Siege of Pusan [now Busan]

Faced with some 15,000 attackers and their alien weapons, the city’s 8,000 defending troops stood no chance. The Japanese celebrated the capture of Pusan in 1592 with an orgy of bloodletting.

The Failure of the 16th Century Japanese Invasions of Korea

Sengoku Jidai: Mandate of Heaven

Sengoku Jidai: Shadow of the Shogun Collector’s Edition

Official Korean documents in the sixteenth century were dated according to the reign year of the Chinese emperor or the Korean king. Fifteen ninety-two, being the twentieth year of the reign of China’s Wanli emperor and the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Korean king Sonjo, was therefore referred to either as Wanli 20 or Sonjo 25. In everyday usage, however, a different and very ancient counting system was used to keep track of the passage of both the days and the years: the traditional cycle of sixty. Each increment in the cycle was given a name consisting of one of ten “heavenly stems” derived from the elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, and an “earthly branch” of one of the twelve zodiacal symbols: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Fifteen ninety-two was the twenty-ninth year in this cycle, the year called imjin, a name combining the ninth heavenly stem, seawater, with the sign of the dragon. The Koreans did not regard the year with any particular sense of foreboding. On the contrary, the advent of imjin may even have been considered fortuitous, for the year of the dragon was traditionally viewed as a time of opportunity and prosperity, tinged with just a hint of unpredictability.

Fifteen ninety-two changed all that. The events that would unfold on the peninsula beginning in May would sear the word imjin on the Korean consciousness as a synonym for death and destruction, the apocalypse, the end of the world. To this day imjin waeran, “the Japanese bandit invasion of the water dragon year,” remains the closest that Korea has ever come to the abyss. There have been other times in her history that have brought destruction and tragedy on a terrible scale, most notably the Korean War of 1950 to 1953. But nothing can ever surpass the utter desolation of imjin waeran—the burned-out cities, the scorched earth, the broken families and snuffed-out lives. Among a people as homogeneous as the Koreans, the memory of this catastrophe not surprisingly is still very much alive today, more than four hundred years after the event. Indeed, it might even be said that they have not entirely forgiven Japan for it. Imjin waeran remains to this day a sub-text to the resentment and at times animosity that Koreans still feel toward the Japanese for their occupation of the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.


It began on May 23, 1592. A dense mist hung over the sea off Pusan early that morning, obscuring any sign of activity offshore. Chong Pal, the sixty-year-old commander of the Pusan garrison, left the port early for a day of hunting on Cholyong-do, a forested island at the mouth of the harbor so named for its population of deer. Emerging from the trees some time in the afternoon, he was one of the first to spy the armada, “covering all of the sea,” approaching from the direction of Daema-do, as Tsushima was known to the Koreans. Suspecting that this could be the Japanese invasion that everyone was expecting and yet did not expect, Chong rushed back to Pusan to raise the alarm and prepare for the worst. Any doubts as to what he had seen were soon dispelled by corroborative reports from a lighthouse keeper farther along the coast and from a beacon-fire tender on a hill behind Pusan: a long battle line of ships, ninety in number, approaching from the south.

The lead ships of the Japanese armada soon reached the waters off Pusan harbor and dropped anchor. Kyongsang Left Navy Commander Pak Hong observed their arrival from his nearby base at Kijang and began to tally the numbers for himself. There were easily ninety, as reported. Then one hundred. Then one hundred and fifty. The afternoon waned, and the ships kept coming. Two hundred. Two hundred and fifty. Three hundred. The sun eased below the horizon, and still the number continued to climb. And Pak’s nerves began to fray.

Word of the Japanese arrival reached Kyongsang Right Navy Commander Won Kyun at his base on Koje Island to the west of Pusan that same afternoon. He could not at first bring himself to believe what was happening. In a dispatch to his colleague Yi Sun-sin, commander of the Cholla Left Navy based at Yosu farther to the west, Won reported that the approaching mass of ships was perhaps some sort of exceptionally large trade mission from Tsushima. As the afternoon progressed, however, and the number of ships crowding the bay off Pusan climbed to one hundred and fifty and beyond, Won was forced to the conclusion that an invasion was indeed under way and a disaster about to befall them.

Neither he nor Pak Hong, however, made any attempt that day or the next to attack the Japanese armada with the approximately one hundred and fifty heavy panokson battleships under their command, representing the bulk of the entire Korean navy. The two men simply watched and waited and sent off frantic dispatches, while the ships under their command, the most formidable weapons in the Korean arsenal and the first and most effective line in the nation’s defenses, sat idle in their ports.

For the Koreans, this frozen inaction on the part of Won and Pak was the first of many strategic errors that would be made in the early days of the Imjin War. For although the two naval commanders did not know it, the gathering armada, while numerically daunting, was in fact vulnerable to seaborne attack and could have been dealt a heavy blow before it ever had a chance to send a single man ashore.

In the order of battle he had signed two months before, Hideyoshi urged his daimyo to be particularly careful to get their troops safely across the sea to Pusan, warning them that “the loss of one man or one horse through bad judgment will be regarded as a grave offense.” To ensure their safety, the invasion plan had called for a force of battleships to travel in convoy with the transports to protect them from the very ships that now sat idle in the Korean naval bases of Kyongsang Province. But such convoying had not occurred. When the first contingents of the invasion force were leaving Nagoya for their forward staging areas on Tsushima, the navy was still assembling on the Inland Sea. When the transports were at sea between Tsushima and Pusan, the navy was only just arriving at Nagoya. In fact, it would be more than a week before Hideyoshi’s battleships would arrive at Pusan. Konishi had gambled that he could land his forces without their protection and was now in Korean waters with a fleet of light and largely unprotected transports—fishing boats really—that would have been no match for Korea’s panokson if the challenge had been made. Had a different admiral been in command of either Kyongsang fleet, one willing to put his ships to sea and strike at the enemy, the outcome of these first few days might have been very different indeed.

