of 100 ‘lances’. These were lances fournies, each made up of one experienced man-at-arms and a squire, both with warhorses, together with two mounted archers, supported by two pages. The archers evolved into cavalrymen and the companies in practice became a regular force of heavy cavalry numbering about 9,000. The French crown recognised the value of artillery because the reconquest of lands lost to the English involved numerous sieges. At Castillon on 17 July 1453 the French were besieging the city when an English relief army approached. The French dug in and turned their cannon against the English, achieving an overwhelming victory to which gunpowder weapons made a substantial contribution. But France was subsequently challenged by the dukes of Burgundy, one of whom, Charles the Bold (1467–77), developed the most modern and massive artillery train, forcing the French to follow suit.

The twist in the tale is that the Burgundians were defeated by the Swiss, a people who had virtually no such modern technology. Since the thirteenth century the Swiss cantons and cities had been fighting for their independence from the Hapsburg rulers of Austria. The narrow plains and passes of the Alps were not good territory for the Hapsburg cavalry, and in the long conflict the insurgents reverted to an ancient formation, the phalanx, equipped with long spears or pikes. At Sempbach on 9 July 1386 a tight formation of pikemen held off a superior Austrian force which was then taken in the flank by another phalanx of pikemen who deployed rapidly from their column of march. It was the discipline of the Swiss that was so impressive, and their mobility because they were very lightly armed. The success of their pikes, some 3–4 metres long and simply a long spear like the ancient Macedonian sarissa, with an admixture of halberds (a long-handled axe) underlines the limitations of gunpowder weapons. The long wars had imbued the Swiss with discipline, and as a result they were in much demand as mercenaries, which, of course, improved their performance. However, Switzerland had a small population, which meant that Swiss mercenaries were in short supply. But their methods were imitated, especially by the Landsknechte of western Germany who became their bitter rivals.

When the French invaded Italy in 1494 in a series of wars which lasted until 1559, they deployed all the latest military developments. Their cavalry were numerous and superb in their plate armour. This offered considerable protection from arrows, crossbow quarrels and even the low-velocity lead bullets of the arquebus. The most advanced type, developed by Milanese armourers, was cooled by immersion in water producing a very hard surface which was cunningly sculpted to deflect missiles. Such armour extended the life of the already heavily armoured cavalryman on the battlefield, but it was very expensive. The French had numerous arquebusiers, and employed Swiss pikemen who formed the backbone of their infantry. Their artillery consisted of the latest bronze muzzle-loaders on high-wheeled carriages which could be used in battle as well as against cities. But as yet no tactical system had been worked out to accommodate this mix.

The long wars with England and Burgundy meant that this French army, the most experienced in Europe, at first carried all before it. For a brief moment it seemed as if the age-old pattern of war dominated by fortifications was to be eclipsed, because the tall medieval walls of the Italian cities were battered by French cannon and surrendered quickly, forcing any state that wanted to challenge French domination of Italy to take to the battlefield. Since neither side had much idea of how to deploy their forces, they had to feel their way. At Cerignola on 28 April 1503 a Spanish army, which lacked cavalry, dug a trench manned by 2,000 arquebusiers. The French cavalry charge was checked by the earthworks, and shot down by arquebus fire. The use of field fortifications against cavalry was very reminiscent of Courtrai two hundred years before, and it highlighted the need to shield arquebusiers; the problem was how to do it with a degree of mobility, for enemies would not always obligingly charge fortifications or fail to bring infantry and artillery to bear. The Wagenburg was one means, but it still compromised mobility.

The beginnings of a solution to combining gunpowder weapons with other arms were apparent at the battle of Ceresole, fought between the French and Germans, on 11 April 1544. The infantry on both sides formed squares in which pikemen created defensive hedgehogs. Arquebusiers sallied out from these ‘moving forts’ or fired from within them. The French and German infantry squares closed with one another in a ‘push at pike’ so that their arquebusiers were firing at a range of 5 metres, producing what one eyewitness described as a ‘great slaughter’. The bloody stalemate was broken by the superior French heavy cavalry which drove the German horse from the field and exploited gaps in the enemy squares. This combination of pikemen protecting the slow-loading and firing arquebusiers was to form the basis of infantry field warfare for over a century.

But the most radical change that arose from the early experience of the Italian wars was the ease with which fortifications were destroyed by cannon. The tall walls and towers of medieval cities and castles kept out enemies on foot and horse, but were vulnerable to cannon. As a result, during the Hundred Years War boulevards were constructed outside the city walls. These were strong-points of masonry, timber and earth equipped with guns which served to keep attackers at a distance from the vulnerable enceinte. The Italian states of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries lacked such defences and capitulated rapidly to French attack. But Italian engineers soon developed the trace italienne. Cities were now defended by thick low walls of earth and masonry fronted by deep ditches. The pattern of the perimeter was marked by projecting bastions, usually arrow-shaped, which housed artillery to outrange enemy batteries. Some city walls were entirely rebuilt, and new fortresses were redesigned on this pattern, but this was very expensive, so more often they were updated and adapted. The result was that within thirty years of the French invasion of Italy fortifications once more determined the pattern of war and the slow style of agro-urban warfare reasserted itself.

Modern impression of a tercio by artist Cabrera Peña. Source: magazine Desperta Ferro!

