The Age of Light-Armed Greek Warrior II

Route of Cyrus the Younger, Xenophon and the Ten Thousand.

Xenophon and the Anabasis

The Greeks also came to realise that hoplite warfare, although well adapted to the peculiar circumstances of fighting within their own country, was not capable by itself of facing circumstances of warfare outside Greece, or even in the lesser-known parts of Greece itself. One of the few mercenary armies about whose composition we have exact information is Xenophon’s Ten Thousand. Xenophon’s Anabasis provides an unparalleled wealth of information on Greek mercenary service overseas in the fourth century, and how mixed continents of Greek hoplites and peltasts worked together. The tactics and fighting methods of the peltasts in the service of Athens and Sparta differed in no way from those of the peltasts on the march of the Ten Thousand.

The Peloponnesian war had produced large numbers of exiles who were forced to hire out as mercenaries, and ten thousand such soldiers found themselves recruited by Cyrus in his bid for the throne of his brother Artaxerxes. Many of Cyrus’ troops had a background in non-traditional combat. Non-hoplites including peltasts, archers, slingers and cavalry made up almost a fifth of Xenophon’s army. Xenophon’s men developed a great proficiency at night marching, and the light-armed enabled them to set up ambushes and pursue a fleeing enemy. On the defensive side, the use of light-armed and peltasts allowed Xenophon’s army to safeguard its routes and protect against ambushes set for them.

Because Xenophon and his men were travelling through unknown territory, one use of ambush was to capture intelligence assets: ‘When the enemy was giving us trouble, we set an ambush. It allowed us for one thing to catch our breath, but besides, we killed a number of them, and we took special pains to get some prisoners for this very purpose – of being able to employ them as guides, men who knew the country.’

We see the intelligence gathering structure of the Ten Thousand very clearly in Xenophon’s Anabasis. After having quartered their troops in local villages, Democrates of Temnus was sent with a body of troops during the night to the mountains. The Greeks had heard that late-arriving stragglers had seen fires, suggesting a Persian presence. Democrates was sent because he had the reputation of having made accurate reports in many similar situations. Intelligence gatherers need to be brave, able to act alone without panicking and be accurate in their assessments. Indeed, Democrates is described as being able to discern what ‘facts were facts’ and what ‘fictions were fictions’.

When Democrates returned, he reported that he had not seen fires, but rather he had captured an intelligence asset – a man with a Persian bow and quiver, and a battle axe of the sort that Amazons carry. When this man was interrogated about where he came from, he replied that he was a Persian and was on his way to the camp of Tiribazus to get provisions. They asked him for information about the size of Tiribazus’ force and for what purpose it had been gathered. The prisoner replied that Tiribazus had his own forces plus Chalybian and Taochian mercenaries, and that he himself had made his preparations with the idea of taking a position at the next mountain pass, which had the only road through which the Greeks could be attacked. Once the generals heard this information, they decided to bring their troops together in one camp. They left a garrison behind under the command of Sophaenetus the Stymphalian and set out at once using the captured asset as a guide. As soon as they crossed the mountains, the peltasts pushed ahead of the hoplites and charged the enemy camp. The Persians were taken by surprise and simply fled. Some were killed, and twenty horsemen were captured as was Tiribazus’ tent with its silver-footed couches, drinking cups and his staff. Once the hoplites heard what had happened, they thought it better to go back to their own camp before it could be set upon by the Persians. They sounded the recall trumpet and went home.

We also see this type of operation when light troops set an ambush and captured ‘some of the stealing rascals who are following us’. From these fellows they learned about passages through the mountains. Knowing the geography was of crucial importance since attacking the Greeks in ravines or when crossing over bridges was a common Persian tactic.

Xenophon planned an operation that depended on taking the enemy by surprise. The mercenaries were faced with an enemy holding a mountain pass. Since the bulk of the mountain was apparently undefended, Xenophon suggested a night attack on an unoccupied section of it as a diversionary tactic. He goes on to say that in his opinion such a tactic would be perfectly feasible, since they would be neither overseen nor overheard.

When faced again with the difficulty that a pass was occupied, this time by the Chalybians, the Greeks mounted a night operation. Xenophon proposed that the mountain tops dominating the pass should be occupied by a separate detachment, which they did at night using hoplites and light-armed. The following day when the Chalybians marched up the road to the pass, the Greeks on the mountain top attacked them by surprise. Most of the Chalybians were blocking the road, but part of them turned to fight the Greeks higher up. The Greek hoplites and light-armed defeated their adversaries and gave chase. Meanwhile, the peltasts, who acted as shock troops, rushed towards the Chalybians in the pass. Normally in this type of ambush, hand-to-hand fighting would ensue, but when the Chalybians saw that their men in the mountains had been defeated they fled, leaving the pass free for the Greeks.

Not only was setting ambushes useful, but the mere faking of an ambush could be effective. As the Greek army descended to Trapezus, a Greek city in Colchian territory on the Black Sea, they were afraid of being pursued by the tribe of the Drilai. They pretended to set an ambush. Ten Cretan archers, commanded by a Mysian, attracted the attention of the enemy by flashing bronze peltai in the sun. The Drilai, thinking this was an ambush, kept at a safe distance. When the Greek army had gotten far enough away, the Mysian received the signal to run with his men at full speed to join them. Although the Mysian himself was wounded running down the road, his companions, who had sought cover in the wood bordering the road, carried him with them. The Cretan archers kept shooting at the enemy from a safe distance and thus reached the safety of the Greek camp.

After a voyage along the coast, the Greeks arrived at Heraclea, a Greek city on the border with Bithynia. Here the army split up. The Arcadians sailed straight to the Greek port of Calpe, disembarked at night and advanced against some Bithynian villages about thirty stadia inland. The Thracian Bithynians were completely taken by surprise and a large number of people were captured along with their cattle. It should be noted that these raids were done by hoplites with Thracian peltasts on the defensive.

While the Greeks were crossing to Europe, they enlisted with Seuthes, king of the Odrysian Thracians. Seuthes had been operating in the territory of the Thynians with a comparatively small army consisting of peltasts and horsemen. He feared a night attack from them, but with the Greek mercenaries he felt he could launch a surprise attack on them instead. At Xenophon’s request, the hoplites marched at the head during the night, followed by the peltasts. Seuthes brought up the rear with his horsemen, instead of riding in front. At daybreak, Seuthes and his horsemen rode out ahead to reconnoitre; he wanted to stop any wayfarers from warning the villagers. The rest of the Greeks waited, and followed the tracks of his horses. Since they found no footsteps in the snow on the mountains, they assumed they were not being tracked. Seuthes launched his surprise attack on the villages over the mountains. The initial surprise attack was successful. The Thynians, however, after being driven from their village, returned at night and attacked the Greeks. They threw javelins inside the houses, tried to break off the points of the Greeks’ spears with clubs, and set the wooden houses on fire. At dawn, the reassembled troops of Seuthes and Xenophon advanced back to the mountains. As the Thynians begged for mercy, it was left to Xenophon to decide whether or not he wished to take revenge on the Thynians for their night attack.

On a number of occasions the decision was made to capture a position by craft rather than by a pitched battle. Xenophon records a jocular exchange where the Spartans are accused of being trained as thieves from childhood, and they in turn accused the Athenians of being thieves of public funds. If the comparison of military trickery to stealing reveals any moral qualms on the part of officers of the Ten Thousand about using such tactics, it never prevented them from using them.

Most of the rules of ambush and surprise remained the same in the fourth century. Weather could still thwart even the best night operation. Such was the case in a night operation planned by Thrasyboulus in 403. He set out with seventy followers from Thebes and occupied the fort at Phyle, a fortress with a commanding position. The Thirty Tyrants set out from Athens to retake the fort, bringing with them 3,000 hoplites and the cavalry. The weather was fine when they set out, but heavy snow fall fell during the night. Thrasyboulos saw it as a direct intervention of the gods on his behalf. The subsequent Athenian retreat was impeded by the snow, and descending from their rocky fortress the exiles inflicted further losses on their opponents, and they captured a large part of the baggage.

Night Marches and Assaults

Night marches and surprise attacks continued to be common in the fourth century. Indeed, it was said that once the Arcadians decided to march somewhere, nothing could prevent them – not nightfall nor storms, nor distance nor even mountains. In 390, an important military event occurred when Iphicrates invaded the territory of Phlius. He set an ambush while plundering the territory with a few followers. The men from the city came out against him in an unguarded way, but he killed so many of them that the Phliasians, who had previously rejected having Spartans within their walls, sent for the Spartans and put the city and the citadel under their protection. Thus a previously democratic Phlius that had displayed both political and military dissidence towards Sparta in the late 390s now remained loyal to Sparta for the rest of the Corinthian war.

In 378, the Thebans, afraid that they would be the only ones at war with Sparta, hatched a plot. Pelopidas set up an ambush as a deception in order to deceive the Spartans into attacking the Athenians. He and Gorgias chose Sphodrias, a Spartan, who was a good soldier but had weak judgement and was full of senseless ambition. They sent to him one of their friends who was a merchant with money, and planted the idea that he should seize Piraeus, attacking it unexpectedly when the Athenians were off their guard. It was set up as a night attack. Sphodrias was persuaded, took his soldiers and invaded Attica by night. Sphodrias underestimated the distance and by dawn found he was only at Eleusis. There, the hearts of his soldiers failed them and his design was exposed. Plutarch says they saw light streaming from certain sanctuaries at Eleusis and were filled with ‘shuddering fear’. Having lost the advantage of surprise, they turned back and abandoning the attack ravaged the countryside a little, then retired ingloriously to Thespiae. This once again illustrates the necessity of using brave men for night missions.

Surprise can be deadly even when it is not planned. In 378, both the Athenians and the Spartans were operating with a contingent of peltasts in their service. The Spartan Cleombrotus marched with his troops to Plataea, taking a different route from the one through Eleutherae, which the Athenian Chabrias was guarding with his peltasts. In the Cithaeron mountains, Cleombrotus’ vanguard, made up of peltasts, came upon a contingent of 150 of Chabrias’ peltasts. The latter were taken completely by surprise and nearly all of them were killed.

Using peltasts is not a silver bullet, nor does it give one a monopoly over the use of surprise. Once a surprise attack is used, your enemies copy your tactics. In the spring of 376, Cleombrotus marched again with an army to Boeotia. Once again his peltasts went ahead to occupy the tops of the Cithaeron mountains overlooking the road. This time, however, the area had already been occupied by the Thebans and the Athenians, who were more alert than Chabrias’ peltasts had been two years before. When Cleombrotus’ peltasts reached the top of the mountains and were at close quarters with the enemy, the latter emerged from the ambush and killed about forty fleeing peltasts. Because of this disaster, Cleombrotus believed it was impossible to enter Boeotia, and therefore turned back without having effected his purpose.

Aeneas Tacticus reports a particularly deadly ambush in 376, in which failure to learn from one set of ambushes caused another set. The Triballi, a tribe from the area of mid-Danubian Thrace, made an inroad into the country of the Abderites and set ambushes, then started raiding the country around the city. The Abderites held them in contempt because of previous successful operations against them and made a hasty attack from the city with great force and eagerness. But the Triballi drew them into the ambushes. On that particular occasion, it is said that more men perished in a shorter time than had ever been the case, at least from a single city of similar size. The others, not having learned of the destruction of their compatriots who went out first, rushed to the rescue, cheering each other on, but fell into the same ambushes until the city was bereft of men.

Xenophon reports a night march with a double layer of secrecy in 371, during the truce brokered by Jason of Pherae after the Battle of Leuctra. When news had been brought of the truce between Sparta and Thebes, the polemarchs announced to their men that they should all be packed up after dinner because they intended to set out during the night in order to ascend Mt Cithaeron at dawn. Right after the men finished dinner, however, and before they could take any rest, the polemarch ordered them to set out, and as soon as it was dusk they led them away, taking the road through Creusis, because they were relying more on secrecy than on the truce. They proceeded with very great difficulty because they were withdrawing at night, in fear, and by a hard road, but arrived at Aegosthena in the territory of Megara.

In 370, relations between Orchomenus and Mantineia were strained. Sparta supported Orchomenus and dispatched Polytropus as general to Arcadia with 1,000 citizen hoplites and 500 Argive and Boeotian refugees. Agesilaus waited for Polytropus to join him with his mercenaries. The Arcadians marched against them and Polytropus fought off the attackers but perished in the fight. Diodorus estimated the number dead at 200. If horsemen from Phlius had not arrived just in time to stop the Mantineans from pursuing them, many of the mercenaries would also have been killed. Agesilaus thought the mercenaries would not join him now that they had been defeated, so he marched on Mantinea without them. Armies were sometimes easily surprised even by their own allies. A few days later, after a night movement, the horsemen from Phlius and the mercenaries who had slipped past Mantinea appeared in the Spartan camp early in the morning, causing great confusion at first because the Spartans thought they were the enemy.

In 370, the Thebans invaded Laconia. They crossed the Eurotas river by Amyclae and after four days the Thebans and Eleians advanced in full force along with the cavalry from the Phocians, Thessalians and Locrians who were serving in this expedition. Although the Spartan cavalry formed against them, they were very few in number. To help counter this imbalance, however, the Spartans had set an ambush with about 300 of the younger hoplites, which they hid in the Temple of the Sons of Tyndareus (The Dioscuri). When the Spartan cavalry charged, these men too sprang their attack and forced the enemy back. Eventually, the Thebans decided not to make another assault on the city, so departed on the road to Helos and then Gytheium, where the Spartans had their dockyards. The ambush gave the Spartans enough of an edge to achieve their objective of saving the city.

Night operations became a necessity in 366 during the Theban invasion of Phlius. The Phliasians survived by buying supplies from the Corinthians. But they had to provide a military escort for those who had to pass through enemy lines to get the supplies. While Chares was in Phlius, they asked him to convey their non-combatants (proxenoi) into Pellene. Having left the men at Pellene, they then went to the market, made their purchases and loaded up as many of the animals as they could, and departed by night trying in this way to avoid ambush by the enemy. Xenophon praises their endurance and patience, and admires them for pulling off this dangerous night operation to bring supplies to their hard-pressed city.

Another night attack in 362 is related by several ancient historians. Two groups of Arcadians came to blows, each side sent for outside help. The Tegeans called in the Thebans under Epaminondas, and the Mantineans sought help from both Athens and Sparta. Epaminondas was advancing with his army not far from Mantinea when he learned from local inhabitants that the entire Spartan force was plundering the territory of Tegea. Supposing that Sparta was stripped of soldiers, Epaminondas planned a night attack and set out towards the city. He ordered his troops to take their supper at an early hour, and a little after nightfall led them out straight to Sparta.

The Spartan king Agesilaus, however, anticipating the cunning of Epaminondas (Diodorus) or being informed by a deserter (Polybius), made preparations for a defence. He sent out some Cretan runners and got word to the men he had left behind that the Boeotians would shortly appear in Sparta to sack the city. They should not fear because he himself would come as quickly as possible with his army to bring aid to them. According to Diodorus, Epaminondas set out at night and took the city (Sparta) at daybreak. Polybius says he took the city by surprise. Epaminondas was disappointed in his hope, but after breakfasting on the banks of the Eurotas and refreshing his troops after their hard march he continued on to Mantinea, which would be left without defenders because the Spartans had run home to defend their city. He once again organised a night march and reached Mantinea about midday and found it undefended.

This is an interesting story because Diodorus and Polybius have Epaminondas shown attacking at night. This is in contrast to Polyaenus, where Epaminondas is portrayed as cultivating a reputation for never attacking before sunrise. It is thus difficult to appraise the historical value of the stratagem, because the only attested example in the historians of Epaminondas’ activity by night in the Peloponnesus is his march to Sparta.