By nightfall on May 23 some four hundred ships bearing Konishi Yukinaga’s first contingent had successfully traversed the seventy kilometers from Tsushima’s northern tip and were crowding the waters off Pusan. At seven thirty in the evening a single vessel separated from this force and advanced into the harbor. Aboard was So Yoshitoshi, the Christian daimyo of Tsushima, also known as Dario, who had served as Hideyoshi’s emissary to the Koreans since 1589. Accompanying him was the scholar monk Genso, a member of the Tsushima mission to Seoul in 1589. The two men sent a letter to the commander of Pusan, Chong Pal, asking one last time that the way be cleared to China for the armies of Japan. They received no answer, and eventually returned in their ship and rejoined the armada.

The die was now cast for a war with Korea. So Yoshitoshi and his father-in-law Konishi Yukinaga may have come to Pusan hoping that a show of force would cow the Koreans into acceding to Hideyoshi’s demands, thereby avoiding the necessity of a fight. Chong Pal’s rebuff ensured that this was not to be. With a huge invasion army waiting behind them on Tsushima, there was tremendous pressure on these two daimyo commanders not to spend time trying to arrange a settlement with the Koreans. It was, thought Konishi, “the will of Christ” that they now go ahead and use armed force.

For the next several hours the Japanese armada sat motionless offshore as the Koreans watched anxiously from behind the walls of Pusan Castle. Then, at four o’clock the next morning, May 24, the landings began. First ashore were the five thousand men under So Yoshitoshi. He was the logical choice to lead the way, for having visited Pusan several times in the past he knew the lay of the land and the nature of the defenses better than any of Hideyoshi’s commanders. The arrival of this familiar and formerly friendly face may also have been intended to cause the Koreans at least momentary confusion. If so, it could not have lasted long. So and his men clearly had not come this time to conduct diplomacy or trade; they had come for war. They came ashore clad in armor of iron plates and leather shingles tied together to form a flexible yet nearly impenetrable shell. It covered their torsos and arms and formed an apron in the front. They wore flaring iron helmets, some with stylized buffalo horns and antlers screwed to the front, all with a jointed cowling affixed to the sides and back to protect the neck. High-ranking samurai rode horses. They wore grotesque war masks with fierce, grimacing faces, and were armed with two swords: a long katana and a shorter wakizashi, finely crafted, very expensive, and highly valued by their owner. Some may have carried bows as well, and a lesser number spears. They did not carry muskets. These effective but fundamentally dishonorable weapons went to the ashigaru foot soldiers, along with one “loan sword.”

Next ashore was So Yoshitoshi’s father-in-law, Konishi Yukinaga, at the head of seven thousand men. They followed an unusual banner featuring a huge, stuffed rendering of the white paper bags used by Japanese druggists to dispense medicine, a reference to the Konishi family’s traditional involvement in that trade. There were very likely crucifixes in evidence as well, for Konishi and his men, like So’s company, were all Christians. Konishi himself rode a fine horse that Hideyoshi had presented to him at Nagoya before his departure, with the exhortation that he use it to “gallop over the heads of the bearded savages.”

After Konishi came Matsuura, lord of Hirado, the sole nonbeliever in the group. Then Arima. Omura. Goto. A total of 18,700 men in all, dressed for combat, ready to kill. The predominant colors were black and red: black armor and helmets, red banners and brocade. The multitude formed up in ranks, then split in two. Konishi led a portion of the men a few kilometers southwest along the harbor front to the fort at Tadaepo at the mouth of the Naktong River. The fort’s defenders, under garrison commander Yun Hung-sin, managed to repel the first assault but were overwhelmed by the second and all put to the sword. So Yoshitoshi meanwhile led the advance on Pusan Castle itself. He formally called upon garrison commander Chong Pal one last time to surrender, asserting yet again that they were on their way to China and would not harm the Koreans if they would only step aside. Chong refused. Until he received orders to the contrary, he replied, he was duty bound to resist the Japanese advance.

The aging officer then turned to his men and made his orders clear. “I expect you all,” he cried out, “to fight and die like brave men! If any man attempts to turn and flee, I will personally cut off his head!”

The day was just dawning when the Japanese sounded their conch-shell trumpets to signal the attack. The ensuing battle was fierce but short, providing the beleaguered Koreans with their first taste of the stunning power of the arquebus. Their arrows and spears were no match for them. The defenders of Pusan Castle were felled by the hundreds by the flying slugs of lead that these strange “dog legs” spit out, a deluge of death that “fell like rain.” The garrison fought until all their arrows were gone. Then Chong Pal himself was killed, and with that, at around nine o’clock in the morning, all resistance ceased.

Once over the walls, “We found people running all over the place and trying to hide in the gaps between the houses,” samurai chronicler Yoshino Jingozaemon would later record. “Those who could not conceal themselves went off toward the East Gate, where they clasped their hands together, and there came to our ears the Chinese expression, ‘Manō! Manō!’ which was probably them asking for mercy. Taking no notice of what they heard our troops rushed forward and cut them down, slaughtering them as a blood sacrifice to the god of war. Both men, women, and even dogs and cats were beheaded.” That it was assumed the Koreans spoke Chinese is an indication of how little the Japanese knew of their foe.

According to Japanese records, 8,500 Koreans were killed in the fall of Pusan and 200 prisoners were taken. Among the dead was Chong Pal’s eighteen-year-old concubine, Ae-hyang. Her body was found lying beside the fallen commander. She had taken her own life.


French And Spanish Admirals – Trafalgar Campaign


Spanish Admiral Federico Gravina at Trafalgar.

French and Spanish admirals who held key appointments during the Trafalgar campaign. Barham’s ‘opposite number’ was the much younger Denis Decrès. Born of a noble family in 1761, he joined the French Navy at the relatively late age of 18. As a junior officer he gained distinction at the battle of The Saints. Five years later he attained the rank of commander in which he served in both the East and West Indies. Returning to France at the height of the Reign of Terror, he received the belated news of his promotion to post-captain, accompanied by a more recent decision to dismiss him from the Service because of his aristocratic birth. This indignity was followed by the ignominy of arrest and removal to Paris for trial in the shadow of the guillotine. He was, however, more fortunate than many another high-born Frenchman: after a brief imprisonment he was released and allowed to retire to his country estate.