The greatest army of the second half of the sixteenth century was the Spanish Army of the Netherlands, created to suppress the revolt of the Netherlands (1568–1609) which was also a religious struggle between Catholic Spain and the largely Protestant Dutch. The basic tactical unit of the Army of the Netherlands was the tercio of about 3,000 men subdivided into companies of 250–300, further subdivided into squads of 25. About 500 in each tercio were equipped with firearms (though the proportion tended to rise), while the rest used pikes to protect them from attack while reloading. Typically the pikemen would form a square. The musketeers deployed on either side or in front as skirmishers, in formations eight deep, enabling the front rank to fire, then retired to reload while the other ranks fired. Under a general threat, the musketeers could retreat into the square of pikes. Both types of soldier needed careful discipline administered by a hierarchy of numerous officers, but units were cumbersome. The drill for loading an arquebus musket was complicated. In his Wapenhandleninghe, written and illustrated for Prince Maurice of Nassau, J. de Gheyn identified forty-two separate movements for the individual soldier. These were quite different from the drills for wielding pikes, so command and control were difficult. Moreover the square formations generally adopted by the tercios were very vulnerable to cannon fire. The arquebus was so inaccurate and so slow to load that volley-fire was essential, and even this was so imperfect that the clash with edged weapons continued, as in the ancient world, to be of prime importance.

The tercio evolved as a result of experience, but this stimulated thought about military matters. Prince Maurice of Nassau, Stadtholder of the Netherlands, who died in 1625, became commander of the Dutch armies in 1590 and, therefore, the arch enemy of the Army of the Netherlands against whom he would fight at twenty sieges and two battles. Like so many thinkers of this age, he was inspired by the classical past, and established the first military school, at Siegen in 1616. He was deeply impressed by the discipline of the Romans and insisted on systematic drill for all his troops. In the interests of control he reduced the size of the basic tactical unit of infantry down to the battalion of 600–1,000, with a roughly equal ratio of pikes to arquebusiers. Pikemen formed rather shallower files than in the tercio, but still constituted the centre of the fighting unit with the arquebusiers deployed on either side in formations eight deep, each line retiring while the next fired; when a general attack materialised, they took refuge behind the pikemen. The result was that Dutch armies deployed into rather thinner lines which were less vulnerable to cannon fire, and their battalions were more flexible and more mobile than the huge tercios of their enemies. In attack single-shot muskets were of limited value, so that pikemen normally went first, followed by musketeers using their weapons as clubs. Maurice won a great victory over the Spanish at Nieuwpoort on 2 July 1600, but he owed his contemporary fame to his siegecraft.

For the Dutch, wars turned on possession of the numerous fortified cities of the Netherlands which meant that Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht formed the only solid block of territory held by the rebels. In 1590 most of the Spanish field army became involved in a war in northern France so that Maurice’s force of 10,000 could operate freely. Maurice adopted Roman methods, surrounding his target city with trenches, but with the significant difference that he then pushed forward more excavations bringing his concentrated artillery onto a weak point; he employed engineers and specialist contractors for this complex work. Such an attack demanded careful logistical preparations, because an army consumed vast amounts of money and stores which could only be collected at certain seasons of the year. Since campaigning in winter was difficult, the ‘window of opportunity’ for undertaking such enterprises was limited and it was rare for more than one investment to be attempted in a campaigning season. Maurice took endless pains over the details of his sieges and was impressively systematic; indeed, he established the form of siege warfare for generations to come. The ancient pattern of war based on sieges had Central Europe. Its greatest soldier was Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden (1611–32). He favoured battalions (called squadrons) of about 500 men, fairly equally divided between pike and gunners. They were subdivided into companies and grouped in brigades of four to six squadrons according to tactical needs. Each brigade had a dozen light guns, integrating artillery and infantry. His arquebusiers were trained to advance first and then to break down into shallow lines, which were best suited to pouring concentrated firepower upon the enemy. They took with them very light 3-pounder guns which could fire their pre-loaded cartridges even more rapidly than the musketeers. Once the enemy had been blasted by this fire, the pikemen in close order could charge into close quarters. They were supported by artillery using standardised calibres, 24-, 12- and 6-pounders. In the battles of the English Civil War (1641–51) the armies usually achieved a ratio of 400–600 men to one cannon, which was about the same as in late eighteenth-century armies.

Infantry tactics were partly shaped by the existence of cavalry. This was why arquebusiers, with their slow rate of fire, had to be protected by pikemen. But everybody also knew that dragging cannon around the battlefield was slow, that drill was imperfect, that movement disordered infantry formations, that troops were prone to panic and that in battle opportunities opened up which could only be exploited by speedy action – the strength of the horseman. The trick was, as it had always been, to choose the moment for the attack. Gustavus insisted that his cavalry charge home to exploit gaps and weaknesses in the enemy formations and in this he was followed in England by Cromwell, whose ‘Ironsides’ were specifically trained to get in amongst the opposing ranks.

At the battle of Breitenfeld, 17 September 1631, a German Catholic army of 10,000 cavalry and 24,000 infantry supported by twenty-seven cannon confronted a Protestant force led by Gustavus with 13,000 cavalry, 28,000 infantry and fifty-one guns. The Swedes deployed in linear formation and destroyed the Catholic squares, fifty men wide and thirty deep, by volley fire. Such a rare and decisive victory echoed throughout Europe, and from this time onwards linear formations firing volleys predominated in all armies. This was very clearly the best way to deliver firepower and it was made easier with the decline of pikemen. From 1650 armies were adopting the plug bayonet, which was jammed into the muzzle of the musket. By about 1670 this had been replaced by the socket bayonet which fitted around the muzzle of the musket, enabling it to be loaded and fired with the bayonet in place. The long musket thereby became a kind of pike. This was important because, given the slow loading sequence of all firearms, infantry needed to have edged weapons to hold off cavalry. Moreover there was now only one kind of soldier and, therefore, one kind of infantry drill, making it easier to manoeuvre. At the same time armies were discarding the matchlock in favour of the flintlock: a flint was driven by a spring onto a steel frizzen to produce a spark which ignited the powder in the flashpan. This was a surer and safer means of ignition than the burning fuse held in the jaws of the arquebus lock. The pre-packaged cartridge, a paper roll containing both powder charge and bullet, speeded loading and further simplified drill. The soldier bit off the ball (‘biting the bullet’), emptied the charge into the barrel and rammed it down with the ball. In attack the strongest and fittest men were often grenadiers – picked men strong enough to throw iron balls filled with explosives far enough to hurt the enemy.

