North Korean Army Attacks

Camouflaged North Korean T34 tanks and motor cycle combinations enter Taejon city after the eviction of the US 24th Infantry Division.

Marines from the 1st Marine Division entering Seoul accompanied by late-production M4A3 (HVSS) 105mm-armed Sherman tanks, the nearest of which mounts a bulldozer blade.

This North Korean T-34 was destroyed by the Air Force south of Suwon as it was crossing a bridge on 17 October.

June – September 1950

Following the defeat of the Japanese and the end of the Second World War, the Korean peninsula had been occupied in the North by the Soviet Union and in the South by the United States. The two halves of the country were partitioned at the 38th Parallel. In 1948 the Republic of Korea was established in the South, ruled by Syngman Rhee whose declared objective was the reunification of Korea as a non-communist state. A month later the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea was established in the North, led by Kim II Sung. Elections should have been held to reunite the country, but never took place. By 1949 American combat forces had withdrawn from Korea, but left a military advisor group to assist the ROK army. The Soviet Union however, took an active role in governing North Korea and in early 1950 supplied weapons and several thousand soldiers to train the North Korean Army. Armed clashes were common along the 38th Parallel, but in 1950 US observers did not anticipate an invasion of the South. In January 1950 US Secretary of State Dean Acheson announced an American defensive strategy in the Far East that excluded both Korea and the Nationalist Chinese island of Formosa. It sent a clear signal to the DPRK that Syngman Rhee was on his own.

Colonel Paik Sun Yup was fast asleep when the telephone rang. His breathless G-3 was at the other end: ‘The North Koreans have invaded! They’re attacking all along the parallel! The situation in Kaesong is chaotic, and I’m afraid the city already may have fallen.’ It was 0700 hours on Sunday, 25 June 1950. Colonel Paik was the commander of the 1st Republic of Korea (ROK) Division, protector of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. He was twenty-nine years old. He was also away from his 10,000-man division, on a senior officer training course at the Infantry School in Seoul.

By the time Paik rejoined his division they were in contact with the 1st North Korean Division supported by tanks from the 105th Armoured Brigade. The 1st ROK Division was at the western end of the four divisions tasked with defending the 240 mile long imaginary line which was known as the 38th Parallel and formed the frontier between the two countries. Their section of the line was fifty-six miles long and impossible to defend, so Paik reduced it to nineteen miles by establishing his defences along the Imjin River. However, this meant that Kaesong was left open to the invaders and it fell within hours, with the 12th Regiment falling back in disarray.

The 13th Regiment at Munsan was also involved in a pitched battle and the third regiment of the division, the 11th was called up from its reserve position. However, 50 per cent of its personnel were on leave and it would take time for the men to rejoin their unit.

The 7th ROK Division was established to the east of the 1st ROK Division, but communications had broken down and their present situation was unknown.

At the time of the invasion, South Korea possessed eight infantry divisions and four of them – 1st, 6th, 7th and 8th – were in position along the 38th Parallel. They were armed with American M1 rifles, 0.30-calibre carbines, 60mm and 81mm mortars, 2.36-inch rocket launchers and the M3 105mm howitzers. They had no tanks, no medium artillery and no fighter aircraft or bombers.

The North Korean Army that attacked the South consisted of ten infantry divisions, eight of them at full strength with 11,000 men each plus one armoured brigade equipped with Russian T-34 tanks mounting an 85mm gun, an armoured regiment and two independent regiments totalling 135,000 men. They were equipped with 150 tanks, over 600 artillery pieces and 196 aircraft, including forty fighters and seventy bombers. Of the ten divisions, three were former Chinese Communist 4th Field Army divisions, 38,000 ethnic Koreans who had fought on the communist side during the Chinese civil war, so they were combat-hardened and efficient. The North Koreans had spent over 13.8 million rubles to purchase Soviet weaponry including 76mm and 122mm howitzers, 45mm anti-aircraft guns and 82mm and 120mm mortars. The invasion force comprised two Corps, both commanded by Koreans who had fought for Mao Zedung in the Chinese civil war. The commanders of the 5th, 6th and 7th Divisions were all veterans of the Chinese 4th Field Army and their men all brought their weapons with them when they crossed the Yalu River back into North Korea.

During the afternoon of 25 June, North Korean aircraft attacked South Korean and United States Air Force aircraft and facilities at Seoul airfield and Kimpo air base, just south of Seoul. They left a C-54 transport aircraft burning at Kimpo and one of its crew became the first American to be wounded in the Korean War.

The next day US Far East Air Force fighters based in Japan flew top cover while ships began to evacuate American citizens from Inchon, a seaport on the Yellow Sea, twenty miles west of Seoul. On the following day, 27 June, the UN Defensive Campaign formally commenced when Fifth Air Force fighters destroyed three North Korean Yak fighters, the first aerial victories of the war. The UN Defensive Campaign was the first of ten campaigns that would be fought the length and breadth of the Korean Peninsula over the next three years and the participants would be awarded medals accordingly.

As the North Koreans began to push the ROK forces southwards and Seoul fell to the invaders, the United Nations voted to assist the Republic of Korea. The United States would take the lead and President Harry S. Truman ordered US air and naval forces to help counter the invasion. Within days advance elements of the US 24th Infantry Division were on their way from Japan to the port of Pusan in the south-east corner of the peninsula. The men were part of the occupation forces that had been in Japan for the last five years and they were inadequately trained, poorly armed and led by inexperienced officers.

A small combat team from 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment was flown in to try to slow the North Korean advance. However, by the time Task Force Smith had arrived at Pusan airfield and boarded trucks for the drive northwards, the North Koreans had crossed the Han River and taken Suwon and were already on the way toward their next objective: Taejon.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Smith and his 400 men moved into their positions about eight miles south of Suwon, where the road ran through a saddle of hills. Supported by six 105mm howitzers and 140 artillerymen they dug in and waited with trepidation for the enemy to appear. At 0730 hours on 5 July the North Korean column came in sight, led by thirty-three T-34 tanks, spearheading the advance of the 4th Division. They were engaged by the howitzers, then the recoilless rifles and bazookas of the infantry. However, none of them managed to penetrate the armour on the tanks and by 0900 hours they had driven down the road and past the defenders. It would be another week before the first large 3.5-inch bazookas and their larger and more destructive shaped charges arrived from the United States. Now the main column came into view, led by three more tanks and when they got closer Smith ordered his men to open fire with mortars and machine guns. The North Koreans quickly disembarked and instead of attacking the defenders head on, began to outflank them. The artillery managed to destroy two of the tanks with anti-tank rounds, but as they only had six of them they did not last long. The normal high-explosive rounds simply ricocheted off the sides of the tanks. Anti-tank mines would have stopped the T-34s but there were none in Korea at that time.

At 1430 hours Smith ordered his men to withdraw, but the withdrawal was disorganised and nearly all the heavy weapons and twenty-five wounded men were left behind. Intense enemy fire caused heavy casualties amongst the GIs and only half of them made it back to safety; the rest were either killed or captured. In the meantime Major-General Dean, the commander of the division had arrived at Pusan and he sent the 34th Infantry Regiment up to P’yongt’aek with orders to hold the line. Lieutenant Colonel Loveless had only been in command of the 34th for a month. He had been brought in to replace the previous commander, who had failed to improve the fighting qualities of the regiment. Not only were the companies under strength, with about 140 officers and men each, but their weapons were inadequate as well. Each man had either an M1 or a carbine with 80 or 100 rounds of ammunition – enough for about ten minutes of firing. There were no hand grenades either, essential items for close-quarter fighting. A third of the officers had seen combat during the Second World War, but only one in six of the enlisted men had any experience of combat. The rest were at best only semi-trained and averaged under twenty years of age.

The men of the 1st Battalion stood in their water-logged trenches until dawn broke. They had earlier been told that Task Force Smith had been defeated and in the early hours they had heard the sound of the bridge behind them being destroyed, to prevent its use by tanks. It was bad for morale and when dawn broke and they saw a line of tanks and trucks extending as far as the eye could see, they were ready to run. They were also without artillery support and when the first tank shells began to explode around them, they climbed out of their foxholes and began to retreat back to P‘yongt’aek.

The poor performance of the American soldiers was due to the post-war complacency of their commanders and hundreds would die because of it. In this case the 34th Infantry Regiment was a third under strength and the two battalions were ill equipped and poorly trained for the battles ahead. The blame for this went right to the top, from the divisions officers, to General Dean and the commander of the US Eighth Army General Walton Walker. Ultimately the buck stopped at the desk of General MacArthur whose primary concern at that time was the rehabilitation of Japanese society and that country’s economy.

General Walker’s advance party established the headquarters of the US Eighth Army at Taegu on 9 July and the next day the 25th Infantry Division began to arrive. To the east of the country the South Koreans were carrying out a fighting retreat to prevent the enemy from outflanking the American forces. As the North Korean 3rd and 4th Divisions prepared to cross the Kum River and advance on Taejon, General Dean marshaled his forces to oppose them. The 4th Division was at half strength with 6,000 fighting men, but they also had fifty tanks. The 3rd Division had no tanks, but was up to full strength. The US 24th Infantry Division had 11,000 men on its strength, but there were only 5,300 at the sharp end. It would be a hard fought battle.

On 19 July General Dean and the three regiments of the 24th Division prepared to defend Taejon. General Walker told him that he had to hold the town for at least two days, to allow the 25th Division and the 1st Cavalry Division to reach the front. It was easier said than done. The enemy had rebuilt the bridge over the Kum River, ten miles north of Taejon and started to move tanks and artillery across. By midnight the two enemy divisions had encircled the town and were establishing roadblocks to the south and east. General Dean and his aide had spent the night in Taejon and awoke to the sound of small arms fire. Amazingly, considering his heavy responsibilities, the General found a pair of bazooka teams and went out tank hunting. By the afternoon of 20 July, General Dean realized that the battle was lost and ordered the withdrawal of the remaining units. Towards evening the main convoy tried to leave the town but came under enemy fire. General Dean’s jeep took a wrong turning and soon came under fire. After sheltering for a while in a ditch, Dean and his party made it to the banks of the Taejon River. They hid there until dark and then tried to climb the mountain north of the village of Nangwol.

Sergeant George Libby was in a truck which was hit by devastating enemy fire which killed or wounded all on board except Libby. He administered first aid to his comrades and flagged down a passing M5 artillery tractor and helped the wounded aboard. The enemy opened fire on the vehicle and Libby, realizing that no one else could operate the tractor, placed himself between the driver and the enemy, thereby shielding him while he returned the fire. Although wounded several times, Libby stopped to pick up more wounded and continued to shield the driver and return fire as they approached another roadblock. He sustained further wounds and died as his comrades reached friendly lines. For his courage and self-sacrifice he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honour.

As darkness fell on the hills around Taejon General Dean and his party paused for a rest. Dean decided to go off on his own to look for water for the wounded, but he fell down a steep slope and was knocked out. When he came to, he discovered he had a broken shoulder and was disoriented. Up above, the rest of the party waited for two more hours for Dean to reappear, then set off for the American lines. General Dean spent thirty-six long days wandering the countryside before he was betrayed by two civilians and captured. His weight had dropped from 190 to 130 pounds and he was to spend the rest of the war in solitary confinement. If that was not bad enough, almost 1,200 of his men had become casualties.

Towards the end of July an incident took place that would lead to a review by the Department of the Army Inspector General fifty years later. Korean villagers stated that on 25 July 1950, US soldiers evacuated approximately 500 to 600 villagers from their homes in Im Gae Ri and Joo Gok Ri. The villagers said the US soldiers escorted them towards the south. Later that evening, the American soldiers led the villagers near a riverbank at Ha Ga Ri and ordered them to stay there that night. During the night, the villagers witnessed a long parade of US troops and vehicles moving towards Pusan.

On the morning of 26 July, the villagers continued south along the Seoul-Pusan road. According to their statements, when the villagers reached the vicinity of No Gun Ri, US soldiers stopped them at a roadblock and ordered the group onto the railroad tracks, where soldiers searched them and their personal belongings. The Koreans state that, although the soldiers found no prohibited articles such as weapons or other military contraband, the soldiers ordered an air attack upon the villagers via radio communications with US aircraft. Shortly afterwards, planes flew over and dropped bombs and fired machine guns, killing approximately 100 villagers on the railroad tracks. Those villagers who survived sought protection in a small culvert underneath the railroad tracks. The US soldiers drove the villagers out of the culvert and into the larger double tunnels nearby. The Koreans state that the US soldiers then fired into both ends of the tunnels over a period of four days (26–29 July 1950), resulting in approximately 300 additional deaths.