Less than a year elapsed before the Convention realized that their navy needed experienced officers now that they were at war with Britain. In 1795 Decrès was reinstated and appointed to command the 80-gun Formidable at Toulon, whence he eluded Lord Hood’s blockade to reach the safety of Brest. In December 1796 he took part in Admiral de Galles’s mismanaged attempt to land troops in Bantry Bay. Sixteen months later he garnered the fruits of his adherence to the Republican cause: he was promoted to rear-admiral at 37, two years younger than Nelson when he had gained his flag in the previous year, and appointed in command of Vice-Admiral Brueys’s frigates. With his flag in the 40-gun Diane, he helped to escort Bonaparte’s Armée d’ Orient to Malta, and on to Alexandria. In Aboukir Bay, on the night of 1 August 1798, his ship was so much damaged by gunfire from Nelson’s fleet that Decrès tried to shift his flag. But, after finding two 74s in a worse state, he returned to the Diane and succeeded in escaping, together with the frigate Justice, and the only two French ships-of-the-line which survived the battle.

All four reached Malta, where for the next 18 months they were confined by the British blockade. Thence, under the cover of darkness, on the night of 28 March 1800, Decrès took the 80-gun Guillaume Tell out of Valletta’s Grand Harbour, in compliance with an order recalling him to Paris and the need to reduce the number of mouths to be fed from the food remaining in the fortress. She was brought to action and compelled to surrender to HMS Foudroyant. Wounded and taken prisoner, Decrès spent a short time at Mahon before being released in an agreed exchange, to be appointed in command of the port of Lorient.

From there Bonaparte chose him to be his Minister of Marine in the autumn of 1801. Since he was to hold this office for much longer than the Trafalgar campaign it is clear that Decrès satisfied his demanding master. Moreover, the zeal with which he set about rectifying the French navy’s serious deficiencies stands to his credit. Like Barham he was a first-class administrator — but no more. From his experience at The Saints, Bantry Bay, the Nile, and in the Guillaume Tell, he was at heart a defeatist: he did not believe that the French navy could seriously challenge the British. More importantly, although he was, in modern American parlance, a good head of a navy Department, he was not Chief of Naval Operations. Napoleon arrogated that position to himself: it was he who conceived, planned and directed his Navy’s major activities, more especially those which were designed to gain command of the Channel so that the Grande Armée might safely cross it.

Decrès pleaded the importance of attacking Britain’s maritime trade, but seldom with much success. He lacked the personality to be better than clay in the hands of an Emperor who had no understanding of war at sea. Faced with complicated plans, which paid scant regard for wind and weather, and treated the British Fleet as an obstacle with which action could be avoided, he did no more than write: ‘It is grievous to me to know the naval profession, since this knowledge wins no confidence, nor produces any results in Your Majesty’s combinations.’


Cornwallis’s opponent was born Count Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume in 1755. His seagoing career began at the age of 14 when his father took him onboard his own merchantship. During the War of American Independence he fought as a temporary junior officer under Admiral d’Estaing in American waters, and under Admiral de Suffren in the Indian Ocean. Thereafter he reverted to the merchant service until his country was again involved in war with Britain, when he joined the Convention’s navy as a lieutenant. In the next year, having reached the age of 39 with 25 years’ sea experience, he was, not surprisingly for a Service which was so short of officers, promoted to post-captain and appointed in command of the 74-gun Trente-et-Un-Mai.

Although not in company with Rear-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse during his initial engagements with Lord Howe at the end of May 1794 (for which he has been much criticized by his biographers), Ganteaume joined the French Brest fleet in time to take part in the battle of the Glorious First of June, when he was thrice wounded. In December his ship was one of the squadron which slipped out of Brest and into the Mediterranean to reinforce the Toulon fleet. Renamed the Républicain, she was present at the battle of Hyères on 13 July 1795 before being ordered to return to Brest, when Ganteaume again successfully eluded the British blockade. He was next appointed first captain to Vice-Admiral Brueys for Bonaparte’s Egyptian venture, so that he was fortunate to escape with his life when the 120-gun Orient blew up during the battle of the Nile. Promoted shortly afterwards to rear-admiral he was given command of the small French naval force which remained in the Levant to support the Armée d’Orient.

When Bonaparte decided to return to France in the summer of 1799, Ganteaume was entrusted with the task of slipping him past the watching British cruisers on board the frigate Muiron. He received his reward six weeks after the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire: Bonaparte appointed him a Counsellor of State, and chose him to command the squadron of seven ships-of-the-line which slipped out of Brest in January 1801 with orders to convoy reinforcements and supplies to Egypt. Five months and two unsuccessful sorties from Toulon elapsed before he eluded Rear-Admiral Warren’s watching squadron and headed for Alexandria. But Lord Keith’s fleet not only prevented him from reaching this Egyptian port, but also aborted his subsequent attempt to land troops at Benghasi. His only satisfaction, whilst returning to Toulon, was an action with the British 74-gun Swiftsure in which he compelled Captain Benjamin Hallowell to strike his colours.

From the Treaty of Amiens until 1804, Ganteaume was in charge of the port of Toulon. He was then promoted to vice-admiral and given command of the Brest fleet, with the unenviable task of trying to comply with Napoleon’s often unreasonable orders. It is, indeed, arguable that no commander who was forbidden to engage anything but a much inferior enemy force, could have done more than he did. But if it be clear that he owed his post to the chance that brought him into close contact with Napoleon in 1798, the Emperor is not to be faulted for choosing an admiral of no greater distinction for command of the fleet which he planned should gain control of the Channel, for the simple reason that there was none better.


Nelson’s principal opponent was born Pierre Charles Jean Baptiste Silvestre de Villeneuve in 1763. Joining the French Navy at 15, he first fought against Britain in the War of American Independence, when he became a close friend of Decrès. Having declared his loyalty to the Convention, he was promoted post-captain in 1793; and after only three years in command of ships-of-the-line achieved flag rank, a reflection of Revolutionary France’s shortage of senior officers. Near the end of 1796, he was ordered to take a squadron out of Toulon to accompany Admiral Langara’s Spanish fleet round to Brest. Helped by a gale he managed to elude Admiral Jervis’s fleet, which had recently withdrawn from the Mediterranean to watch Cadiz and the Straits. But Lord Bridport’s ships, watching Brest, obliged him to put into Lorient, so that he was too late to be included in the fleet with which Admiral de Galles attempted to land General Hoche’s army in Bantry Bay.