Flintlock smoothbore muskets were one-shot weapons, because although loading was simpler than on earlier weapons, it remained painfully slow and effective ranges continued to be very short. Volley fire partially compensated for these shortcomings, so in combat a battalion of about 600 men would be arrayed in a triple line and made to hold their fire until the enemy was about 50 metres away when a high proportion of shot was likely to hit its target. Fighting thoroughly re-established itself and was consolidated as more and more fortresses adopted the pattern of the trace italienne.

Fortresses dominated the bitter religious struggle between Protestant and Catholic, the Thirty Years War (1618–48) which devastated much of Germany and thereafter was with bayonets and swords. Cannon, of course, were effective at much longer ranges, but linear formations limited the damage they could do and they remained heavy and clumsy. Because firearms were so limited, armour continued to be worn. Infantry often became disorganised or panicked, so cavalry remained very useful for charging into their ranks or pursuing broken troops. In effect, gunpowder weapons had extended the killing ground and become a longsword, but close order remained vital because armies had to come to close quarters (or at least threaten to) to defeat their enemies. This pattern of close-order infantry and limited numbers of cavalry was essentially a continuation of the ancient and medieval experience, but elaborated by the use of firepower which in its primitive form is best regarded as a kind of longsword, a limited extension of the killing ground.

And there were plenty of other continuities in European warfare. Feeding an army was always difficult. In 1536 the Hapsburg emperor Charles V crossed the Alps and invaded Provence with 60,000 men, the largest army he ever assembled against a Christian power. The French response was very traditional – they scorched the earth, burning and destroying everything which could not be carried away, to the extent that local peasants were provoked into a guerrilla war. They then fortified the crossings of the Rhône and the passes to the north so that the imperial army was caught in a trap. The invaders could get little food from their distant Italian bases, so they plundered the land, provoking yet more resistance from the local people, some of whom actually tried to assassinate the emperor. When the French realised that the mills at Auriol had not been put out of action and were providing flour for the enemy, they destroyed them in a daring raid under Blaise de Montluc on 19–20 August. Faced with the prospect of starvation, the imperial army withdrew having accomplished nothing.

Such campaigns had been waged since time immemorial, and they continued because states with limited wealth and administrative capacity could not overcome the formidable problems of supply and organisation. This is one key reason why, although the European population grew in the early modern period, increases in the size of armies for long tended to be episodic. In the later fifteenth century the French monarchy, with a population of 12–15 million, briefly raised about 70,000–80,000 men. In the sixteenth century 50,000–60,000 was a more normal maximum, though population was climbing towards 18 million. At the height of the Thirty Years War when total population was only a little higher the figure rose to 125,000. These are wartime figures – in peacetime they fell away dramatically: between 1600 and 1620 the French supported only about 10,000 soldiers. The reasons for this were both political and economic.

Overall the wealth of Europe was evidently increasing, but the ability of governments to tap into this was limited, so that rulers could ill afford standing armies. In 1588 England mobilised against the Spanish Armada, but as soon as the threat had passed the men were turned out to die of starvation and disease. The Spanish ‘Army of Flanders’, which waged the ‘Eighty Years War’ (1568–1648) to subdue the Dutch revolt against Spain, was a standing force with its own elaborate medical and support services. They should have defeated the rebels, but in 1575 Philip II of Spain (1556–98), at a critical stage in the war, went bankrupt and his troops mutinied, enabling the Dutch to revive. Philip actually went bankrupt three times. If the greatest western power of the age, backed by the wealth of its American empire, could barely sustain regular forces, it is hardly surprising that all other states relied on hiring mercenaries for short periods of time.

The fundamental cause of such limitation was nobles’ and city elites’ dislike of taxation. Since all rulers needed their cooperation for effective rule, such people were in a position to sustain resistance. Moreover, in most states strong elements of the nobility regarded war as their special preserve and source of profit. The monarchy therefore depended upon their nobles to hire, and in part pay, for troops to augment a central core of royal forces. These were ‘aggregate contract armies’. The French armies which invaded Italy in the sixteenth century employed Swiss pikemen as infantry and there were plenty of other mercenaries in the ranks, while many of the ‘French’ units, both cavalry and infantry, were contingents raised by important noblemen. The disparate elements of these composite armies were, of course, very difficult to control, because noblemen expected to use troops for their own purposes and to make money from them. But at least relying on these intermediaries saved costs, and troops paid by the monarchy could be dismissed to fend for themselves. Even so, soldiers were paid irregularly, and tended to despoil even friendly countryside for their own needs.

This European military system was tested almost to destruction in the Thirty Years War. The war was caused by religious divisions in the loose structure of the German Empire whose independent princes and cities, whether Catholic or Protestant, feared domination by the Hapsburg emperors. This inevitably merged with the conflict between the Catholic Spanish Hapsburgs and their rebellious Dutch Protestant subjects. Fear of a strong German Empire prompted foreign intervention by Protestant Denmark and Sweden, and, decisively, Catholic France. Their participation, in turn, dragged in other powers like Poland which feared the Baltic ambitions of Sweden, and even Bethlen Gabor, the Calvinist-Protestant prince of Transylvania who saw an opportunity to throw off the domination of Austria. Germany became a battlefield whose sufferings were exemplified by the Catholic sack of Protestant Magdeburg in 1631.

Catholic sack of Protestant Magdeburg in 1631.

Yet the war was episodic and often there was little fighting, but this did not diminish the evils inflicted upon the countryside. Wallenstein (1583–1634) was an able general in the service of the German emperor, but he was chiefly important as a kind of military entrepreneur who could put together large armies, up to 50,000 strong, for his master. The trouble was that although the emperor could raise enough money to tempt men to enlist, he lacked the means to continue to support them, so that as a result they became parasites on the countryside of Central Europe. All too often they pillaged wildly, but Wallenstein understood that this could provoke resistance and even flight from the land, and preferred to levy ‘contributions’, carefully organised levies of food and money from the peasantry, to support his men. In fact on both sides this process became an end in itself. Wallenstein commanded an army whose purpose, in the mind of its emperor, was to destroy Protestantism, but in pursuit of supply and support Wallenstein tolerated Protestants as long as they yielded ‘contributions’, an outlook so at odds with that of his Catholic emperor that Ferdinand II (1619–37) had him assassinated in 1634.