At the time of the incident, the South Koreans and their American allies were retreating before the North Korean advance. The roads were packed with refugees and amongst them were North Korean infiltrators. The US Divisional commanders had given orders to keep the refugees off the roads and generally relied on the Korean National Police to carry out the work. Sometimes they were too enthusiastic and shot civilians considered to be Communist sympathizers or infiltrators. Major General Gay, the 1st Cavalry Division Commander was alleged to have commented that he would not employ the National Police in his division’s area of operations. However, such decisions were being taken by higher authorities.

On 26 July, the Eighth Army in coordination with the ROK government formulated a plan to control the movement of refugees, which precluded the movement of refugees across battle lines at all times, prohibited evacuation of villages without general officer approval and prescribed procedures for the Korean National Police to clear desired areas and routes. They also strictly precluded the movement of civilians during the hours of darkness.

It was under these conditions that the above incident took place. The 5th and 7th Cavalry Regiments were withdrawing through the area at the time. An enemy breakthrough was reported in the sector to the north of the 7th Cavalry position and in the early hours of 26 July their 2nd Battalion conducted a disorganized and undisciplined withdrawal to the vicinity of No Gun Ri. They spent the remaining hours of 26 July until late into that night recovering abandoned personnel and equipment from the area where the air strike and machine gun firing on Korean refugees is alleged to have occurred. By that night 119 men were still unaccounted for.

The 7th Cavalry relieved the 2nd Battalion in the afternoon of 26 July and reported an enemy column on the railroad tracks on the 27th, which they fired upon. On the 29th they withdrew as the North Koreans advanced, so for two days they had believed they were under attack. It was later proven that the Air Force were strafing to the south-west of No Gun Ri on 27 July, but they were mistakenly strafing the command post of the 1st Battalion of the 7th Cavalry, rather than the enemy. It was not the first instance of ‘friendly fire’ and it certainly would not be the last.

Were the cavalrymen responsible for the civilian casualties? The review in 2001 could not establish for sure. However, the fact is that the American troops had been thrown into action straight from occupation duty in Japan, mostly without training for, or experience in combat. They were young, under-trained and unprepared for the fight they would wage against the North Korean Peoples Army. Many of their NCOs had been transferred to the 24th US Infantry Division and they were facing a determined assault by a well-armed and well-trained enemy employing both conventional and guerilla warfare tactics. In these circumstances some soldiers may have fired in response to a perceived enemy threat without considering the possibility that they may be civilians.

By 5 August, the North Korean advance had ground to a halt, due to a combination of factors: air attacks by the Far East Air Forces, lengthening supply lines and stiffer resistance from the South Korean Army and the United States troops who were now arriving in force. The defenders were now occupying only the south-east portion of the country, in a forty- to sixty-mile arc around the sea port of Pusan.

Another Medal of Honour would be awarded to Sergeant Ernest Kouma for his actions on 31 August and 1 September. The 2nd US Infantry Division had just replaced the battle-weary 24th Division when the North Koreans began to cross the Naktong River under cover of darkness. As they did so, Sergeant Kouma led his patrol of two M26 Pershing tanks and two M19 Gun Motor Carriages along the river bank to the Kihang Ferry near Agok. A heavy fog covered the river and at 2200 hours mortar shells began falling on the American-held side of the river. When the fog lifted half an hour later Kouma saw that a North Korean pontoon bridge was being laid across the river directly in front of his position. The four vehicles opened fire and sank many of the boats trying to cross the river. Kouma was manning the M2 0.50-calibre Browning machine gun in the tank turret when he was told over the field telephone that the supporting infantry were withdrawing. He decided to act as rearguard to cover the infantry and was shot in the foot shortly thereafter while reloading the tank’s ammunition. His force was then ambushed by a group of North Koreans dressed in US military uniforms. Kouma was wounded in the shoulder as he repeatedly beat back the attacking North Koreans. Eventually the other three vehicles withdrew or were knocked out and Kouma held the crossing site until 0730 hours the next morning. At one point the tank was surrounded and out of ammunition for its main gun and Kouma held them off with his machine gun, pistol and grenades. The tank then withdrew eight miles to the newly-established American lines, destroying three North Korean machine gun positions along the way. During this action Kouma had killed an estimated 250 North Korean troops.

The defenders of the Pusan Perimeter would try to keep the enemy at bay while General MacArthur planned the second US campaign of the war: the UN Offensive Campaign, which would last from 16 September until 2 November 1950.

The US Defensive Campaign ended on 15 September. The following day the fight back began with Operation Chromite, a daring amphibious landing at Inchon, a port on the west coast of Korea and far behind the enemy lines. The X Corps invasion force, numbering nearly 70,000 men, arrived off the beaches 150 miles behind enemy lines. It was the first major amphibious assault by American troops since Okinawa in April 1945. After a three hour naval bombardment, the men of the First Marine Division began to disembark from their landing craft at 0633 hours on the fortified Wolmi Island that protected Inchon harbour. It was defended by 400 men of the North Korean 226th Independent Marine Regiment, but by 0750 hours the island was in the hands of the US Marines. Because of the high tides, the landing on the Inchon shoreline did not take place until the afternoon when the 1st and 5th Marines approached Red and Blue Beaches at 1733 hours. Most of the men had to scale the seawall with scaling ladders before assaulting the two objectives in front of them: the Cemetery and Observatory Hills. By midnight the beachhead was secure at the cost of twenty Marines killed and 174 wounded. In the morning the two Marine regiments began to move inland, driving the North Koreans before them. The 7th Infantry Division would begin to land at Inchon the following day as the 5th Marines began its drive towards Kimpo airfield. The first Marine aircraft began to fly sorties from the field on the 21st. The enemy suffered heavy losses that day, trying to cross the Han River into Seoul. They were caught in the open with nowhere to hide and the Marine Corsairs made run after run on them, with napalm, bombs, rockets and 20mm cannon.

The Air Force’s contribution to the invasion was Air Interdiction Campaign No. 2, the first objective of which was to limit the flow of reinforcements to the landing zone at Inchon. The FEAF B-29s would also have to hit the rail yard at Seoul in the days before the landing and General MacArthur made it clear that he would require heavy air support for Eighth Army as it broke out of the Pusan Perimeter in pursuit of the North Koreans.

The Eighth Army had been reorganized into I Corps and IX Corps. The most reliable units were allocated to I Corps: the 5th Regimental Combat Team, the 1st Cavalry Division, the rebuilt 24th Division, the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade and the South Koreans’ best division, the 1st ROK Division. They were to break out of the Pusan Perimeter and spearhead the 180-mile drive north to meet up with Major General Almonds X Corps which was coming ashore at Inchon. IX Corps and its 2nd and 25th US Divisions would follow on a week later. On the east side of the country the ROK I and II Corps were to engage the enemy the best they could.

The breakout of Eighth Army was to begin on 16 September with a force of eighty-two B-29s bombing a pathway along the line Taegu-Taejon-Suwon. However, the weather delayed the attacks until 18 September when forty-two B-29s started to clear a path for the 38th Infantry Regiment to cross the Naktong River. This was followed by 286 close air support sorties from F-51s, F-80s and B-26s. A further 361 were flown the next day, halting North Korean counter attacks and weakening their defences until, on 22 September, the North Korean Army collapsed, leaving the door open for a race to the 38th Parallel.

Bomber Command pursued the retreating North Koreans and attacked them by day and night. The B-29s had been practising dropping flares at night, so that B-26s could attack the targets illuminated by the flares. On 22 September the roving B-26s bombed and strafed a long North Korean ammunition train south of Suwon and the explosions went on for an hour. Other B-29s flew psychological warfare missions dropping leaflets over retreating North Korean columns. Many prisoners surrendered with these leaflets in their hands.

As the bombing effort switched from the south to the north, the B-29s ranged far and wide looking for new targets. On 22 September a B-29 from the 98th Bomb Group spotted a town with a rail marshalling yard and bombed it. Several days passed before the Air Force managed to identify the town and discovered that it was actually Antung, across the Yalu River in Chinese Manchuria. The warning to stay clear of the Chinese border went out to the bomber crews and four days later attacks began against the North Korean hydro-electric plants, the first target for the 92nd Bomb Group being the electric plant at Hungnam. On the same day, UN forces fought their way into Seoul and began four days of street to street fighting to evict the 20,000 North Korean defenders. When Seoul finally fell on 28 September the total US casualties for the Inchon-Seoul operations had reached 3,500. Enemy casualties were estimated at 14,000 killed and 7,000 captured.

On 27 September, MacArthur received authorization from the Joint Chiefs to send his forces across the border into North Korea and on 1 October all bombing in South Korea ceased. The same day the first South Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel, heading north. By now there were four US Army Divisions and a Marine Division in action. The first major Allied contingent had arrived in the shape of the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade and the 90,000 ROK troops were now receiving the weapons and training they sorely needed two months earlier.

On 7 October the UN General Assembly approved a US-sponsored motion that stability be restored on the Korean Peninsula, by defeating the North Korean forces and restoring democracy to both sides of the border. MacArthur met President Truman at Wake Island a week later and informed him, although there were intelligence reports of Chinese forces massing across the border, he considered it safe to pursue the North Koreans right up to the Yalu River.

In the meantime the Marines had been recalled to their ships and had sailed south around the bottom of the peninsula and up the east coast to the port of Wonsan. By the time the Navy had cleared the enemy mines from the harbour and the Marines had come ashore, the UN forces had swept past the town with the enemy in full retreat. The race for the North Korean capital of P’yongyang was under way. Three ROK divisions were driving northwards, together with the US 1st Cavalry Division, the 24th Division and the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade. On 19 October units of the 5th Cavalry entered P’yongyang, just minutes ahead of the ROK 1st Division. With the fall of their capital, North Korean resistance began to increase. On 20 October, 2,860 paratroopers from the 187th Regimental Combat Team and 300 tons of supplies were dropped near Sukchon and Sunchon, thirty miles north-east of P’yongyang. One of their objectives was to halt two North Korean trains full of American prisoners of war that were heading for POW camps along the Yalu River. They arrived too late and found that many of the prisoners had been murdered by their guards at the side of the railroad tracks.

At the same time Fifth Air Force began reporting increased enemy air attacks along the border. The new Russian Mig-15 fighter had made its debut, flown by Russian and Chinese pilots and it outclassed all other jets being flown by UN squadrons at that time. MacArthur wanted bombing missions flown against the bridges crossing the Yalu River, to prevent supplies coming in to North Korea and to block the path of retreat for the North Koreans into Manchuria. However, at the time the Air Force was prohibited from flying within five miles of the Manchurian border.

Originally, the Joint Chiefs only approved the use of South Korean units north of the 38th Parallel, but MacArthur ordered all of his forces to advance with all possible speed. He was taking a considerable risk and did not fully appreciate the possible reaction of the Soviets and Chinese as the UN forces approached their borders. On 26 October, advance units of the 6th Division of the ROK III Corps reached the Yalu River. Over the radio came the first reports that they had killed a small number of Chinese troops. At the same time the ROK 1st Division captured Chinese prisoners at Sudong. The next day, 27 October, the Chinese first-phase offensive was launched.



Anglo-Burmese ‘Difficulties’

Storming Myat-Toon’s stronghold, February 1853, Burma, a biographical sketch of Lieutenant General Garnet Joseph Wolseley (1833-1913), illustration from the magazine The Graphic, volume XXVI, no 675, November 4, 1882.

In India, the years 1851–54 were full of minor campaigns and military expeditions: there were operations against the Waziris in 1851–52; there was an expedition to the Black Mountains to punish tribesmen for murdering two collectors of the salt tax, and two small expeditions against the hill tribes around Peshawar during 1852; and in 1853 there was an expedition against the Jowaki Afridis. And, of course, in 1854 there was the Battle of Muddy Flat in China. All in all, however, these were comparatively peaceful years for the Empire – except in Burma.

The cause of the Anglo-Burmese difficulty was similar to the cause of the Opium War. Burmese officials had insulted and abused British subjects. This, of course, was not to be tolerated. In a minute on the subject, Lord Dalhousie wrote that the Indian Government, meaning his own, could not ‘appear in an attitude of inferiority or hope to maintain peace and submission among the numberless princes and peoples embraced within the vast circuit of empire, if for one day it gave countenance to a doubt of the absolute superiority of its arms, and of its continued resolution to maintain it’. On 15 March 1852 Lord Dalhousie sent an ultimatum to the King of Burma. On 14 April Rangoon was taken by assault.