By the spring of the next year Villeneuve was back at Toulon, with his flag in the 80-gun Guillaume Tell, in the fleet with which Vice-Admiral Brueys escorted Bonaparte’s Armée d’Orient to Malta and Alexandria. For remaining at anchor in Aboukir Bay instead of weighing and bringing his squadron up from their leeward berths to support Brueys’s van against Nelson’s attack, he was subjected to much criticism after the battle of the Nile. Fortunately, Bonaparte was more concerned to congratulate him on his escape with the remnant of Brueys’s fleet to Malta, where he remained until September 1800 when, with General Vaubois, he signed the surrender of the French garrison.

His career during the next four years is veiled in obscurity, until he was promoted to vice-admiral on 30 May 1804 only a few weeks after Ganteaume reached the same high rank. Less than three months later came Vice-Admiral Latouche-Tréville’s sudden death at Toulon. Napoleon’s two ablest flag officers already held vital commands, Bruix of the invasion flotillas, Ganteaume of the Brest fleet. Enough has been said of Villeneuve’s career to show that he was scarcely fitted to succeed Latouche, but his rival, Francois Rosily had a record which was no more impressive. And for once the Emperor listened to his Minister of Marine: Villeneuve’s long-standing friendship with Decrès tipped the scales and, with misgivings, Napoleon agreed to his appointment to the Toulon fleet.


Nelson’s other opponent was the commander of the Spanish ships which joined with Villeneuve’s. Frederico Carlos Gravina was born in Sicily of a noble Spanish family in 1756. Enlisting in his country’s navy at the age of 19, he served in an expedition to South America before, following the outbreak of the War of American Independence, participating in the blockade of Gibraltar. By 1783 he held command of the frigate Juno in an unsuccessful punitive expedition against Algeria. Having attained the rank of post-captain early in 1789, he was appointed to command the Paula, in the Marquis del Socorro’s squadron, and was in charge of the naval force which, in 1791, made an abortive attempt to prevent the Moors occupying Oran.

By the time Spain joined Britain against Revolutionary France, Gravina was a rear-admiral in Langara’s fleet which was with Lord Hood during his occupation of Toulon. There, to quote a Spanish authority, he ‘served valiantly … from the taking of the fortifications until their evacuation. He sustained a serious leg wound. His bravery gained him promotion to vice-admiral.’ He then further distinguished himself in attempts to save several besieged Spanish fortresses, even though all were in the end obliged to capitulate. By 1797 he was a vice-admiral, and second-in-command under Admiral Massaredo, initially in Cadiz during Lord St Vincent’s blockade, subsequently at Cartagena — whence he took part in the sortie to join the fleet which Vice-Admiral Bruix brought into the Mediterranean, and returned with it to Brest.

After the Peace of Amiens, Gravina was for a time unemployed, so that he might revisit his Sicilian birthplace. In June 1804 he was chosen to be Spanish ambassador in Paris, where he exercised considerable influence on his country’s decision to declare war on Britain in December. He was then recalled and, early in 1805, assumed command of Spain’s principal fleet based on Cadiz.


Decrès, Ganteaume, Villeneuve, Gravina and, of course, Napoleon: these were Britain’s chief opponents in the Trafalgar campaign. Enough has been said of their careers to show that they were no match for Barham, Cornwallis, Nelson and Collingwood — only for Calder. Nearly a hundred years after Trafalgar, the German Vice-Admiral Livonius, wrote of the Napoleonic Wars: ‘It was the genius of her captains and admirals which produced Britain’s glorious victories.’ This is an exaggeration: only Nelson was a genius; the others were worthy descendants of a long line of sea kings, with the advantage of highly trained and disciplined crews who were enthusiastic for a common cause and inspired by the will to win. Their enemies were of several nationalities, each jealous of the others and animated by diverse motives, some monarchical, some republican. They were, moreover, not only inexperienced and ill-trained, especially the Spaniards, but depressed in spirit by a century of defeats by the Royal Navy.

Second Breitenfeld, (November 2, 1642)



Lennart Torstenson’s military campaign in 1642.


Torstensson’s War (1643-1645).

In 1643 Christian IV of Denmark contemplated re-entering the German war, this time in alliance with the Habsburgs. As that would seriously jeopardize the Swedish strategic position Oxenstierna decided to pre-empt: he recalled Lennart Torstensson and the main Swedish Army from Moravia and sent them into Jutland (December 22, 1643). The Danes fell back, as was their usual military practice under Christian, and Jutland fell to the Swedes. In addition, Swedish and Dutch warships pounded and threatened Danish coastal towns and the Dutch and Swedes defied the Sound Tolls. Christian agreed to an armistice in November 1644, and a humiliating peace at Br_omsebro (1645). He lost Gotland, O” sel, and the bishoprics of Verden and Bremen. The losses were confirmed in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

Second Breitenfeld

Swedish Field Marshal Lennart Torstensson besieged Leipzig with 20,000 men, intent on pushing Saxony out of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Arrival of a larger Imperial force, under Archduke Leopold Wilhelm, brother of Ferdinand III, and Piccolomini, lifted the siege. Leopold then vigorously pursued Torstensson as he withdrew six miles to Breitenfeld. The battle began with an Imperial artillery bombardment intended to cover a cavalry charge on the left. But the Swedish cavalry did not wait to be killed by whirling chain or solid shot: it charged, catching the Imperial horse in the flank. As Leopold’s cavalry fled in broken disorder, Torstensson wheeled left to attack enemy infantry pressing hard on the Swedish infantry at the center. These Imperials also wilted, leaving only cavalry on Leopold’s right and that, too, was soon engulfed by the Swedes. Those Imperial troops who did not die or fall wounded, or spur their horses to flight, soon surrendered. About 5,000 Imperials were killed and an equal number taken prisoner. Swedish losses were light. Imperial fortunes never recovered from this defeat, the military nadir for the Habsburg cause in the Thirty Years’ War.

Lennart Torstensson, (1603-1651).