Given the constraints on royal finances, war had to pay for itself. In 1630 Sweden provided 2,368,000 riksdaler for Gustavus Adolphus’s war in Germany, but this had fallen to 128,573 by 1633. Contributions on this scale had devastating consequences for ordinary people, as noted by a resident of Allensbach when the village had to support a company of Bavarians:

A lieutenant, who got 80 florins in cash every month, hay for three horses and wood for his housekeeping: a sergeant 16 florins; a couple of corporals 12 florins each; several lance-corporals, eight florins each; common soldiers six florins per man. Even then we were still pestered by them and had to give them a good few quarts of wine every week. It all amounted to a cash sum of 270 florins every month, and this lasted for 13 weeks.

Because ‘contributions’ were the real mainstay of armies, war developed a momentum of its own. Victory demanded a great army whose costs quickly outran the wealth of a state, so conquest was needed to sustain a great army. This vicious circle clearly bewildered even the greatest monarchs. Moreover, their dependence on intermediaries to raise forces loosened their actual control over troops, and the pace of the conflict intensified this subjection. Ultimately such depredations became unbearable and in the end the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 was built around the principle that religion would be determined by the rulers of individual states. The internal security implications of the composite or ‘aggregate contract armies’ led princes to reflect upon their military structures, particularly as they were painfully aware that their armies lagged behind those of their nearest neighbours, the Ottoman Turks, a steppe people whose urge to expansion was threatening to Central Europe and the Mediterranean.

In the period 1300 to 1650 Europeans were very struck by the changes wrought in their armies by gunpowder weapons. In 1598 an English writer explained: ‘The wars are much altered since the fierie weapons came up.’ And indeed much progress had been made in adapting to the new gunpowder technology, but European armies remained incoherent, ill-organised and ill-disciplined, and there had been little change in the balance of advantage between steppe forces and those of the settled agro-urban world.

Polish Insurgency

The battle of Grochow, fought on 25 February 1831. Painted in 1887, and improved in 1928, by Wojciech Kossak (1856–1942), the scene depicts the 4th regiment of the line of the Polish army in action. General Chłopicki, the overall Polish commander, can be seen on horseback in civilian dress. Observing the battle on the Russian side was Grand Duke Constantine, who had commanded the Polish army in 1815–30 with brutal discipline. He expressed perverse but understandable delight at seeing ‘his’ soldiers perform so well.

The well-trained Polish army, which reached 80,000 effectives, gave a good account of itself. On 25 February, popular Napoleonic veteran General Józef Chłopicki halted the Russian advance on Warsaw at Grochόw, the largest land battle fought in Europe between Waterloo and the Crimean War. A string of subsequent Polish successes in the spring alarmed St Petersburg, but the defeat of the indecisive General Skrzynecki at Ostrołęka on 26 May turned the scales of the war against the Poles. Commanded by the experienced campaigner Paskevich, the Russian army was able to cross the Vistula near the Prussian border and approached Warsaw from the west. The prospect of defeat led to vicious street unrest in Warsaw in mid-August and to recriminations within the National Government. Czartoryski’s suggestion that the Poles should seek Austrian protection infuriated Lelewel and the radicals who now pressed for the creation of an egalitarian republic. The government resigned and full power was finally conferred on one man, General Jan Krukowiecki, who restored order. But by then it was all too late. Conscious of the ignominious behaviour of the Targowica Confederacy in 1792, the Polish civilian and military leadership refused to capitulate to the tsar and went into exile.

On the night of 29 November 1830 a group of officer cadets broke into the Belvedere Palace to assassinate Grand Duke Constantine while another attacked a nearby Russian cavalry barracks. Everything went wrong. The Russians were alerted in time and the Grand Duke escaped the knives of the assassins. An attack on the Arsenal was more successful, with fatal consequences. Armed gangs roamed the streets lynching Russians and Polish collaborators, and, by mistake, two of the best Polish generals.

The Polish authorities moved swiftly to bring the situation under control and avoid confrontation with Russia. Prince Franciszek Ksawery Drucki-Lubecki, the Minister of Finance, took the initiative of coopting Czartoryski and other figures of standing to join him in a National Council. In an attempt to keep the army together and restore order the popular General Chłopicki was proclaimed Dictator on 5 December. He hoped to be able to deal with the whole matter as an internal Polish problem. He granted Constantine safe-conduct out of Warsaw, along with his court, his troops, even his police spies and political prisoners, and he despatched Lubecki to St Petersburg to negotiate.

But the Tsar refused to receive the Prince, and on 7 January 1831 sent him a note demanding unconditional surrender as a precondition to any negotiations. This inflamed patriotic fervour throughout the country. Talk of accommodation was branded as defeatist, and, seeing no other way out, Chłopicki resigned. The Sejm acknowledged a state of insurrection, and under pressure from below, on 25 January 1831 burnt its bridges by voting the dethronement of Nicholas as King of Poland. A new government was formed under Czartoryski with Michał Radziwiłł as commander-in-chief. The Kingdom of Poland had seceded from Russia.