There had been considerable resistance to the British invasion of Burma and some sharp fighting had taken place in Rangoon, particularly around the beautiful golden-domed Shwedagon temple complex, but the Burmese army had been driven out and fled north. In December Dalhousie imperiously informed the King of Burma that he planned to annex the province of Pegu (Lower Burma), and that if the king objected the British would take over the entire kingdom. On 20 January 1853 Pegu was formally annexed to British India without even the usual treaty. So ended, at least officially, the Second Burmese War. A third war would be waged before the century ended, and between the wars there was a great deal of plain fighting, though not on a scale grand enough to be called war.

A subaltern still in his teens, Garnet Wolseley (1833–1913), arrived in Burma a few months after the annexation and here saw his first action. Although born into the British military caste, his family was poor and had not been able to buy him a commission. But his father and grandfather had had honourable military careers and because of this the Duke of Wellington had been persuaded to give him a commission when he was eighteen. He had the proper outlook for a young Victorian officer: the belief that ‘marriage is ruinous to the prospects of a young officer’, a fierce desire for military glory, and the conviction that all English gentlemen were born courageous.

Military glory is a ridiculous thing; it is also appalling. Yet it fascinates men, and its achievement is thrilling to those who pursue it and survive more or less intact. No man ever sought glory on the field of battle more assiduously than Wolseley. Sent to India, he ‘longed to hear the whistle of a bullet fired in earnest’, and at first was very much afraid that he would miss the Second Burma War. He need not have worried. Bands of guerrillas and dacoits still harassed the British forces and one of these, led by a chief named Myat Toon, was enjoying considerable success. To the British, Myat Toon was a bandit; to the Burmese he was a national hero. Such differences of opinion usually result in bloodshed. A naval and military force was sent to subdue him – or rather two forces, one military and the other naval; the navy captain and the army colonel, although marching by the same road, did not coordinate their plans. The result was a disastrous defeat. Naturally another expedition was called for to redeem British prestige; this time a larger force under the control of a single officer.

Brigadier Sir John Cheap of the Bengal Engineers was chosen to command this little expedition, which is remembered now only because young Wolseley took part in it. Cheap’s force of about one thousand men was made up almost equally of Indian and European troops. Although there were a few European regiments (composed of white Britons) in the army of the East India Company, most of the European regiments in Asia were ‘Queen’s Army’, meaning they were part of the British regular army on loan to the Government of India. ‘Queen’s officers’ tended to take a snobbish view of this distinction, looking down on ‘Company officers’ and doing everything possible to indicate their own superiority. Wolseley described a difference in dress:

The Queen’s Army took an idiotic pride in dressing in India as nearly as possible in the same clothing they wore at home. Upon this occasion [in Burma], the only difference was in the trousers, which were of ordinary Indian drill dyed blue, and that around our regulation forage cap we wore a few yards of puggaree of a similar colour. We wore our ordinary cloth shell jackets buttoned up to the chin, and the usual white buckskin gloves. Could any costume short of steel armour be more absurd in such a latitude? The officers of the East India Company were sensibly dressed in good helmets with ample turbans round them, and in loose jackets of cotton drill. As a great relaxation of the Queen’s regulations, our men were told they need not wear their great stiff leathern stocks. This was a relief to the young recruits, but most of the old soldiers clung to theirs, asserting that the stock protected the back of the neck against the sun, and kept them cool. I assume it was rather the force of habit that made them think so.

Thus dressed, General Cheap’s force left Rangoon at the beginning of March 1853 in river steamers. The trip up the Irrawaddy was disagreeable: the troops were crowded on the decks of the steamers and exposed to the fury of tropical storms and to swarms of hungry mosquitoes; they also passed a number of rafts fitted with bamboo frames on which were stretched in spread-eagle fashion the corpses of Myat Toon’s enemies. After a few days on the river the force landed and started the overland march to Myat Toon’s stronghold. There was some skirmishing along the way and Wolseley saw a man killed in action for the first time: ‘I was not at the moment the least excited, and it gave me a rather unpleasant sensation.’

On their first day ashore the troops bivouacked 500 yards from a stream where a detachment of Madras Sappers were building rafts while Burmese across the stream sniped at them. Wolseley, unable to resist the sound of the firing, went down to the stream to watch the sappers work and to see how he himself would react under fire. While there, a British rocket section opened up on the Burmese and the scream of the rocket caused some of the sappers’ cart bullocks to panic and stampede towards him. As he sprinted for the shelter of some carts, an old soldier, watching him run, called out, ‘Never mind, sir, you’ll soon get used to it.’ Young Wolseley was furious.

For twelve days the British moved forward through the jungle; the food was bad and scanty, and cholera pursued them. At last they reached Myat Toon’s stronghold, a fortified village, and a general assault was ordered. Unfortunately the 67th Bengal Native Infantry chose to lie down rather than advance. Ensign Wolseley gave one of the native officers a kick as he ran by him. Included in Cheap’s column were 200 men of the 4th Sikhs. Having finally conquered the Sikhs, the British had hastened to enlist these splendid fighters in their own army, and this was the first time they had been in action on the British side. According to Wolseley, ‘They were an example of splendid daring to every one present.’

The first attack on Myat Toon’s position failed. When volunteers were called for to form a storming party, Wolseley and another young officer quickly offered to lead it. ‘That was just what I longed for,’ Wolseley said. Many years later, when Field Marshal Lord Wolseley, full of years and honours, was asked if he had ever been afraid during a battle he had to admit that while there was not time to be afraid during the action he was sometimes nervous beforehand: ‘I can honestly say the one dread I had – and it ate into my soul – was that I should die without having made the name for myself which I always hoped a kind and merciful God might permit me to win.’ Such must have been the only fear of many a young British officer in the nineteenth century. It reflected an attitude that made Britain great and strong.

Collecting a party of soldiers, Wolseley led them cheering down a narrow nullah towards the enemy’s defences while the Burmese manning them cried, ‘Come on! Come on!’ For a few moments Wolseley was in a state of ecstatic excitement. Then he fell in a hole. It was a cleverly concealed man trap and he was knocked unconscious. When he recovered his senses and managed to crawl out, he found that the storming party had melted away and there was nothing for him to do but run back ignominiously. It was not glorious.

A second storming party was called for, and again Wolseley volunteered. Writing of his experiences more than forty years later, he described his emotions as he led this second charge:

What a supremely delightful moment it was! No one in cold blood can imagine how intense is the pleasure of such a position who has not experienced it himself; there can be nothing else in the world like it, or that can approach its inspiration, its intense sense of pride. You are for the first time being, and it is always short, lifted up from and out of all petty thoughts of self, and for the moment your whole existance, soul and body, seems to revel in a true sense of glory. … The blood seems to boil, the brain to be on fire. Oh! that I could again hope to experience such sensations! I have won praise since then, and commanded at what in our little Army we call battles, and know what it is to gain the applause of soldiers; but in a long and varied military life, although as a captain I have led my own company in charging an enemy, I have never experienced the same unalloyed and elevating satisfaction, or known again the joy I then felt as I ran for the enemy’s stockades at the head of a small mob of soldiers, most of them boys like myself.

This time the attack succeeded, but Wolseley fell when a large gingall bullet passed through his left thigh. He tried to stop the bleeding by putting his hand over the wound and saw the blood spurting between the fingers of his pipe-clayed gloves. Nevertheless, he cheered and shouted and waved his sword, urging his men to charge on. This was Wolseley’s last battle in Burma; he was invalided home, promoted to lieutenant, and recovered in time to serve in the Crimea.

Iraqi Estimates and Dispositions 1991

Disposition of Iraq’s Army at the beginning of the ground war, 24 February 1991.

Saddam’s intelligence organization, the General Military Intelligence Directorate (GMID), may have shared his aspirations, but not his optimism. From the beginning of the crisis, GMID assessed the Americans as likely to attack. In August the directorate concluded that the “continuous concentration of American troops in the region affirms the intention of the Coalition forces to launch the attack.” The Iraqis surmised the attack might be exclusively from the air in the beginning. Toward the end of August, the directorate assert- ed, “While waiting for more troops to arrive, the Americans will mainly de- pend on their air superiority.” Following Bush’s announcement in November, GMID concluded, “The American administration is serious about attacking Iraq.” Despite his public pronouncements, Saddam took these warnings seriously and acted on them throughout the crisis.

The Iraqis sought to improve their estimates by using the reconnaissance resources they had. These included oblique photography, signals intelligence, and side-looking airborne radar. They also used agents to ascertain the lo- cation and activity of coalition forces. The Iraqi diplomatic corps exploited their contacts as well. In August 1990 the air attaché in Belgrade reported on a contact between the Palestinian military attaché and the director of Yugoslav intelligence. According to the Palestinian attaché, the Yugoslavs believed the United States would attack as early as the end of August. The Iraqis also interviewed line crossers and monitored Western media.

Schwarzkopf made draconian threats to his staff about security, but someone, possibly in government, talked. A great many people knew the basic out- line. In any case, the media either learned or deduced the general outlines of Central Command’s (CENTCOM’s) campaign plan. In an article in the Inter- national Herald Tribune, Leslie Gelb wrote, “Everyone seems to know that the likely scenario calls for US and British forces to wheel around Kuwait and cut across the southern part of Iraq toward Basra.” The CENTCOM concept of an attack around the Iraqi Army’s western flank was an open secret. The Iraqis simply found the idea of a great wheel around Kuwait unlikely.

Although Saddam used the Republican Guard Forces Command to seize Kuwait, he did not employ it to defend his newly acquired “nineteenth province.” Instead, he withdrew the politically reliable, mobile, and well-equipped Republican Guard and positioned it to the north of Kuwait and southwest of Basra as a strategic reserve. From this position the Guard could respond rapidly to a coalition attack into Kuwait or north along Kuwait’s western boundary. Relatively immobile infantry divisions formed the front line. To the rear of the front- line formations, they established tactical reserves, and they positioned operational reserves farther to the rear.

Initially the Iraqis established a forward defense along the Kuwait-Saudi border employing techniques generally similar to those they had employed in the Iran- Iraq War. Each of the forward infantry divisions deployed with two brigades up and one back. Each of the brigades dug in its three infantry battalions and supporting weapons including tanks. Generally, each infantry brigade could count on a tank company in support. Each of the forward corps controlled several frontline divisions. Each also had at least one mechanized or armored division as a tactical reserve. In December, the Iraqis formed a corps headquarters they called Jihad. It moved into the theater just northwest of Kuwait as an operational reserve. The Jihad Corps controlled the 10th and 17th Armored Divisions (ADs). As the buildup of coalition forces continued, the Iraqis worked to improve their positions and extend their main line of resistance west into southern Iraq.

Their method of extending west followed an easily discernible pattern. As divisions repositioned or new divisions extended the line, they refused their western flank. They did so by positioning at least an infantry battalion of each division oriented to the west supported by the division’s reserve located to their rear or north. In September an unidentified Iraqi division extended the defenses well to the west by deploying some one hundred kilometers west of the triborder region. To their east, the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division (ID) positioned two brigades to defend the Iraqi right flank west of the Wadi al- Batin. It was here that the 1 ID attacked them in February 1991.

Over the course of several weeks the Iraqi VII Corps worked to close the gap between its units and the main line of resistance in Kuwait. The efforts of its divisions were inconsistent. Some built complex obstacles including minefields, wire, antitank ditches, and in a few cases trenches filled with oil that could be set ablaze. Many of them did not establish complex obstacles; some failed to dig in adequately or develop sufficient overhead cover for fighting positions. In some places, local conditions confounded Iraqi troops’ efforts to dig because bedrock lay only three feet or so below the surface. In any case, they did not build the kind of positions described in US Army threat handbooks. Iraqi units certainly could build complex obstacles and impressive defensive positions, as they had demonstrated in the Iran- Iraq War, but they failed to do so west of the Wadi al-Batin. The lack of adequately prepared positions chiefly stemmed from inadequate supervision of hastily raised conscript units and inadequate resources including mines, wire, and obstacle materials. Farther east, where they had more time and resources, their defenses were better.

In September and October 1990 the Iraqis studied six possible “enemy” courses of action. These included a seaborne attack from the Persian Gulf supported by an attack northward along the coast. An attack more or less into the teeth of the Iraqi defense midway along Kuwait’s boot heel comprised the second course of action. The third assumed an attack north, along the western edge of the boot heel. Their analysts imagined an attack northeast from the bend in the southern boundary of Kuwait as the fourth course of action. The fifth course of action assumed an attack northeast from the southwest corner of Kuwait just east of the Wadi al- Batin. Finally, the Iraqis considered an at- tack up the Wadi al- Batin feasible. The Iraqis also positioned forces to defend the Al- Faw Peninsula against an amphibious assault.

