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Old 04-19-2017, 12:26 PM   #4521
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April 19, 1848
Siege of Multan

Multan had been captured and incorporated into the Sikh Empire in 1818. In 1845, although the population was almost entirely Muslim, it was ruled by a Hindu vassal, Dewan Mulraj. In that year, the 1st Anglo-Sikh War broke out, and was won by the British. There was an uneasy peace for 2 years, during which Mulraj attempted to maintain practical independence while being nominally subject to the East India Company.

In 1848, Multan had a population of 80,000. It was the center of trade for a wide region, and was renowned for its wealth. There were large stores of spices, silks and valuables. Early in 1848, the newly appointed Commissioner in the Punjab, Sir Frederick Currie, demanded that Mulraj pay duties and taxes previously paid to the central Durbar of the Sikh Empire and now in arrears. Mulraj attempted to forestall a complete annexation of Multan by abdicating in favor of his son. Currie nevertheless decided to impose a compliant Sikh ruler, Sardar Khan Singh, who was to be accompanied by a British Political Agent, Patrick Vans Agnew. This was the spark for the 2nd Anglo-Sikh War.

On April 18, 1848, Vans Agnew and another officer, Lt. Anderson from the East India Company’s Bombay Army, arrived outside Multan with a small escort of Gurkhas. The next day, Mulraj conducted Khan Singh and the 2 British officers to the citadel and handed over the keys, with no sign of hostility. As the 2 officers began to ride out of the citadel, a soldier from Mulraj’s army attacked Vans Agnew. This may have been the sign for a concerted attack, as a mob surrounded and attacked. Mulraj’s troops either stood by or joined the mob. Both officers were wounded, and they and Khan Singh retired to a mosque outside the city, where Anderson wrote a plea for help. A dispatch rider carried it to Currie in Lahore, while a second took a copy via a different route, across the Indus River. During the night, most of Vans Agnew’s escort left. Next morning, the mob pushed Khan Singh aside and hacked the two British officers to death.

Mulraj had probably not been a party to the conspiracy among his troops. He nevertheless regarded himself as committed to rebellion by their actions. He presented Vans Agnew’s head to Khan Singh and told him to take it back to Currie.

The British Political Agent in Bannu, Lt. Herbert Edwardes, took the first steps to suppress the revolt. He intercepted the second copy of Vans Agnew’s letter to Currie, and immediately began to concentrate troops. He and other junior British officers were to be frustrated by Currie in Lahore, who proposed to do nothing during the Hot Weather and Monsoon seasons. This was partly for reasons of economy and lack of preparation, but he was supported by the Governor General of Bengal, Lord Dalhousie and the Commander-in-Chief of the Bengal Army, Sir Hugh Gough, who did not wish to expose European troops to a campaign during the harsh weather.

Meanwhile, Mulraj was reinforced by several other regiments of the Sikh Khalsa Army, which rebelled or deserted. He also took other measures to strengthen his defenses, digging up guns which had previously been buried and enlisting more troops.

In early June, Edwardes began to lead an army against Multan. On June 18, his leading troops (Pashtun irregulars) crossed the Chenab River by ferry. They were engaged by Mulraj’s artillery and forced to take cover for several hours. Mulraj’s infantry and cavalry began to advance but Edwardes was reinforced by two loyal regiments of the Khalsa Army under Colonel Van Cortlandt, an Anglo-Indian soldier of fortune. Van Cortlandt’s artillery caused heavy losses among the Multani troops and Edwardes’ Pashtuns counterattacked. Mulraj’s forces retreated to Multan, having suffered 500 casualties and lost 6 guns.

Once Currie learned of this victory, he at last ordered a comparatively small force from the Bengal Army under Gen. Whish to begin a siege of Multan. As it was too small to encircle the city, Currie decided to reinforce them and Edwardes with a substantial detachment of the Khalsa under Sher Singh Attariwalla. The appointment of Sher Singh alarmed many junior Political Agents, as his father, Chattar Singh Attariwalla, was apparently openly preparing to revolt in Hazara to the north. Despite warnings, Currie nevertheless ordered a detachment from Chattar Singh’s army under his second in command, Jundial Singh, to reinforce Sher Singh. This allowed Jundial Singh and other officers to influence Sher Singh and spread disaffection among his regiments. At this stage the besiegers consisted of Whish’s division (8090 men, 32 siege guns, 12 horse guns), Edwardes’ irregulars (4000 cavalry and 7700 infantry), a contingent from the Muslim state of Bahawalpur (1900 cavalry and 5700 infantry) and Sher Singh’s force (3380 cavalry and 900 infantry).