Assaults and Escapes from Walled Cities

Assaults and escapes from walled cities were already an important part of warfare at the end of the Peloponnesian war. There are numerous examples of deceptions and tricks, in particular in the assaults on cities, where peltasts were used to great advantage. Much activity, therefore, was expended in the fourth century assaulting cities, or gaining access by stealth.

Storming towns at night was often a successful tactic. In 408, King Agis of Sparta was in Decelea with his army when he learned that the best Athenian troops were engaged in an expedition with Alcibiades. He led his army on a moonless night to Athens with 28,000 infantry, one-half of whom were picked hoplites and the rest were light-armed troops. There were also attached to his army some 1,200 cavalry, of whom the Boeotians furnished 900 and the rest had been sent with him by the Peloponnesians. As he drew near the city, he came upon the outposts before they were aware of him and easily dispersed them because they were taken by surprise. He slew a few and pursued the rest within the walls.

In 405, Diodorus claims Dionysius of Syracuse covered a distance of 400 stades and arrived at the gates of Achradine in the middle of the night with 100 cavalry and 600 infantry. Finding the gate closed, he piled upon it reeds brought from the marshes and burned the gates. His troops entered the town and captured the cavalry trying to defend the city. They were gathered in the marketplace, surrounded and cut down. Then Dionysius rode through the city slaughtering anyone who resisted.

Later in 404, Dionysius of Syracuse treated with humanity the exiles who returned, wishing to encourage the rest to return to their native land too. To the Campanians, he awarded the gifts that were due and then dispatched them from the city, having regard to their fickleness. These made their way to Entella and persuaded the men of the city to receive them as fellow inhabitants, then they fell upon them at night, slew the men of military age, married the wives of the men with whom they had broken faith and possessed themselves of the city.

From the same book of Diodorus we have an example of gates being opened by treachery in 395 at Heraclea. Medius, the lord of Larissa in Thessaly, was at war with Lycophron, tyrant of Pherae. After getting reinforcements of Boeotians and Argives, Medius seized Pharsalus where there was a garrison of Spartans; he sold the inhabitants as booty. After this, the Boeotians and Argives parted company with Medius. They seized Heraclea in Trachis, and on being let in at night within the walls by sympathisers they put to the sword the Spartans whom they seized, but they allowed the other Peloponnesian allies to leave with their possessions, no doubt in an attempt to weaken the Spartan alliance.

Plutarch, in his Life of Pelopidas, reports a plot from 379 when Thebes was garrisoned by the Spartans, to open city gates and stage a surprise attack. The Theban exiles took twelve men disguised as hunters, in short cloaks and leading hunting dogs. They entered the city at different points during the day. The weather changed to wind and snow. They made their way to the house of Charon, where they were changing into their armour when a messenger came from the polemarchs summoning Charon. At first, they thought they had been discovered. While the storm continued, a messenger from the Athenians brought a letter with details of the plot to Archias (the polemarch?). Instead of reading it, Archias, who was drunk, put it under his pillow and went to sleep. When the time came for the attack, the exiles went out in two bands, one under Pelopidas and one under Charon. They broke into various houses and killed leaders, raided shops for arms and at the break of day had control of the city without ever having engaged the 1,500-man garrison. Even Plutarch says that it was not easy to name a case where such a small number of men, so destitute, have overcome enemies so numerous and powerful. The subsequent political change was momentous. This is a clear of example of ambush as a force multiplier.

Mercenary service in Sicily found its high point under tyrants such as Dionysius of Syracuse. We see him using them during the siege of the Siceli at Tauromenium. Dionysius took advantage of the winter storms when the area about the acropolis was filled with snow. He discovered that the Siceli were careless in their guard of the acropolis because of its strength and the unusual height of the wall, so he advanced on a moonless and stormy night against the highest sectors. After many difficulties, both because of the obstacles offered by the crags and because of the great depth of the snow, he occupied one peak, although his face was frosted and his vision impaired by the cold. Still he was able to break through to the other side and lead his army into the city. The attempt, however, still did not work. The Siceli stormed out against him and pushed out the troops of Dionysius. Dionysius himself was struck on the corselet in the flight, sent scrambling and barely escaped being taken alive. Since the Siceli pressed upon them from superior ground, more than 600 of Dionysius’ troops were slain and most of them lost their complete armour, while Dionysius himself saved only his corselet. After this disorder, the Acragantini and Messenians banished the partisans of Dionysius, asserted their freedom and renounced their alliance with the tyrant.

Diodorus reports that in 397, when Dionysius was besieging the Motyans, he made it a practice to sound the trumpet towards evening for the recall of his troops and break off the siege. So once he had accustomed the Motyans to this practice, the combatants on both sides retired as usual. He dispatched Archylus of Thurii with the élite troops, who waited until nightfall then placed ladders against the fallen houses. Using these to mount the walls, they seized an advantageous spot, where they admitted Dionysius’ troops. When the Motyans realised what was taking place, they rushed with all eagerness to the rescue, but they were too late. They fought fiercely but, in the end, the Sicilian Greeks wore down their opponents by the weight of their numbers.

In Rhegium in 393, the Carthaginians fled into the city after a loss of more than 800 men, while Dionysius withdrew for the time being to Syracuse; but after a few days he manned 100 triremes and set out against the Rhegians. Arriving unexpectedly by night before the city, he put fire to the gates and set ladders against the walls.

At Corinth in 392, Praxitas, the commander of a Spartan mora garrisoned at Sicyon, entered the long walls that connected Corinth to its port at Lechaeum, through a gate opened by the two Corinthian defectors, and he established a palisaded camp as they waited for reinforcements. On the second day, the Argives arrived in full strength along with the mercenaries under Iphicrates. Although outnumbered, the Spartans fought bravely, and then followed their victory with the taking of Lechaeum.

From Egypt in 362/1 we have the story of a night escape from a city. Having lost many men in their attack on the walls, the Egyptians then began to surround the city with a wall and a ditch, shutting in Agesilaus and his men. As the work was rapidly nearing completion by reason of the large number of workers, and the provisions in the city were exhausted, Tachos despaired of his safety, but Agesilaus, encouraging the men and attacking the enemy at night, unexpectedly succeeded in bringing all the men out safely.

Similarly, Diodorus reports an attack on the walls of Syracuse in 356/5. Nypsius, the commander of the mercenaries, wishing to renew the battle and retrieve the defeat with his army, which had been marshalled, during the night unexpectedly attacked the wall that had been constructed. And, finding that the guards had fallen asleep in a drunken stupor, he placed the ladders that had been constructed in case they were needed against the wall. The bravest of the mercenaries climbed on the wall with these, slaughtered the guards and opened the gates.

Another unsuccessful assault on a siege wall occurred in 357/6. Dionysius plied his mercenaries with strong wine and sent them on a dash against the siege wall around the acropolis. The attack was unexpected, and the barbarians, with great boldness and loud tumult, began to tear down the cross-wall and attack the Syracusans, so that no one dared to stand on the defensive, except the mercenaries of Dion, who first noticed the disturbance and came to the rescue.

Warfare in the Fourth Century

Despite the anecdotal form of many of our sources, we can see that warfare had changed in the fourth century. As G. T. Griffith pointed out many decades ago, it is not easy to imagine a time when soldiers were not a special class of men who made fighting their profession. The Greeks of the fifth century had no need for professional soldiers. The payment of a wage to fighting men ran contrary to the ideology of the citizen-soldier, i.e. hoplites. They were recruited from a class of men who could arm themselves and fight at their own expense. When Greek cities went to war, every man did what he could. As wars increased in number and intensity, however, the professionalisation of warfare followed. Thucydides writes that before the Peloponnesian war the Athenians devoted their bodies to their country. Later, patriotic enthusiasm would decrease and fighting was left to professional soldiers who received wages.

The use of public finance to pay soldiers transformed warfare by making it possible to mobilise more manpower for longer periods of time and so wage war on land and at sea with an intensity and persistence that had not been feasible in earlier generations. Military service became less and less remunerative especially because of the steep increase in the cost of living in the fourth century. From then on, wages had to be complemented with booty.

Athens had used mercenaries during the greater part of the fourth century and used them more freely than any other Greek city-state. Yet the Greeks were conscious of the incompatibility of their autonomy and the presence of foreign troops in a polis.

The rise of Hellenistic monarchies, combined with a large supply of mercenary soldiers available, meant that professionals and the techniques of war that they could bring with them would be many and varied. Battle became much more costly as the spirit of competition gave way to the desire for complete destruction. Wars were now made up of raids, commando attacks and guerrilla warfare whose heroes were peltasts and these techniques came to rival open combat.

There were always those who waxed poetic about the ‘fair and open battle’ of the past. Xenophon, in the Cyropaedia, has a character urge an attack upon a small and vulnerable group of enemy soldiers. Cyrus overruled him and said it would be better to wait for them all to assemble. If less than half of them are defeated, they will say the Greeks attacked because they feared to face the great mass of the enemy. If they do not feel defeated, there will be another battle. But is this really the Greek attitude towards fair play in war or a just nostalgic remembrance of times past when hoplite armies gathered their full forces on a plain, almost as if by appointment? Or, one might ask, what happened when the Greeks were faced with opponents who did not recognise the ‘rules of the game’? As the Athenians expanded their empire overseas, they found themselves fighting more frequently, in unfamiliar terrain as longer conflicts replaced seasonal and occasional clashes. Professionalism spurred on by the increase in scale, occurrence and duration of conflicts rendered operations more technical. Diversity of terrain favoured a new emphasis on cavalry and light infantry. It became necessary to co-ordinate different types of armed contingents and this made battles more complex than the head-on collisions of phalanxes. Mercenaries with professional skills, often recruited from non-Greeks, supplemented or replaced citizen levies. Generals did not just lead a charge; they had to out-think as well as out-fight the enemy.

Using light-armed troops and mercenaries for ambush was one of the strategies the Greeks adopted. As Griffith points out: ‘The mercenaries of the fourth century became standardised to a type, the type evolved by Iphicrates, i.e. the Iphicratean peltast.’ He believed they became so widespread that actual Thracians were driven from the market. There appears to be no mention by ancient authors of Thracian peltasts in the seventy years before Alexander. Griffith suggests that their disappearance was due to the improved Greek peltast.

Thus, when new circumstances arose, they demanded new experiments from the inventiveness of the Greeks. The Greeks had learned to make an efficient army suitable for service in other lands. Hoplites had to be supported by good light-armed troops and, if possible, by cavalry. The first half of the fourth century developed the military art along these lines, and the Greek hoplite force, in conjunction with these new groups using the tactics of surprise, speed and ambush, became one of the most effective military forces.

Fourth-century authors speak of deception, surprise and ambush constantly. It is clear from the works of Aeneas Tacticus that ambush was always considered a dangerous possibility. Aeneas assumes that ambushes will be a danger, and he recommends that defenders set their own ambushes. He tells a cautionary tale about how some officials used the citizens’ desire to ambush the enemy to bring in mercenaries and take over the city. He even recommends that defenders attack the invaders when they are drunk or when they are preparing dinner. He gives examples of disinformation leaked successfully to the enemy and anecdotes about tricks used to capture cities. He gives detailed instructions on how an army should sally from a town when enemy troops were in the surrounding area. He instructs that hoplites should leave town in separate formations in marching order since, if unordered groups leave in succession, there was a danger that each group would fall into an enemy ambush. Aeneas recommends that to avoid ambushes the available horsemen and light-armed precede the hoplites in order to reconnoitre and occupy the dominating positions in the area, so that the hoplites can be informed of the enemy’s movements in good time and hence avoid unexpected disasters.

Xenophon gives exactly the same advice about troop order. Both Aeneas and Xenophon were generals with extensive field experience. They were basing their advice on practice. It is not difficult to find examples. We see this when Agesilaus’ horsemen, during his campaign in Asia Minor, were riding to a hill in order to survey the terrain and they unexpectedly came upon Persian horsemen. With the order by which the horsemen and peltasts marched ahead followed by the hoplites, it is obvious that the peltasts and horsemen were always the first to engage with the enemy. Another example of this marching order can be seen in Xenophon’s Anabasis. His troops are in the territory of the Thracian enemies; in front of them are the Bithynians. He sends horsemen ahead and orders the peltasts to the hill tops and ridges. The practice at the end of the fifth century seems to have been the same as the fourth century, when Aeneas Tacticus was writing (c.360–350). Xenophon and Aeneas Tacticus have so much in common that classicist David Whitehead plausibly suggests that the two men knew each other and spoke together. The Greeks in Xenophon’s day considered deceiving enemies normal behaviour. Certainly, surprise attacks and ambush came under this heading. The Greeks were still using animal metaphors for ambush as they had in the Iliad. When Xenophon talks about men who deceive the enemy, he compares it to using decoy birds to lure birds into an ambush.

Fourth-century commanders such as Agesilaus became admired by later writers. Most of Frontinus’ examples are Roman, but among the Greeks he mentions one Spartan figure prominently. Of the twenty-one stratagems he cites, nine are attributed to Agesilaus. Polyaenus goes even further. For him Agesilaus was the central character and his thirty-three exempla extend over his entire career as a general.

Scholars like to point out that light-armed troops did not play a decisive part in any battle on Greek soil, except in two cases during the Peloponnesian war where hoplites were caught on ground unsuited to their formation and their tactics. This misses the point, however, that having light-armed troops made it easier to set up ambushes, spring surprise attacks at night or dawn and fall upon hoplites when they least expected it and were ill-prepared. The fact that hoplites themselves were lightening their armour suggests that they saw the changing conditions of warfare as the fifth century progressed.

Whatever sneering may have been done against light-armed troops before or during the Peloponnesian war, it soon became clear to commanders of Greek armies serving abroad in the fourth century that they could not reply solely upon heavily armed hoplite troops. Hoplites need the support of effective bodies of men whose armour rendered them more mobile. The demand for various types of light-armed soldiers had become greater as the Peloponnesian war progressed, and in the fourth century this need got greater as Greeks fought overseas against native troops skilled in these ways of fighting. Archers, javelin men, slingers and, above all, peltasts were found to be necessary. The predominance of a solely hoplite army was gone. The fourth-century Greek army had been remade as a co-operative effort by trained hoplites, peltasts and cavalry, many of them mercenaries and all obedient to a general.

G. B. Grundy was correct when he warned against reading into the fourth century a wholescale racial decay, physical and intellectual, and perhaps we might add moral because of the types of warfare used. Many writers believe the fourth century saw a ‘change in the ethos of warfare’, i.e. a moral decay. What we are seeing rather are military changes that reflect the reality of warfare in an age of overseas warfare, increased professionalism in the armies, the development of new fighting techniques, the development of a new leadership and the ability of the Greeks to divorce themselves from the hoplite paradigm. These were all brought changes to Greek warfare, but we can discuss them without suggesting that their world had become degenerate.

The idea that cleverness in warfare is ‘a luxury’ may be an opinion held by armchair historians, but not by generals in the field. Such attitudes are often attributed to great commanders such as Agesilaus and Alexander, but the fact remains that these commanders were expert military tricksters. Moralisers could continue to claim that victory by guile was no victory at all, but when an ambush killed all its targets the dead were very much defeated. A pass taken, information gained, an enemy surprised and defeated were all good things for both the general and the men in the field.

The War in the Forest I

Military historian Douglas Edward Leach has called 1689 the “year of the great divide, marking as it does the beginning of a series of four major wars whose outcome would shape the whole future of North America.” That year saw the start of the titanic struggle between predominantly Protestant Britain and Catholic France that lasted for seven bitter decades. In America, the long series of skirmishes, pitched battles, and anxious truces would be popularly remembered as the French and Indian Wars, a name implying that the Indians were pawns of their European allies.

They were not. Caught between two warring nations whose customs were equally incomprehensible to them, the North American natives were again and again forced to pick sides. Some tribes chose to fight with the French, and some with the English, but all the tribes fought for their own best interests as they saw them. And although the war was a clash between European rivals, Indians were in it from the first; in fact, the war actually began in America in 1688, while Europe was at peace and England still had a Catholic king.