Swedish artillery general, then field marshal. A companion of Gustavus Adolphus from youth, he served in the king’s wars in Livonia and Poland in the 1620s. He spent two years of military study in the Netherlands, 1624-1625, under Maurits of Nassau. He was closely involved in the reform and standardization of Swedish artillery by Gustavus. Torstensson accompanied the king into Germany in 1630 in command of the field artillery. His batteries fought exceedingly well at First Breitenfeld (1631). He provided a smoke screen that allowed the army to cross the River Lech under enemy fire at Rain (1632). He was captured at Alte Feste (1632) during a failed attack on Albrecht von Wallenstein’s camp. He was held for a year then ransomed by Sweden and exchanged. He was subordinate to Johann Bane’r at Wittstock (October 4, 1636) but took full command of the Swedish Army at Second Breitenfeld (1642). He spent most of 1642 overrunning Saxony, Bohemia, and Moravia. He marched the army across Germany in 1643 in order to invade Jutland in a pre-emptive campaign against Denmark sometimes called Torstensson’s War. In 1645 he moved against Prague, winning decisively at Jankov and knocking Bavaria out of the war but failing to take the well-defended city. His many years in the saddle took their toll: he resigned in ill-health in 1646 and died five years later.

Hungary in the Mongol Invasion Period


The Battle of Mohi (Muhi), 11 April 1241, was the main battle between the Mongol Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary during the Mongol invasion of Europe. It took place at Muhi, southwest of the Sajó River. After the invasion, Hungary lay in ruins. Nearly half of the inhabited places had been destroyed by the invading armies. Around 15–25 percent of the population was lost, mostly in lowland areas.




Territorial divisions in Eastern Europe in the thirteenth century (at the time of the Mongols).

In a marked departure from Western European practice, the distribution of royal property in Hungary was permanent and hereditary, not given in fief and therefore not tied to the vassal system. These donations created a new class of great barons, without reciprocal obligations to either the royal donor or to the people who became their dependents. Numerous castles and their surrounding villages, even entire counties, were bestowed on the most deserving or clever royal servants. András II also faced criticism for entrusting fiscal affairs to foreigners. Malcontents formed a league and succeeded in extracting from the court a charter of noble freedoms. The Golden Bull of 1222 (somewhat like the English Magna Carta) enshrined the right of nobles to resist royal power. András’s successor, Béla IV, initially tried to backtrack in order to undertake more fundamental and considered reforms than his father. The event that changed his mind was the Mongol invasion.

After Chinghis Khan’s death in 1227, his successor, Ogoday, sent Batu of the Golden Horde to conquer Russia. The immense project achieved, Batu’s army invaded Poland and Hungary. In 1241 the Mongols easily defeated the Hungarians at Muhi. The following winter they crossed the Danube and pursued the king all the way to the Dalmatian islands. The next spring the Mongols suddenly withdrew (whether in response to the death of their great khan or for some unknown motive), leaving behind a destroyed Hungary. The king’s reconstruction efforts opened the way to a new era. Béla IV had to start from scratch, so he first reorganized his military forces and the state administration. He proceeded to create a feudal Christian state, giving great power to loyal barons. All high governmental, legal, commanding, and administrative offices in large territorial units were entrusted to barons and bishops. The result proved positive, as Béla’s reconstruction soon put the country back on its feet. In subsequent centuries, descendants of these barons would contribute to the weakening of the state, but during this crucial period of renewal, Béla’s trust proved well placed. He fortified towns and built new ones, combining military defense with urbanization and the promotion of civic privileges. He laid the foundations of Buda, the castle and the town, making it into an important trade center.

The towns, with their stone churches and houses, markets, municipalities and their inhabitants—many of them foreigners in various trades—generated new wealth for the artisans and tradesmen, and became civilizing centers. Reliable currency (coins with a high silver content) stimulated economic and commercial activities and fiscal income via domestic taxes and duties. Hungary exported beef, wine, and salt and imported cloth, silk, and spices from Venice, Germany, and Moravia. Taxes were fixed according to market conditions. Royalties from the mines (silver, gold, salt) were divided between the treasury and the new entrepreneurs. The new economic activities generated more revenue than the old taxes. Some regions still paid in kind, and the country’s Jews paid collectively, in silver. Few were exempt. With 2 million inhabitants, Hungary was more populous than England, but it still had room for many more people. Béla invited a variety of new settlers. Religious institutions were strengthened. Bishops also provided civil governance over their estates and population, which included the clerical nobility, their servants, and soldiers settled on their land by the bishop. High clergy also had judiciary powers and sat on the Royal Council. The king respected tradition while maintaining control over nominations, retaining investiture for his faithful prelates. Béla’s efforts however were almost entirely negated by his son, István II.A bold military leader, he turned against his father, defeated him, and proclaimed himself “king-junior” over the eastern half of the country. The reign of István’s son, László IV (1272–1290), ten years old when he succeeded his father, was punctuated by intrigue and chronic instability. The lords of the realm pursued their private wars according to the rules of feudal anarchy. Twenty or so among them seized vast tracts of land, spoils, and positions. With the death of András III in 1301, the lights of the House of Árpád went out.


After a brutal, but short, invasion by Mongols in 1241, Hungary’s kings welcomed the migration of Germans into its northern district. These immigrant settlements acted as buffers against future aggression into the sparsely inhabited regions of Slovakia. Foreign settlers also helped repopulate areas that had been devastated by the invasions. In addition, Germans brought skills and commercial expertise to the region. Seeking to encourage this migration and also to create a burgher (urban) class beholden to the Crown, Hungary’s monarchs granted special privileges to German colonists and exempted them from control by county officials. Germans also moved into Slovakia’s mining regions where they settled in towns and developed the mining industry. Concentrated in commercial and mining areas, German towns evolved into enclaves governed by special laws.

The practice was followed throughout the rule of the Árpád dynasty, and the influx of foreigners swelled when rulers invited settlers, especially Saxons from German lands, to repopulate regions devastated by the 1241 Mongol devastation. Throughout these centuries, the number of original Slavic and Romanian coinhabitants grew and was augmented by new immigrants, attracted by the wealth and hospitality of the Hungarian land.