In February a force of 115,000 Russian troops under General Diebitsch marched into Poland. The Polish army, consisting of 30,000 men, blocked his advance successfully at Grochów [Olszynka Grochowska] on 25 February. At the end of March General Jan Skrzynecki sallied forth and routed the Russian corps separately in the three battles of Wawer, Dębe Wielkie and Iganie, obliging Diebitsch to withdraw eastwards. The position of the Russian forces was parlous, with Diebitsch isolated and the Guard Corps on its way to reinforce him easy for the Poles to intercept. General Dwernicki had been sent with a small force to Volhynia to raise a revolt there, while Generals Chłapowski and Giełgud marched into Lithuania with the same intention. The Poles were well set to win the campaign. They called up reserves of 80,000, and with the Lithuanian and other contingents, they could count on up to 200,000 in total. The Russian forces in Poland numbered some 250,000, but the Polish soldier was more motivated and the officer corps more experienced. The insurrection also attracted valuable volunteers from abroad. Hundreds of Napoleonic officers took part, including General Ramorino, the son of Marshal Lannes (Marshal Grouchy wanted to come, but insisted on too high a rank). The next largest contingent were Germans, who also supplied over a hundred military surgeons, and there were volunteers from Hungary, Italy and Britain.

But none of those standing at the helm approved of the rising or believed in its chances of success. Czartoryski was convinced that the only solution was a diplomatic one. He sent missions to London, Paris and Vienna in order to secure support and finance, and to offer the throne of Poland to a Habsburg archduke or a member of the British royal family in return for assistance. The commander-in-chief, General Jan Skrzynecki, felt that the less blood was spilled before negotiations were resumed the better. He therefore dragged his heels and failed to intercept the Guard Corps. When this joined up with Diebitsch’s army, he was attacked and defeated on 26 May at Ostrołęka. Diebitsch died of the cholera epidemic raging in the Russian army, but Skrzynecki failed to exploit the situation. General Paskevich took over command of the Russian forces and prepared for a new advance.

In Paris, King Louis-Philippe made sonorous speeches hinting at French military support, and there was a moment when it looked as though Czartoryski’s diplomatic efforts might yield fruit. Events in Poland aroused strong international sympathy and engaged the poetic fancy. In Germany, this gave rise to a genre of Polenlieder. In America, Nathan Parker Willis wrote odes to Poland, while in England the young Tennyson wrote what he termed ‘a beautiful poem on Poland, hundreds of lines long’ (which was used by his housemaid to light the fire). In France, Delavigne, Béranger, Musset, Vigny, Lamartine and Hugo glorified the Poles’ struggle in verse. On 23 May 1831 the Aldermen and Council of New York made a strong declaration of support, while Boston offered standards for the Polish regiments. In Paris, James Fenimore Cooper started a Polish-American Committee to gather funds for the rising.

Given time, some of this feeling might have been brought to bear. But the lack of political determination at the top allowed Paskevich to seize the initiative. He marched westwards, bypassing Warsaw to the north, and swept round to attack it from its least defensible western side. Instead of delivering a flank attack on the moving Russian columns, Skrzynecki sent two army corps off in different directions to create diversions. On 6 September 1831 Paskevich attacked Warsaw. After two days of determined but costly fighting, the new commander General Krukowiecki capitulated and withdrew with the rest of his forces. The Poles still had some 70,000 troops in the field but these were dispersed around the country, and continued resistance seemed pointless. On 5 October the main army crossed the border into Prussia to avoid capture by the Russians, while other units sought refuge behind the Austrian cordon, followed by most of the political leadership.

Nicholas abolished the constitution of the Kingdom and closed down the universities of Wilno and Warsaw, along with the Warsaw Polytechnic, the Krzemieniec High School, the Society of Friends of Learning and other educational establishments. In exchange, Warsaw was endowed with a citadel from which Nicholas promised to bombard the city to rubble if there was any more trouble. General Paskevich was named Prince of Warsaw, and Russian generals and officials were given estates confiscated from Polish families.

Ten people, with Adam Czartoryski at the head of the list, were condemned to death by decapitation, and a further 350 to hanging (most of them had already left the country). While a generous amnesty was trumpeted to the world, 10,000 officers were sent off to hard labour or service as simple soldiers in Russian regiments in the Caucasus. Over eight hundred ‘orphans’ (children whose fathers had been killed or gone into exile) were taken from their mothers and given to Russian infantry regiments to bring up. In the Kingdom, countless families of minor szlachta were degraded and 3,176 had their estates confiscated. In the province of Podolia, 5,000 families of minor szlachta were dispossessed of everything, reduced to peasant status and transported to the Caucasus. A few years later 40,000 families of szlachta from Lithuania and Volhynia were conveyed to Siberia. Prince Roman Sanguszko, who was of Rurik’s royal blood and might have qualified for some respect, was sentenced to hard labour for life in Siberia and made to walk there chained to a gang of convicts. When his mother, a friend and former lady-in-waiting to the Empress, begged for leniency, she was told she could go too.

The fate of the exiles was less lurid but no more enviable. Some 8,000 senior officers, political figures, writers and artists found themselves consigned to a life of hopeless anticipation. Theirs was supposed to be a tactical withdrawal. To keep themselves in shape, many of the soldiers took service in the new Belgian army, and the French tried to pack as many as they could into a Foreign Legion created for the purpose. Others converged on Paris, which became a focal point of Polish political and cultural life. It was there, amid bitterness and mutual recrimination, that the next moves in the struggle to recapture Poland were planned and discussed.

Two principal groupings emerged: the Czartoryski party and the Polish Democratic Society. The first pinned its hopes on diplomacy. Adam Czartoryski, referred to even by his political opponents as the de facto king of Poland, lobbied British Members of Parliament and French Deputies, wrote memoranda and petitions, and maintained unofficial diplomatic relations with the Vatican and the Porte. He set up a network with offices in several capitals which sprang into frenetic activity whenever a crisis loomed in Europe.

The Democratic Society, whose nerve centre, the Centralizacja, was based at Versailles, was committed to starting a mass rising in Poland at the earliest possible moment. It also built up strong links with similar movements in other countries, such as Giuseppe Mazzini’s Young Italy; like the French in the 1790s, the Poles had begun to see themselves as universal champions of freedom, obliged to assist sister nations in their struggles, and thousands of them conspired, fought and died for the causes of others.