Although it had at first been sluggish in colonizing the New World, by the 1680s France had established strong bases in Montreal, Port Royal, and Quebec. The British had forestalled French expansion north of Quebec by opening a trading post at Hudson Bay in 1670, but the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers gave France access to the immense reaches of land in the interior of the continent. The English had a long Atlantic coastline, but the French meant to see that their ancient rivals stayed behind the Appalachian mountain barrier.

The English, in turn, were ever on guard against French encirclement, and none was more vigilant than the autocratic Sir Edmund Andros, who as New York’s governor had persuaded the Mohawks to side with his English settlers during King Philip’s War. James II of England had appointed Andros governor of all the northern colonies from New Jersey to Maine, with orders to prevent any French encroachments. This Andros did with hawkish efficiency.

In April 1688, he moved north with a company of soldiers to Penobscot Bay, where Frenchman Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, baron de Saint-Castin kept a trading post at what is now Castine, Maine. Saint-Castin had established his post on land Andros felt had been granted to the duke of York and had gotten rich from the fur trade. He had married the daughter of a chief and was well loved by members of the Abnaki confederacy of eastern Indians. As an observer wrote in 1684, they were the “most powerfull, politick, warlike and numerous nation of Indians since the Narragansetts are broken, and influence and steer all others that inhabit the English Plantations or Colonies.”

The Abnakis were furious when Andros and his men descended on their friend Saint-Castin’s trading post, plundered his home, and demanded his submission to James II. When, a little later, English settlers at Saco, Maine, seized sixteen Indians in retaliation for the killing of some cattle at nearby North Yarmouth, the natives responded by capturing as many settlers as they could lay hands on.

In September, the nervous English began erecting fortified stockades at North Yarmouth. Having received a report that a large number of natives were approaching, the soldiers fled, only to stumble onto the party of Indians, who had brought a number of English captives along, evidently for the purpose of negotiating a settlement of their grievances. Although nobody wanted a fight, the English tried to free the captives, and in the scuffling “one Sturdy and Surly Indian,” as the indefatigable Puritan chronicler Cotton Mather described him, “held his prey so fast, that one Benedict Pulcifer gave the Mastiff a Blow with the Edge of his Broad Ax upon the Shoulder, upon which they fell to’t with a Vengeance, and Fired their Guns on both sides, till some on both sides were Slain.” In this manner, Mather said, “the Vein of New-England first opened, that afterwards Bled for Ten years together!” Blood had been spilled, however blindly and unnecessarily; by the values of both Indians and settlers, blood spilled had to be avenged.

The Indians attacked the outlying settlements, burned, killed, captured, and plundered. With the onset of winter, they withdrew into the woods. Governor Andros arrived on the scene with 1,000 men in November and built forts at Pemaquid and what is now Brunswick. But, as Mather noted in disgust, Andros’s men killed no Indians until the spring, when Andros returned to Boston, where he was promptly deposed in the backwash of a Protestant revolt in England that dethroned the Catholic king James II. Andros went home to Britain, and the war whose opening moves he had managed continued without him under the name of King William’s War, after the new English monarch.

Meanwhile, France sought to bolster its situation in America by appointing a vigorous governor for New France. The choice was Louis de Buade, comte de Frontenac, a tough old soldier and a good one (he had been made a brigadier general at the age of twenty-seven). Frontenac had been governor once before, in 1672 – court gossip said he had gotten the job because he became too intimate with the king’s favorite mistress. He had handled his duties with energy and skill, but he was quarrelsome and overbearing and in ten years made himself so thoroughly unpopular that he had been recalled. Now, however, the situation demanded Frontenac’s knowledgeable toughness, and the French king reappointed the seventy-year-old autocrat.

Frontenac set sail from France armed with an ambitious battle plan: to invade the English colonies through Lake Champlain and Lake George to Albany, where, after concluding an alliance with the Iroquois, he was to move down the Hudson and with the help of a French fleet capture New York. But the old commander never got the chance to put this grand design into operation.

When he arrived at Quebec, Frontenac found the colony stunned by a savage Iroquois attack that had devastated the settlement of Lachine, six miles upriver from Montreal, during the night of July 25-26. The settlers, taken in their beds, had had no time to resist; the Indians killed 200 of them immediately and took another 120 prisoner. The ferocity of the attack was typical of the Iroquois. When Jacques Bruyas, the French missionary to the Iroquois, told his charges that all their desires would be satisfied in heaven, they badgered him with “impertinent questions as that they would not believe that there were no wars in heaven; if one would meet human beings there and if there one would be looking for scalp locks.” Bruyas deplored their “passion to kill,” so that “they are willing to travel 300 leagues to have the opportunity of taking a scalp lock.”

Demoralized by so ruthless an enemy, the French had abandoned their fort at Cataraqui on Lake Ontario. Frontenac, far from being able to send a campaign roaring down the Hudson Valley, had to content himself with small-scale sallies against English settlements on the frontier, a strategy he called la petite guerre – which we would call guerrilla warfare. To fight his “little war,” Frontenac began to forge such Indian allies as he had into efficient units that attacked under the direction of French officers.

In the meantime, the English continued to have their share of Indian trouble. After Andros’s departure from Maine, the Indians continued their assaults on outlying settlements and then mounted a major expedition against Dover, New Hampshire. There they killed thirty English, among them the trader Major Richard Waldron, an old enemy from King Philip’s War. Local Indians of the Pennacook, Ossipee, and Pigwacket tribes attacked the seventy-five-year-old patriarch. While he lay dying, they cut off his fingers, one by one, asking him mockingly whether his fist, which he had often put onto the scales as a makeweight against their furs, would weigh a pound now. Then they took turns slashing his chest, saying, “See! I cross out my account.”

The Indians maintained the pressure on the frontier throughout the summer until finally the English abandoned all their posts east of Falmouth (present-day Portland). The general court at Boston sent 600 soldiers north to help secure the frontier, but the expedition accomplished little more than Andros had the year before.

Then, as winter came on, Frontenac, with characteristic energy, decided to add to the English miseries with a three-pronged attack on Albany and the borders of New Hampshire and Maine. The Albany party, composed of 160 Canadians and 100 Indians, set off from Montreal early in 1690. In arctic weather, they struggled down Lake Champlain to the frozen southern tip of Lake George, then took to the woods. By the time, the French and Indians reached the Hudson, they decided that Albany was too difficult a prize and instead chose to attack the closer settlement of Schenectady. Even so, they had a dreadful march through half-frozen swampland before they got within striking distance on the afternoon of February 8. They waited until dark and then approached the village, where, to their astonishment, they found the open gates guarded only by two snowmen.

The party swept into the sleeping town and for two hours hacked men, women, and children to pieces. When the carnage ended, sixty villagers were dead. “No pen can write, and no tongue express,” said one contemporary, “the cruelties that were committed.”

Frontenac’s other two blows fell with equal strength, at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, where thirty-four died, and in mid-May at Falmouth, where hundreds of Abnaki Indians joined the French in an attack on Fort Loyal. After a stiff defense, the commander of the fort surrendered on the promise that the garrison would not be harmed, then marched out to see 100 English murdered by the Indians.

By the time Fort Loyal fell, the English colonies had managed to mount a counterattack in the form of a naval assault on Port Royal in Acadia under the command of Sir William Phips. A curious figure, Phips was the twenty-first child of a Massachusetts farming family and had made his fortune by recovering a huge treasure from a Spanish ship sunk in the Bahamas. His flotilla of fourteen vessels easily took Port Royal, and Phips went home a hero, whereupon he was immediately given command of a far larger expedition against Quebec. He got the fleet there, but then the operation fell apart. The English could not dislodge the French defenders – who commented in journals that they were watching the bumblings of a bunch of amateurs – and in November, with smallpox spreading among his men, Phips went home. Fortunately for him, the authorities chose to blame the debacle on the “awful frown of God” rather than on any possible mismanagement by Phips.

The English did better the next year with a land campaign against the Maine frontier, in which Massachusetts enlisted the indestructible Benjamin Church. This old warrior had grown quite fat in the fifteen years since he brought down King Philip, but like Frontenac, he retained his vigor and his military judgment. Arriving in Saco with 300 soldiers in September 1691, Church harried the Indians so effectively that most of them retired inland. Although his men fought no decisive battles, they shook their opponents badly. In October, several Abnaki sachems sued for a truce, and on November 29, they signed a document by which they agreed to bring in all English captives, warn the English about French plots, and do them no harm until May 1, 1692.

Whatever relief the treaty gave the weary, frightened settlers did not last long. On February 5, 1692, Indians and Canadians fell upon the town of York in Maine, killed forty-eight inhabitants, and took about seventy prisoners. From this fresh beginning, the savage dialogue of raid and counterraid, deception, and bad faith continued for years. New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts all suffered as the Indians burned towns and butchered settlers with a sort of ghastly monotony, which the great nineteenth-century historian Francis Parkman described as “a weary detail of the murder of one, two, three or more men, women or children, waylaid in fields, woods and lonely roads, or surprised in solitary cabins.”

On March 15, 1697, a party of Abnakis struck the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts, in a raid different from a score of others only because it marked the beginning of the extraordinary saga of a farm woman named Hannah Dustin. Mrs. Dustin’s eighth child had been born the week before, and she was resting in her house when the attack came. Her husband, who was working in the fields nearby, told his children to run to a fortified house and then tried to fight his way through to his wife. He failed, and the natives carried off Mrs. Dustin, her baby, and the nurse who was caring for them.

As the Indians escaped with their captives silently through the forest, the infant began to cry, and in a cruel but characteristic response, a warrior grabbed the child and smashed its head against a tree. A little later, the Indians killed some of the captives and divided up the rest amongst themselves, Mrs. Dustin and the nurse were handed over to a group of two warriors, three women, and seven children. This party led them north through the woods for more than a month. The Indians, who were Catholic, paused twice a day to say their rosaries.

At last, on the night of March 29, Mrs. Dustin and the nurse rose silently from the campfire, got hold of hatchets, and set about murdering their sleeping captors. They killed all but two, an old woman and a boy who fled into the forest. Mrs. Dustin must have been an extremely practical woman: Massachusetts was offering a bounty on dead Indians, and so, despite her six-week ordeal and the horror of the recent butchery, she carefully scalped all her victims. Then she and the nurse made their way home to Haverhill, where Mrs. Dustin found that her husband and children had also survived the raid. Massachusetts gave her £25 for her night’s work.

Though the European end of the war between France and England wound down with the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick in September 1697, in the colonies, spasms of frontier violence continued. Part of the reason for the continuing hostilities was the English colonists’ very real horror of their opponents. In the Puritan cosmology, civilized Europeans and barbarous Indians represented opposite and antagonistic poles. Thus, to see Frenchmen not only living the life of the native warrior, but united with him in some sort of spiritual brotherhood, appalled and bewildered the English. Cotton Mather, in Decennium Luctuosum (Woeful Decade), his account of the war, speaks grimly of the “Half Indianized French, and Half Frenchified Indians.” The terror and awe that these mixed parties inspired is clearly shown in the way individual accounts of English captives dominate Mather’s narrative. Writing of the ordeal of one woman taken by the Indians, Mather intoned: “Read these passages without Relenting Bowels, thou thyself art as really Petrified as the man at Villa Ludovisia (an Italian statue). . . . I know not, reader, whether you will be moved to tears by this narrative; I know I could not write it without weeping.”

In 1702, Europe began to fight anew, and the deadly raids in the colonies turned back into a full-scale war, named this time after Queen Anne, who had just taken the throne upon William’s death. As before, New England bore the brunt in America. (New York escaped the worst horrors because of the protection provided by its Iroquois subjects – as New Yorkers referred to the Indians when they were out of earshot – or allies, a nicety of phrasing employed during negotiations.)

The worldly, power-loving Joseph Dudley, Massachusetts’s new governor, had been made responsible for keeping peace with the Abnakis, which he did in schizophrenic fashion, alternately wooing and scorning them. At a conference in Casco, Maine, he claimed to have 1,250 men under arms and compared the Indians to wolves, able to disturb men but not capable of doing any real harm. “I value them not,” he said, “no more than the paring of my nails,” Then, changing his tune, he announced that several chiefs among the Indian delegations “are fit to be made Officers to bear commission from the Queen of England, to bear Rule among you, who shall be my Officers, and shall be Rewarded from time to time. . . .” Several of the Indian leaders declared that they would resist the overtures of the French, but the meeting broke up with the peace still fragile.

Then in August 1703, a party of Englishmen plundered the house of Saint-Castin’s son, an Abnaki chief. Enraged by this affront, the Indians responded. Less than six weeks after Dudley’s peace conference, 200 miles of New England frontier were in flames.

Despite his boasts, the best Dudley could do was to field an army of 360 men, which advanced as far as Saco, with the Indian forces melting away before it unharmed while the raids continued unabated. To the staggered colonists, it all seemed a repetition of King William’s War. Indeed, many of the same towns suffered, among them Deerfield, Massachusetts, the northernmost settlement of the string of villages along the Connecticut River.

Deerfield had already had its share of grief. Almost wiped out during King Philip’s War and badly mauled during King William’s, by the winter of 1704, the community had recovered and become a prosperous village of forty-one houses and some 270 people.

Remembering the past, the townspeople had posted a sentry, but he was either asleep or absent on the last night of February 1704, when a party of fifty French and 200 Abnakis and Caughnawagas trudged toward the village through deep snow. They attacked two hours before dawn and killed many settlers in their beds. But some villagers, awakened by the screams and shouting, fought back. The militia sergeant, Benoni Stebbins, had time to order his seven men to barricade the windows of his house, which had been otherwise bulletproofed by means of brick walls. The militiamen drove off an attack of about fifty Indians, and though Stebbins died at the window where he had posted himself, his house withstood the onslaught. Most of the villagers, however, thrown into panic by the whooping death that had come on them out of the night, died or were captured. By dawn, the fighting had ended, leaving some fifty settlers dead and more than 100 prisoners.

The French and Indians bullied their captives north along the forest trails toward Canada. Among the survivors of the brutal trek was John Williams, a Deerfield clergyman whose immensely popular account of his sufferings, Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion, kept alive the memory of the Deerfield raid long after similar atrocities had been forgotten. His wife, who had just borne a child, was too weak to keep up with the rest of the party. When Williams tried to help her, the Indians drove him away, and they killed her a little later when she flagged trying to cross an icy river. But another Indian carried Williams’s daughter Eunice nearly every step of the 300-mile journey. Eventually, the French ransomed most of the prisoners, but Eunice Williams never came home. Adopted by the Caughnawagas, she married the warrior who had saved her life. Years later, she visited her one-time neighbors in Deerfield, but the gulf had grown too wide, and she returned to the forest.

The news of the Deerfield raid brought Benjamin Church stamping into Boston, furiously demanding that Dudley give him a force to lead against Acadia. By this time, Church was so old that he had to have a soldier walking beside him to help him over fallen logs along the line of march. But he got 550 men up into French territory, where he terrorized some settlements, telling the inhabitants that if any more English villages suffered Deerfield’s fate he would return with 1,000 Indians to repay the compliment to the French. Church wanted to attack Port Royal, but his officers restrained him, and he sailed back to Boston after throwing some bombastic threats at the well-defended French stronghold.

The English colonists took another ill-fated stab at Port Royal in 1706 and then appealed to the mother country for help. Committed as she was to a costly European land war, Queen Anne had few troops to spare. Finally, in hopes of generating some sympathy and publicity, the colonists sent several Mohawk chieftains to the English court in 1710. Outfitted by a London theatrical costumer in what he thought barbarian warlords should wear, the four Indians made a magnificent spectacle. The queen was delighted with them, the archbishop of Canterbury gave them Bibles, fashionable artists of the day painted their portraits, crowds followed them through the streets, and the nobility vied for the privilege of entertaining them. The next summer, the long-awaited troops arrived from England, and in September, Port Royal fell and with it Acadia.