On September 14, Sher Singh openly rebelled. This left the Company’s forces too weak to maintain the siege, and they were forced to retreat. Most of Edwardes’ troops and the Bahawalpur troops dispersed to their homes. Sher Singh and Mulraj nevertheless were not prepared to cooperate. At a meeting at a neutral mosque outside the city, it was agreed that Sher Singh would move north into the mainly Sikh-populated areas of the Punjab.

Late in November, Whish was reinforced by a substantial force from the Bombay Army. Some observers claimed that the sepoys of the Bombay contingent, being of generally lower caste than those of the Bengal Army, were more willing and skilled at comparatively menial tasks such as digging trenches. Whish’s combined force amounted to 32,000, of whom 15,000 were from the British Army or European (mainly Irish) troops of the Bengal and Bombay armies. He also had 150 pieces of artillery, many of which were heavy guns or mortars. It was comparatively easy to supply this large force, as Multan lay near the Indus River, and steamships could bring supplies some way up the river to within a short distance of the city. Inside the city, Mulraj commanded 12,000 troops, with 54 guns and 12 mortars.

On December 27, Whish ordered 4 columns to attack the suburbs. Mulraj’s troops were driven back into the city, and Whish set up batteries 500 yards from the city walls. Under cover of their fire, breaching batteries were set up only 80 yards from the walls, and created 2 breaches, while causing great damage in the city. On December 30, the main magazine in the citadel exploded, killing 800 defenders. Mulraj nevertheless maintained his fire and sent a defiant message to Whish, stating that he still had enough powder to last a year. He attempted a sortie on December 31, but this was driven back.

Whish ordered a general assault on January 2, 1849. The attackers successfully scaled the breaches, and the battle became a bloody house-to-house fight in the city, in which many defenders and civilians were killed indiscriminately. Whish ordered the civilians to be herded into the main square; he may have intended to spare them from further fighting but the action of corralling them was also accompanied by further casualties.

With the fall of the city, only the citadel remained, but it held out for another fortnight against heavy bombardment. On January 18, Whish’s sappers exploded 3 mines, causing heavy losses and destroying large sections of the citadel walls. Mulraj offered to surrender if his life was spared, but Whish insisted on unconditional surrender, and on January 22, Mulraj gave himself up, with 550 men.

The British gained vast quantities of loot. Mulraj’s treasury was worth 3 million pounds, a huge sum for the time. There was also much looting in the town, by both British and Indian soldiers. With the fall of Multan, Whish's army was able to reinforce the main force under Sir Hugh Gough. Whish’s heavy guns were decisive at the Battle of Gujrat (see posting), which effectively broke Sher Singh’s and Chattar Singh’s armies and ended the war.

Mulraj was placed on trial for the murders of Vans Agnew and Anderson. He was cleared of premeditated murder, but was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact, in that he had rewarded the murderers and openly used the deaths as pretext for rebellion. (Under British law at the time, an “accessory after the fact” of a crime was liable to the same punishment as the criminal.) Mulraj was sentenced to death, but this was later commuted to exile for life.
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Old 04-19-2017, 12:27 PM   #4522
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272
Palmyrene War

Odenathus, assassinated in 267 (see posting), was succeeded by his minor son with Zenobia, the ten-year-old Vaballathus. Under the regency of Zenobia, Vaballathus was kept in the shadow while his mother assumed actual rule and consolidated her power. The queen was careful not to provoke Rome and took for herself and her son the titles that her husband had, while working on guaranteeing the safety of the borders with Persia, and pacifying the dangerous Tanukhid tribes in Hauran (southwestern Syria/northeastern Jordan).

Aided by her generals, Septimius Zabbai and Septimius Zabdas, , Zenobia launched an expedition against the Tanukhids in the spring of 270, during the reign of emperor Claudius II. Zabdas sacked Bosra, killed the Roman governor and marched south securing Roman Arabia. In October of 270, a Palmyrene army of 70,000 invaded Egypt, and declared Zenobia queen of Egypt. The Roman general Tenagino Probus was able to regain Alexandria in November, but was defeated and escaped to the fortress of Babylon, where he was besieged and killed by Zabdas. Afterward, in 271, Zabbai started operations in Asia Minor, and was joined by Zabdas in the spring of that year. The Palmyrenes subdued Galatia and occupied Ankara, marking the greatest extent of the Palmyrene expansion. However, the attempts to conquer Chalcedon were unsuccessful.

The Palmyrene conquests were initially done under the protective show of subordination to Rome. Zenobia issued the coinage in the name of Claudius’ successor Aurelian with Vaballathus depicted as king, while the emperor allowed the Palmyrene coinage and conferred the Palmyrene royal titles. However, toward the end of 271, Vaballathus took the title of Augustus (emperor) along with his mother.