The Iraqi Estimate of Coalition Courses of Action

The Iraqis reinforced the defense of Kuwait throughout the fall, expanding their Army to do so. Saddam’s ministry of defense increased both the regular army and the Republican Guard; it added four divisions to the Guard order of battle, although only two moved south. After Bush announced the deployment of additional US forces, Iraq moved ten more divisions into the theater. This reinforcement raised the number of deployed troops to about 500,000. They were organized in at least forty- one divisions, though there may have been as many as fifty- five. Infantry divisions comprised the bulk of the newly created formations. They were poorly equipped and not well trained. They were used to thicken defenses and close gaps. Three regular army armored divisions arrived to combine with units already in the theater to beef up the operational reserves. The three armored divisions raised the number of tanks available to 4,200. The newly arrived 17 AD and the 51 ID (Mechanized) provided mobile forces to back up three infantry divisions and one infantry brigade defending the coast north of Kuwait City. The 12 AD arrived in December 1990. That unit combined with the 10 AD, under control of the Jihad Corps, oriented on the Wadi al- Batin. In January 1991 the Iraqis formed yet another corps, with headquarters in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Called West Euphrates Corps, it controlled two divisions defending southern Iraq.

Iraqi planners clung to two flawed assumptions: first, they believed the US would mount an amphibious assault as part of the coalition campaign; second, they were convinced the Americans would attack up the Wadi al-Batin. They had perfectly good reasons for their conviction. CENTCOM retained an amphibious capability, suggesting the possibility of amphibious assault. GEN Schwarzkopf never intended to land Marines in Kuwait, but he kept Marines afloat and worked to deceive the Iraqis into believing an amphibious assault was coming. Just as he intended, the Iraqis honored the threat. Despite US media alleging a great flanking maneuver to the west, the Iraqis found that option implausible based on the sheer difficulty of maneuvering and navigating west of Wadi al-Batin. Featureless desert is an inadequate description of that ground. It was absolutely barren. In accordance with the CENTCOM deception plan, the US VII Corps positioned no units in the west until shortly before the attack. The 1st Cavalry Division (1 CD) moved into the area in February and conducted operations designed to create the impression the coalition at- tack would come up the wadi. For all of these reasons, the Iraqis reinforced their defenses oriented toward the wadi and along the coast. By the time the 1 ID began arriving in Saudi Arabia, Iraqi reinforcements were either on the way or in the positions they would occupy on the day the ground offensive began.

French Wars of Religion 1562–98

Huguenot Gendarmes 1567

The Battle of Ivry was fought on 14 March 1590, during the French Wars of Religion. The battle was a decisive victory for Henry IV of France, leading Huguenot forces against the Catholic League forces led by the Duc de Mayenne. Henry’s forces were victorious and he went on to lay siege to Paris.

The unexpected death of Henry II in 1559 ushered in thirty-five years of royal weakness and internal strife. Henry’s immediate successor, the teenaged Francis II, reigned for barely a year; he was succeeded by Henry’s second son, the 10-year-old Charles IX. Henry’s widowed queen, the shrewd and capable Florentine princess Catherine de’ Medici, picked up the pieces and served as regent. She would continue to be a force at court long after Charles, an uninspiring and mentally suspect man, reached his majority Catherine eventually rallied the royal cause in the name of her sons – three would rule France – but in the meantime a few crucial years had been lost to dynastic flux and confusion. France descended towards a complicated, many-sided civil war.

The French crisis was in part purely political, as the most prominent and ambitious noble families of the realm jockeyed both with each other, and with the crown, for position and power. This competition would only intensify as it became clear that Catherine’s three sons, the last Valois kings of France, would remain without legitimate issue. The struggle in France was also, of course, about religion. Calvinism had found many converts, particularly in the south and west, and also within some of the greatest noble houses. Faith and family therefore determined the factions. The most powerful Catholic party was that of the Guise; their rival-allies included the Montmorency Several clans shared – and squabbled over – leadership of the French Protestants, or Huguenots. Among these men were Gaspard de Coligny and the Bourbon princes of Conde. The Valois remained staunchly Catholic, but Catherine de’ Medici was profoundly – and correctly – suspicious of the Guise. She also rightly concluded that her own family had the most to lose by civil war, and so Catherine was often, but not always, one of the foremost promoters of settlement and peace. In January of 1562 she promoted a royal edict that granted Huguenots the right to worship openly.

Toleration proved no solution to the French crisis, as a particularly provocative act of violence forced a civil war. On 1 March 1562 the armed entourage of the Duke of Guise massacred a Huguenot congregation discovered holding a service – now perfectly legal – in a barn outside the small town of Vassy. In response the Protestants of France rose in arms, and committed their own excesses: in late April, Lyons was pillaged with exceptional ferocity Indeed, atrocity and counter-atrocity would be the steady, brutal pattern of the wars to come. The first significant battle was at Dreux on 19 December: a Catholic force – they posed as ‘royal’ as well – under the elderly but redoubtable constable Montmorency met the Huguenots under the Prince of Conde. Losses were about equal, but the Catholics won the field. Curiously both commanders were captured, evidence of the day’s even fortune, and a foreshadowing of the stalemate to come. Two months after the battle an assassin shot the Duke of Guise – in revenge for Vass~ One month later still, in March 1563, Catherine de’ Medici helped engineer a truce, which settled nothing.

Hostilities resumed in September 1567 with a failed Huguenot attempt to kidnap the court and force Charles IX and his mother to sanction the Protestant party. The incident only drove the king into the arms of the Catholic grandees, and Charles went to ground in the sanctuary of ultra-Catholic Paris. The leaders of the Huguenots, Conde and the admiral Coligny, settled to a blockade of the capital. On 10 November 1567 the royal commander, again the constable Montmorency, issued from Paris to break the Protestant grip on the city. The battle, fought between Paris and the satellite town of St Denis, was another bloody tactical draw: Montmorency was mortally wounded and the Huguenots kept their ground, but their losses forced an end to the blockade of Paris. Truce prevented more campaigning, but war soon returned after another failed kidnapping – this time a Catholic attempt on Conde and Coligny in August of 1568. The next year the Huguenots were defeated at Jarnac (13 March 1569), where Conde was killed in cold blood soon after being captured. A second and more substantial Catholic success, at Moncountour (3 October 1569), failed to provide its victors with any conclusive political advantage. In its third round the war was still a stalemate, and the only logical policy was another try at peace.

Lasting reconciliation briefly seemed possible, in the form of a royal wedding between Catherine’s daughter Marguerite and a Protestant prince, Henry of Navarre. But the royal and Catholic parties chose a darker course: first the murder of Coligny, and then, a few days later on 24 August 1572 – St Bartholomew’s Day – the wholesale massacre of the Huguenot wedding guests gathered in Paris. Simultaneous local massacres echoed throughout the provinces. This premeditated horror failed to decapitate the Huguenot cause, the obvious political hope behind the killings. Instead it only plunged France back into civil war – but there was still no possible path to a military victory. For the Catholic faction to triumph, every Huguenot town in France would have to be reduced. The successful but arduous Catholic siege of La Rochelle, one of the greatest Protestant bases in the west, took from 11 February to 6 July 1573: that pace of conquest, one town per campaign year, simply put a royal and Catholic military victory out of reach. A Protestant victory was even more improbable – though secure in their strongholds, the Huguenots remained a minority in the country as a whole. But if neither side could win by military action, a third option – namely peace – had also proved impossible. The only remaining course was intermittent warfare until France reached the point of prostration; and this, tragically, was indeed the direction of the continuing civil wars following St Bartholomew’s.

The French wars also became increasingly three-sided. Henry III, Catherine de’ Medici’s third son to rule France, became king in 1574. He was personally notorious, and extremely unattractive to the most politically uncompromising Catholics. That faction eventually looked away from their Valois monarch and towards the Guise, who in 1576 organized the ultra-Catholics into a separate party, the Holy or Catholic League, who were pledged to accept no compromise with the Huguenots -least of all a Protestant king, which became a real dynastic possibility from the death of Henry Ill’s brother in 1584. Leadership of the third party in French politics, the Huguenots, passed to Henry of Navarre, who escaped from his near arrest at the royal court in 1576, and who from 1584 had the best dynastic claim to the throne of France should Henry III die. These three factions – Valois royalist, Holy League and Protestant Bourbon – would come to a final collision in the late 1580s, by which time the French Religious Wars were closely tied to those in the Low Countries.

First War

Like so many monarchs, King Francis II depended on his wife’s family to help him maintain power. His queen, Mary Stuart of Scotland, was connected on her mother’s side to the Guise family, powerful French Catholics.

In 1560, French Protestants hatched a scheme to kill as many Guises as they could and kidnap the king in order to force him to shed the remaining Guises. The Huguenots were so proud of their plan that they told everybody about it. When the coup was launched, the Guises were prepared. The conspirators were repelled and then hunted down, hanged, and dismembered, sometimes after a trial. The king and court watched fifty-two rebellious heads chopped off in the castle courtyard.

Never healthy, Francis died in December 1560 after only a year on the throne. His ten-year-old brother, the quiet, melancholy Charles IX, took the crown, but Catherine de Medici, his mother and King Henry’s previously subordinate wife, held the real power as regent. Catherine was the daughter of Lorenzo de Medici, the cold and cunning ruler of Renaissance Florence to whom Machiavelli had dedicated The Prince; however, she failed to learn from the master. Over the decades of her dominance, she hatched a series of clumsy schemes and weak compromises that steadily made the situation worse. On the plus side, Catherine was a trendsetter who introduced Italian novelties like forks, snuff, broccoli, sidesaddles, handkerchiefs, and ladies’ drawers to the relatively frumpy nation of France.

In order to cultivate support among prominent Protestant families—the Bourbons especially—and to counteract the growing power of the Guise family, Catherine legalized Protestant worship, which annoyed the Catholic majority of France. She kept it on a tight leash, which annoyed the Protestant minority.

The wars began when another Francis, the duke of Guise, was passing through the town of Vassy and stopped at the local church to hear mass. Protestants were praying and singing at a nearby barn, which served as a church because the Crown forbade the Protestants from building real churches. A scuffle broke out between rival parishioners and drew in the duke’s entourage. The fight escalated, and finally the Catholics ended up burning the Protestant barn and killing as many worshippers as they could catch.

Pretty soon Frenchmen of both religions were fortifying their towns and rushing militia into the region. The sectarian armies fought several pitched battles, but eventually, the duke of Guise was assassinated, and the leader of the Huguenots (Louis de Bourbon, prince of Conde) was killed in battle, which left both sides floundering and ready to negotiate. Gaspard de Coligny, an admiral who had served alongside Conde, emerged as the new leader of the Protestants.

Second War (1567–68)

The rivalry between France and Spain had intensified in 1494 when the heir to the Spanish throne married the heir of the house of Burgundy, uniting Spain with all of the territories that had caused the French kings so much trouble during the Hundred Years War (Burgundy, Flanders, the Netherlands). This put Spanish armies all around the edges of France. Then Calvinists in the Netherlands revolted against Spanish rule in 1567, pushing Spain and France toward a common front against Protestantism.

With the Huguenots jumpy, Catherine de Medici picked the wrong time to travel to Bayonne and visit her daughter Elizabeth, who had recently married the wiidowed King Philip II of Spain. To the Huguenots, this family gathering looked like scheming. It sparked a rumor among the Huguenots that the large new Spanish army that was moving to put down the Dutch Revolt was actually coming to assist the French Catholics in eradicating them.

The Huguenots launched a preemptive attack, trying to steal the king away from the Guises and keep him among the Protestants, but word leaked out, and the court reached safety. Six thousand Huguenot soldiers camped outside Paris—too few men to bring it under siege, but at Saint-Denis they beat 18,000 men of the royal army that came to chase them away. Even so, as the royal forces swelled to 60,000, the Huguenots pulled back and negotiated a cease-fire.

Third War (1568–70)

Within a few months, royal forces tried to sneak up and surprise the Protestant leaders at home, but the Huguenots escaped north where they could connect with their Dutch and English supporters. The Guises made contact with Spain and set out to crush the Protestant strongholds across southern France. Although the Protestants took a beating in the ensuing war, the Crown couldn’t afford to keep at it. Peace broke out in 1570 and the Huguenots were allowed to fortify and garrison four towns as safe havens in case of renewed Catholic aggression.

Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day

Trying to patch things up, Catherine de Medici married her daughter Margaret to the highest-ranking nobleman among the Huguenots, Henry, head of the Bourbon house and king of the small kingdom of Navarre in the Pyrenees. Catherine de Medici also tried to bring Huguenots into the government, which of course infuriated the Catholics.