Emboldened by their success, the British moved against Quebec the next year, but they had to retire at the end of a timid and badly mismanaged campaign. Despite this British fiasco, old King Louis XIV of France, tired and debt-ridden, ended the war by accepting the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The treaty ceded Hudson Bay and Acadia to the English, but left the bounds of France’s Canadian empire in doubt. By a treaty of July 13, 1713, the Eastern tribes sued for a separate peace with the New Englanders, acknowledging their “past rebellions, hostilities, and violations of promises” and promising to become loyal subjects to Queen Anne. The Abnakis, however, had little idea of what being a British subject meant, and their oath of loyalty was too tenuous a thing to withstand the English incursions on their land that began nearly as soon as the treaty was signed.

While the Northern colonies enjoyed the brief respite from frontier raids that came with the Treaty of Utrecht, warfare was ripping through the Carolinas. The white traders there had done much to bring the fighting on themselves. Like Indian traders everywhere, they tended to be rough, unprincipled men who duped the Indians and debauched them with liquor. Adding to these abuses, the traders also sold Indians as slaves. The Tuscaroras, who had settled inland along the coastal rivers of North Carolina, suffered most, and though they did not at first retaliate, their discontent was obvious enough to make the settlers uneasy. By 1710, relations had become so tense that the Tuscaroras sent messengers to Pennsylvania asking permission to migrate there. The Pennsylvania authorities said that they could settle provided they had a note from the North Carolina government attesting to their previous good conduct. The Carolinians refused outright.

Less than a year later, a group of Swiss colonists organized by a promoter named Baron Christoph von Graffenried went to occupy a tract of land at New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, only to find an Indian town on the site. Von Graffenried complained to the surveyor-general, who told him that the colonists held clear title to the land and suggested they drive off the Indians without payment. That was poor advice; on September 22, 1711, the Tuscaroras responded with a dawn attack on settlements between the Neuse and Pamlico Sound. During the bloody morning, they killed nearly 200 settlers, among them, eighty children. The survivors fled to the coastal towns, and the usual sequence of raids and counterraids began. Von Graffenried had earlier been captured, and in order to spare New Bern from attack – and as a condition of his release – he promised not to make war on the Indians. But one of his settlers, a foolish man named William Brice, decided that the baron’s pledge showed contemptible softheartedness and took matters into his own hands by capturing the chief of one of the smaller tribes allied with the Tuscaroras and roasting him alive. The Indian attacks increased in fury.

North Carolina sent to South Carolina for help, which arrived in the form of Colonel John Barnwell, a tough Irish-born soldier, who came leading a force of thirty settlers and 500 Indians. Barnwell handily neutralized the resistance of tribes allied with the Tuscaroras and devastated their communities. In March 1712, with his forces strengthened by a contingent of North Carolinians, Barnwell launched an assault on the fort of the Tuscarora king Hancock, which failed when the North Carolina men panicked and broke. Then the Indians exposed some of their white prisoners in view of Barnwell’s lines and tortured others in hopes of forcing the Carolina troops to negotiate. Barnwell agreed to call off his men if the prisoners were released. He took fifty of them safely back to New Bern, where he discovered that the North Carolina assembly was vexed because he had not destroyed the Tuscarora fort. Whereupon Barnwell went back, forced the Tuscaroras into a treaty and then, on his way home, immediately violated it by seizing a group of Indians as slaves. So the war broke out afresh in the summer of 1712.

Again North Carolina begged its southern neighbor for help, and in November, a seasoned Indian fighter named Colonel James Moore arrived with thirty-three whites and 1,000 friendly natives. Joining with North Carolina troops, he struck the main Tuscarora force late in March of 1713 and smashed it. Moore’s men killed several hundred Indians and captured 400 more, whom he sold into slavery at £10 each to help pay for the campaign. Most of the surviving Tuscaroras began a long, slow retreat to the north, where they eventually joined the Iroquois confederacy.

The last feeble Indian resistance in the Carolinas ended when Tom Blount, the chief of the Tuscarora faction loyal to the English, signed a peace treaty on February 11, 1715. But no sooner had peace come to North Carolina than war began in South Carolina. Like the Tuscaroras, the Yamassees, a Muskhogean tribe that had moved into South Carolina, had suffered the exploitation of traders. On Good Friday, April 15, they avenged themselves in a well-coordinated attack similar in every respect to the great Virginia massacre of 1622. The assault left the outlying settlements north of present-day Savannah, Georgia, in flames and took the lives of 100 settlers, South Carolina’s governor Charles Craven, commanding his colony’s militia, moved quickly and by June had driven the Yamassees from their villages. That autumn, on a follow-up expedition, he hit them so hard that they fled to Spanish Florida. The English appropriated the Yamassee lands for the new colony of Georgia.

Although he had gotten the Yamassees out of the way, Craven still feared the powerful Creeks and tried to counterbalance them by inducing the equally strong Cherokee nation to join the English. Although divided into two factions, the proud Cherokees, under the prodding of the English, broke with their southern neighbors and joined the Carolinians in curbing the Creeks. Thus, a measure of peace returned to the Carolinas.

The War in the Forest II

In New England, the brief span of peace was drawing to a close. The Abnakis had pledged their allegiance to Queen Anne, but their true loyalties lay with the French. Provoked by the English settlers who kept pushing into their territory, the Indians were urged on by French agents who kept them well supplied with ammunition. One of these men, a Jesuit priest named Sebastian Rale, had lived for years among the Norridgewock tribe on the Kennebec River in Maine. A trusted adviser who spoke their own tongue, Rale incited the Indians to strike back at the English, who were dotting Abnaki lands with blockhouses and farms. In the autumn of 1721, his charges began attacking isolated farmsteads.

The Massachusetts authorities reacted particularly strongly to these raids; Rale, living among the Indians in their forest home, was the embodiment of all the English feared and loathed. In 1723, a force of 230 men moved up the Penobscot and burned the mission town of Passadumkeag, but they failed to capture the soldier-priest. The next summer, another expedition struck north at Rale’s headquarters in the town of Norridgewock and took the village completely by surprise. The English held their fire while the Indians got off a wild, scattered volley, and then killed twenty-six of the panicked natives with a well-aimed fusillade. The surviving Norridgewocks jumped into the river and swam to safety, but Rale refused to surrender, forcing the English to shoot him although they had hoped to take him alive.

His death had the predictable results: The Abnakis struck back not only along the Maine frontier but in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well. The English counterattacked with forces raised by the colonial governments and with companies of volunteers who offered to fight Indians in return for pay, scalp bonuses, and booty. Captain John Lovewell, a resident of Dunstable, raised one such company after the Indians burned his Massachusetts border town in the autumn of 1724. He petitioned the General Court in Boston to pay five shillings a day for his volunteers. The court would not put up more than two and a half, but it offered a bounty of £100 on every male Indian scalp. Late in February 1724, Lovewell and his eighty-seven men surprised a small encampment of ten Indians, killed them all, and went home to collect £1,000.

Cheered by his success and the easy money, Lovewell immediately embarked on a summer campaign accompanied by forty-seven volunteers. On May 8, the company sighted a single Indian on the shore of Saco Pond. Lovewell gave chase, suspecting that he had been posted to lure the company into an ambush but confident that the English could handle any assault. He was wrong. A large party of Indians ambushed the company and boldly closed to within a few yards of the English. “The battle continued fiercely throughout the day,” said a contemporary account, “the Indians roaring and yelling and howling like wolves, barking like dogs, and making all sorts of hideous noises; the English frequently shouting and huzzaing, as they did after the first round.” But the shouting and huzzaing died away as one Englishman after another went down. Lovewell himself died late in the afternoon, and though the Indians finally abandoned the field, they left only a few of their opponents unhurt.

The survivors retreated at once, leaving the badly wounded behind, among them a lieutenant who asked that his gun be charged and left with him. “The Indians will come in the morning to scalp me,” he said, “and I’ll kill one more of ‘em if I can.” Only fourteen soldiers eventually made it home to receive barren solace from such ministers as the Reverend Thomas Symmes of Bradford, who declaimed that the reason “so many brave men should descend into battle and perish” was clearly the general backsliding and irreverence of New Englanders, which had aroused the wrath of a vengeful God. Nevertheless, further English campaigns in Maine once more forced Abnaki chiefs to the treaty table in 1725, where they again acknowledged their submission to England.

Except for an occasional isolated atrocity, the New England frontier remained quiet for the next two decades, then boiled up again in 1744 when England went to war over who should succeed to the throne of Austria. This time, George II gave his name to the struggle in the colonies, and King George’s War saw the frontiers again convulsed from New York to Maine by Indian raids and white counterraids. The most significant part of the colonial war, however, was not the Indian fighting but an extraordinary expedition, mounted by New Englanders without any help from England, against the great fortress-rock of Louisburg, the anchor of France’s right flank in the New World. Built on Cape Breton Island, the fort guarded the approaches to the vital St. Lawrence River with the strongest concentration of cannons in North America. Nevertheless, 4,200 Massachusetts militiamen took it in June 1745. England, astonished and delighted at this unprecedented triumph of provincial arms, repaid Massachusetts for the cost of the expedition but then enraged the colonists by handing the fort back to the French in return for Madras when the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the European phase of the war in 1748.

The peace that followed King George’s War was a truce, a brief respite before the culminating struggle for supremacy in North America that would have bagpipes and French battle horns challenging one another in virgin pine forests. This final clash of arms would come to be known as the French and Indian War, an inadequate title that fails to distinguish it from all the wars, large and small, that preceded it. Lawrence Henry Gipson, the most thorough historian of the climactic struggle, chose a far better name – the Great War for Empire.

As before, Indian support would be crucial to both French and English in the coming fight, and one who saw that fact clearly was a cheerful, indefatigable Irishman who had come to America in the 1730s to manage his uncle’s estates in the Mohawk Valley. His name was William Johnson, but the Iroquois knew him as their brother Warraghiyagey – “He-Who-Does-Much.” He opened a small trading post in 1738 and immediately won a reputation among the Indians as one of the few white men who would deal fairly with them. By the 1750s, this reputation had made him the largest trader in the area. He kept his home, which he shared with his wife, a Mohawk woman, open to his Indian friends at all times. In 1756, he wrote of the people he knew so well: “Whoever pretends to say, as some have fatally imagined, that the American savages are of little or no account to our interest on that continent, and that, therefore, it is not of great consequences, whether or no we endeavour to cultivate friendship with them must be so extremely ignorant, or else so wilfully perverse, that it would be wasting time to expose the absurdity of such preposterous suggestions.”

Johnson’s conviction was borne out by the demography of North America on the eve of the war. The French, concentrated in a thin line stretching down the St. Lawrence from Louisburg through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi Valley to the Gulf of Mexico, numbered only about 55,000 in 1754. But their Indian neighbors in the Great Lakes region alone could field perhaps as many as 70,000 warriors.

The English colonies, with well over 1 million white inhabitants, enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in numbers, but the population was confined to the seaboard. The French controlled the interior, largely by dint of their policy of befriending Indians whenever possible rather than fighting them. In some cases, the French commitment to coexistence became so strong that one observer wrote, “Those with whom we mingle do not become French, our people become Indian.” Despite close ties, the French were never wholly successful in their efforts to secure their southern flank with allies in the southeastern tribes. They formed strong bonds with the numerous and powerful Choctaw Indians who occupied the lands along the coast north of the French bases at Biloxi and Mobile, but they never won over the Chickasaws, who lived to the north of their ancient Choctaw enemies in lands east of the Mississippi River. The English retained Chickasaw loyalty, and despite a series of hard-fought battles, the French never subdued the tribe.

Nevertheless, by the mid-1750s, the French had seized the initiative and begun advancing into the Ohio Valley just when Virginia speculators were beginning to take a strong interest in the same rich region.

Robert Dinwiddie, the determined sixty-year-old governor of Virginia, saw which way the wind was blowing, and in October 1753, sent a twenty-one-year-old militia major named George Washington to the recently begun Fort Le Boeuf (now Waterford, Pennsylvania) to tell the French commander there that his garrison was on English lands. Washington arrived after a long, cold journey. Having received him courteously, the commander bluntly informed Washington that he was on French soil and that thenceforth any Englishmen who set foot in the Ohio Valley would be taken prisoner.

Acting promptly on Washington’s news, Dinwiddie sent a small force of men to build a fort at the crucial junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers – where Pittsburgh stands today – and early in April 1754 dispatched 120 reinforcements under Washington.

The undertaking was wretched from the beginning. Hacking their way across Pennsylvania’s endless ridges, the men under Washington soon became exhausted. Supplies of food and arms failed to arrive; what did get through was the disheartening news that the men Washington was marching to support had been chased from the fort by the French. But most serious of all was the failure of Washington’s command to enlist the aid of more than a handful of friendly Indians. Dinwiddie knew the value of Cherokee, Catawba, and Chickasaw support for the expedition, but those Indians had long been accustomed to dealing with South Carolina, whose governor was outraged that Virginia might think of enlisting “his” Indians without first getting his permission. So Washington began his march without Indian support and only belatedly received native detachments.

On May 24, Washington reached a place called Great Meadows, where a Mingo chief known as the Half-King told him that the French were nearby. Washington took forward a detachment of forty men and, joined by a dozen of Half-King’s warriors, surprised a party of thirty-three Frenchmen. The English killed ten, and the rest surrendered after a brief defense during which, for the first time in his life, Washington heard bullets whistling past him, a sound he described as “charming.” The French later charged that Washington had murdered innocent soldiers in time of peace; the young militia officer responded that they had brought it upon themselves by shadowing his forces in a surreptitious and apparently hostile manner. Whatever the truth, the Great War for Empire had begun, as Gipson put it, in an “isolated mountain ravine on the western slopes of the Alleghenies.” It would spread like a forest fire “to leap over oceans, to illuminate continents, and to end by reducing to ashes the bright dreams of Frenchmen of a great future in the New World.”

Washington fell back on Great Meadows, where he had his men throw up a stockade he named Fort Necessity. Reinforcements had brought the strength of his command up to about 400, a considerable improvement, but nowhere near enough to hold off the 900 French troops who moved out from Fort Duquesne to avenge the death of their comrades. They attacked the English fort on July 3, fighting in a steady downpour that turned Washington’s entrenchments to soup and rendered his swivel guns useless. With nearly half his men dead, sick, or wounded, Washington surrendered. He and his men were allowed to march from the fort with full honors of war. The French could afford to be generous – they had swept the English from the Ohio Valley.

The English struck back the next year. This time, there would be no inept campaign by provincial troops, but a well-planned attack by two regiments of British regulars under the command of General Edward Braddock. A tough, competent officer, Braddock had spent forty-five of his sixty years in the army. He was brave, popular, and considerate of his men. If he had a failing, it was his confident determination to prove that his troops had nothing to fear from “naked Indians . . . [or] Canadians in their shirts.”

Braddock moved out of Fort Cumberland, Maryland, at the head of some 2,500 men in June. There were no Indians with him as he plunged into the 100 miles of forest that separated him from Fort Duquesne; Governor Dinwiddie had promised the support of the southern tribes, but their help had failed to materialize. The French, on the other hand, had successfully courted their Indian allies and sent them to harry the English settlements along the route of Braddock’s march. Braddock had such trouble chopping his way through the dense forest that, at last, he detached some 1,500 of his best troops and led this flying column quickly toward the fort. He had little fear of the French: Fort Duquesne had only 800 defenders, and they would be powerless against the British artillery. On July 7, Braddock’s men made camp less than ten miles away from their objective.

The French, however, had no intention of waiting for the British to roll over them. On July 8, a captain named Hyacinth de Beaujeu took a detachment of 200 men out of the fort and persuaded an equal number of reluctant Indians to join him by crying, “I am determined to go against the enemy! What! Will you allow your father to go alone?”