Battle of Carbisdale, 26th April, 1650


James Graham 1st Marquess of Montrose. (1612-1650)


Whilst in Denmark, July 1649, Montrose wrote an appeal in the King’s name to the people of Scotland calling on all those loyal to the Crown to rise up against those who had ‘sold their sovereign into death’. The effect of this appeal was to cause ‘acute anxiety’ to Argyll and his government, who promptly distributed throughout the land a counter- proclamation, degrading Montrose in the foulest of ways. Continuing to deal with Argyll and his government, Charles appeared to show that he was on the point of abandoning his Marquis, which would have a serious effect on Montrose’s efforts. Denmark, too, thought Charles about to drop Montrose and withdrew it’s support, Sweden soon followed suit by withdrawing it’s help of men, ammunition and transport ships. Undeterred, Montrose set sail from Gothenburg early March 1650. Things were soon to get worse, for whilst at sea the small fleet were caught in a storm, scattering and sinking some of the valuable supply vessels. Battling the storm, many of the ships were able to limp into the shelter of the Orkney Islands on the 23rd March.

Once in the Islands, the Montrose received news that the King had opened up negotiations with Argyll’s government in Edinburgh. This did not mean that Charles had changed his mind and would now back Argyll. No, Charles thought it best to treat with them, giving them formal recognition in order to concur with their treaty. What you might call buttering both sides of the bread -if one side failed he could say he always backed the other. Argyll’s response at this formal recognition from the King? He was to put a price of £10,000 on Montrose’s head and made it clear that Montrose’s claim to have a commission from the King was entirely false. Argyll wasted no time in calling upon all loyal Scottish subjects to oppose the traitor James Graham. The recruiting of men for his army went well for the Marquis It is said he gathered in at least 700 to 800 men. The local gentry and Ministers throughout Orkney and Shetland signed a bond of allegiance. In all, Montrose spent two weeks in the Islands and prepared to set sail around the 9th of April, but, before his departure, a small garrison, to remain on the Island, was organised and placed under the governorship of Sir William Johnston. In all, the Royal army now consisted of at least 1,200 men, made up of 700 Orcadians and at least 450 veteran soldiers from Germany and Denmark. He had also with him two very experienced officers, his good friend Colonel William Sibbald and Colonel Sir John Hurry. A small flotilla of fishing boats was awaiting the soldiers on a beach at Holm as they made their way to the collection point, ready to be escorted across the Pentland firth by Captain Hall’s frigate the ‘Herderinnan’.

Once at sea the fleet was to split in two -Montrose would force a landing at Duncansby Head, near to John O’Groats, whilst Lieutenant-Colonel Drummond, with 500 picked men, were to land just up the coast near Wick. Both landings were unopposed and Montrose swiftly entered Thurso, forcing it’s garrison of 100 men to flee southwards without a shot being fired and establishing his quarters in a small house in the area known as ‘Fisher-biggins’. Here he awaited news of any of the local gentry coming to the King’s cause. Sadly, very few came, not be-cause they wished to have nothing to do with him, no, they simply thought it best to await developments before they risked everything on what might be a hopeless cause. They were fully aware that Argyll had a force of over 4,000 at his call.

Lieutenant-Colonel Drummond had orders to make all haste and secure the enemy entry to the area, but first he had to deal with the possible hostile garrison at Dunbeath Castle. Once at the castle, Drummond found that the owner, Sir John Sinclair, had already fled south to warn the Earl of Sutherland of the landing, leaving behind a small garrison to defend the castle. The Earl also issued orders for the garrisons of Dunrobin, Skelbo, Skibo and Dornoch castles to be strengthened. On the 17th April, Montrose, himself, arrived at Dunbeath and called upon the castle to yield, but when he found the garrison had no intention of doing so, he ordered Major Whitfield and the Laird of Dalgetty with 100 men, to try and force it’s surrender. Montrose knew he could not waste time in any siege and soon afterwards left to join Drummond and Hurry at the pass of Ord before arriving outside the walls of Dunrobin Castle, which had also closed it’s gates to him. The garrison of Dunrobin had captured an advanced party of Montrose’s men and Montrose demanded their return. The garrison, much to the Marquis’ anger, refused. Again, Montrose had no choice in the matter- as at Dunbeath he could not engage in a siege and so ordered his army southwards. This would be a bitter blow to his plans for it would be unwise to have a hostile garrison to his rear, especially if he were forced to retreat back to the north.

The next day, the Royal army set up camp at a spot called Rhives on the slopes of Ben Bhragie overlooking Colspie, but seeing this area was vulnerable to cavalry attack, shifted camp once more to Gruids, arriving there on the 21rd April. At Cruids, Montrose hoped to meet up with new recruits, for he believed the Mackenzie clan were up in arms in Inverness and close by in the hills to the west the Munros and Rosses, who had indicated that they might join him, but when none arrived he pressed on the Strathoikell and into the narrow valley of Carbisdale. For two days he waited in the valley for the Munros and Rosses It was to be his biggest mistake to wait for them, for Argyll had already set his counter plans in operation.

Argyll’s government had ordered the Scottish commander, David Leslie, to advance and destroy the rebels as quickly as possible, for he well knew that the Highland clans might rise up at Montrose’s call the longer his army remained in the field. General Leslie concentrated his army at Brechin and began to march northwards, where he was joined by a few of the Munros and Rosses. Once Leslie’s army entered Tain, he was met by the Earl of Sutherland and his small army. Also in support of Leslie’s army was the Inverness commander Colonel Strachan, whose force was said to number about 230 cavalry, and a body of infantry. Fully aware of the location of the Royalist’s, Leslie ordered the Earl of Sutherland’s army north over the Domoch Firth, then on to the Kyle of Sutherland, an inlet on the western end of the Firth, in the hope of driving in Montrose’s left flank should he remain in the valley of Carbisdale. The Earl would be in no great hurry to get to grips with the Marquis for he well remembered how he witnessed his men being badly mauled at Auldearn. Strachan was to march up the southern side of the Firth and engage the Royalist in a head on battle, holding them long enough to be joined by the Earl of Sutherland, whereby they would unite and destroy the rising swiftly. Whilst the Earl was busy crossing the Firth, Strachan made his way to Wester Fearn. Opposite the Dun of Criech, arriving there at about three in the afternoon. Here he hid the majority of his cavalry in the tall broom, which covered the majority of the slopes in that area, showing only about a quarter of his number to the north. About three miles away, rose the steep hill of Craigcaoinichean, at the base of which Montrose had pitched his camp, his left flank resting on the Kyle, his rear and right protected by the hills and a wood known as Scroggie Wood. His front was protected by what was described as ‘deep entrenchments and breast-work’. These earth-works must have been substantial for the author C Wishart in his book, The Deeds of Montrose, said they were visible for many years after the battle.