In 1837 the Russians uncovered the network the Centralizacja had carefully organised throughout the Kingdom and Lithuania, and cut a swathe through it with shootings, hangings and deportations to Siberia. The Democrats then shifted their activities to the less perilous Austrian and Prussian sectors, where they agitated throughout the 1840s, often playing on anti-manor sentiments in order to gain support among the politically passive peasantry.

A peasant rising was planned in both Galicia and Poznania for 22 February 1846. But premature action alerted the Austrian authorities, which reacted with speed and perfidy. They appealed to the Galician peasantry, explaining that the Polish lords were plotting a rising which would enslave them and offering cash for every ‘conspirator’ brought in dead or alive. There followed three days of mob violence in which bands of peasants attacked some seven hundred country houses, killing about a thousand people, few of them conspirators. On 4 March Austrian and Russian troops crushed the Socialist Republic which had meanwhile been proclaimed in Kraków and abolished the free status of the city, which was incorporated into the Austrian Empire. In Poznania the Prussian authorities arrested the entire leadership before the planned local rising had time to break out.

Covenanters Arise! Part I

The death of Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth on 3 September 1658 left England leaderless; his successor, son and heir, Richard Cromwell, was a much lesser man than his father. Oliver was a big act to follow and it soon became clear that Richard was not up to the responsibilities he had inherited. As a result the army tightened its grip on the country to the point of ignoring parliament, itself dominated by militant republicans like Sir Arthur Hesilrige who with his filibustering coterie blocked every attempt by the legislature to enact laws. Eventually, Richard Cromwell decided to dispense with parliament which he dismissed on 22 April 1659. Thereafter, the army was in complete control, a situation that deeply dismayed General George Monck to the point of distrust and even abhorrence. Monck, now Governor of Scotland, made his base at Coldstream, the township in the Borders from which his own elite regiment of foot guards took its name.

Monck was determined to reinstate parliament and so he began his famous march south on 2 January 1660 with an army of 4,000; at least he enjoyed the support of his old and trusted friend, Major General Thomas Morgan, his subordinate during the Highland campaign of 1655. In taking this action, Monck had sought the approval of the Speaker of the House of Commons, William Lenthall, who informed him that the Rump parliament had returned to power1 and that Monck would be welcome in London with his small army. It had become clear to Monck that the only alternative to the Cromwellian Republicans was the restoration of Charles II. To this end, he began to make preparations to smooth a path for the King’s return. However, he first had to make England secure; his support for parliament earned him the appointment of Commander in Chief of the armed forces in England, Scotland and Ireland; Monck was also made a member of the Council of State, a General at sea, with the manor and Palace of Hampton Court settled on him and £20,000 for his public services. On 22 March 1660, Monck declared for Charles II, to which parliament acceded; Monck personally greeted the King at Dover. The Restoration of Charles II would turn out to be one of the most pitiful and dismal chapters in Scotland’s history.

On Charles’s return, exactly a century had passed since Scotland had rejected Roman Catholicism for Presbyterianism. During the period 1561 to 1649, two of the three Stuart monarchs who had challenged the new religious form of worship had not only lost their thrones but their lives – Mary, Queen of Scots and Charles I. However, Scottish people entertained hopes that lessons had been learned from these traumatic tragedies and welcomed the return of Charles in 1660. For his part, from the outset of his reign (1660 – 1685), Charles’s attitude was unequivocal; he would make no compromise with the Covenanters on the matter of episcopacy. This policy was hardly reflected in his choice of appointments to the Privy Council, the executive arm of the Scottish parliament. Charles was acutely aware that many of the officers of state had been and continued to be unreconstructed supporters of the National Covenant. The Royalist William, 9th Earl of Glencairn who raised the Royal Standard for Charles during the Cromwellian Commonwealth period was appointed Chancellor of Scotland; John, 6th Earl of Rothes, who had been one of the leaders of the revolt against Charles I, was made President of the Privy Council, a position of considerable power; and John, 2nd Earl and Duke of Lauderdale, champion of the Covenant, was made Secretary to the Privy Council. Charles’s intentions were obvious; it was his way of mollifying the strong Presbyterian following among the nobility, if not the common people. However, Charles intended to stamp his authority on Scotland one way or another through his instruments and representatives, the Episcopalian bishops. Charles acted precipitously, implementing his policy towards the hard line Covenanters in the most direct way.

On 8 July 1660, the Covenanter Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquis of Argyll who had travelled to London to seek an audience with the King was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. At the same time, a Royal Warrant was issued for the apprehension of Archibald Johnston of Wariston, one of the co-authors of the National Covenant in 1638; Wariston was obliged to seek refuge in France where he remained in exile for the next three years. The Kirk of Scotland split into two factions. The majority party became known as the Resolutioners who somewhat unrealistically hoped that Charles, having sworn to uphold the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant in 1650, would favour them. The minority party, known as the Protesters, had distrusted Charles from day one; the Protesters felt justified in their opposition when on 24 August 1660 on the instructions of the King, the Committee of Estates of the Scottish parliament (which had thus far not met in session) issued a proclamation banning ‘all unlawful meetings … without His Majesty’s special authority’.

This proclamation alarmed Resolutioners and Protesters alike until on 3 September the Resolutioners received a letter from the King which calmed some but made others uneasy: ‘We do also resolve to protect and preserve the Covenant of the Church of Scotland, as it is settled by law, without violation.’ Of course what Charles failed to state was that the episcopacy introduced by his grandfather James VI and I the rule of the bishops would continue. Bishops were the King’s representatives in Scotland; any disobedience shown to a bishop was considered insubordination to the monarch. The Resolutioners had to swallow their pride; the Protesters were even more determined to resist the King. On 1 January 1661, the Scottish parliament convened after an interval of nine years, Cromwell having dissolved it in 1652. The man chosen to represent Charles II was John Middleton, now elevated to Earl of Middleton, the former Covenanter who had supported Charles at Worcester in 1651 and again in the Highland Rising of 1654 when he had been defeated at Dalnaspidal by Thomas Morgan, Monck’s able subordinate. Middleton’s parliament passed no fewer than 393 legislative measures – acts which included the issue of copper coins for the benefit of the poor and stringent penalties on those who profaned the Sabbath by swearing and drinking excessively. These were minor matters; what Middleton’s obsequious parliament imposed on the people of Scotland was an affirmation of Charles II’s right to appoint officers of State, the right to summon and dissolve parliaments at will and make war and peace as he saw fit. Charles was declared the supreme governor and sole arbiter over all persons and causes in Scotland. Charles was, in effect, made a dictator. Worse still, Middleton’s parliament voted Charles an annual grant of £40,000 sterling (£480,000 Scots, a massive sum for a relatively poor nation) which was both unwelcome and unnecessary.