By late in 271, the new emperor Aurelian had secured his rule and defeated a Germanic incursion into Italy. In the East, Aurelian refused to recognize Zenobia’s new titles. There were, however, coins minted in Palmyrene-controlled Antioch with both Valaballus and Aurelian, with Aurelian as Caesar, on them; this appears to be an attempt on the part of Zenobia to appease Aurelian. Aurelian, however, was determined to reunite the parts of the Empire that had fallen away.

In 272, Aurelian crossed the Bosphorus and advanced quickly through Anatolia. According to one account, Marcus Aurelius Probus regained Egypt, while the emperor continued his march and reached Tyana, in Cappadocia. It was here that Aurelian spared the populace and declared that all cities that surrendered to him would be spared a sack. This paid off, as many more cities submitted upon seeing that the emperor would not exact revenge.

Aurelian next advanced towards Antioch and it was here that Zenobia resolved to give battle. Outside of the village of Immae, just east of Antioch, the Palmyrene forces led by Zabdas met the emperor. The Battle of Immae began with a charge by the Palmyrene heavy cataphract cavalry; this broke the lighter Roman cavalry, which fell back in apparent disorder into a marshy area, where the Roman infantry was waiting and routed the now tired Palmyrene horse. After this the Palmyrenes appear to have determined to make a stand in the suburb of Daphne where they held a hill. The Roman infantry advanced in a testudo formation and cut the Palmyrenes apart. Antioch surrendered to Aurelian and what remained of the Palmyrene army retreated towards Emesa, a town on the main road towards Palmyra. The Battle of Emesa appears to be somewhat similar to Immae in that the Palmyrene cavalry again routed the Roman horse but this time it appears that it was only with great difficulty that the Roman infantry carried the day.

Reinforced by Probus, who had now secured Egypt, Aurelian marched through the desert, harassed by Bedouin loyal to Palmyra; however, as soon as he arrived at the city gates, he negotiated with the Bedouin, who betrayed Palmyra and supplied the Roman army with water and food.

Aurelian besieged Palmyra in the summer of 272, and tried to negotiate with Zenobia, on the condition that she surrender herself in person to him, to which she answered with refusal. The siege appears to have been a difficult ordeal for the Romans due to the vigorous defenses and walls. Several assaults failed. Eventually it became apparent to Zenobia that the cause was lost and she resolved to flee the city and try to obtain aid from Persia; she did manage to get out on camelback but was caught by the Roman horse near the Euphrates and brought to Aurelian. Shortly after this the city surrendered and was spared, save their wealth and several of Zenobia’s advisors. Zenobia herself was spared. Aurelian then proceeded back through Asia Minor and into Dacia, where he defeated the Carpi.

While campaigning against the Carpi, Aurelian received word that Palmyra had again had rebelled and killed Aurelian’s governor Marcellianus, as well as the 600 archers left as its garrison. Marcellianus did manage to get a letter to Aurelian before he was killed warning of unrest. In a series of forced marches, Aurelian reached Antioch in the spring of 273, where he learned that under the leadership of a certain Apsaeus, the Palmyrenes had declared Septimius Antiochus, a 5 year old boy and reputed son of Zenobia, to be their king. Aurelian immediately marched for Palmyra. This time, the speed of Aurelian’s march caught them unprepared and resistance was scattered and ineffective. The Historia Augusta says the city suffered a terrible vengeance; the city was looted and burned, though the 5 year old Antiochus was somehow spared. Palmyra was, in Zenobia’s time, a large, rich important trading city; it never recovered from this sack. This Palmyrene revolt also caused another pro-Palmyrene revolt in Alexandria led by a certain Firmus, who inspired hugely destructive riots which overwhelmed the local Roman garrison. Aurelian proceeded from Palmyra to Alexandria and put down the revolt with relative ease, again allowing his soldiers to loot as they pleased. Zenobia herself was displayed in Aurelian’s triumph in 274; most ancient historians claim that she was then spared, granted a villa in Tibur, where she lived with her children.

The revolt of Palmyra is used as a theme in Syrian nationalism and Palmyra is viewed as exclusively Syrian, and treated as a fighting city that threw off the imperial dominance and relieved the people from tyranny. A Syrian TV show was produced based on Zenobia’s life, and she was the subject of a biography written by Syria’s former minister of defense Mustafa Tlass. The ancient remains of the city were badly damaged by ISIS.
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:59 PM   #4523
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April 20, 1644
Siege of Lyme Regis

In the late 16th century, Lyme Regis was an important port, busier than Liverpool and one of the main links between England and mainland Europe. The combination of strong Puritan beliefs, and demands from King Charles I for ship money meant that upon the outbreak of the English Civil War, the town was sympathetic to the Parliamentarian cause. Two local Members of Parliament, Thomas Trenchard and Walter Erle claimed Lyme Regis for the Parliamentarians in 1642, and set about fortifying the town. Thomas Ceeley, another local MP, was assigned as governor of the town and its forces. He immediately set about removing those with Royalist loyalties, and sent harrying forces around the region, as far as Exeter and Somerset. Lyme Regis had no permanent fortifications, and so Robert Blake established a set of earthen walls, ditches and forts around the perimeter.