Montrose, knowing that the enemy must be close by, but not knowing in what number, sent out Major Lisle with the cavalry, about forty in all, to ascertain Strachan’s position. Before they had gone far, they had spotted Strachan’s ex-posed cavalry and sent word to Montrose that the enemy numbers were few. This was all the Marquis needed to know and ordered his orcadian infantry, under the command of Colonel Hurry, forward to give support to Lisle’s halted cavalry. Suddenly Strachan let loose a body of 100 cavalry who swiftly rode down the Royalist cavalry and began to make their way towards the startled Orcadians. The ambush had begun.

No sooner had Strachan appeared, than Captain Hackett swiftly followed him with 80 dragoons and Captain Hutchinson’s reserve cavalry. Slowly following these would be the Lawer’s infantry regiment, all eager to avenge their mauling at Auldearn. The Orcadians, seeing their cavalry almost disappear under a flood of enemy horse became panic-stricken, throwing down their arms they fled. To the Orcadians rear, the foreign troops, under Colonel Grey, maintained their composure. These were made of sterner stuff, they knew that to flee in front of disciplined cavalry would mean their complete annihilation and so retired slowly up the slope of the hill and lined the edge of Scroggie Wood. It seemed that the attack was so sudden that the Royal colours, along with a large party of officers, were set upon by Strachan’s horse and slaughtered. The Orcadians, who had never seen a troop of horse, fled in terror past the entrenchments and it is said at least 200 of them attempted to swim the Kyle and all were drowned. The remainder either still attempted their flight to the north or surrendered.

Despite the thickness of Scroggie Wood, Strachan’s men pushed head long into it and came under inaccurate musket fire from the Germans. One of their bullets was said to have struck Strachan ‘upon his belly, bot lighting upone the double of his belte and buffe coate, did not pierce’. It was at this point that treachery showed it’s ugly head when the Munros and Rosses joined in the fight against the foreigners in the wood. They were all too eager to grab their share of any plunder. The Germans and Danes fought gallantly deeper and deeper into the wood, but in the end the need for self-preservation took over and those that were left attempted to flee. History records that the bloodshed in the wood continued for over two hours. Even after the battle ended, the slaughter did not cease, for… ‘ the countrie-men of Rosse and Southerland continued the killing of such as escpaed from the battle many dayes thereafter.’

Montrose, struck with several blows and shot from his horse, was amongst the officers collected around the colours. Amazingly, he was not singled out for slaughter and so, in the confusion, was able to meet up with one of his gallant young officers named Frendraught, who was himself said to have had a couple of wounds, offered Montrose his horse, thus allowing him to escape. Frendraught rendered himself a prisoner after having willingly given away his only means of escape.

Casualties that day were as usual high on the losing side, much of the slaughter being done after the rout. Ten chief officers were slain, Hurry was wounded and captured, along with Colonel Grey. 58 lesser officers were also taken along with 386 common soldiers and two Orkney Ministers. Over 450 were dead, the rest scattered. Strachan’s losses were said to have been very slight by comparison.

Montrose fled the field with several other officers by his side, but knowing that he would be harder to spot on the moors, he soon abandoned his horse at the top of the valley and attempted to make his way north to the garrison at Thurso. With victory secured, the victors were said to have given thanks to God for their happy success and then made preparation to send the prisoners to Tain while they would await the arrival of General Leslie, the Lieutenant-General, who would give the orders for them to be marched to Edinburgh. Some of the prisoners would be held locally and forced to work in the Estate’s tin mines. The King’s standard, which was taken on the field, was put with the baggage and James Graham’s papers and also transported south.

Of course things did not end there, for there was the no small matter of the Royalist units stretching from Dunrobin castle to the garrison at Thurso, not to mention the garrison in the Orkney Islands that had to be dealt with. So whilst Montrose was being led to his death Leslie had dispatched 5 troops of horse, including some from Holburn and the Earl of Sutherland’s regiments. Their first task came when they arrived at the walls of Dunbeath castle. The defenders seeing the enemy approach shut themselves in and refused a call to yield, holding out valiantly for some days until their water supply was cut off, forcing them into surrender. These, like their comrades at Carbisdale, were then marched under escort to Edinburgh. From Dunbeath, the Earl of Sutherland dispatched 300 men under Captain William Gordon to march north to Thurso. At Thurso, the small garrison were warned of Gordon’s approach and swiftly boarded their ship and set sail for Orkney. Fifteen minutes delay would have cost them dear, for it is said that as Gordon entered the town he was able to watch them sail out of the bay. But Orkney, too, would prove to be no place of refuge, for Leslie would soon make plans to cross the Pentland and wreak his vengeance on those still there. Montrose’s Governor Sir William Johnston, made hasty plans to evacuate the islands, taking with him money, Montrose’s papers, and what artillery he could find. His departure was in such haste that he left behind some of his men to fend for themselves. Further proof of his haste came when the Frigate ‘Herderinnan’ struck rocks, the Skerries of Skea, off the island of Westray. The ship, though damaged, was said to have continued on it’s way to safety in Norway, where they were all immediately put under arrest. Those unfortunate enough to have remained behind in Orkney were left to the ‘mercy of Leslie’, but some did manage to evade capture by boarding fishing boats to Shetland and then onto Holland.

Extracted from an article by Stephen Maggs, Miniature Wargames No.197




Battle of Enzheim (Ensheim or Entzheim), (October 4, 1674)


Turenne marching with his troops.


The Battle of Enzheim was fought on 4 October 1674 near Entzheim in present-day Alsace between the French Royal Army under the command of the Vicomte de Turenne on one side and Imperial Army of the Holy Roman Empire on the other side during the Franco-Dutch War. Despite the Holy Roman Empire’s numerical superiority, it ended in a French victory.