That year, the over-mighty Marquis of Argyll, staunch supporter of the Covenant, while lacking the respect of both Resolutioners and Protesters, gained some esteem in the closing moments of his life. Sent from the Tower of London to Edinburgh’s Tolbooth, Argyll was led out to face execution on 27 May 1661. That day, Argyll made some restitution for his lack of moral and physical courage. As he went to his beheading at the Maiden (an early form of the guillotine), his last words were reputedly thus:

I could die as a Roman [Catholic] but choose to die as a Christian.’

What was important about Charles’s proclamation that the Church of Scotland would continue as it had been settled by law meant the continuation of the episcopacy imposed by his grandfather and confirmed by his father. The Scottish parliament of 1661 re-affirmed this law, although the Members quarrelled with each other, Middleton heading one faction, Lauderdale the other. Two acts sponsored by Middleton were aimed at discrediting Lauderdale. In one of the measures it was made compulsory for every person holding an office of State to declare that the two Covenants were unlawful, even seditious. Lauderdale continued his support for these, cynically announcing that he would sign a cartload of such oaths to that effect so long as he remained in office. The second of Middleton’s measures backfired on its sponsor; his Bill of Indemnity proposed that twelve persons in the Privy Council should be declared incapable of holding office, the twelve to be determined by a ballot of parliament. Middleton had Lauderdale in mind, no doubt conducting a scurrilous campaign against him and cajoling parliament to include him. A clumsy manoeuvre, when Middleton’s Bill of Indemnity reached Charles in London to receive the royal assent, Lauderdale had already informed the King of Middleton’s absurdity and enormity; Charles agreed with Lauderdale and, in 1663, Middleton was dismissed from his position. Charles believed he was master of his northern kingdom – well almost; there were troublemakers in the wings, biding their time to challenge his authority. These men were diehard Covenanters.

As government intentions towards the Covenanters in the early years of the Restoration became increasingly clear, a substantial minority felt they had been cheated of the right to worship in the way Charles II had promised. To those men and women, the Marquis of Argyll and others were seen as martyrs to the cause. Matters grew worse when in 1663, bishops took up the offices they had abandoned in the previous decade in Scotland; this led to a mass exodus of Covenanter ministers who began to hold their services not in churches but in barns and the open air; these meetings were known as Conventicles and were declared illegal gatherings. In 1663 the scale of Conventicles had increased to such an extent that the government felt compelled to pass laws imposing fines on people who failed to attend worship in their parish churches. Under normal local arrangements these fines should have been levied and collected by the church heritors, the ennobled landowners, gentlemen farmers and property owners who contributed to the upkeep and running of churches; however, they too were subject to a rising scale of fines according to their means. Many landowners were sympathetic towards the nonconformists who applied a new name to these laws; they became known as the Bishops’ Drag-Net.

In 1638 practically the entire nation had supported the National Covenant but by 1663 only a minority of nobles and commoners subscribed to it, the majority of the landowning class opting to serve the King and thereby fatten their purses through royal pensions – a particularly lucrative source of income – as well as developing their commercial interests through royal patronage and increasing their political power. About two-thirds of the Scottish clergy had reneged on their support for the Covenant for much the same reasons. Another blow to the nonconformists came in 1663 with the blatant kidnapping of Archibald Johnston of Wariston in France by Charles’s agents. Seen as a dangerous incendiary Wariston, now a sick man rapidly losing his faculties, was brought back to Scotland to stand a form of trial. An uncompromising opponent of Charles I and Charles II as well as his own people, Wariston hated the Engagers who had supported Charles I in 1646, as we saw in the previous chapter. The sick man was found guilty of treason, even if he was never formally charged with that offence; his continuing existence was seen as a threat to the principles enshrined in the Restoration, so he suffered the same fate as Argyll, the only difference being that Argyll, a noble, was beheaded, whereas Wariston faced the gallows, as befitted a commoner. It is not clear whether Wariston’s passing was universally mourned but his death was seen as martyrdom by the nonconformists.

Although some of the disaffected clergy continued to hold services in their churches, the seat of unrest was at its hottest in south-west Scotland – Dumfries, Galloway and Kirkcudbright. By 1666 armed rebellion was not far away. Repressive measures by the Privy Council in Edinburgh against the nonconformist recusants increased which had the effect of building up a head of steam among the faithful. Among the military commanders who enforced the government’s edicts was Sir James Turner; thrice between March and November 1666 Turner marched his forces into the south-west, levying fines as well as billeting his troops in the homes of the dissenters at their expense. During his third foray, Turner was lodging in Dumfries when a party of Galloway dissidents made him their prisoner on 15 November. The men were desperate although they had no wish to shed Turner’s blood; certainly, they had no plans to mount a rebellion but having gone this far they could hardly turn back. On their return to Galloway, the dissidents apparently paused at the market cross of Dumfries to drink the King’s health!