By the end of 1643, most of the southwest was under Royalist control; only Plymouth, Poole and Lyme Regis held out against them. The Parliamentarians controlled the navy, and Lyme Regis was strategically important, due to its location between Bristol and the English Channel. It had a garrison of about 500 men. In early 1644, Charles I ordered Lyme Regis to be captured, and sent a large force under the command of his nephew, Prince Maurice.

Maurice marched towards Lyme Regis in March 1644, and initially set up a garrison in the town of Beaminster. From there a detachment of troops captured and razed Stedcombe House, a property of Erle’s that he had garrisoned. On April 19, a fire devastated Beaminster and forced the Royalist troops to move, establishing their new quarters at Axminster. The following day, Maurice marched his army of around 4000 men to around 0.75 miles of Lyme Regis, and then after some posturing between the opposing forces, the Royalists captured Haye House, just outside the town, which had been garrisoned with around 30 defenders. On the 3rd day of the siege, the attackers set up their artillery on the west side of town, and began a bombardment, but the next day Ceeley sent a force of 190 men to attack the battery, and forced the Royalists from their position. New batteries were set up around the town, and the bombardment continued. On April 28, Maurice ordered an attack on the town, but it got little further than musket range. The next day, the town was restocked with ammunition and food, and reinforced with just over 100 men from 2 Parliamentarian ships, the Mary Rose and the Ann Joyce.

Throughout the siege, the garrison was supported by the women of the town; they aided in the building of the earthen fortifications, and later disguised themselves as men to make it appear that the town was held by more troops than it really was. They also ran ammunition around town and helped to reload the weapons.

Over the following week, the Royalists held the siege, but did not attack again until May 6, when they attacked in 3 places during a thick fog. The defenders were caught out slightly, as many of their soldiers were eating supper. They rallied quickly, however, and within an hour had repelled the attack. The following day, Maurice requested a parley so that the dead could be buried. That request was granted, in exchange for the defenders being able to claim any weaponry on the battleground. Over the next week, there was little fighting between the armies, and a further 7 ships arrived to aid the town, including 240 soldiers from Sir William Waller’s army, and on May 15 a further 120 men were sent by the Earl of Warwick.

The Royalists turned their attention to the harbor over the next week, placing artillery on the clifftops above it, and bombarding any ships within. On the morning of May 22, the guns sunk a barge laden with malt and peas, and was followed by a raiding party of around 50 men that evening, who attacked the harbor, setting fire to the barges that remained. The Earl of Warwick arrived on May 23 with 8 ships and the promise of as much help as he could provide, including 400 of his seamen to help garrison the town. On May 27, the besieging army made a second attempt to storm the town. The town came under barrage from the enemy batteries, and scaling ladders were brought against the earthen fortifications. Once again the attack was repelled, and a parley request from Maurice in the immediate aftermath was turned down for fear of treachery.

The town was further reinforced with 300 sailors the next day, before another attack on the town was launched on the 29th. A few ships had been sent as a decoy to split the Royalist force, but only succeeded in drawing a small detachment away, though they quickly returned when it was clear that the ships were not going to land. Around midday, the batteries began to heavily bombard the town, followed by a ground attack which managed to breach the fortifications. After 8 hours of fighting, the Parliamentarians rebuffed the attack. 14 more ships arrived 2 days later, bringing further provisions and ammunition, and news that a relief force would be sent. By this stage, Maurice realized that he was unlikely to be able to capture the town, and so was determined to destroy it instead; fires were set on June 1 and then no attacks other than light bombardments were made until June 11, when heavier, red-hot shot was fired to try and set more fires in the town.

Despite orders to lay siege to the King’s headquarters at Oxford, Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex opted to attempt to reclaim the southwest for Parliament, first retaking Weymouth, and then marching towards Lyme Regis. Hearing of the fall of Weymouth and the impending arrival of the Essex’s relief army, Maurice abandoned his siege during the night of June 14.

Maurice retreated to Exeter, while the Earl of Essex continued down into Devon and Cornwall, after sending Blake to capture Taunton. Essex’s campaign failed, suffering a total defeat at the Battle of Lostwithiel in early September 1644 (see posting). His remaining forces retreated back to Dorset, leaving only Plymouth, Lyme Regis and Taunton under Parliamentarian control in the southwest. The Earl of Warwick sent a letter to Parliament, detailing the hardships endured by the town during the siege, and requesting “some speedy course will be taken for their relief”. Parliament voted to grant the town £1000 a year and that unconditional compensation should be paid to residents who had suffered losses in the siege. Lyme Regis maintained a garrison through the war, finally disbanding in July 1647.
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Old 04-21-2017, 01:35 PM   #4524
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April 21, 1918
Death of the Red Baron

When World War I began, 22-year old Manfred von Richthofen served as a cavalry reconnaissance officer, seeing action in Russia, France, and Belgium; with the advent of trench warfare making traditional cavalry operations impossible, Richthofen’s regiment was dismounted, serving as dispatch runners and field telephone operators. Disappointed and bored, the last straw for Richthofen was a transfer to the supply branch. He applied for a transfer to the Army Air Service (later known as the Luftstreitkräfte) and joined the flying service at the end of May 1915.