When everyone gathered in Paris for Margaret’s wedding, someone tried to assassinate the military leader of the Huguenots, Gaspard de Coligny. As Coligny walked down the street, a sniper shot him from a window. No one really knows who planned it, but history has traditionally blamed Catherine. The wound was not serious, and it did nothing more than make the Huguenots angry.

Even though King Charles and his council had nothing to do with the assassination attempt, Catherine explained to them that now the Huguenots would retaliate, making a preemptive strike the only possible survival strategy. On the eve of Saint Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1572, Guise and his men burst into Coligny’s house and murdered him in his sickbed, while other death squads went hunting. In all likelihood, Catherine wanted only to decapitate the Huguenot cause by killing the leaders, but Paris exploded in hatred of the Protestants. Mobs all over Paris chased down any Huguenots they could find, killing anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 of them by whatever means were handy. Adults were hanged, beaten, hacked, and stabbed; children were pitched out windows or into the river. Over the next few weeks, Protestants were massacred in other cities all over France, boosting the body count tenfold, into the neighborhood of 50,000.

The Bourbon leader and bridegroom, Henry of Navarre, survived only by converting to Catholicism on the spot. He was moved into the palace to be closely watched; his movements were restricted.

The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre horrified Europe. Even Ivan the Terrible in Russia denounced it. It changed the nature of the French Religious Wars from a gang fight to a war of extermination.

Fourth War

When war resumed, the king’s younger brother, Henry, led a Catholic army to break the Protestant stronghold of La Rochelle. A fierce siege stretched for months, from 1572 into 1573. Sappers tried to undermine the fortifications and explode barrels of gunpowder, while artillery pounded the walls without effect. It started to look like the army outside the walls would run out of food and ammunition before those inside would. Then Prince Henry was elected king of Poland, which gave him an excuse to lift the siege without losing face.

Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Wars

King Charles had been haunted by guilt since authorizing the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, and his health deteriorated. When he died in 1574 at the age of twenty-three, the throne went to his twenty-two-year-old brother, King Henry of Poland. Henry snuck out of Poland with the Polish national treasury hidden in his baggage train and escaped to Paris to accept his promotion.

The new King Henry III was Catherine de Medici’s favorite and most intelligent son. He was a devout, cross-dressing Catholic who sometimes showed up at official functions in drag. Henry had an entourage of handsome young men called his Darlings (Mignons). He collected little dogs and hid from thunderstorms in the cellar. Catherine unsuccessfully tried to tempt Henry into heterosexuality by offering him naked serving girls at special parties she arranged for his amusement, but that didn’t work.

More dangerous, however, was Henry’s intermittent tendency toward Catholic fanaticism when he sought atonement for his sexual eccentricities. At those times, Henry endangered his health with extreme fasting and mortification. Finally Catherine had the friend (and suspected Spanish agent) who encouraged her son in these rituals murdered in an alley.

In the manner of most leaders facing civil wars all across history, everything King Henry did seemed to backfire. When the king restored freedom of worship for the Huguenots, Henry of Navarre took advantage of this new climate of legal tolerance to flee the court and reconvert to Protestantism once he was safely out of reach. Meanwhile Henry of Guise, angered at the king’s weakness, formed an independent Catholic League with Spanish support.

King Henry III was running out of money, so the king summoned parliament in hopes of a tax hike. Parliament refused to raise taxes, but King Henry scraped up enough soldiers for a few small campaigns around the Loire River.

Too Many Henrys

Because the current king was so very gay, the next king would probably not be springing from his loins. The succession pointed to the youngest Valois brother, Francis, but in 1584 he died of fever while plotting against Protestants in the Netherlands. With no further males descended from King Henry II, the law backed up to find some other direct male line branching off from an earlier king. When royal genealogists followed the new branch forward to find the senior-most descendant, it turned out that the next in line for the throne of France was the king’s brother-in-law, Henry of Navarre, leader of the Huguenot Bourbon family.

Thus began the War of the Three Henrys, in which King Henry III and Henry of Guise tried to force Henry of Navarre to renounce his right of succession. Because the throne was at stake, the battles were especially bloody. Two thousand Catholics were killed at the Battle of Coutras, another 6,000 at the Battle of Ivry. The Huguenot losses were comparable, and neither side gained an advantage.

By now the endless wars had cut the population of France by 20 percent. In a report home, the Venetian ambassador described the state of France after a generation of fighting: “Everywhere one sees ruin, the livestock for the most part destroyed . . . stretches of good land uncultivated and many peasants forced to leave their homes and to become vagabonds. Everything has risen to exorbitant prices . . . people are no longer loyal and courteous, either because poverty had broken their spirit and brutalized them, or because the factions and bloodshed have made them vicious and ferocious.”

The Catholic League hated King Henry for not crushing the Huguenots. As far as the league was concerned, a moderate Catholic was no better than a Protestant. It agitated the Parisian citizenry, who piled up barricades and drove Henry III from the city. In rural exile, the king was forced into calling parliament for advice on the succession. When parliament suggested an heir who was obviously a puppet of the Guises, King Henry decided to work out his problems with Guise once and for all.

Two days before Christmas, King Henry III invited Henry of Guise to stop by for a chat, but when Guise stepped in the room, the doors were suddenly slammed and bolted shut behind him. Soldiers rushed up; Guise drew his sword and fought gamely, but the king’s soldiers still cut him down. His brother, a Catholic archbishop also visiting the king, was killed the next morning. They were cut apart and shoved into a roaring fireplace. The king then allied with the Bourbons against the Catholic League.

More War

Catherine de Medici died in 1589, and her last son followed shortly thereafter. In July of the same year, a Dominican friar angered by King Henry’s betrayal of Catholicism stabbed him in the stomach. After Henry III’s slow, lingering death from internal bleeding and infection, the Protestant Henry of Navarre became king of France. “I rule with my arse in the saddle and my gun in my fist,” he declared and rode out to take his capital back from the Catholic League.

The siege of Paris that began in May 1590 was brutal. For month after month, the 220,000 residents of the biggest city in Europe were locked inside with dwindling supplies. As time pressed on, dogs, cats, and rats disappeared from the streets. “Little children disguised as meat” showed up in the markets. Before it was over, 40,000 to 50,000 Parisians had starved to death. Navarre bombarded the city with cannon from the high ground, but in the end the city held and the siege was lifted in early September.

The Catholic League then called a parliament in Paris to pick a Catholic king to set up against Henry of Navarre, but when the Spaniards offered up their own princess, daughter of a Valois sister, many Frenchmen were appalled. It started to dawn on them that being French was probably more important than being Catholic. Maybe a Bourbon king was better than allowing France to become a Spanish satellite.

Suddenly, in 1593, Henry of Navarre, who had led the Protestant armies through many hard battles, announced that, well, if it really meant that much to them, he would go ahead and convert to Catholicism. He didn’t want to cause a fuss.

“Paris is worth a mass,” he is rumored to have explained.

This cleared the way for him to be a properly accepted and consecrated king, and before anyone could come up with any new objections, peace broke out. In 1598, King Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes, declaring toleration for all Christian faiths. His new Bourbon dynasty wanted to start with a blank slate: “The recollection of everything done by one party or the other . . . during all the preceding period of troubles, remain obliterated and forgotten, as if no such things had ever happened.” Or in the words of Monty Python’s King of Swamp Castle, “Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who.”

Jacobites and French Invasion

The Battle of La Hogue, by Adriaen van Diest. This marked the end of the action, which had been a complete success for the allied fleet; 12 French ships of the line and a number of smaller ships had been destroyed, with minimal English casualties. The action also dashed any hope that James or Louis might have had to mount an invasion that year.

Although not numerically great, a band of Scottish officers served in the Irish conflict on the Jacobite side. One, Major General Thomas Buchan, with experience in French service, participated in the siege of Derry. Buchan and others travelled over with James from Saint-Germain, including Brigadier General Alexander Cannon, Brigadier General Robert Ramsay, and less senior officers such as William Erskine, earl of Buchan; Lewis Crichton, Viscount Frendraught; Sir William Wallace and Sir George Barclay. These were the officers James intended to use for his descent on Scotland. In the Scottish theatre, two factors delayed a counter-revolution: firstly, the outcome of the convention of estates was awaited, and secondly, the winter of 1688/9 was one of worst in living memory with snow falling in May. Any reliance on Highland forces in a rebellion would be subject to weather conditions. When in mid March 1689 the convention went against James, Claverhouse (now Viscount Dundee) left Edinburgh and, after touring Perthshire, Fife and Angus consulting on the best course of action, raised James’s royal standard on 13 April on the slopes of Dundee Law above Dundee. He then toured the Highlands to garner support. On his way from Edinburgh, the viscount consulted with the Duke of Gordon, who still held the Castle for James, and in the process caused a brief panic at the convention as some feared a bombardment from the Castle; none came. In one of a series of letters to encourage Scottish loyalists, Queen Mary wrote to Gordon two months later thanking him for his ‘courage keeping for your Master what he left in your care’, and to begin with, Gordon resolved to stay put but gave Dundee authority to raise the Gordons. Also, since William had arrived in England, some Highland chiefs, in particular Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel, had been forming an association with clans adhering to James. He and the likes of the Macleans and Macdonald of Keppoch, one of the Lochaber chiefs, faced ruin from a successful Argyll restoration with the return of Archibald, the tenth earl. The traditional Campbell versus Macdonald feud would be relived yet again. It was natural, though, for Dundee to look for armed support from these clans. James had reports of how unfavourable things appeared after the withdrawal of loyalists from the convention and how an alternative Jacobite convention needed military protection. He issued commands from Dublin to Dundee and Balcarres, also a Jacobite sympathiser, and enclosed a proclamation in which, in typical Melfort speak, loyalists were to be welcomed with open arms and Williamites treated as heretics. However, James’s own phraseology is in the words of reassurance:

Assure yourselves, we will stand by you, and, if it shall please God to give success to our just cause, well let the ancient cavalier party know that they are the only true basis the monarchy can rest upon in Scotland; and we have found such effects of our mercy in times past, as will make us now raise our friends, upon the ruine of our enemys.

Unfortunately, James also promised to send 5,000 troops over from Ireland, a decision that required French ships and agreement which he did not have. Instead, on 10 July three French frigates sailed from Carrickfergus with probably fewer than six hundred men, mainly consisting of an Irish infantry regiment, Lords Buchan and Frendraught, along with more than seventy junior officers, all under the command of Cannon. Some of the supplies and men were captured as they took landfall in and around Mull. Dundee, for his part, was on the one hand in despair over James’s meagre reinforcements, yet also conscious that he needed to engage the enemy soon before his Highlanders dispersed. He, Argyll’s forces and those of Scotland’s new commander-in-chief and Dutch brigade veteran General Hugh Mackay, had led a merry dance checking each other’s movements but avoiding a full-scale battle. In fact, Mackay was as anxious as Dundee to join battle soon for fear that Highland Jacobite strength would increase over time.

Not all the potential followers gathered. In vain, Dundee wrote a pleading letter to Lord Murray to raise the men of Atholl, although many joined anyway. Cameron of Lochiel was typical of many Highland Jacobites in that he meandered a convoluted path between rebellion and submission to the government, and one of his oldest friends was in fact Colonel John Hill, Williamite commander of Inverlochy, soon to be renamed Fort William, and the garrison was vital to the economy of Lochiel’s clansmen. Nevertheless, he joined with some of his clan at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27 July 1689, at the pass of that name near Pitlochry in Perthshire, in which action the Highland charge of just over two thousand Jacobites overcame almost four thousand exhausted troops under Mackay. Dundee himself was killed and, of course, became one of the most celebrated heroes of Jacobitism. As for James’s ‘ancient cavaliers’, they were represented by James Seton, earl of Dunfermline, who with Cannon took the victors from the field and commanded instead of ‘Bonnie Dundee’. James enjoyed the victory, but his cause would have been better served if Dundee had survived, he being the most effective Scottish Jacobite commander, given the long illness that Dumbarton had suffered from since his arrival at Saint-Germain in early 1689, and which had seemingly prevented him from going to Ireland.