A battle fought in the middle of the Dutch War (1672-1678). Strasbourg’s civic leaders capitulated when faced with an Imperial force of 30,000 under Bournonville. Marching to join them was Friedrich-Wilhelm, with 20,000 Brandenburgers. French forces defending Alsace were thus threatened by greatly superior numbers of enemy troops: Turenne had only 25,000 men (including allied English regiments, one led by John Churchill, the future Duke of Marlborough). Turenne decided to attack before his enemies could unite. He force-marched to the Imperial encampment at Enzheim, leaving Bournonville no choice but to accept battle. Turenne deployed his infantry in two lines with some cavalry support, but with most cavalry in a central reserve. Bournonville also placed his infantry in a classic formation of two firing lines, with his left anchored on a large copse. This flank was immediately attacked, and soon uprooted and unhinged by French dragoons infiltrated into the woods. Bournonville countered by advancing his second line and shifting units from his center to his left, and then he sent in his reserve. Turenne followed suit, sending infantry from his center and some of his cavalry reserve into the fight in the woods. Damp weather prevented artillery from playing a significant role in the fight, which played out with muskets and close-order weapons at intimate ranges. The Imperials fell back to prepared field fortifications, which halted any further French advance. As the fight on the flank petered out, Bournonville sent his cavalry to attack the weakened French center. The French infantry formed squares, mostly repulsing repeated Imperial charges. A cavalry-on-cavalry fight ensued, with the Imperial horse finally faltering, then pulling back. That night, the Imperials abandoned their fortifications and encampment, leaving the field to the French. Turenne lost 3,500 men, compared to enemy casualties of about 3,000, but he had won a tactical victory.

Duke of Bournonville, (1616-1690). Imperial general. He fought Turenne in the devastated Palatinate in 1674, capturing Strasbourg without a fight. This led to the Battle of Enzheim (October 4, 1674), which Bournonville lost. The next year, he replaced Montecuccoli upon the latter’s retirement.



Potsdam Giants by Name!


The Potsdam Giants was the Prussian infantry regiment No 6, composed of taller-than-average soldiers. The regiment was founded in 1675 and dissolved in 1806 after the Prussian defeat against Napoleon. Throughout the reign of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I of Prussia (1688–1740) the unit was known as the “Potsdamer Riesengarde” (“giant guard of Potsdam”) in German, but the Prussian population quickly nicknamed them the “Lange Kerls” (“Long guys”).

Frederick William I from the house of Hohenzollern became King of Prussia in 1713.

Charles Darwin wrote that human beings, unlike livestock, had never been forcibly bred for select characteristics, ‘except in the well-known case of the Prussian grenadiers.’ To the amazement of fellow-rulers and trembling subjects alike, the Soldier-King (as Frederick was nicknamed) began to collect giant men as one would collect rare stamps. From all over Prussia he had his agents look for- and oftentimes kidnap- men suffering from gigantism. In striving to create his own personal soldier core of giants, the king instructed his subjects to immediately signal the authorities whenever they should become aware of exceptionally tall men in the vicinity. He also made clear to his political allies that they could keep their gifts of gold for themselves as long as they provided him now and then with fresh giants to fill up his stock. The strange and sinister request dripped down into every segment of Prussian society. Prussian teachers, eager to appease the morbid king, kept an eye out for tall children and promptly handed them over to him when they had the chance. Newborn babies, expected to grow unusually tall, were marked with a bright red scarf for identification purposes.

If someone was unfortunate enough to be over six feet tall and born in the Prussian sphere of influence (which was quite extensive at the time), he would sooner or later be noticed and assigned to the king’s private collection cabinet. Cautious parents, aware of the king’s eccentric cravings, made improvised shelters for their children to hide them from the ever watchful eyes of Frederick’s scouts- who feverishly roamed the land in search of specimens to satisfy his dark avocations. If the collection item-to-be happened to be well-to-do (or of noble descent himself) no expense was spared to acquire him- for the king reserved enormous amounts of cash just for the purchasing of giants. If one had the misfortune of being of modest means or descent, the conduct of the Prussian agents was altogether different: in this case they were given carte blanch to simply abduct the person in question, bring them before the Prussian king to be inspected, stamped with the royal seal and subsequently enslaved. It would sometimes occur that his agents were so eager in carrying out their assignment that their prey would not survive the brutal journey to the Prussian throne. This would always enrage the impatient king, and the agent in question could count on a swift reprimand for his negligence (usually on the unhappy end of a rifle). Some glitches aside, his collection grew steadily- and before long he managed to assemble his giants in a formidable ‘regiment’ which were regularly taken out on display when some befriended tyrant came to visit. But Frederick was not satisfied with merely collecting the giants to impress neighboring monarchs; Frederick took the whole thing to the next level.

Crossbreeding Giants

According to Washington Monthly author David Wallace-Wells, ‘King Frederick’s obsession was more than mere schoolyard eugenics.’ Indeed it was. Frederick was not the man for silly pet projects or idle pleasures. He was a Prussian king and that means thoroughness in absolutely every respect. With an ambition that would put Marie Stopes to shame, he gathered from all over Europe the most impressive ‘samples’ and selected each and every one of them personally before sending them to his sub-level experimentation chambers. The most notorious of these experiments was the stretching of his grenadiers on a specially constructed rack in an attempt to make them taller than they already were. Frederick would sometimes preside over these racking sessions himself while enjoying his lunch at the same time. However absurd and cruel this method, it revealed the king’s unwavering ambitions regarding all things inhumane. One of the first to venture into the world of methodical eugenics, king Frederick encountered the same difficulties as his future counterparts. When it became apparent that this method resulted in the death of the giants instead of gaining even an inch in length, he ended the practice lest he run out of giants. But putting a halt to this racking practice could not prevent the giants from dying in alarming numbers, for many of them sought refuge in suicide. As only a German blueblood could devise, the king forced his rapidly shrinking collection to interbreed with equally tall women so as to build a future army of giants, which would be the envy of Europe’s upper-class. Here he actually attempted to breed a ‘new man’, and it is said that the city of Potsdam, lair of the Hohenzollerns, was littered with unusually tall men at the end of the 18th century as a result. It is sad, this tale of the Potsdam giants. They fell victim to the elite’s bloodthirsty appetite and unwittingly became one of the first to be sacrificed on the altar of eugenics.