From June 1915, Richthofen served as an observer on reconnaissance missions over the Eastern and Champagne fronts. After a chance meeting with the fighter ace Oswald Boelcke, Richthofen entered training as a pilot in October. In February 1916 Manfred “rescued” his brother Lothar from the boredom of training new troops and encouraged him to also transfer to the Air Service. The following month, Manfred joined Bomber Squadron 2, flying a 2-seater Albatros CIII. Initially he appeared to be a below average pilot: he struggled to control his aircraft, and crashed during his first flight at the controls. Despite this poor start, he rapidly became attuned to his aircraft. Over Verdun on April 26, he fired on a French Nieuport, downing it over Fort Douaumont, although he received no official credit. After another spell flying 2-seaters on the Eastern Front, he met Boelcke again in August 1916. Boelcke, visiting the east in search of candidates for his newly formed fighter unit, selected Richthofen to join one of the first squadrons, Jagdstaffel 2.

Richthofen scored his first confirmed victory over Cambrai, France on September 17, 1916. He contacted a jeweler in Berlin and ordered a silver cup engraved with the date and the type of enemy aircraft. He continued to celebrate each of his victories in the same manner, until he had 60 cups, by which time the dwindling supply of silver in blockaded Germany meant that cups like this could no longer be supplied. Richthofen discontinued his orders at this stage, rather than accept cups made from base metal.

Instead of using risky, aggressive tactics like his brother Lothar (40 victories), Manfred observed a set of maxims (known as the Dicta Boelcke) to assure success for both the squadron and its pilots. He was not a spectacular or aerobatic pilot, like his brother, but he was a noted tactician and squadron leader and a fine marksman. Typically, he would dive from above to attack with the advantage of the sun behind him, with other pilots of his jasta covering his rear and flanks.

On November 23, 1916, Richthofen downed his most famous adversary, British ace Major Lanoe Hawker VC (9 victories), described by Richthofen himself as “the British Boelcke”. The victory came in an Albatros DII; Hawker was flying the older DH2. After a long dogfight, Hawker was shot in the back of the head as he attempted to escape back to his own lines. Richthofen switched to the Albatros DIII in January 1917, but suffered an in-flight crack in the spar of the aircraft and reverted to the DII or Halberstadt DII for the next 5 weeks. He returned to his DIII on April 2 and scored 22 victories in it before switching to the Albatros DV in late June. From late July, Richthofen flew the celebrated Fokker DrI triplane, with which he is most commonly associated, although he did not use the type exclusively until after it was reissued with strengthened wings in November. Despite the popular link between Richthofen and the Fokker Dr. I, only 19 of his 80 kills were made in this design.

In January 1917, Richthofen received the Pour le Mérite (informally known as the Blue Max), the highest military honor in Germany at the time. That same month, he assumed command of Jasta 11, which ultimately included some of the elite German pilots, many of whom he trained himself. Several later became leaders of their own squadrons. When Lothar joined, the German high command appreciated the propaganda value of two Richthofens fighting together to defeat the enemy in the air.

At the time he became a squadron commander, Richthofen took the flamboyant step of having his Albatros painted red. Other members of Jasta 11 soon took to painting parts of their aircraft red, officially to make their leader less conspicuous in a fight. In practice, red coloration became a unit identification. In spite of obvious drawbacks from the point of view of intelligence, the German high command permitted this practice, and German propaganda made much of it, Richthofen being identified as Der Rote Kampfflieger - the Red Fighter Pilot.

By June he had become the commander of the first of the new larger “fighter wing” formations: these were combined tactical units that could move at short notice to different parts of the front as required. Jagdgeschwader 1, the new command, was composed of Jastas 4, 6, 10 and 11, and became widely known as “The Flying Circus” this coming both from the unit's mobility (including, where appropriate, the use of tents, trains and caravans) and its brightly colored aircraft.

On July 6, 1917, during combat with a formation of FE2d two seat fighters near Wervicq, Richthofen sustained a serious head wound, causing disorientation and temporary partial blindness. He regained his vision in time to ease the aircraft out of a spin and executed a forced landing in friendly territory. The injury required multiple operations to remove bone splinters from the impact area. The Red Baron returned to active service (against doctor’s orders) on July 25, but went on convalescent leave in September and October. His wound is thought to have caused lasting damage (he later often suffered from post-flight nausea and headaches) as well as a change in temperament.