On the morning of July 9, the British army splashed across the Monongahela with the fifers shrilling out “The Grenadiers March.” Washington, who had resigned his command and was serving without pay as an aide to Braddock, thought it the most splendid sight he had ever seen. As the troops pushed on through the woods, they suddenly heard war whoops. The English vanguard formed a skirmish line, sent a volley crashing into de Beaujeu’s troops, and then fell back. The Indians and French scattered to the ravines that ran along both sides of the English forces. Posting themselves behind trees, they raked the milling, panicked British with a murderous crossfire. As the English in the van fell back, they collided with troops coming up, and in the confusion men began to drop by the hundreds. Braddock, wildly and vainly trying to rally his men, had five horses shot out from under him before he was himself brought down with a mortal wound. The slaughter went on for three hours.

With British troops flinging away their muskets and fleeing and the drums rattling out retreat, Washington found a wagon, got Braddock into it, and pulled the stricken general away from the carnage. The afternoon had cost the French fewer than sixty casualties; of the 1,373 English noncoms and privates involved, only 459 escaped being killed or wounded, and three-quarters of the eighty-six officers became casualties. “Who would have thought it?” the wounded Braddock kept muttering, He died two days later, and Washington had him buried in an unmarked grave in the road so that the Indians would not mutilate his remains.

The debacle threw Virginia into a panic and left the frontier of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania open to French and Indian raids. To the north, the English had better luck, thanks to the efforts of William Johnson, whom the king had appointed superintendent of northern Indian affairs. Johnson led 3,000 New Englanders against Crown Point, a French stronghold at the southern end of Lake Champlain. The French marched to meet him and, getting word of their advance on September 8, Braddock sent forward a detachment of 1,000 militiamen and 200 Mohawks under Chief Hendrick, a canny old warrior who had visited Queen Anne in 1710. Hendrick was dubious about the detachment: “If they are to be killed, too many; if they are to fight, too few.” The command marched straight into an ambush where French musketry ripped it apart. Chief Hendrick was among those killed.

The survivors fled back to the English lines, where, incredibly, Johnson succeeded in rallying them behind a log barricade. When the French regulars attacked, the provincials beat them off. Johnson never got to Crown Point, but he did build Fort William Henry on Lake George and received a knighthood for his part in the campaign.

In the spring of 1756, a formidable new commander named Louis-Joseph, marquis de Montcalm joined the French in America. Short, nervous, brilliant, and brave, Montcalm moved quickly and skillfully. He threw 3,000 troops at Oswego, the English fort on the south side of Lake Ontario, and captured it in August 1756. His victory encouraged the western Indians, whom the English had hoped to secure as allies, to support the French. One Indian delegation to Montreal said, “We wanted to see this famous man who tramples the English under his feet. But you are a little man, my father. It is when we look into your eyes that we see the greatness of the pine-tree and the fire of the eagle.” Throughout the colonies, Indians began to pull away from any associations they might have had with the English. In January 1757, Washington, training a Virginia regiment, wrote that “the French grow more and more Formidable by their alliances, while our Friendly Indians are deserting Our Interest.”

The year 1757 dawned bleakly for the English. Seven years before, the French had had 800 regular troops in America; now they had 6,600. Everywhere, England was on the defensive. In the spring, Montcalm prepared to attack Fort William Henry. He recruited 2,000 Indians from the upper Great Lakes, and, sensitive to the diplomatic niceties required, presented many of them with belts of wampum in the name of the king of France. At last, the French and Indians marched toward Lake George, 8,000 strong, destroying several British parties on the way. The Indians scalped and even practiced cannibalism on some of the English dead, behavior the French justified on the grounds that they could not prevent it without losing the Indians.

Montcalm besieged the fort early in August. The hopelessly outnumbered garrison put up a spirited defense before surrendering. Montcalm allowed the men to keep their arms and promised to protect them from his Indian allies. But the English had no sooner left the fort than the Indians fell on them and, berserk with plundered brandy, began to strip and murder the captives. Unable to check the chaos, Montcalm finally bared his breast to the Indians and cried, “Since you are rebellious children who break the promise you have given to your Father and who will not listen to his voice, kill him first of all.” His officers finally restored some order, but not before 200 of the 2,000 prisoners had been murdered. Montcalm’s Indian allies immediately abandoned him, and the French destroyed Fort William Henry and then withdrew to their posts at Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Montreal.

These events had marked the nadir of British fortunes in the war; the next year saw the British taking the offensive and redressing the balance with powerful strokes. On July 26, Louisburg fell to 12,000 British regulars under Lord Jeffrey Amherst, and a month later, a provincial force of 3,600 men captured Fort Frontenac, on the north side of Ontario, giving the British control of the lake. Indians took only a minor part in these battles, but they were to play a major role in the campaign that began to take shape in the Ohio Valley late that spring. Rankling over their two ill-starred attempts to seize Fort Duquesne, the British had appointed General John Forbes to lead a new assault. Though only fifty-one, Forbes, wracked with disease, was a dying man – he had to be carried on a litter – but his capacity for intelligent, meticulous planning had not deserted him. Forbes’s campaign differed from the earlier failures of Washington and Braddock not only in the general’s choice of a new route, but in his vigorous efforts to secure Indian support.

That support was difficult to get and to control. Washington, commanding the Virginia regiment, wrote in disgust: “The Indians are mercenary; every service of theirs must be purchased; and they are easily offended, being thoroughly sensible of their own importance.” The natives often arrogantly demanded food, supplies, and presents, and sometimes left in a huff when they felt the provisions were inadequate. But they were not drawing regular military pay, and despite the moralizing of the frustrated white commanders, they could hardly be expected to serve Europeans in a European manner for no good Indian purpose.

By April 10, 1758, more than 500 southeastern Indians had gathered at the English camp, eager to go into the field on scalp-seeking parties. As summer came on, however, and the campaign failed to get under way, they became disgusted and went home, carrying their presents with them. By July, most of the Cherokees and Catawbas had drifted away.

When Forbes finally moved out of the main supply base he had built, at what was to become Bedford, Pennsylvania, he had few Indian allies with his 5,000 provincial troops and 1,400 Scots Highlanders. Newcomers arrived, however, including some Cherokees under their chief Little Carpenter, whose demands Forbes met, though he termed them “sordid and avaricious.” The army moved forward with care, leaving a string of fortified posts behind it. Despite their precautions, the English suffered a setback in September when Forbes sent out some 800 Highlanders to scout around Fort Duquesne. The Scots got themselves badly cut up, losing a third of their number. The French had relied heavily on their Indian allies in the light, and the natives were shaken by the number of casualties they had sustained. When more of them were killed in a skirmish in October, they began to leave the French camp. They were sick of dying for their allies, and they had begun to get word of a series of peace conferences between English and Indians in Philadelphia.

Forbes and the colonial authorities had convened the conferences to recapture the allegiance of the Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingos and to reassure the western Indians that the English did not intend to dispossess them of their lands. At the same time, Christian Frederick Post, a Moravian missionary who had twice been married to Indian women, carried out a delicate mission in the country of the western Indians, assuring them of English good will and inviting the Delawares to return to their original home in the Susquehanna Valley. Post managed to counter a good deal of legitimate skepticism: “You intend to drive us away and settle this country,” the Indians said, “or else, why do you come to fight in the land that God has given us?”

“I am your flesh and blood,” Post replied, “and sooner than I would tell you any story that would be of hurt to you, or your children, I would suffer death . . . I do assure you of mine and the people’s honesty.”

Some 500 Indians, Iroquois among them, attended another treaty conference at Easton, Pennsylvania, in October, where several colonial governors discussed and redressed many native grievances. The proceedings, subsequently ratified by the king of England in Council, returned land west of the Appalachians – which had been deeded to the Pennsylvania proprietors by the Iroquois – to the other tribes that lived on it. Colonel Henry Bouquet, Forbes’s chief of staff, issued a proclamation prohibiting English movement west of the mountains without special authorization. The Easton treaty, Bouquet said, was a blow that “knocked the French in the head.”

When, a little later, a French officer from the threatened Fort Duquesne approached an Indian camp with a string of wampum and offered it to one of the Delaware chiefs with whom Post was conferring, the Indian refused it. The Frenchman thereupon threw the belt to a nearby group of Delawares, who treated it like a snake, kicking it from one to the other until one of them picked it up with a stick and flung it away.

By November 24, the English forces had advanced to within a few miles of Fort Duquesne. As they approached they heard a terrific explosion, and when they arrived at the fort the next day, they found it gutted and the defenders gone. Inside the ruined fort, the English troops came upon a row of stakes on which were fastened the heads of Highland troops who had been taken in the earlier engagement, each with a Scottish kilt tied beneath it.

For all its savagery, there was a note of despair in the grisly taunt. The French were losing the war, and they knew it. The final blow came the following September when British troops under General James Wolfe faced off against French regulars commanded by Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham, near Quebec. Both commanders died in the battle – surprisingly brief, considering all the years and wars that had led up to it – but Wolfe lived long enough to know he had won. The peace treaty would not materialize for three years, but after Quebec, New France never had a chance.

Still, the fighting went on. While Wolfe was taking Quebec, the back country of the Carolinas was again in an uproar. The Cherokee nation, about 10,000 strong and scattered through some forty villages along the frontiers of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, had taken up the hatchet against the English. The war apparently began when Cherokee warriors, returning home from Forbes’s campaign against Fort Duquesne, appropriated several horses they found running wild in the woods. A group of frontiersmen, claiming the horses as their own, ambushed and killed a dozen of the Cherokees. The Cherokees retaliated by murdering twenty or thirty settlers, and soon a full-scale war engulfed the frontier. The fighting lasted for two years, ending in the winter of 1761 after a long, devastating campaign conducted against the Indians by regular and provincial troops. The harsh terms of the treaty included the establishment of a boundary line between Indian and white settlements.

Three years before, when the English had set up a similar line, they had done so in hopes of placating a valuable ally. The contrast between that boundary and the one forced on the Cherokees at gunpoint indicated how Native Americans had fared in the war. No matter which side the Indians chose, their true interests lay in a continued stalemate between the English and the French. With the French forces driven from the New World, the natives could no longer be of any use to the colonists. Just as much as the French, the Indians lost the long struggle that had begun with a bloodless scuffle at a Maine trading post seventy years before.

Maori Wars

There had been intermittent fighting with the Maoris for more than a decade; in fact, since colonists first began arriving in numbers on these beautiful but remote islands. The three numbered Maori wars were merely periods of exceptional activity and crisis in a running struggle as Europeans, mostly British, wrested the land from the natives: the intelligent, brave and warlike Maoris. These almost-forgotten wars are among the most disgraceful episodes in British imperial history for they sprang from stark, naked, unabashed greed.

The cause of the fighting was always the same: land. The Europeans wanted it and were even willing to pay for it, but most of the Maoris simply did not want to part with it. The Maori, of whatever tribe, always had a special affection for his tribal land; it was his most treasured possession. ‘The blood of man is the land,’ said a Maori proverb. By the Treaty of Waitangi the colonists had guaranteed the Maori the undisputed possession of his lands for as long as he wanted them. But the ever-increasing number of colonists – rising from 59,413 in 1858 to 218,637 in 1867 – also wanted land.

Disputes about land always ended in fighting. There were atrocities. Soon it was war. The New Zealanders called on the mother country for help, but, far from offering support, the British government announced that in accordance with a self-reliance policy it had established in respect to colonies it intended to withdraw the one Imperial regiment in New Zealand: the 18th Foot (later the Royal Irish, disbanded in 1922). There were screams of terror from the New Zealanders.

The British Government had not favoured the idea of colonizing New Zealand in the first place, and the Colonial Office had strongly disapproved of the policy adopted by the New Zealand colonial government of confiscating the Maoris’ land. The colonists now outnumbered the Maoris and they were considered big enough to take care of themselves. Lord Granville put the matter succinctly and bluntly: ‘the present distress of the colony arises mainly from two circumstances: the discontent of the natives consequent on the confiscation of their land, and the neglect by successive governments to place on foot a force sufficiently formidable to overawe that discontent’.

In spite of the uproar concerning the announced withdrawal of the 18th Regiment, it was, after some delay, withdrawn. In spite of the colonists’ fears, when the last detachment of the regiment left New Zealand on 24 February 1870 the Maori wars ended. The colonial forces did, after all, defeat the Maoris. The fighting continued until the Maoris had been decimated and the Europeans had taken all the land they wanted. But even when the fighting ended the New Zealanders still lived in fear, while the Maoris still lived with the fading hope that they would one day regain their land. As late as 1928 a Maori was quoted as saying: ‘We have been beaten because the Pakeha [European] outnumbers us in men. But we are not conquered or rubbed out, and not one of these Pakeha can name the day we … sued for peace. The most that can be said is that on such and such a date we left off fighting.’ Today the Maoris are on the increase, and they are now, finally, as numerous as they were 100 years ago, but they have less than a sixteenth of their original land holdings. Their hopes and the New Zealanders’ fears are ended. All live in peace under a socialist government.

Bay of Islands War (First Maori War, Hono Heke’s War) (1844-1847)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Maori peoples of New Zealand vs. British settlers

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): North Island, New Zealand

DECLARATION: No formal declaration

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Maori, resentful of Europeans’ encroachments on their lands, the subjugation of their chiefs to British authority, and the ill effects of British settlement upon their culture, attacked a British garrison on North Island.

OUTCOME: Fighting ended with the defeat of the Maori warriors, and peace continued for most of the following 15 years.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: Maori, 700 warriors; Britain, 1,500

CASUALTIES: Maori, 260; British, 57

TREATIES: None

Since Captain James Cook’s (1728-79) explorations of New Zealand in 1769-70, European whalers, sealers, and traders insinuated a capitalist system that tied New Zealand’s inhabitants to Europe’s economy. Soon settlers followed sailors and traders, and they brought with them a hunger for native Maori lands. Britain annexed New Zealand in 1838 and established means, initially acceptable to the Maori, for European land purchases in exchange for Maori protection. But by means legal and not, the Europeans, too quickly to suit the Maori, appropriated lands and thus threatened Maori culture. The tension between New Zealanders and Europeans exploded into the WAIRAU AFFRAY in 1843 over contested land purchases illegally made by the New Zealand Land Company. A settlement favorable to the Maori satisfied them but did not solve the ongoing contest for land.

A local Maori chief, Hone Heke (dates unknown), marched on the British garrison of Russell, or Kororareka, on July 8, 1844, and cut down the British flagpole, a symbolic act of his resentment toward the European presence. The following January he did it twice more. The British had had enough and, after re-erecting the pole, built a blockhouse around it. Undaunted, Hone Heke, with another chief, Kawiti, and 700 warriors, marched on Kororareka on March 11, seizing the blockhouse and cutting the pole down for the fourth time. The chief was not finished. The Maori warriors then advanced on the town and sacked it, forcing both the townspeople and the undermanned garrison to flee.

The governor general, Captain Robert FitzRoy (1805-65), ordered a punitive expedition into the field against the rebels, but Heke and Kawiti quickly annihilated the force in two short engagements. FitzRoy was recalled and replaced by Captain George Grey (1812-98). Grey quickly sent a large force into the field and attacked the heart of traditional Maori warfare, the pa. A pa is the base of operations for Maori warfare both spiritually and tactically. It is also a fortification. The force first attacked Kawiti’s pa in January and defeated it without much struggle. Grey’s troops then attacked Hone Heke’s pa at Ruapekapeka on January 11, 1846, and quickly overran it. Heke did not acknowledge defeat but vowed not to take the field against the British again. Although indiscriminate skirmishes continued for the next year, the fighting was essentially over, but the land disputes would resume with a vengeance in the FIRST TARANAKI WAR (Second Maori War) of 1860.