James made two further efforts to bring relief to Cannon’s troops who, in spite of capturing hundreds of Mackay’s men, were hard pressed after their victory. Cannon was no Dundee and was badly mauled on 21 August at Dunkeld by a newly formed Cameronian regiment, the commander falling like Dundee in his hour of victory. Effective leadership of such disparate forces was required. Buchan, who was initially James’s choice to command Cannon’s group but was kept back to help with the siege of Derry, was sent over from Ireland in January 1690 to fill the leadership vacuum, bringing with him a few officers. He was instructed to give the usual assurances from James that further relief would be forthcoming, this time 8,000 men under James’s son the duke of Berwick, then in Ireland with his father. Yet with so few accompanying Buchan, some clansmen began suggesting they submit to the government rather than continue. Many disaffected lowland lords might seek commissions and declare for James, although only if Berwick arrived with a large force. In April, out of necessity, Buchan, Dunfermline and Cannon began raiding in Inverness-shire seeking forage, but then at Cromdale in Strathspey on 1 May, Buchan was convincingly defeated by government forces under Sir Thomas Livingstone. While the senior officers made their escape, an effective Highland rising would never again be possible in the 1690s. Nonetheless, James made one more effort to relieve the clans in Lochaber who were holding out. He despatched Seaforth from Dublin in May, promoting him to marquis and to major general before he departed, but his performance resembled Argyll’s in 1685, moving from place to place, seeking support and achieving very little in the process. On meeting Buchan and hearing of the defeat at Cromdale, Seaforth became dispirited and began to look for means to surrender on terms, acting through his kinsman Tarbat. After reneging on negotiations, he was captured by Mackay and spent most of the next seven years in prison or close confinement. James’s last Highland commission was even less successful than those of Cannon and Buchan.

While the Seaforth debacle ended James’s Highland initiatives, this was not an end to Jacobite skirmishing and the general precariousness of the security situation. For the Williamite regime it had, however, become more a policing exercise than suppression of rebellion. Government oppressive measures under Mackay in 1690 now turned to discussion about indemnities in 1691. Tarbat and Colonel Hill had been suggesting since the previous summer that rebellious clans could be bought off. Now Breadalbane’s negotiations with Jacobite leaders for an armistice, leading to the Achallader agreement in June 1691, coupled with William’s agreement to issue a proclamation on 27 August such that pardons would be granted to those who took the oath of allegiance before 1 January 1692, offered an opportunity for the Highland clans to recover from two years of disturbance. As Breadalbane argued to Jacobite intriguers, this was an opportune truce whether or not a Jacobite invasion force was ever to appear. Most Jacobites, however, required James to grant permission to take an oath to William and Mary. Initially, in September James refused permission, but Breadalbane sent an envoy back to make it clear there was no other choice. Late in the day in December, his permission arrived. Some clan chiefs quickly sought competent officers who could tender the oath. It was in these circumstances that the infamous Glencoe Massacre occurred, where on 13 February 1692 government forces slaughtered forty or so Macdonalds of Glencoe, as their chief Alasdair MacIain had been too slow to take the oath. This was a shocking example of ‘murder under trust’ as the Macdonalds had acted as hosts for the soldiers the day before. It was a deliberate attempt by John Dalyrmple, master of Stair, now William’s joint Secretary of State, and other members of the Privy Council to make an example of a lawless clan. The subsequent political scandal was a significant recruiting sergeant for Jacobitism, but also for government opposition in the Scottish Parliament. For his part, James’s initial callous response to the indemnity would seem to have all the hallmarks of Melfort, yet at that time he was still in Rome and James’s secretary was the Englishmen Henry Browne, later Viscount Montagu. The king’s delayed second response seemed justified on the basis that the French were considering a fresh invasion plan in 1691, though this was little comfort to the Macdonalds of Glencoe. James no doubt regarded Highland clansmen somewhat like the Irish, a means to an end. In Scotland these were rarely the ‘ancient cavaliers’, the core adherents of monarchy.

Invasion plans came and went until 1697, but in 1692 a firm plan evolved. This was encouraged by the return of Melfort to Saint-Germain in late 1691, and the simultaneous arrival of the ‘Wild Geese’ from Ireland. Louis now had a total of about thirty thousand Irish soldiers and, whereas some of these were fighting in other theatres, the existence of such a force was an obvious signal that an invasion of England or Scotland was credible. In December and January James took time to travel to Brittany to review the troops and to discuss training methods with the officers, and felt a new sense of purpose. In the spring it was agreed by Louis that a force of 30,000 troops would be gathered as an invasion force including 13,000 Irish. Coupled with this, a number of Scottish officers landed at Le Havre in April, having been granted passes by the Edinburgh Privy Council either to remain or go into exile. Among these were Buchan and Cannon, and as soon as they appeared, James ordered them to join the Irish forces with other Scottish officers including Dunfermline and Barclay. All seemed ripe as in Scotland the Glencoe Massacre had badly weakened the government and in England secret communications had been undertaken through Jacobite agents with some of William’s most senior current or former ministers. Re-energised, James was very optimistic and prior to departing for the coast, he held a ceremony at the chapel at Saint-Germain where he awarded the Order of the Garter to Powis, Melfort, and his four-year-old son. He also composed his ‘Advice to his Son’ in case he lost his life in the coming adventure, a work produced in the tradition of princely and fatherly guidance. As it was, the enterprise was bungled for two reasons. Firstly, Melfort drafted an ill-judged declaration which was counterproductive at a time when Tories and Scots cavaliers were needed on side. Melfort’s text showed the more vindictive possibilities of a restoration under James’s Catholic party. Drawing attention to the corruption or hypocrisy of William’s government was fine, but it also stated that those who still opposed James after his invasion would ‘fall unpitied under the severity of our justice’, a tenor that discouraged potential supporters. James approved the text and encouraged its wide circulation in Scotland and England. This certainly confirms that Melfort plugged into James’s natural authoritarianism and aversion to disloyalty. He knew his master too well and was too often a medium, not an advisor. The second failing was blind trust in the latent loyalism of the English establishment which, James believed, just needed an opportunity to return to the fold. Initially the fleet under the French admiral Tourville was damaged by storms which delayed their departure for several weeks. They knew that the combined English and Dutch fleet was positioned off the coast and yet the French Mediterranean fleet was due to arrive imminently. Tourville asked for a delay but this Louis rejected on the basis of James’s assertions, backed up by Melfort, that half the English fleet would desert to his cause. James had been told months before that tentative contact had been made by agents with Admiral Edward Russell, who commanded the Anglo-Dutch fleet, and they were convinced that Russell would turn. Unfortunately, the difference between gripes and real grievance was not understood and Russell did his duty. The French fleet was destroyed at the Battle of La Hogue over five days (19–24 May) in what was one of the greatest military defeats to befall the French during the reign of Louis XIV. James watched from the shore and irritated his French hosts by commending the skill and bravery of the English seaman. King Louis, who at the time was besieging the fortress of Namur in the Spanish Netherlands, took the bad news calmly enough, while James made a fulsome apology, reflected on ‘la providence divine’, and entered into a deeper depression about his prospects. All now turned on a restoration in favour of his son, not himself. Back in London, with William in Flanders, James’s daughter Queen Mary took firm action, imprisoning suspected and real Jacobites, such as John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. Middleton and Atholl’s son Charles Murray, earl of Dunmore, two Scots then in London who had plotted a possible rising, were also apprehended. Some marvelled at how Englishmen would have reacted to a force composed of their greatest traditional enemies, the French and the Irish.

James’s Scottish end of the 1692 affair was characterised by vagueness and more blind faith. The plan was to send the Scottish officers, about a hundred in total including those who had only just returned from there, back to Scotland to lead a new rebellion. They were to land at the coastal fortresses of Dunnottar or Slains in the North East, and James wrote letters to various lords of Aberdeenshire expecting their willing support. Queensberry and Arran were also written to but they did not stir to further the cause, although the Scottish commander-in-chief Sir Thomas Livingstone and the Privy Council were on alert. Lists of loyal Highland supporters were drawn up. Melfort also penned a declaration for Scotland in April and in this, as in the English equivalent, a number were excluded from indemnity, such as Tweeddale, Melville and Sir John Dalyrmple. Glencoe was rounded upon as an event showing ‘what the usurper will do when he is free of restraint’ but disloyalty would be subject to the gravest penalties and those sentenced in 1688 would get no pardon.


Venice – A Call to Arms

At the height of its intervention on the mainland, Venice could maintain a force of forty thousand troops. It was estimated by the reigning doge, in 1423, that the city possessed thirty-five galleys, three hundred round ships and three thousand other vessels; they required a complement of thirty-six thousand sailors, almost a quarter of the entire population of 150,000 people. There were ships christened La Forza, La Fama and La Salute. They were used to protect the armed galleys of the trade convoys that left Venice on prearranged dates; they were used to combat pirates and to harass enemy traders. No foreign ship was safe in the waters Venice considered its own. The officers were elected from the patrician class of the city. Service at sea was an indispensable part of the education of the young patrician.

The crews were at first all free men, volunteers found in Venice or in Venetian possessions. By the beginning of the sixteenth century conscription had been introduced. This of course so lowered the status of galley labour that it became a burden to be avoided. To be an oarsman, a galeotto, was considered to be part of a “low” profession. So by the middle of the sixteenth century there was a change in the nature of these crews. It was said that they comprised drunks and debtors, criminals and other outcasts. The courts of Venice sometimes consigned the guilty to the galleys rather than the cells. By 1600 prisoners made up the principal part of the crew. The measure of their servitude can be computed by the records of the Venetian courts—eighteen months of galley service was considered equivalent to three years of close imprisonment and a period in the pillory, while seven years in the galleys was considered to be equal to twelve years of confinement. Their rations were made up of biscuit, wine, cheese, salt pork and beans. The diet was designed to feed the sanguinary humour. A Franciscan friar was always on board to rouse them. Yet there are reports of disease and of early death, of exhaustion and despair. Carlo Gozzi, in the eighteenth century, saw “some three hundred scoundrels, loaded with chains, condemned to drag their life out in a sea of miseries and torments, each of which was sufficient by itself to kill a man.” He noticed that, at the time, “an epidemic of malignant fever raged among these men.” It is not clear, however, that the changed personnel were in general any less proficient as oarsmen. They helped to win a famous victory against the Turks at Lepanto.

The maritime marvel of Venice was the Arsenal, the greatest shipbuilding concern in the world. The word itself derives from the Arabic dar sina’a, or place of construction, thus affirming the strong connection of Venice with the East. It was built at the beginning of the twelfth century, and was continually being extended and expanded until it became a wonder of technology. It was variously described as “the factory of marvels,” “the greatest piece of oeconomy in Europe” and “the eighth miracle of the world.” The epithets are a measure of the respect in which new technologies were then held. Its famous gate, made up of Roman and of Byzantine elements, was raised there in 1460. The Arsenal had become the centre of another empire. It was the engine of trade. It was the foundation of naval might. It was a token of the supremacy of industrial enterprise in the most serene city.

Eventually two and half miles (4 km) of walls, and fourteen defensive towers, surrounded sixty acres (24 ha) of working space. It was the largest industrial enterprise in the world. A population of skilled workers and labourers grew up around the site. The number of workmen has been estimated at anything between six thousand and sixteen thousand; in any event they worked in large numbers. This shipbuilding neighbourhood in the eastern part of Venice became a recognisable part of the city, with its own prejudices and customs. People lived and died, were baptised and married, within the three parishes of S. Martino, S. Ternita and S. Pietro. It is still an area of tiny houses, crowded tenements, small squares, dead-ends and narrow alleys.

The inhabitants became known as arsenalotti, and such was their importance to the state that the male population of ship-makers was also used as a bodyguard for the doge. They were also employed as fire-fighters. Only the arsenalotti were allowed to be labourers in the Mint. They alone rowed the ceremonial barge of the doge. Proud of their status, they never united with the other artisans of Venice. It is a case of divide and rule. It is also a signal example of the subtle way in which the leaders of Venice co-opted what might have been an unruly group of people within the very fabric of the city. The loyalty of the arsenalotti materially helped to secure the cohesion and the very survival of Venice.

The Arsenal was the first factory established upon the assembly line of modern industry, and thus the harbinger of the factory system of later centuries. One traveller, in 1436, described it thus:

as one enters the gate there is a great street on either side with the sea in the middle, and on one side are windows opening out of the houses of the arsenal, and the same on the other side. On this narrow strip of water floated a galley towed by a boat, and from the windows of the various houses they handed out to the workers, from one the cordage, from another the arms …

It was known as “the machine.” The armed galleys were constructed here. The relatively unarmed “round” ships, with sails instead of oars, were also made here. The key to its efficiency lay in the division, and specialisation, of labour; there were shipwrights and caulkers, rope-makers and blacksmiths, sawyers and oar-makers. Thirty galleys could be built and fitted within ten days. When the French king visited the place in 1574, a galley was built and launched in the two hours it took him to eat his dinner. The whole process of industrial collaboration, however, might be seen as an image of the Venetian polity itself. Everything is of a piece.

Dante visited the Arsenal in the early fourteenth century, and left a description of it in the twenty-first canto of the Inferno:

As in the Arsenal of the Venetians

Boils in the winter the tenacious pitch …

One hammers at the prow, one at the stern,

This one makes oars and that one cordage twists

Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen.