By 1918, Richthofen had become such a legend that it was feared that his death would be a blow to the morale of the German people, but he refused to accept a ground job after his wound. Certainly he had become part of a cult of officially encouraged hero-worship. German propaganda circulated various false rumors, including that the British had raised squadrons specially to hunt Richthofen and had offered large rewards and an automatic Victoria Cross to any Allied pilot who shot him down. Passages from his correspondence indicate he may have at least half-believed some of these stories himself.

Richthofen received a fatal wound just after 11:00 AM on April 21, 1918, while flying over Morlancourt Ridge, near the Somme River. At the time, he had been pursuing (at very low altitude) a Sopwith Camel piloted by a novice Canadian, Lt. Wilfrid "Wop" May. In turn, the Baron was spotted and briefly attacked by a Camel piloted by Canadian Captain Arthur “Roy” Brown, who had to dive steeply at very high speed to intervene, and then had to climb steeply to avoid hitting the ground. Richthofen turned to avoid this attack, and then resumed his pursuit of May. It was almost certainly during this final stage in his pursuit that a single .303 bullet hit Richthofen, damaging his heart and lungs so severely that it must have caused a quick death. In his last seconds, he managed to retain sufficient control to make a rough landing in a just north of the village of Vaux-sur-Somme, in a sector controlled by Australian troops. His plane was not badly damaged by the landing, but it was soon taken apart by souvenir hunters.

Controversy continues to swirl over who fired the shot that actually killed Richthofen. The RAF credited Brown with the victory, but it is now generally agreed that the bullet that hit Richthofen was fired from the ground. He died following an inevitably fatal chest wound from a single bullet, penetrating from the right armpit and resurfacing next to the left nipple. Brown’s attack was from behind and above, and from Richthofen's left. Further, Richthofen could not have continued his pursuit of May for as long as he did (up to 2 minutes) had this wound come from Brown’s guns. Brown himself never spoke much about what happened that day, claiming, “[t]here is no point in me commenting, as the evidence is already out there.” Many modern hypotheses credit the kill to Sgt. Cedric Popkin, an AA machine gunner with the Australian 24th Machine Gun Company, firing a Vickers gun. Popkin was in a position to fire the fatal shot, when the pilot passed him for a second time, on the right.

The body was buried with full honors by the personnel of No. 3 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, in the cemetery at the village of Bertangles, near Amiens, the next day. Allied squadrons stationed nearby presented memorial wreaths, one of which was inscribed with the words, “To Our Gallant and Worthy Foe”.

For decades after World War I, some authors questioned whether Richthofen had achieved 80 victories, insisting that his record was exaggerated for propaganda purposes. Some claimed that he took credit for aircraft downed by his squadron or wing. In fact, Richthofen's victories are unusually well documented. There were also unconfirmed victories that would put his actual total as high as 100 or more. (Lothar survived war , only to die in a barnstorming accident in 1922.)
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Old 04-22-2017, 12:34 PM   #4525
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April 22, 1997
Japanese Residence Rescue

Around 8:20 PM on December 17, 1996, 14 members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), a Marxist-Leninist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the Peruvian government, blew a hole through the wall of the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima and took hostage more than 700 high-level diplomats, government and military officials and business executives who were attending a party celebrating Emperor Akihito’s 63rd birthday. Although strictly speaking the crisis took place at the ambassadorial residence in the upscale district of San Isidro rather than at the embassy proper, the media and others referred to it as the “Japanese embassy” hostage crisis, and that is how it is conventionally known. The Japanese ambassador's residence had been converted into a fortress by the Japanese government. It was surrounded by a 12-foot wall, and had grates on all windows, bullet-proof glass in many windows, and doors built to withstand the impact of a grenade. It was, therefore, an easy site to defend from the inside.

The news of the MRTA’s assault caused the Lima Stock Exchange to close 3 hours early, as domestic stocks plummeted. The news came during a period of low popularity for President Alberto Fujimori (down to 40% from a 1996 high of 75%), who had until then been credited with restoring peace to the country after terrorist activity largely ceased through the country during his first presidential term.

The insurgents made a series of demands: the release of MRTA members from prisons around Peru (including recently convicted US activist Lori Berenson).; a revision of the government’s free market reforms; a criticism of Japan’s foreign assistance program in Peru, arguing that this aid benefited only a narrow segment of society; and a protest against what they claimed were cruel and inhumane conditions in Peru’s jails.