First Taranaki War, (1860-1861)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Great Britain vs. the Maori tribes

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Taranaki region, North Island, New Zealand

DECLARATION: None

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The British sought possession of land ceded by a certain Maori sub-chief.

OUTCOME: Most of the land was seized and an uneasy truce maintained after retrocession of a small parcel of land to the Maori.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: Unknown

CASUALTIES: The entire period of the First, Second, and Third Taranaki Wars resulted in the loss of 54 percent of the Maori population, at least 27,000 persons.

TREATIES: Truce of 1861

In colonial New Zealand, as in the Indian Wars in the United States throughout the 19th century, tribal members frequently disputed land concessions and other agreements chiefs and other tribal members made with white government authorities. In 1859, a minor chief of the Maori tribe in the Taranaki region of North Island sold to British colonial interests land along the Waitara River. His tribe repudiated the cession and resisted confiscation of the land. Although the British had concluded the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, whereby tribal veto of various agreements was allowed, authorities violated the treaty by attacking Maori strongholds, called pas. Resistance was stiff, and the British made little headway until they finally succeeded in overrunning the critical Te Arei Pa in 1861. This prompted the Maori to conclude a truce in return for the British retrocession of a modest parcel of tribal land.

The truce was an uneasy one, frequently punctuated by outbursts of violence over a 12-year period. It is estimated that during this time significantly more than half of the Maori population of 50,000 was killed. Historians sometimes refer to this period as the Second Maori War; others recognize a Second TARANAKI WAR (1863-64) also called the Waikato War, and a Third TARANAKI WAR (1864-72).

Second Taranaki War, (Waikato War) (1863-1864)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Great Britain vs. the Maori tribes

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Waikato River area, North Island, New Zealand

DECLARATION: None

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The British sought to occupy the area.

OUTCOME: Guerrilla resistance was suppressed in the Waikato River region but persisted elsewhere on North Island through 1872.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: Unknown

CASUALTIES: Unknown

TREATIES: None

Also known as the Waikato War and treated by some historians as part of a larger Second Maori War, this was a resumption of the conflict taken up in the First TARANAKI WAR, which had ended in an uneasy truce. In April 1863, Sir George Grey (1812-98), the British governor-general of New Zealand, laid a military road directly into the disputed area of Waikato River. To do this, and to clear the way for European settlers, Grey attacked the Maori, driving them from Tataramaika “block.” The Maori responded with guerrilla attacks, which the British sought to suppress by neutralizing the pas, the Maori stronghold-fortresses, and counterattacking with riverborne gunboats and special ranger-style military units. The British were quite successful, suppressing guerrilla forces at Meremere and Rangiriri in 1863 and, the next year, destroying Orakau Pa. These triumphs put an end to Maori resistance in the Waikato River region, but elsewhere on New Zealand’s North Island guerrilla warfare continued as the Third TARANAKI WAR.

Third Taranaki War, (1864-1872)

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Great Britain vs. the Maori tribes

PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): North Island, New Zealand

DECLARATION: None

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The British-especially the British East India Company-sought to settle Maori lands.

OUTCOME: The war produced no clear-cut victor; however, by 1872, with all sides exhausted and the Maori resistance all but crushed, the war petered out.

APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS: Unknown

CASUALTIES: Unknown; but see this heading in First Taranaki War.

TREATIES: None

This was a resumption of the conflict between the British and Maori on New Zealand taken up in the First TARANAKI WAR (1860-61) and the Second TARANAKI WAR (1863-64). The Second Taranaki War had neutralized Maori resistance in the hotly contested Waikato River area but did not suppress resistance elsewhere on New Zealand’s North Island. Throughout this territory, the Maori Hau Hau, a religiously inspired warrior cult, its members motivated by a sincere belief that they were invulnerable and impervious to British bullets, fought with suicidal ferocity against British forces. At this point, the British government was eager to establish peace, but the British East India Company pushed for additional lands in New Zealand and continually provoked new outbreaks. A major attack was launched against the guerrillas at Weroroa Pa in 1865, resulting in a significant British victory. Despite this, the guerrillas continued to block colonial expansion. In 1868, the resistance of the Maori Hau Hau was supplemented by that of a new group, also religious and military in nature, the Ringatu.

From 1865 on, none of the three combatant elements, the British, the Hau Hau, or the Ringatu, could claim any clear-cut victories. The war wound down in 1872-the fighting stopped-not through any resolution of conflict, any claim of victory, or any concession of defeat but as a result of exhaustion on all sides. Nevertheless, by this time, resistance had been so worn down that only a single portion of New Zealand, King County, remained closed to colonial settlement.

Further reading: James Belich, Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict: The Maori, the British and the New Zealand Wars (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1989); Paul Moon, Hone Heke: Nga Puh Warrior (Auckland, N. Z.: David Bing Publishing, 2001). Keith Sinclair, The Origins of the Maori Wars (Wellington: New Zealand University Press, 1957).

Chinese Women Warriors

Seven hundred years before young Scythian women died in battle and were buried with weapons as grave goods, General Fu Hao (ca. 1200 BCE) flourished and fought to defend the Shang dynasty in Bronze Age China (ca. 1600–046 BCE)—the earliest woman warrior I know of for whom we have a name and a story. She was one of three major wives of the emperor Wu Ding and a successful military commander in her own right. Traditional Chinese histories, written centuries after the fact, tell us that Wu Ding, the twenty-third ruler of the Shang dynasty, was a powerful emperor who ruled for fifty-nine years, but they don’t mention Fu Hao at all. We know her history from a true primary source: inscriptions on some 250 oracle bones, the earliest Chinese written records.

Various oracle bone inscriptions from the Shang period refer to Fu Hao as a royal consort, a general, and a landholder in her own right. She led military campaigns and presided over sacrificial ceremonies in the emperor’s name. Some oracle bones, inscribed during her lifetime, ask questions regarding her health or the tactics to pursue in a specific military campaign. Others, inscribed on behalf of the emperor, ask whether he should send Fu Hao or another general on a specific campaign, or if he should assume command himself. The inscription on one oracle bone suggests she led a force of thirteen thousand men on a campaign—an interpretation some scholars contest, since most Shang forces ranged from three thousand to five thousand troops. Other oracle bones document sacrifices made on her behalf after her death.

Chinese archaeologists established Fu Hao’s place in history without doubt in 1976, when a team under the direction of Zheng Zhenxiang discovered an undisturbed Shang tomb near Anyang, the site of the Shang capital in modern Henan province—the same region where most of the oracle bones were found. Because it had never been looted, the tomb included a larger quantity of grave goods than any previously excavated Shang tomb. At first, the richness of the grave goods and the large number of weapons led archaeologists to assume it was the tomb of a male ruler. Inscriptions on some of the seventy bronze vessels found in the tomb identified the site as the tomb of Fu Hao. Her grave goods included more than a hundred weapons, as well as thousands of ornamental objects in bronze, jade, bone, opal, and ivory, and the remains of sixteen slaves, buried with her to serve her in the afterlife. The bronze goods alone totaled 1.6 metric tons.

Scholars have pieced together a picture of Fu Hao’s career from sources that were never intended to provide a narrative. It appears she not only directed her own troops but also served as the ancient Chinese version of a task force commander in campaigns that included forces led by other generals. She participated in virtually every important military campaign at the height of Wu Ding’s reign. She led an army against the Tu Fang, a tribe of invaders from the north who had been a problem since the beginning of Wu Ding’s reign. For a year and a half, Fu Hao and other Shang generals, including Wu Ding himself, led repeated assaults against the Tu Fang. With the Tu Fang defeated, Fu Hao then led Shang forces against three more attacking forces: the armed horsemen of the Qiang Fang in the northwest, the Yi Fang in the southeast and southwest, and, sharing the command with her husband, the Ba Fung in the southeast. Soon after she returned, victorious, to Anyang, Fu Hao fell ill. She died shortly thereafter.

Fu Hao was not the only woman warrior during the Shang dynasty. The oracle bones give us the names of at least a hundred women who were active in Shang military campaigns. Most were the wives of Shang kings or powerful local lords or officials. Unless (until?) we find one of their tombs, we are unlikely to know more. It is not impossible. In 2001, Chinese archaeologists reported the discovery of a tomb of an unnamed woman who was buried with a large cache of weapons, dating from the Western Zhou dynasty (1046–1071 BCE).

After her death, Fu Hao vanished from Chinese history until Chinese scholars discovered that oracle bones were historical documents in the late nineteenth century, but the idea of the woman warrior never entirely vanished as a possibility. From the Warring States period (246–221 BCE) to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Chinese women§ led armies in unsettled times, with the expectation that once the crisis was past they would return to their traditional roles as daughter, wife, or mother. Some were teenage girls; some were tough old broads. They defended the border against invasion by barbarians and, like their counterparts in other times and places, organized the defense of besieged cities. They led peasant uprisings and helped put them down. (One woman who led a peasant revolt declared herself empress.) They helped defend existing dynasties and establish new ones. They raised armies and inherited them. Sometimes they held official ranks in the Chinese military or government. Qin Liangyu (1574–1684), for instance, began her military career by following her husband as the “pacification commissioner” of Shizhu, an area in modern Sichuan province, and eventually attained the rank of regional commander, the highest military rank under the Ming dynasty. More often, their heroism was recognized after the fact with a commemorative title—at least if they were on the winning side.

The stories we know are shaped by the sources in which they appear. Many of these examples were included in collections of biographies of “exemplary women” rather than in the official Chinese histories. One such collection includes short biographies of fifty-five “remarkable women,” most of them women warriors. These accounts are closer to parables with morals than biographies as we know them today: the women who are highlighted fit a number of standard categories, such as filial daughter or chaste widow. As a result, we get incidents, or a series of incidents, in which a seeming transgression of the social norm is shown as being rooted in Confucian ethics of filial piety and loyalty. Most of the examples we know begin their military careers as the mothers, wives, or daughters of Chinese officials, and they either fight beside their kinsmen or in place of male relatives who are unable to carry out the tasks.

China also produced women warriors who were less malleable. Lady Qi Wang (c. 1530–1588), for instance, who led the defense of a coastal fort against Japanese pirates in 1561, was described by her contemporaries as “rude, unreasonable and aggressive”—not an exemplar of Confucian ideals of womanhood.1 The stories of rude and aggressive women don’t make the collections of exemplary tales; instead they are hidden in plain sight in the biographies of others.

A NEW KIND OF WAR – Indian Wars

Quanah Parker, c. 1890

Quanah Parker on horseback wearing eagle feather headdress and holding a lance bottom-up.

Cavalrymen remember such moments: dust swirling behind the pack mules, regimental bugles shattering the air, horses snorting and riders’ tack creaking through the ranks, their old company song rising on the wind: “Come home, John! Don’t stay long. Come home soon to your own chick-a-biddy!” The date was October 3, 1871. Six hundred soldiers and twenty Tonkawa scouts had bivouacked on a lovely bend of the Clear Fork of the Brazos, in a rolling, scarred prairie of grama grass, scrub oak, sage, and chaparral, about one hundred fifty miles west of Fort Worth, Texas. Now they were breaking camp, moving out in a long, snaking line through the high cutbanks and quicksand streams. Though they did not know it at the time—the idea would have seemed preposterous—the sounding of “boots and saddle” that morning marked the beginning of the end of the Indian wars in America, of fully two hundred fifty years of bloody combat that had begun almost with the first landing of the first ship on the first fatal shore in Virginia. The final destruction of the last of the hostile tribes would not take place for a few more years. Time would be yet required to round them all up, or starve them out, or exterminate their sources of food, or run them to ground in shallow canyons, or kill them outright. For the moment the question was one of hard, unalloyed will. There had been brief spasms of official vengeance and retribution before: J. M. Chivington’s and George Armstrong Custer’s savage massacres of Cheyennes in 1864 and 1868 were examples. But in those days there was no real attempt to destroy the tribes on a larger scale, no stomach for it. That had changed, and on October 3, the change assumed the form of an order, barked out through the lines of command to the men of the Fourth Cavalry and Eleventh Infantry, to go forth and kill Comanches. It was the end of anything like tolerance, the beginning of the final solution.

The white men were grunts, bluecoats, cavalry, and dragoons; mostly veterans of the War Between the States who now found themselves at the edge of the known universe, ascending to the turreted rock towers that gated the fabled Llano Estacado—Coronado’s term for it, meaning “palisaded plains” of West Texas, a country populated exclusively by the most hostile Indians on the continent, where few U.S. soldiers had ever gone before. The llano was a place of extreme desolation, a vast, trackless, and featureless ocean of grass where white men became lost and disoriented and died of thirst; a place where the imperial Spanish had once marched confidently forth to hunt Comanches, only to find that they themselves were the hunted, the ones to be slaughtered. In 1864, Kit Carson had led a large force of federal troops from Santa Fe and attacked a Comanche band at a trading post called Adobe Walls, north of modern-day Amarillo. He had survived it, but had come within a whisker of watching his three companies of cavalry and infantry destroyed.

The troops were now going back, because enough was enough, because President Grant’s vaunted “Peace Policy” toward the remaining Indians, run by his gentle Quaker appointees, had failed utterly to bring peace, and finally because the exasperated general in chief of the army, William Tecumseh Sherman, had ordered it so. Sherman’s chosen agent of destruction was a civil war hero named Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, a difficult, moody, and implacable young man who had graduated first in his class from West Point in 1862 and had finished the Civil War, remarkably, as a brevet brigadier general. Because his hand was gruesomely disfigured from war wounds, the Indians called him No-Finger Chief, or Bad Hand. A complex destiny awaited him. Within four years he would prove himself the most brutally effective Indian fighter in American history. In roughly that same time period, while General George Armstrong Custer achieved world fame in failure and catastrophe, Mackenzie would become obscure in victory. But it was Mackenzie, not Custer, who would teach the rest of the army how to fight Indians. As he moved his men across the broken, stream-crossed country, past immense herds of buffalo and prairie-dog towns that stretched to the horizon, Colonel Mackenzie did not have a clear idea of what he was doing, where precisely he was going, or how to fight Plains Indians in their homelands. Neither did he have the faintest idea that he would be the one largely responsible for defeating the last of the hostile Indians. He was new to this sort of Indian fighting, and would make many mistakes in the coming weeks. He would learn from them.

For now, Mackenzie was the instrument of retribution. He had been dispatched to kill Comanches in their Great Plains fastness because, six years after the end of the Civil War, the western frontier was an open and bleeding wound, a smoking ruin littered with corpses and charred chimneys, a place where anarchy and torture killings had replaced the rule of law, where Indians and especially Comanches raided at will. Victorious in war, unchallenged by foreign foes in North America for the first time in its history, the Union now found itself unable to deal with the handful of remaining Indian tribes that had not been destroyed, assimilated, or forced to retreat meekly onto reservations where they quickly learned the meaning of abject subjugation and starvation. The hostiles were all residents of the Great Plains; all were mounted, well armed, and driven now by a mixture of vengeance and political desperation. They were Comanches, Kiowas, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, and Western Sioux. For Mackenzie on the southern plains, Comanches were the obvious target: No tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second.

Just how bad things were in 1871 along this razor edge of civilization could be seen in the numbers of settlers who had abandoned their lands. The frontier, carried westward with so much sweat and blood and toil, was now rolling backward, retreating. Colonel Randolph Marcy, who accompanied Sherman on a western tour in the spring, and who had known the country intimately for decades, had been shocked to find that in many places there were fewer people than eighteen years before. “If the Indian marauders are not punished,” he wrote, “the whole country seems in a fair way of becoming totally depopulated.” This phenomenon was not entirely unknown in the history of the New World. The Comanches had also stopped cold the northward advance of the Spanish empire in the eighteenth century—an empire that had, up to that point, easily subdued and killed millions of Indians in Mexico and moved at will through the continent. Now, after more than a century of relentless westward movement, they were rolling back civilization’s advance again, only on a much larger scale. Whole areas of the borderlands were simply emptying out, melting back eastward toward the safety of the forests. One county—Wise—had seen its population drop from 3,160 in the year 1860 to 1,450 in 1870. In some places the line of settlements had been driven back a hundred miles.4 If General Sherman wondered about the cause—as he once did—his tour with Marcy relieved him of his doubts. That spring they had narrowly missed being killed themselves by a party of raiding Indians. The Indians, mostly Kiowas, passed them over because of a shaman’s superstitions and had instead attacked a nearby wagon train. What happened was typical of the savage, revenge-driven attacks by Comanches and Kiowas in Texas in the postwar years. What was not typical was Sherman’s proximity and his own very personal and mortal sense that he might have been a victim, too. Because of that the raid became famous, known to history as the Salt Creek Massacre.