It may not be coincidence that Dante places this vision in the eighth circle of hell, where corrupt public officials are punished eternally. The blatant sale of public offices became a problem in Venetian governance.

Eventually the Arsenal was outmoded. The development of craft technology in the seventeenth century rendered it obsolete. It continued producing galleys when no galleys were needed. It became inefficient, its labourers underpaid and underworked. Yet it did not finally close until 1960, when eleven thousand families were removed from their ancient neighbourhood. Now the factories and production lines are used to house exhibitions for the various festivals that visit Venice. It is an apt token of the nature of the city.

The Venetian army was as effective by land as the Venetian navy on the oceans. By the middle of the fifteenth century it could afford to maintain a standing force of twenty thousand troops, with extra militia ready to be called up in an emergency. By the beginning of the following century, that number had doubled. It was of mixed identity. Venetian engineers were well known for their skills in siege weaponry, but it was said that the Venetians themselves did not make good soldiers. To a large extent, therefore, the city relied upon mercenaries for its defence. Its soldiers came from Dalmatia, Croatia and Greece as well as from Germany and Gascony; there were light horse from Albania and cuirassiers from other parts of Italy. When some Venetian gunmen were captured at Buti in 1498, and their hands cut off, some of the unfortunate troops were from England and Holland.

The acquisition of a land empire, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, was the direct motive for the creation of a standing army. Yet such an army posed problems for the leaders of the city. An army could move through its streets. An army could threaten its mainland possessions. That is why no Venetian was ever made general or commander. The danger of a military coup was always present to the administration. Venetian patricians were not allowed to command, at any one time, more than twenty-five men. It was a safeguard against faction. Instead a foreign commander was always chosen, although he held his office under the watchful care of two senior patricians in the field with him. It was not an ideal arrangement, especially in the very heat of battle, but it served Venetian interests well.

The foreign generals were known as condottieri, from the Italian word for contract. They were contracted men. But they were also adventurers, and sometimes brigands, who were suited to the theatre of Venice. They aspired to the type of the classical Roman general, ferocious in war and gracious in peace; they were deemed to be no less wise than courageous, no less virtuous than judicious. And they were paid well. Venice was known as a generous, and prompt, employer. The condottieri were given ornate houses along the Grand Canal, and were granted large estates on the mainland. They seemed to be indispensable to the state, but there were some who questioned the wisdom of employing them. They could be persuaded to change sides, if large enough bribes were offered, and they could sometimes be feckless and excessively independent. Machiavelli blamed the collapse of Venice, in his lifetime, on the use of mercenaries and mercenary commanders. If the Venetians did not excel at warfare, they would soon become deficient in the arts of peace. Sir Henry Wotton, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, commented that “by the lasciviousness of their youth, by the wariness of their aged men, by their long custom of ease, and distaste of arms, and consequently by their ignorance in the management thereof” the Venetian state was in sad decline. Yet decline was always being predicted for Venice, even at the acme of its power.

Against the Turks

Even as the sun of Genoa set, in the summer of 1380, a new enemy rose over the eastern horizon in the shape of the Ottoman Turks. The Venetians had been accustomed to underestimate the challenge of the empire of the Osmanlis; they considered it to be locked up by land, and unable to threaten by sea. But then the waters of the Levant became the prey of Turkish pirates who could never be successfully put down; the gradual encroachment of the Ottoman Empire meant that Venetian trade routes were also being encircled. The Ottoman advance threatened the Venetian merchant colonies in Cyprus, Crete and Corfu; the islands had constantly to be defended with fortresses and with fleets. The two empires had their first confrontation in the waters of Gallipoli where, in 1416, the Venetian fleet routed the Turks after a long fight. The Venetian admiral later reported that the enemy had fought “like dragons”; their sea skills, then, were not to be underestimated. The proof came in 1453, when the Turkish forces overwhelmed Constantinople itself. It had been an ailing city, ever since the Venetian sack in 1204, and its defenders could not match the overwhelming forces of the Turks. The Osmanli dynasty was now knocking on the door of Europe. Constantinople, now for ever to be known as Istanbul, became the true power of the region.

There was, for the Venetians, business to be done. It would be better for them to turn putative enemies into customers. The pope might fulminate against the infidel, but the Venetians saw them as clients. A year after the fall of Constantinople a Venetian ambassador was despatched to the court of the sultan, Mehmed II, “the Conqueror,” declaring that it was the wish of the Venetian people to live in peace and amity with the emperor of the Turks. They wished, in other words, to make money out of him. The Venetians were duly given freedom of trade in all parts of the Ottoman Empire, and a new Venetian colony of merchants was established in Istanbul.

But the relationship could not endure. Mehmed increased the tariffs to be paid by Venetian ships, and entered into negotiations with the merchants of Florence. Then in 1462 the Turks seized the Venetian colony of Argos. War was declared between the empires. It was considered that by strength of numbers the Turks would succeed on land, while the Venetians would maintain their old supremacy at sea. The Venetians may have been hoping for an eventual truce, from which they could secure concessions. But Mehmed had a more formidable navy than the Venetians had expected. After much fighting, the Venetian fleet was expelled from the central Aegean. It was no longer a Latin sea. The island of Negroponte, in the possession of Venice for 250 years, was occupied by the Turks. The Turks conquered the region of the Black Sea, also, and turned that sea into the pond of Istanbul. The Venetians were forced on the defensive, fighting rearguard actions much closer to home in Albania and Dalmatia.

The Florentines told the pope that it would be for the good of all if the Turks and Venetians fought each other to a state of exhaustion. Yet Venice was exhausted first. It was finally obliged to sue for peace in 1479, seventeen years after the hostilities had begun. Venice kept Crete and Corfu. The Corfiote capital was described by Sir Charles Napier in the early nineteenth century as “a town fraught with all the vice and abominations of Venice”; but the real power of Venice in the Levant was gone for ever. The Turks now held the Aegean and the Mediterranean. The grand vizier of the Turkish court told the representatives of Venice suing for peace, “You can tell your doge that he has finished wedding the sea. It is our turn now.” A contemporary diarist, Girolamo Priuli, wrote of his countrymen that “faced with the Turkish threat, they are in a worse condition than slaves.” This was hyperbole, but it reflected the disconsolate mood of the people. This was the moment when Venetian ambitions in the east effectively came to an end. The eyes of the city were now turned towards the mainland of Italy.

The equilibrium in northern Italy could not endure. There were leagues and counter-leagues drawn up between the territorial powers, too weak to strike alone against their neighbours. The peace to which Venice aspired could be upheld only by the sword. While there was still empire, there would never be any rest. There were fears among other cities that the appetite of Venice had no limit, and that the city was intent upon the conquest of all Italy north of the Apennines. The republican alliance between Venice and Florence broke apart. There were endless tirades against the city’s cupidity and duplicity. The duke of Milan, Galeazzo Sforza, declared to the Venetian delegate at a congress in 1466, “You disturb the peace and covet the states of others. If you knew the ill-will universally felt towards you, the very hair of your head would stand on end.” Niccolò Machiavelli was moved to comment that the leaders of Venice “had no respect for the Church; Italy was not large enough for them, either, and they believed that they could form a monarchical state like that of Rome.”

The world around Venice was changing. The rise of the great nation-states—of Spain, of France and of Portugal in particular—altered the terms of world trade. The strength of the Turkish Empire, and the intervention of France and Spain on the mainland of Italy, created further burdens for the most serene city. When the French king, Charles VIII, invaded Italy in 1494 he inaugurated a century of national unrest. His failure to take over the kingdom of Naples did not deter the other great states of the European world. Maximilian of the Hapsburgs, and Ferdinand of Spain, were both eager to exploit the rich cities of northern Italy. These states had large armies, fully exploiting the new technology of siege guns and gunpowder. The city-states of Italy were not prepared for the novel conditions of warfare. Milan and Naples came under foreign control. Then at the end of 1508 the great leaders of the world turned their gaze upon Venice. The French, the Hapsburgs and the Spanish joined forces with the pope in the League of Cambrai with the sole purpose of seizing the mainland dominions of the city. The French delegate condemned the Venetians as “merchants of human blood” and “traitors to the Christian faith.” The German emperor promised to quench for ever the Venetian “thirst for dominion.”

The allies met with extraordinary success. The mercenary forces of the Venetians were comprehensively beaten by the French army in a battle by the village of Agnadello, near the Po, and retired in disarray to the lagoon. The cities under erstwhile Venetian occupation surrendered to the new conquerors without a fight. Within the space of fifteen days, in the spring of 1509, Venice lost all of her mainland possessions. The response of the Venetians was, by all accounts, one of panic. Citizens wandered the streets, weeping and lamenting. The cry went up that all was lost. There were reports that the enemy would banish the people of Venice from their city, and send them wandering like the Jews over the earth. “If their city had not been surrounded by the waters,” Machiavelli wrote, “we should have beheld her end.” The doge, according to one contemporary, never spoke but “looked like a dead man.” The doge in question, Leonardo Loredan, was painted by Bellini and can now be seen in the National Gallery; he looks glorious and serene.

At the time it was widely believed that God was punishing Venice for her multiple iniquities, amongst them sodomy and elaborate dress. The nunneries had become whorehouses. The rich lived in pride and luxury. None of this was pleasing to heaven. So, as a direct result of the war, the doge and senate introduced sumptuary legislation, to curb the excesses of the rich, in the hope of reconciling their city to God. Men were forbidden to make themselves physically attractive. The nunneries were locked up. The wearing of jewellery was strictly curtailed. It was necessary, according to one diarist of the time, “to imitate our ancestors with all possible zeal and care.” This ancestor worship had one particular dimension. There were some in the city who believed that the Venetians should have remained a seafaring people, as they were in the beginning, and that the ventures onto mainland territory had constituted a singular and perhaps fatal error.

There was the threat, after the battle of Agnadello, of an imminent siege by the imperial forces; food and grain were stored in makeshift warehouses. The doge sent envoys to the court of Maximilian, offering to place all the mainland dominions of the city under imperial control. He even despatched ambassadors to the Turks, requesting aid against the imperial forces. It is a measure of the desperation of the Venetian leaders that they invoked the aid of the infidels against their coreligionists—unless, of course, the true religion of the Venetians consisted in the worship of Venice herself.

Once the initial terror had subsided, however, the city once more came together. Its tribal instinct

revived. It manifested the unity for which it would become famous in the sixteenth century. The ruling class drew together in a coherent body. The richer citizens pledged their fortunes to the defence of the city. The poorer sort remained loyal. The state reasserted itself. It was able to sow discord amongst the ranks of its enemies. Some of the mainland cities, which had come under French or imperial control, discovered that they preferred the more benign Venetian rule. Venice in fact recovered Padua with the active assistance of that city’s inhabitants. There were Venetian victories on the battlefield, too, and by the beginning of 1517 it had recovered almost all of its territories. It would not forfeit them until the time of Napoleon. It had also reached an agreement with the pope, on matters of ecclesiastical power, following the precept of a Venetian cardinal to “do what he wishes and later, with time, do what you will.” In what seems a typically ambiguous and duplicitous way, the council of ten had already secretly declared the conditions of the agreement void on the grounds that they had been extracted by force. Venice once more made its way in the world.

It had forfeited much valuable territory, in the Levant and elsewhere, but not all was lost. It acquired Cyprus, which it systematically stripped of its agricultural wealth, and it maintained its control of the cities around the Po. The grain of Rimini and Ravenna, also, was indispensable to its survival. And survival was now the key. After the League of Cambrai Venice could no longer extend any further its dominant position in the peninsula. It was surrounded by too many and too formidable foes. There would be no more aggressive expansion. Instead the patricians of Venice continued their policy of buying up parcels of territory as opportunity presented itself. There was soon a definite tendency to exchange the perils of trade for the security of land. Land was a good investment, in a world of ever-increasing population and rising food prices, and concerted efforts were made to make it more and more productive. Nevertheless it represented another form of withdrawal from the world. In the process the Venetians created a new race of landed gentry. The best chance for the state itself lay in watchful neutrality, playing one combatant against another while alienating neither. The only option was that of peace. All the notorious guile and rhetoric of the Venetians were now devoted to that purpose of balancing the Turkish, French and Hapsburg empires. And the strategy was successful until the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte almost three hundred years later. The remains of the Venetian empire—in Crete, in southern Greece, and on the mainland of Italy—were preserved.