On December 22, Fujimori made his first public announcement on the hostage-taking. In a televised 4-minute speech he condemned the assailants, calling the MRTA assault “repugnant” and rejecting the MRTA’s demands. He did not rule out an armed rescue attempt, but said that he was willing to explore a peaceful solution. He also publicly indicated that he did not need help from foreign security advisors, following speculation circulated that Peru was turning to foreign governments for assistance. Fujimori made his speech shortly after MRTA leader Néstor Cerpa Cartolini announced that he would gradually release any hostages who were not connected to the Peruvian government. During the months that followed, the rebels released all female hostages and all but 72 of the men. All of the Americans were among the freed.

In the days immediately following the takeover, the International Committee of the Red Cross acted as an intermediary between the government and members of the terrorist group. Among the hostages were high officials of Peru’s security forces, including Maximo Rivera, the chief of Peru's anti-terrorist police, DIRCOTE, and former chief Carlos Domínguez. Other hostages included Alejandro Toledo, who later became President of Peru, and Javier Diez Canseco, a socialist congressman. The 24 Japanese hostages included President Fujimori's own mother and younger brother.

Canseco was among the 38 men who were released very shortly after the hostages were taken. He defended the MRTA and called for the government to negotiate. Upon being freed, Alejandro Toledo said that what the MRTA really wanted was an amnesty that would allow its members to participate in public life. He said that any attempt to rescue the hostages by force would be “insane”, as they were “armed to the teeth”. Rooms in the building, as well as the roof, he said, were wired with explosives.. He added that the terrorists had anti-tank weapons and wore backpacks that were filled with explosives that could be detonated by pulling a cord on their chest.

Fujimori appointed a team to hold talks, including the Canadian ambassador Anthony Vincent, who had briefly been a hostage, Archbishop Juan Luis Cipriani, and a Red Cross official. Fujimori even talked with Fidel Castro, raising media speculation that a deal was being worked out to let the guerrillas go to Cuba as political exiles. However, it was reported on January 17 that negotiations had stalled.

In early February, a new squad of Peruvian troops with heavy equipment took over the embassy vigil. They played loud military music and made provocative gestures to the rebels, who unleashed a burst of gunfire. This prompted the Prime Minister of Japan, Ryutaro Hashimoto, to publicly urge Peru to refrain from taking any unnecessary risks that could endanger the hostages’ lives. Fujimori subsequently met Hashimoto in Canada. The 2 leaders announced that they were in agreement on how to handle the situation but provided few details.

The MRTA called off the talks in March when they reported hearing loud noises coming from beneath the floor of the residence. Peruvian newspapers confirmed MRTA suspicions, reporting that the police were digging tunnels under the building. The police tried to cover up noise from the digging by playing loud music over loudspeakers and carrying out noisy tank maneuvers through the nearby streets.

In preparation for the rescue raid, one of the hostages, Adm. Luis Giampietri, an expert on intelligence and command operations, was secretly provided with a miniature 2-way radio set and given encrypted instructions to warn the hostages 10 minutes before the operation began, telling them to stay as far away as possible from the MRTA members. Light-colored clothes were systematically ferried in to the hostages, so that they could be distinguished easily from the dark-clad terrorists during the raid. Cerpa himself unwittingly helped when, hearing noise that made him suspect that a tunnel was being dug, he ordered all the hostages placed together on the second floor.

In addition, miniature microphones and video cameras had been smuggled in, concealed in books, water bottles, and table games. Giampietri and other military officers among the hostages were given the responsibility for placing these devices in secure locations around the house. Eavesdropping on the MRTA commandos with the help of these devices, planners observed that the insurgents had organized their security carefully, and were particularly alert during night hours. However, early every afternoon, 8 of the MRTA members, including the 4 leaders, played indoor soccer for about an hour. Fujimori later unveiled a scale model of the building that was especially built to prepare for the rescue operation, which included the tunnels from adjacent houses used by commandos to enter the building.

On April 22, 1997, a team of 140 Peruvian commandos, assembled into a secret ad-hoc unit given the name Chavin de Huantar (a Peruvian archaeological site famous for its underground passageways), mounted their raid at 1523. 3 charges exploded almost simultaneously in 3 different rooms on the first floor. The first hit in the middle of the room where the soccer game was taking place, killing 3 terrorists immediately. Through the holes created by the blasts, 30 commandos stormed into the building, chasing the surviving MRTA members in order to stop them before they could reach the second floor.

Two other moves were made simultaneously. In the first, 20 commandos launched a direct assault at the front door in order to join their comrades inside the waiting room, where the main staircase to the second floor was located. Behind the first wave storming the door came another group of soldiers carrying ladders, which they placed against the rear walls of the building. In the final prong of the attack, another group of commandos emerged from 2 tunnels that had reached the back yard. These soldiers quickly scaled the ladders that had been placed for them. Their tasks were to blow out a grenade-proof door on the second floor, through which the hostages would be evacuated, and to make two openings in the roof so that they could kill the MRTA members upstairs before they had time to execute the hostages.