Seven men were killed in the raid, though that does not begin to describe the horror of what Mackenzie found at the scene. According to Captain Robert G. Carter, Mackenzie’s subordinate, who witnessed its aftermath, the victims were stripped, scalped, and mutilated. Some had been beheaded and others had their brains scooped out. “Their fingers, toes and private parts had been cut off and stuck in their mouths,” wrote Carter, “and their bodies, now lying in several inches of water and swollen or bloated beyond all chance of recognition, were filled full of arrows, which made them resemble porcupines.” They had clearly been tortured, too. “Upon each exposed abdomen had been placed a mass of live coals. . . . One wretched man, Samuel Elliott, who, fighting hard to the last, had evidently been wounded, was found chained between two wagon wheels and, a fire having been made from the wagon pole, he had been slowly roasted to death—‘burnt to a crisp.’ ”

Thus the settlers’ headlong flight eastward, especially on the Texas frontier, where such raiding was at its worst. After so many long and successful wars of conquest and dominion, it seemed implausible that the westward rush of Anglo-European civilization would stall in the prairies of central Texas. No tribe had ever managed to resist for very long the surge of nascent American civilization with its harquebuses and blunderbusses and muskets and eventually lethal repeating weapons and its endless stocks of eager, land-greedy settlers, its elegant moral double standards and its complete disregard for native interests. Beginning with the subjection of the Atlantic coastal tribes (Pequots, Penobscots, Pamunkeys, Wampanoags, et al), hundreds of tribes and bands had either perished from the earth, been driven west into territories, or forcibly assimilated. This included the Iroquois and their enormous, warlike confederation that ruled the area of present-day New York; the once powerful Delawares, driven west into the lands of their enemies; the Iroquois, then yet farther west into even more murderous foes on the plains. The Shawnees of the Ohio Country had fought a desperate rearguard action starting in the 1750s. The great nations of the south—Chicasaw, Cherokee, Seminole, Creek, and Choctaw—saw their reservation lands expropriated in spite of a string of treaties; they were coerced westward into lands given them in yet more treaties that were violated before they were even signed; hounded along a trail of tears until they, too, landed in “Indian Territory” (present-day Oklahoma), a land controlled by Comanches, Kiowas, Araphoes, and Cheyennes.

Even stranger was that the Comanches’ stunning success was happening amid phenomenal technological and social changes in the west. In 1869 the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, linking the industrializing east with the developing west and rendering the old trails—Oregon, Santa Fe, and tributaries—instantly obsolete. With the rails came cattle, herded northward in epic drives to railheads by Texans who could make fast fortunes getting them to Chicago markets. With the rails, too, came buffalo hunters carrying deadly accurate .50-caliber Sharps rifles that could kill effectively at extreme range—grim, violent, opportunistic men blessed now by both a market in the east for buffalo leather and the means of getting it there. In 1871 the buffalo still roamed the plains: Earlier that year a herd of four million had been spotted near the Arkansas River in present-day southern Kansas. The main body was fifty miles deep and twenty-five miles wide. But the slaughter had already begun. It would soon become the greatest mass destruction of warm-blooded animals in human history. In Kansas alone the bones of thirty-one million buffalo were sold for fertilizer between 1868 and 1881. All of these profound changes were under way as Mackenzie’s Raiders departed their camps on the Clear Fork. The nation was booming; a railroad had finally stitched it together. There was only this one obstacle left: the warlike and unreconstructed Indian tribes who inhabited the physical wastes of the Great Plains.

Of those, the most remote, primitive, and irredeemably hostile were a band of Comanches known as the Quahadis. Like all Plains Indians, they were nomadic. They hunted primarily the southernmost part of the high plains, a place known to the Spanish, who had been abjectly driven from it, as Comancheria. The Llano Estacado, located within Comancheria, was a dead-flat tableland larger than New England and rising, in its highest elevations, to more than five thousand feet. For Europeans, the land was like a bad hallucination. “Although I traveled over them for more than 300 leagues,” wrote Coronado in a letter to the king of Spain on October 20, 1541, “[there were] no more landmarks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea . . . there was not a stone, nor a bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by.” The Canadian River formed its northern boundary. In the east was the precipitous Caprock Escarpment, a cliff rising somewhere between two hundred and one thousand feet that demarcates the high plains from the lower Permian Plains below, giving the Quahadis something that approximated a gigantic, nearly impregnable fortress. Unlike almost all of the other tribal bands on the plains, the Quahadis had always shunned contact with Anglos. They would not even trade with them, as a general principle, preferring the Mexican traders from Santa Fe, known as Comancheros. So aloof were they that in the numerous Indian ethnographies compiled from 1758 onward chronicling the various Comanche bands (there were as many as thirteen), they do not even show up until 1872. For this reason they had largely avoided the cholera plagues of 1816 and 1849 that had ravaged western tribes and had destroyed fully half of all Comanches. Virtually alone among all bands of all tribes in North America, they never signed a treaty. Quahadis were the hardest, fiercest, least yielding component of a tribe that had long had the reputation as the most violent and warlike on the continent; if they ran low on water, they were known to drink the contents of a dead horse’s stomach, something even the toughest Texas Ranger would not do. Even other Comanches feared them. They were the richest of all plains bands in the currency by which Indians measured wealth—horses—and in the years after the Civil War managed a herd of some fifteen thousand. They also owned “Texas cattle without number.”

On that clear autumn day in 1871, Mackenzie’s troops were hunting Quahadis. Because they were nomadic, it was not possible to fix their location. One could know only their general ranges, their hunting grounds, perhaps old camp locations. They were known to hunt the Llano Estacado; they liked to camp in the depths of Palo Duro Canyon, the second-largest canyon in North America after the Grand Canyon; they often stayed near the headwaters of the Pease River and McClellan’s Creek; and in Blanco Canyon, all within a roughly hundred-mile ambit of present-day Amarillo in the upper Texas Panhandle. If you were pursuing them, as Mackenzie was, you had your Tonkawa scouts fan out far in advance of the column. The Tonks, as they were called, members of an occasionally cannibalistic Indian tribe that had nearly been exterminated by Comanches and whose remaining members lusted for vengeance, would look for signs, try to cut trails, then follow the trails to the lodges. Without them the army would never have had the shadow of a chance against these or any Indians on the open plains.

By the afternoon of the second day, the Tonks had found a trail. They reported to Mackenzie that they were tracking a Quahadi band under the leadership of a brilliant young war chief named Quanah—a Comanche word that meant “odor” or “fragrance.” The idea was to find and destroy Quanah’s village. Mackenzie had a certain advantage in that no white man had ever dared try such a thing before; not in the panhandle plains, not against the Quahadis.

Mackenzie and his men did not know much about Quanah. No one did. Though there is an intimacy of information on the frontier—opposing sides often had a surprisingly detailed understanding of one another, in spite of the enormous physical distances between them and the fact that they were trying to kill one another—Quanah was simply too young for anyone to know much about him yet, where he had been, or what he had done. Though no one would be able to even estimate the date of his birth until many years later, it was mostly likely in 1848, making him twenty-three that year and eight years younger than Mackenzie, who was also so young that few people in Texas, Indian or white, knew much about him at the time. Both men achieved their fame only in the final, brutal Indian wars of the mid-1870s. Quanah was exceptionally young to be a chief. He was reputed to be ruthless, clever, and fearless in battle.

But there was something else about Quanah, too. He was a half-breed, the son of a Comanche chief and a white woman. People on the Texas frontier would soon learn this about him, partly because the fact was so exceptional. Comanche warriors had for centuries taken female captives—Indian, French, English, Spanish, Mexican, and American—and fathered children by them who were raised as Comanches. But there is no record of any prominent half-white Comanche war chief. By the time Mackenzie was hunting him in 1871, Quanah’s mother had long been famous. She was the best known of all Indian captives of the era, discussed in drawing rooms in New York and London as “the white squaw” because she had refused on repeated occasions to return to her people, thus challenging one of the most fundamental of the Eurocentric assumptions about Indian ways: that given the choice between the sophisticated, industrialized, Christian culture of Europe and the savage, bloody, and morally backward ways of the Indians, no sane person would ever choose the latter. Few, other than Quanah’s mother, did. Her name was Cynthia Ann Parker. She was the daughter of one of early Texas’s most prominent families, one that included Texas Ranger captains, politicians, and prominent Baptists who founded the state’s first Protestant church. In 1836, at the age of nine, she had been kidnapped in a Comanche raid at Parker’s Fort, ninety miles south of present Dallas. She soon forgot her mother tongue, learned Indian ways, and became a full member of the tribe. She married Peta Nocona, a prominent war chief, and had three children by him, of whom Quanah was the eldest. In 1860, when Quanah was twelve, Cynthia Ann was recaptured during an attack by Texas Rangers on her village, during which everyone but her and her infant daughter, Prairie Flower, were killed. Mackenzie and his soldiers most likely knew the story of Cynthia Ann Parker—most everyone on the frontier did—but they had no idea that her blood ran in Quanah’s veins. They would not learn this until 1875. For now they knew only that he was the target of the largest anti-Indian expedition mounted since 1865, one of the largest ever undertaken.

Mackenzie’s Fourth Cavalry, which he would soon build into a grimly efficient mobile assault force, for the moment consisted largely of timeservers who were unprepared to encounter the likes of Quanah and his hardened plains warriors. The soldiers were operating well beyond the ranges of civilization, beyond anything like a trail they could follow or any landmarks they could possibly have recognized. They were dismayed to learn that their principal water sources were buffalo wallow holes that, according to Carter, were “stagnant, warm, nauseating, odorous with smells, and covered with green slime that had to be pushed aside.” Their inexperience was evident during their first night on the trail. Sometime around midnight, above the din of a West Texas windstorm, the men heard “a tremendous tramping and an unmistakable snorting and bellowing.” That sound, as they soon discovered, was made by stampeding buffalo. The soldiers had made the horrendous mistake of making camp between a large herd of buffalo and its water source. Panicked, the men emerged from their tents in darkness, screaming and waving blankets and trying desperately to turn the stampeding animals. They succeeded, but by the smallest of margins. “The immense herds of brown monsters were caromed off and they stampeded to our left at breakneck speed,” wrote Carter, “rushing and jostling but flushing only the edge of one of our horse herds. . . . one could hardly repress a shudder of what might have been the result of this nocturnal visit, for although the horses were strongly ‘lariated out,’ ‘staked,’ or ‘picketed,’ nothing could have saved them from the terror which this headlong charge would have inevitably created, had we not heard them just in time to turn the leading herds.”

Miraculously spared the consequences of their own ignorance, the bluecoats rounded up the stray horses, broke camp at dawn, and spent the day riding westward over a rolling mesquite prairie pocked with prairie-dog towns. The latter were common in the Texas Panhandle and extremely dangerous to horses and mules. Think of enormous anthills populated by oversized rodents, stretching for miles. The troopers passed more herds of buffalo, vast and odorous, and rivers whose gypsum-infused water was impossible to drink. They passed curious-looking trading stations, abandoned now, consisting of caves built into the sides of cliffs and reinforced with poles that looked like prison bars.

On the second day they ran into more trouble. Mackenzie ordered a night march, hoping to surprise the enemy in its camps. His men struggled through steep terrain, dense brush, ravines, and arroyos. After hours of what Carter described as “trials and tribulations and much hard talk verging on profanity” and “many rather comical scenes,” they fetched up bruised and battered in the dead end of a small canyon and had to wait until daybreak to find their way out. A few hours later they reached the Freshwater Fork of the Brazos, deep in Indian territory, in a broad, shallow thirty-mile-long valley that averaged fifteen hundred feet in width and was cut by smaller side canyons. The place was known as Blanco Canyon and was located just to the east of present-day Lubbock, one of the Quahadis’ favorite campgrounds.

Whatever surprise Mackenzie had hoped for was gone. On the third day the Tonkawa scouts realized they were being shadowed by a group of four Comanche warriors, who had been watching their every move, presumably including what must have seemed to them the comical blunders of the night march. The Tonks gave chase, but “the hostiles being better mounted soon distanced their pursuers and vanished into the hills.” This was not surprising: In two hundred years of enmity, the Tonkawas had never been close to matching the horsemanship of the Comanches. They always lost. The result was that, while the cavalrymen and dragoons had no idea where the Comanches were camped, Quanah knew precisely what Mackenzie was doing and where he was. The next night Mackenzie compounded the error by allowing the men the indulgence of campfires, tantamount to painting a large arrow in the canyon pointing to their camp. Some of the companies blundered yet again by failing to place “sleeping parties” among the horses.

At around midnight, the regiment was awakened by a succession of unearthly, high-pitched yells. Those were followed by shots, and more yells, and suddenly the camp was alive with Comanches riding at full gallop. Exactly what the Indians were doing was soon apparent: Mingled with the screams and gunshots and general mayhem of the camp was another sound, only barely audible at first, then rising quickly to something like rolling thunder. The men quickly realized, to their horror, that it was the sound of stampeding horses. Their horses. Amid shouts of “Every man to his lariat!” six hundred panicked horses tore loose through the camp, rearing, jumping, and plunging at full speed. Lariats snapped with the sound of pistol shots; iron picket pins that a few minutes before had been used to secure the horses now whirled and snapped about their necks like airborne sabres. Men tried to grab them and were thrown to the ground and dragged among the horses, their hands lacerated and bleeding.

When it was all over, the soldiers discovered that Quanah and his warriors had made off with seventy of their best horses and mules, including Colonel Mackenzie’s magnificent gray pacer. In west Texas in 1871, stealing someone’s horse was often equivalent to a death sentence. It was an old Indian tactic, especially on the high plains, to simply steal white men’s horses and leave them to die of thirst or starvation. Comanches had used it to lethal effect against the Spanish in the early eighteenth century. In any case, an unmounted army regular stood little chance against a mounted Comanche.

This midnight raid was Quanah’s calling card, a clear message that hunting him and his Comanche warriors in their homeland was going to be a difficult and treacherous business. Thus began what would become known to history as the Battle of Blanco Canyon, which was in turn the opening salvo in a bloody Indian war in the highlands of west Texas that would last four years and culminate in the final destruction of the Comanche nation. Blanco Canyon would also provide the U.S. Army with its first look at Quanah. Captain Carter, who would win the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in Blanco Canyon, offered this description of the young war chief in battle on the day after the midnight stampede:

A large and powerfully built chief led the bunch, on a coal black racing pony. Leaning forward upon his mane, his heels nervously working in the animal’s side, with six-shooter poised in the air, he seemed the incarnation of savage, brutal joy. His face was smeared with black warpaint, which gave his features a satanic look. . . . A full-length headdress or war bonnet of eagle’s feathers, spreading out as he rode, and descending from his forehead, over head and back, to his pony’s tail, almost swept the ground. Large brass hoops were in his ears; he was naked to the waist, wearing simply leggings, moccasins and a breechclout. A necklace of beare’s claws hung about his neck. . . . Bells jingled as he rode at headlong speed, followed by the leading warriors, all eager to outstrip him in the race. It was Quanah, principal warchief of the Qua-ha-das.

Moments later, Quanah wheeled his horse in the direction of an unfortunate private named Seander Gregg and, as Carter and his men watched, blew Gregg’s brains out.