The reassertion of Venice was aided in 1527, by the brutal sack of Rome by unpaid imperialist troops. They raped, and killed, the citizens of the imperial city; they stole its treasures, and burned what they could not steal. Throughout the region waves of plague and syphilis compounded the despair; the ravaged fields could produce no wheat. Once more Venice seized the advantage. Rome had been one of the oldest, and most formidable, adversaries of Venice. The pope who reigned there had put the city under sentence of excommunication on more than one occasion. The papal states were challenged by Venetian power. So the sacking of Rome was welcome news to the administrators of Venice. Many of the artists and architects of the papal court left Rome and migrated to the most serene city where such riot was considered impossible. The reigning doge, Andrea Gritti, had determined that Venice would rise as the new Rome. He flattered and invited composers and writers and architects. One of the refugees from Rome, Jacopo Sansovino, was hired by Gritti to remodel Saint Mark’s Square as the centre of an imperial city. Another refugee, Pietro Aretino, apostrophised Venice as the “universal fatherland.”

Sansovino restored the public areas of Venice in Roman fashion. He built a new Mint with rusticated arches and Doric columns. He built the great library, opposite the palace of the doge in the piazzetta, in the form of a classical basilica. In the same spirit he built the loggetta, at the base of the campanile, in traditionally classical form. The shacks and stalls of the traders were removed from the square, and in their place was constructed a sacred ceremonial space. Magistrates were appointed to supervise the renovation of other areas as well as the cleansing of the waters around Venice. There was new building everywhere. The quays were refashioned. The symbolism was not difficult to read. Venice proclaimed herself to be the new Rome, the true heir of the Roman republic and the Roman empire. She saw no reason to prostrate herself before the German emperor, Charles V, or the emperor of the Turks, Suleiman the Magnificent. The city itself was conceived as a monument to this new status. According to a declaration of the senate in 1535, “from a wild and uncultivated refuge it has grown, been ornamented and constructed so as to become the most beautiful and illustrious city which at present exists in the world.” It was the city of carnival and celebration. There sprang up more parades and ceremonials, more tournaments and festivals.

There were, and are, historians who assert that in this transition the Venetians themselves lost their energy and their tenacity. They became “softer.” They were “weakened.” They lost their fighting spirit when they embraced the principles of neutrality. They became addicted to the pleasures of comfortable living. It is perhaps unwise to adopt the language of human psychology in such matters. The life of generations is more robust and more impersonal than that of any individual. It is accountable to different laws. All we can say, with any approach to certainty, is that Venice was revived in the sixteenth century. And it was a truly astonishing renewal, first born out of defeat and humiliation. It says much about the ingenuity, as well as the pragmatism, of the Venetian temperament.

There was one more great test. In the first months of 1570 the Turkish forces of Suleiman the Magnificent seized the Venetian colony of Cyprus. Venice unsuccessfully appealed for assistance to the leaders of Europe. Philip II of Spain, fearing a Turkish advance in northern Africa, despatched a fleet; but it arrived too late and proved curiously unwilling to follow Venetian strategy. The demoralised Venetian fleet, under Girolamo Zane, sailed back before ever sighting Cyprus. The island was lost. One of the Venetian dignitaries was beheaded by the Turks, and another was flayed alive. His skin is still preserved in an urn in the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. Meanwhile Zane had been ordered to return to Venice, where he was consigned to the doge’s dungeons; he died there two years later.

This fresco depicts the Battle of Lepanto, where a combined Christian force crushed the Ottoman Navy – this particular painting occupies a prominent position at one end of the Hall of Maps, in the Vatican Museums, Rome.

A year after the capture of Cyprus, Pope Pius V devised a confederation of three European powers to contain and to confront the Turks. Venice, Spain and the papacy itself formed a new Christian League or Holy League with the avowed aim of regaining control of the Mediterranean and of banishing the Turkish fleet from the Adriatic. It was a crusade under another name. A naval battle was staged at the entrance to the Gulf of Patras. The battle of Lepanto, as it became known, resulted in a great victory for the Christian forces. There were 230 Turkish vessels that were sunk or captured, with only thirteen losses for the Europeans. Fifteen thousand Christian galley slaves, obliged to work under Turkish masters, were given their liberty. There was another singular outcome. Lepanto was the last battle in which the use of the oar held the key. In later engagements the sails were raised. It was the last battle, too, in which hand-to-hand combat was the chosen method of assault; artillery and, in particular, cannon took over.

After Lepanto, when a Venetian galley returned to its home port trailing the Turkish standard, the city gave itself up to rejoicing. At a funeral oration in Saint Mark’s, honouring the dead, it was declared that “they have taught us by their example that the Turks are not insuperable, as we had previously believed them to be.” The predominant feeling was one of relief. The Venetians thought it prudent to follow the victory with further assaults on Turkish power, but the pope and the Spanish monarch disagreed. There was an inconclusive campaign in the spring of the following year, but the spirit had gone out of the Christian League. Venice returned to diplomacy, and signed a treaty with Suleiman. Cyprus was lost for ever. Of all the Greek islands colonised by Venice, only Corfu remained free of the Turkish embrace. Yet the victory at Lepanto had emboldened the leaders of Venice. There was some talk of regaining commercial supremacy in the Mediterranean. A new generation of younger patricians came to dominate public affairs.

San Marco Basin, Venice, 1697, Gaspar van Wittel

So by the end of the sixteenth century Venice could pride itself on having survived the encroachments of the Europeans as well as the belligerence of the Turks. It had proved to be a formidable opponent in peace as well as in war. The stability of its government, and the loyalty of its people, had remained steadfast. It was the only city in northern Italy that had not endured rebellion or suffered invasion. The pope compared it to “a great ship that fears neither fortune nor commotion of winds.” There emerged now what came to be known as “the myth of Venice.” Its antiquity and its ancient liberty were celebrated by Venetian historiographers; it clothed itself in the glory of new public buildings. The republic of Venice, free from faction and guided by sage counsellors, was deemed to be immortal. It refashioned itself as the city of peace and the city of art. Even as its overseas power entered a slow decline, so the spirit of the city manifested itself in another fashion. It is evident in the work of Bellini, of Titian, and of Tintoretto who emerged as the influence of Venice began to wane. But who can speak of decline or decay when the city produced such riches? Venice had merely changed the nature of its power. It now claimed the power to impress—to dazzle. As its imperial power declined, so its image in the world became of vital importance.


Portuguese two decker ship of the line in the late 18th century.

Longstanding Portuguese-Spanish tensions over the area of modern Uruguay (notably the Portuguese base at Sacramento), led to a major Spanish naval expedition that attacked Santa Catarina island. The map shows this expedition, with the ships, which included troop transports, marked in red. Portuguese warships were brushed aside and the Portuguese positions were rapidly taken. The subsequent agreement left Sacramento as Spanish but not Santa Catarina. The Spaniards had also taken Port Egmont, the British base on the Falkland Islands, in 1770, but British naval pressure led the Spaniards to restore Port Egmont.

FEBRUARY 6-7, 1777.

A 116-ship, 19,000-man Spanish expedition appears of Brazil, spearheaded by the fleet of Vice Adm. Francisco Javier Everardo Tilly y Paredes, Marqués de Casa Tilly and Knight of the Order of Santiago, comprised of the 74-gun Poderoso of the flag captain Juan de Langara, San Damaso of Francisco de Borja, Santiago la América of Antonio Asorio y Herreras, San José of José Bauzes, and Monarca of Antonio Osorio y Funco; the 64- gun Septentrion; the frigates Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santa Florentina, Santa Teresa, Santa Margarita, Santa Rosa, and Liebre; the Chambequin Andaluz; the bomb vessels Santa Casilda and Santa Eulalia; plus three lesser consorts. They intercept a trio of Portuguese merchantmen bound from Rio de Janeiro toward Europe-although the Spanish formation’s actual purpose is to retaliate on a much grander scale for recent clashes in South America. Some 8,600 infantrymen, 640 dragoons, and 150 gunners from 10 different regiments are aboard 96 transports under the veteran lieutenant general Pedro de Cevallos, Knight of the Orders of Santiago and San Genaro and now also viceroy designate for Buenos Aires.

Originally directed to assault the advance Portuguese outpost of Colonia do Sacramento (Uruguay), de Cevallos decides to assail Brazil’s Santa Catarina Island in passing, over the objections of his naval counterpart, Admiral de Tilly. While coasting south west toward this destination, the huge Spanish fleet brushes aside MacDouall’s four Portuguese ships of the line, four frigates, and four auxiliaries, which it finds anchored at Garupas on February 17.

FEBRUARY 20, 1777.

Santa Catarina. De Cevallos and Admiral de Tilly materialize outside this Brazilian base, fling into Canavieiras Bay at the northern end of the island to probe for a landing spot. The entrances on either side of Ratones Island are covered by Forts Sao José and Santa Cruz, so the at tackers disembark at nearby Sao Francisco Beach on the night of February 22-23, without opposition.

It is de Cevallos’s aim to take Fort Sao José from the rear, while simultaneously shelling it from out at sea with his 60-gun ship of the line Septentrion, the Liebre, and two bomb vessels; but the 2,900 unprepared Portuguese defenders under Gen. Antonio Carlos Furtado de Mendoça abandon all their citadels without a fight, most retreating over to the mainland by boat, then deserting en masse upon being marched to reinforce Rio Grande. Both of Santa Catarina’s forts therefore fall into Spanish hands by February 25, along with 195 artillery pieces, after which 3,816 surviving Portuguese troops and residents gradually give themselves up by March 5 rather than face starvation in the jungle.

MARCH 28, 1777.

After installing a garrison on Santa Catarina Island under Irish-born colonel William Vaughan of the Hibernia Regiment, de Ceval los sails southward with the bulk of his forces, intending to disembark at Lagoa dos Patos-again, over Admiral de Tilly’s protests-and attack the Portuguese concentration at Rio Grande in conjunction with a northeasterly movement out of Uruguay by a Spanish army under Vértiz. Instead, his expedition encounters such heavy weather that de Cevallos is obliged to stagger into Maldonado by April 18, without seeing action. He then detaches his heavier ships of the line on May 10 to cruise in search of Mac Douall’s Portuguese squadron, while retaining his lighter craft to conduct his army on toward Sacramento. APRIL 9, 1777. Antonio Barreto, newly designated governor of the “Upper Orinoco,” departs Santo Tomé de Guayana (Venezuela) with 50 soldiers aboard nine small vessels to sail upriver. He gathers an additional 50 soldiers farther inland, then probes the Portuguese defenses along the Negro River.

APRIL 21, 1777.

The 74-gun Spanish ship of the line San Agustin of Capt. José N. Zapiain and the smaller auxiliary Santa Ana (having arrived too late from Europe to overtake de Cevallos and de Tilly’s expedition, as well as becoming separated from their 74-gun consort Serio and frigate Magdalena) are captured near the mouth of the River Plate by Mac Douall’s Portuguese squadron.

MAY 22, 1777.

Sacramento. Mariscal de campo Victorio de Navia Osorio disembarks the vanguard of de Cevallos’s 4,500 troops at El Molino (three miles from this Portuguese outpost) and is joined the next day by the commander in chief, despite heavy rains. This expedition is further reinforced from Buenos Aires, then begins digging its first siege works by May 30, consisting of a mortar battery, another battery of eight-pounders to fire heated shot, plus a pair of heavy pieces and other lighter ones to protect the flanks. The surprised 700 Portuguese soldiers and 300 sailors under Col. Francisco José de Rocha-already half-starved because of a prolonged Spanish blockade-quickly sue for terms and sur render by the afternoon of June 4. The Spaniards’ booty includes 700 prisoners, 141 artillery pieces, and 2,300 muskets.

De Cevallos spends the next two months demolishing the fortifications at Sacramento and the twin batteries on adjacent San Gabriel Island with explosives, before finally scuttling blockships to close up the harbor’s entrance. He then reembarks his troops to sail east toward Maldonado on August 4. It is his intent to launch another offensive against Rio Grande, but this is cancelled when news reaches him on August 27 of the restoration of relations between Madrid and Lisbon back in Europe.

JULY 9, 1777.

De Tilly sets sail from Santa Catarina Island with seven ships of the line and five frigates, steering toward Rio Grande. However, bad weather hampers his progress, compelling him to stand into the River Plate by July 26. While approaching harbor after nightfall, his frigate Santa Clara is wrecked on the Banco Inglés, going down with 120 hands. The death of José I of Portugal on February 23, 1777, has produced a reversal in Lisbon’s policies, as he has been succeeded by his Spanish-born queen, Maria Victoria, who brings an end to these disputes by a preliminary treaty signed at San Ildefonso on October 1. The Portuguese give up all claims to Sacramento and Uruguay, further agreeing to re store the ship San Agustin to Spain. The latter returns Santa Catarina Island and agrees to recognize Rio Grande as falling within Brazilian territory. This agreement is finalized at El Pardo on March 24, 1778, and one month later, de Tilly’s expedition quits the River Plate for home.