News of Turner’s capture reached Charles in London and those nobles in Scotland who were loyal to him declared they would not allow this insult to the King to go unpunished. Among these was General Thomas ‘Tam’ Dalziel (Dalyell) of the Binns, scion of a West Lothian gentry family. Dalyell was a Royalist through and through; he had vowed never to trim his beard after the execution of Charles I, had fought for Charles II at Worcester in 1651, then served in the Polish wars of the Russian Tsar Alexei I, which earned him the title The Muscovite Beast. General Tam is also remembered for raising a cut-glass regiment, the Royal North British Dragoons in 1681, the first dragoon regiment in the British Army. The regiment was also known as the Scots Greys – not because they rode grey horses (which they did) but because they wore Russian field-grey greatcoats, a fact confirmed by Kathleen, Dowager Lady Dalyell of the Binns in the 1970s.

The Turner incident – no more than a protest against military oppression – was seen by officialdom as nothing short of outright rebellion. On 21 November a proclamation denouncing the uprising was issued; it made no mention of clemency for any who might choose to surrender. The leaders of the ‘rebellion’ appealed for support from their brethren; the result was disappointingly poor although by 22 November the dissidents had managed to cobble together an army of sorts numbering 3,000. The motley band was commanded by an experienced soldier, Colonel James Wallace of Achens, near Troon, Ayrshire who had served in the foot guards in the parliamentary army during the English Civil War. At Lanark the poorly armed Covenanters took the desperate decision to march on Edinburgh to present their grievances to anyone who would listen to them.

Warriors of New South Wales

Depicts Aboriginal men, wearing body paint and paint (or clay) on heads carrying spears and shields.This is one of the earliest works in the art collection which reveals much about the commonly held views of Aboriginal people during the Colonial period in Australia. John Heaviside Clark’s image depicts a number of Aboriginal men wearing body paint, carrying spears and shields depicted in a theatrically aggressive manner.
Clark (c.1770-1863) was a landscape painter, commercial artist, book illustrator and engraver who worked in London. Although as an artist he espoused sketching directly from nature, it is doubtful that Clark actually visited Australia to record the Aboriginal warriors he so dramatically captures in this work. His work reveals the fanciful beliefs prevalent at the time of indigenous people as ‘naked savages’ and illustrations in this vein were largely designed to meet the British public’s interest in the ‘curiosities to be found in the colony of New South Wales’ .

Parramatta was the site of a skirmish in March 1797 in which Bidjigal (Bediagal) Aborigines fought white settlers and troops of the New South Wales Corps. The clash followed depredations upon settlers in the Toongabbie district, led by the Aborigines’ noted guerilla leader Pemulwuy. An armed party was sent after the marauders, and following a pursuit lasting throughout one night came across their quarry-numbering about 100-the next day. The Aborigines fled, leaving the spoils of their raids on the ground. The punitive expedition pursued the hostile band into the Parramatta district but-becoming fatigued-eventually retired into the town. The Aborigines followed them there, with Pemulwuy at their head threatening to kill the first white man who approached him. He effectively challenged the town’s military garrison to battle by hurling his spear at one of the soldiers. What was described as a `desperate fight’ followed, in which Pemulwuy and his followers pitted their spears against the muskets of the troops and settlers. Five Aborigines were killed and many more wounded, including Pemulwuy who was made prisoner with seven buckshot hits in his head and body. He was taken to the hospital, but subsequently escaped to play a leading role in numerous other incidents until he was finally shot dead by two settlers late in 1802.

Heidelberg, now an outer suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, was in May 1840 the scene of an extraordinary confrontation between white settlers and Aborigines using European firearms seized in raids on shepherds’ huts. Early in 1840 a large band of Aborigines led by Jackie Jackie made their presence felt on the upper reaches of the Yarra River during several incidents in which firearms were used. Attempts were made by white authorities to retrieve the weapons, but were too late. In May, Armyne Bolden, a settler based several kilometres up the Yarra from Melbourne, reported to the superintendent of the Port Phillip district, Charles La Trobe, that more than 200 Aborigines armed with about 30 guns were `shooting in every direction’ and threatening to burn down huts on his run.

A detachment of mounted police was sent out from Melbourne, but by the time this arrived the Aborigines had disappeared. Several troopers led by Lieutenant F. B. Russell tracked the band, but when they were about 65 kilometres upstream they were ambushed by the Aborigines who had concealed themselves in dense scrub by a ford. The police were fired on as they attempted to cross the stream, three were wounded and all were forced to retreat. The incident is chiefly notable for showing the Aborigines acting virtually as guerillas in opposing white occupation of their lands. The solution adopted by La Trobe was to issue orders to police patrols to prevent any Aborigines from entering Melbourne, and in particular to impose severe penalties on shopkeepers supplying powder and shot to any Aborigines, especially women, who sneaked into the town.

Eumeralla, the district around the Eumeralla River between Port Fairy and Portland, Victoria, was in August 1842 the scene of several violent clashes between Aborigines and whites over the `theft’ of sheep. On 7 August Aborigines attacked a shepherd employed by James Hunter, who held Eumeralla station with his brother John, and drove off his flock. The station manager, Samuel MacGregor, and several hands pursued them and took back the sheep after `a severe skirmish’. On 10 August a group of Aborigines estimated to number more than 150 again appeared on the station, part of the group driving off the sheep while the rest attacked the shepherds. This time the latter were well armed and kept them at bay until help arrived, whereupon the Aborigines made off and the flock was recovered.

Eight days later there was a third large-scale attack, with this time the tribesmen taking away over 1,000 sheep. A party from the station which went out in pursuit found the flock’s trail littered with dead carcasses. About thirteen kilometres from the station the party came up against the Aborigines, and only after overcoming `a vigorous resistance’ (during which three warriors were shot dead and several others wounded) were they able to retake the 500 or so sheep which remained alive.

These clashes were repeated on neighbouring stations of the district to the north-west of Port Fairy over the next five years, reaching a peak of ferocity from early in 1845. Tom Browne-a local squatter who wrote novels under the pseudonym of Rolf Boldrewood-characterised this period as `The Eumeralla War’ in his 1884 book of recollections Old Melbourne Memories.