FILM: RAN (1985)


Synopsis

Ran is a Japanese-French war film/period tragedy directed, edited, and co-written by Akira Kurosawa, adapted from Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear and the legends surrounding daimyō Mōri Motonari. The film stars Tatsuya Nakadai as Hidetora Ichimonji, an aging Sengoku-era warlord who abdicates for his three sons—with disastrous results.

Background

Akira Kurosawa first conceived of the idea for the film that would become Ran (Japanese for “chaos” or “discord”) in the early 1970s, when he read about Mōri Motonari (1497–1571), a powerful daimyō in the Chūgoku region of Japan who is remembered as one of the greatest warlords of the Sengoku period (mid-16th century). Though a brilliant diplomat and strategist, Motonari is best known for an event that probably never happened: the “lesson of the three arrows,” a parable that Motonari illustrated by giving each of his three sons an arrow to break. He then gave them three arrows bundled together and pointed out that although one may be easily broken, three bundled together are impossible to break. Motonari actually had nine sons (two of whom died in childhood) but most prominent of them were the three sons the parable concerns: Mōri Takamoto (1523–1563), Kikkawa Motoharu (1530–1586), and Kobayakawa Takakage (1533–1597). Formulating a scenario that could generate real drama, Kurosawa imagined trouble among the three brothers rather than unity and reasonableness. As he later told an interviewer, “What might their story be like, I wondered, if the sons had not been so good? It was only after I was well into writing the script about these imaginary unfilial sons of the Mōri clan that the similarities to [Shakespeare’s 1606 tragedy, King] Lear occurred to me. Since the story is set in medieval Japan, the protagonist’s children had to be men; to divide a realm among daughters would have been unthinkable” (Grilli, 2008, p. 126). Kurosawa and two co-writers—Hideo Oguni and Masato Ide—had a draft of a screenplay completed by 1975, but Kurosawa would not be able to arrange financing for an expensive, large-scale epic set in medieval Japan for another seven years. In the meantime, he painted storyboards of every shot in Ran and made Dersu Uzala (1975) and Kagemusha (1980), the latter of which he described as a “dress rehearsal” for Ran. In 1982 Kurosawa finally secured funding for Ran from two sources: Japanese producer Masatoshi Hara (Herald Ace Productions) and French producer Serge Silberman (Greenwich Film Productions). After the box office success of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva (1981), Silberman was able to put up most of the money needed to back Ran, which ended up costing ¥2.4 billion (i.e., $12 million), the most expensive Japanese film produced up to that time. Kurosawa cast Tatsuya Nakadai (who played the dual lead roles in Kagemusha) as Hidetora Ichimonji, an aging Sengoku-era warlord based on Mōri Motonari who decides to abdicate as ruler in favor of his three sons. Prior to production, several hundred elaborate costumes had to be created by hand, an arduous process that took two years to complete. Pre-production also involved extensive location scouting and set construction, for example, a castle destroyed in the middle of the movie had to be specially built on the slopes of Mount Fuji, only to be burned down.

Production

Akira Kurosawa was 75 years old when he directed Ran (June 1984–February 1985) and was nearly blind when the initial photography started. He required assistance in order to frame his shots, and his assistants used hundreds of his storyboard paintings as templates to construct and film scenes. Almost the entire film is done in long shot, with only a handful of close-ups. An enormous undertaking, Ran used some 1,400 extras, 1,400 suits of armor (designed by Kurosawa himself), and 200 horses, some of them imported from the United States. Over his long career, Kurosawa worked with the same crew of technicians and assistants. Toward the end of the shoot, Kurosawa lost two of his old stalwarts. In January 1985, Fumio Yamoguchi, the sound recordist on nearly all of Kurosawa’s films since 1949, and Ryu Kuze, action coordinator on many of them, died within a few days of each other. A month later (1 February 1985), Kurosawa’s wife of 39 years, Yôko Yaguchi, also died. Kurosawa halted filming for just one day to mourn before resuming work on the picture.

Plot Summary

[Act I] Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai), a powerful warlord near the end of his life, decides to divide his kingdom among his three sons: Taro (Akira Terao), Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), and Saburo (Daisuke Ryu). The oldest son, Taro, is bequeathed the sought-after First Castle and is named commander of the Ichimonji clan. Jiro and Saburo are given the Second and Third Castles, respectively. Hidetora retains his title of Great Lord, and the two younger sons are expected to rally behind Taro. Saburo calls his father a fool, stating that he can’t expect loyalty from sons who grew up watching their father use the most cruel, heartless methods for power and domination. Hidetora is threatened by his son, but his servant, Tango (Masayuki Yui), defends Saburo. Hidetora responds by exiling both men. Nobuhiro Fujimaki (Hitoshi Ueki), a visiting warlord, sees Saburo’s fervor and forthrightness and asks him to wed his daughter. [Act II] After Hidetora divides his remaining lands between Jiro and Saburo, Taro’s wife, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada), encourages Taro to gain control of the entire clan. Emboldened, Taro tells Hidetora to give up his title of Great Lord. Hidetora, now betrayed by two sons, runs to Jiro’s castle only to discover that Jiro plans to use him in his own scheme for power and influence. Unsure of where to go, Hidetora and his company depart from Jiro’s castle. Tango finds his father and informs Hidetora of Taro’s new decree: anyone who assists Hidetora will be sentenced to death. Hidetora flees to Saburo’s castle, which was left empty when Saburo went into exile. [Act III] Hidetora and his samurais are attacked by Taro’s and Jiro’s forces. In the ensuing battle, almost all of Hidetora’s men are killed and the Third Castle is set on fire. Hidetora, alone and losing his mind, leaves the castle as it is consumed by flames. During the siege on the castle, Taro is killed by a bullet from Jiro’s general, Shuri Kurogane’s (Hisashi Igawa) gun. Meanwhile, Hidetora wanders the wilderness and is found by Tango, who tries to assist him. The pair take shelter in a peasant’s home, but realize that the peasant is Tsurumaru (Mansai Nomura), the brother of Lady Sué (Yoshiko Miyazaki), Jiro’s wife. Tsurumaru was a victim of Hidetora’s regime: he was blinded and left for dead after Hidetora murdered his father and conquered their land. [Act IV] After Taro’s death, Jiro takes on the title of the Great Lord, moving into the First Castle and commanding the Ichimonji clan. Jiro returns to the castle to find Lady Kaede, unbothered by Taro’s death, waiting to blackmail Jiro into an affair. Lady Kaede uses her influence with Jiro to call for Lady Sué’s death. Jiro orders Kurogane to carry out the task, but he declines, stating that Kaede will be the ruin of both Jiro and the clan. Kurogane runs to tell Sué and Tsurumaru to leave. Meanwhile, two ronin are captured by Tango, who coerces them to reveal plans for assassinating Hidetora. Tango leaves to share the news with Saburo. Hidetora is overtaken by madness and runs off into a volcanic plain while Kyoami (Pîtâ) runs after him. Saburo and Jiro meet on the battlefield and agree on a truce, and Saburo becomes concerned by the report of his father’s onset of madness. While Saburo meets with Kyoami and takes 10 warriors along to rescue Hidetora, Jiro takes advantage of the situation and sends gunners to ambush his brother and father. Jiro also attacks Saburo’s army, which falls back into the woods as the soldiers go on the defensive. As the family is warring, a messenger shares news that Ayabe, a rival lord, is headed towards the First Castle. At the same time, Saburo locates Hidetora, and the father experiences a reprieve from his insanity and begins to heal his relationship with his son. However, in the midst of the reconciliation, one of Jiro’s snipers kills Saburo. Hidetora dies out of sadness. Fujimaki arrives with his troops to see Tango and Kyoami grieving. [Act V] In the meantime, Tsurumaru and Sué get to the ruined castle, but realize that they forgot a flute at Tsurumaru’s home, one that Sué had gifted to Tsurumaru at the time of his banishment. She goes back for the flute, but is discovered and murdered by one of Jiro’s assassins. Simultaneously, Ayabe’s army attacks the First Castle. When Kurogane hears that Lady Sué has been killed by Jiro’s assassin, he corners Kaede and pushes her for information. She comes clean about her plot to obliterate Hidetora and his clan to avenge the deaths of her family members. Kurogane decapitates Kaede for her treachery. As Ayabe’s army overtakes the First Castle, Jiro, Kurogane, and all of Jiro’s men are killed. Tsurumaru is left amidst the rubble, alone.

Reception

Ran had its world premiere in Tokyo on 25 May 1985. It was subsequently screened at a number of film festivals before going into staggered general release in about two dozen countries. Ran did not do very well at the box office, initially making only enough to break even. It did, however, receive Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design (which it won), among many other international nominations and awards. Reviews were, for the most part, adulatory. Vincent Canby wrote, “Though big in physical scope and of a beauty that suggests a kind of drunken, barbaric lyricism, Ran has the terrible logic and clarity of a morality tale seen in tight close-up, of a myth that, while being utterly specific and particular in its time and place, remains ageless, infinitely adaptable … Here is a film by a man whose art now stands outside time and fashion” (Canby, 1985). Roger Ebert called the film “visually magnificent” and said he realized on seeing it again in 2000 that “the action doesn’t center on the old man, but has a fearful energy of its own, through which he wanders. Kurosawa has not told the story of a great man whose sin of pride drives him mad, but the story of a man who has waged war all his life, hopes to impose peace in his old age and unleashes even greater turmoil” (Ebert, 2000). Decades after its release, most film critics and scholars view Ran as Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece.

Reel History Versus Real History

The story that Ran tells is, of course, entirely fictional. One can only judge its historical accuracy in terms of its depictions of medieval Japanese castles; the look, dress, and demeanor of the Ichimonji clan; the conduct in battle of the samurai; etc. On these counts, Ran has extraordinary verisimilitude.

Askari

“Askari” was a term applied to local Africans who served in European colonial forces. The entomology of the word comes from the Arabic word soldier and, as it was most commonly used in the eastern African context, reflects the mixed Swahili culture of the region. The term also means someone who is “locally recruited,” which carries special import in terms of Africans recruited from the colonies to serve European interests. The importance of the askari to the colonial project underscores the true nature of imperialism. Despite the claims of imperialists that European success was due to their cultural, racial, or technological superiority, the reality of most colonial conquest underscores European dependence on Africans to accomplish the aims of imperialism. For example, the famous colonial standoff at Fashoda, in that the French force consisted of seven Frenchmen and around 140 Senegalese, illustrates this reliance. African askari were of critical importance to nearly all of the colonial powers, although the manner in which they were organized and employed was as varied as the colonizers themselves.

What was common to the colonizers, at least initially, was a firm belief in a hierarchy of “martial races” that meant Africans from certain communities were seen as naturally good soldiers for the Europeans. Not only were these races deemed strong and hearty (useful qualities in any soldier), but also they were considered most willing to obey European officers. Often, this led to common recruitment practices as Europeans attempted to maximize their use of these martial races. Prized for their effectiveness against the forces of the Egyptian Khedive, and later against Europeans under the Mahdi, were Sudanese troops. Sudanese were recruited by both the British and the Germans, for example, to staff their initial forces. Even after such common recruiting practices went away, largely due to the solidification of colonial divisions, this belief in racial or ethnic hierarchy was sim- ply transferred to the specific colony or colonial holdings of the respective powers. Beyond racial categorization, askari often would be recruited on ethnic lines to ensure the connection of one people, group, or region to the colonizers. The very nature of recruitment was designed to divide and conquer the colony.

African soldiers were often utilized in regions not connected to their ethnic background to ensure that there would be no chance of common cause between colonial troops and African civilians. These tactics underscore that the role of the askari was as much about internal security as about de- fending the colony from foreign threats. Beyond such racial and political justifications were the practical matter that utilizing African troops made colonial conquest and administration far less costly in money and European lives. Every askari in a colonial force lowered the monetary cost of administration, as well as the risk to European troops, who often suffered mightily from the African climate and African diseases.

As Belgium’s King Leopold II served as one of the major catalyzing agents for the Scramble for Africa, it is unsurprising that his Force Publique (FP) employed askari. Leopold’s force reflected the views of the “martial race,” with his force initially recruiting heavily from the Sudan. Of the initial 2,000 askari, for example, only 111 were Congolese. Only in the 1890s were local chiefs required to produce recruits for ser vice to fill out the ranks. During the period of personal rule, the line between soldier and mercenary was thin, with the askari more readily employed as overseers to punish those African civilians who did not meet their rubber quotas. Famously, the Belgians went out of their way to recruit cannibals in order to heighten the potential terror of their troops. The largest action of the FP was during the Congo- Arab War, to repress Arab population centers along the Lualaba River. The war involved a massive number of African troops as the FP absorbed mercenaries and irregulars into their forces to quell the Arab states. After a three- year war, the Belgians were able to defeat the remaining Arab positions and solidify their control over the Free State. After the Belgian government acquired the colony, the askari became a more regularized force, both in weaponry and organization, which enabled the FP to acquit themselves in Africa during World War I.

In the British case, the use of Africans to fight for British interests was originally an ad-hoc affair. Frederick Lugard helped create the Central African Rifles and Uganda Rifles when serving the interests of British companies attempting to solidify their hold over the African interior. Eventually these ad- hoc units, as well as the East African Rifles, combined to form the King’s African Rifles (KAR) in 1902. The KAR served with distinction in colonial campaigns in Somalia and the German East Africa campaign of World War I. Lugard was also responsible for the creation of the askari forces in the British possessions in West Africa. He was the founding commander of the West African Frontier Force (WAFF), which was an amalgamation of a number of ad- hoc units in West Africa. This force was organized in order to protect Nigeria’s hinterland from French encroachment. Lugard utilized the force, however, to conquer the Sokoto caliphate in what is now northern Nigeria. The WAFF fought in World War I in Africa and was renamed the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAFF) in 1928.

Despite the common utilization of the term askari, it is most readily associated with the German Schutztruppe (Protective Force) of the respective German colonies. Like other colonial forces, these units were created out of necessity to meet the needs of the imperial venture. In 1888, after suffering under the exploitive rule of Carl Peters and his German East Africa Company, Africans led an uprising against the company that took over nearly the entire coast. The German government, in responding to this threat against their interests, sent a force under the command of Hermann von Wissmann to repress the revolt. Originally, this Wissmann-Truppe consisted of a polyglot assembly of Africans (600 Sudanese, 100 Zulu from Mozambique, 80 East Africans, and 40 Somali), in line with the common European attitude of the martial races. The Sudanese were deemed the bravest soldiers with some Germans referring to them as “black lansquenets” in homage to the Germanic mercenary soldiers. This force, which was used to crush the rebel- lion, was then made the official protective force of East Africa by the German government. While initially relying on foreign Africans, the Schutztruppe shifted to utilizing locally recruited Africans (in other words, askari), primarily from the Nyamwezi people located in western Tanganyika. This region, heavily connected to the caravan culture of east Africa which required the service of young men as soldiers and porters, served as an attractive area of recruitment. While the forces in East Africa have attracted the most historic attention, largely due to their success in World War I, another primarily African Schutztruppe force was formed in German Cameroon, while an entirely white cavalry force was created in German South West Africa. These forces served as the punitive and protective force in the German colonies and then became the main fount of German resistance during World War I. Under Paul von Lettow-Vorbek, the east African Schutztruppe proved a thorn in the side of the British, as the Germans were able to conduct a guerilla campaign that tied down British imperial troops throughout the entire war.

Further Reading Jonas, Raymond. The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2011. Moyd, Michelle R. Violent Intermediaries: African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa. Athens: Ohio University, 2014. Page, Malcolm. A History of the King’s African Rifles. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2011. Parsons, Timothy. The African rank and file: Social implications of colonial military ser- vice in the King’s African Rifles, 1902-1964. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1999. Vandervort, Bruce. Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa 1830-1914. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.