At the end, all 14 MRTA members, one hostage (Dr. Carlos Giusti Acuña, a member of the Supreme Court, who had pre-existing heart problems) and two soldiers died in the assault. MRTA member Roli Rojas was discovered attempting to walk out of the residence mixed with the hostages. A commando spotted him, took him to the back of the house, and executed him. Another (female) MRTA member was also executed after the raid. The raid provided a boost to Fujimori’s popularity, but he soon had to face inquiries into the executions.
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Old 04-22-2017, 12:34 PM   #4526
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511
Revolt of Vitalian

Vitalian (Flavius Vitalianus) is first mentioned in 503, when he accompanied his father in the Anastasian War against the Persians (see posting Sack of Amida). By 511, he had risen to the rank of comes in Thrace.

In 511, Emperor Anastasius changed the form of the Trisagion prayer and officially adopted the Monophysite dogma, angering the Empire's Chalcedonian population, adding to the disaffection caused by his strict financial policies. Furthermore, Anastasius had refused to supply the provisions due to the foederati (barbarian auxiliary troops), allowing Vitalian to quickly gain the allegiance of the regular troops stationed in the provinces of Thrace, Moesia II, and Scythia Minor from the unpopular magister militum per Thracias, Anastasius’ nephew Hypatius. Hypatius’ subordinate commanders were either killed or joined the rebellion. At the same time, posing as a champion of Chalcedonian orthodoxy, Vitalian was able to gain the support of the locals, who flocked to join his force. According to contemporary historians, he quickly assembled an army of 50-60,000 men and marched on Constantinople, possibly hoping that the mostly Chalcedonian inhabitants would join him. Indeed, it appears that Vitalian’s revolt was primarily motivated by religious reasons, something suggested by his repeatedly demonstrated willingness to reach an accommodation with Anastasius. To counter Vitalian’s propaganda, Anastasius ordered bronze crosses to be set up on the city walls inscribed with his own version of events. The emperor also reduced taxes in the provinces of Bithynia and Asia to prevent them from joining the rebellion.

When Vitalian's forces reached the capital, they encamped at the suburb of Hebdomon and blockaded the landward side of the city. Anastasius opted for negotiations, and sent out Vitalian’s former patron, the former consul and magister militum praesentalis Patricius. Vitalian declared his aims: the restoration of Chalcedonian orthodoxy and the settling of the Thracian army’s grievances. Patricius then invited him and his officers into the city itself for negotiations. Vitalian refused for himself, but allowed his senior officers to go the next day. The officers were well treated by Anastasius, who gave them gifts and promised that their soldiers’ grievances would be settled. He also pledged to submit the religious dispute for resolution to the Patriarch of Rome. Upon their return to the rebel camp, these officers unanimously pressured Vitalian to accept this settlement. Faced with no alternative, only 8 days after his arrival before the capital, Vitalian returned with his men to Lower Moesia.

Anastasius then appointed as magister militum per Thracias an officer called Cyril, who proceeded to attack Vitalian. After a few inconclusive skirmishes, Vitalian managed to bribe his army's entry into Odessus, Cyril’s base, at night. Cyril was captured at his residence and killed. At this point, Anastasius had Vitalian declared a public enemy and sent out a new huge army, reportedly 80,000 men, under Hypatius, with a Hun called Alathar as the new magister militum of Thrace. After winning a minor initial victory, the imperial army was eventually pushed back towards Odessus (autumn 513). At Acris, on the Black Sea coast, Vitalian’s men attacked their fortified laager in darkness and dealt them a crushing defeat: the larger part of the imperial army was killed, and both its commanders were captured and held for ransom.

The victory consolidated Vitalian’s position. With the spoils, he was able to lavishly reward his followers, and at the news of the imperial army’s annihilation, the remaining cities and forts in Lower Moesia and Scythia surrendered to him. Soon after, he had another stroke of luck: at Sozopolis, his men captured an embassy sent by Anastasius to ransom Hypatius, including the ransom money of 1100 pounds of gold. Hypatius, whom Vitalian hated because he had once insulted his wife, was not released until a year later. In 514, Vitalian marched again towards Constantinople, this time gathering, in addition to his army, a fleet of 200 vessels from the Black Sea ports, which sailed down the Bosporus menacing the city from the sea as well. Anastasius was further disquieted by riots in the city, which left many casualties, and resolved to once again negotiate. Vitalian accepted, on the conditions of his nomination to the post of magister militum per Thracias and the receipt of ransom money and gifts worth 5000 pounds of gold for the release of Hypatius. Anastasius also conceded the removal of the changes from the Trisagion, the restoration of the deposed Chalcedonian bishops, and the convocation of a general church council at Constantinople in July 515.

The council never materialized, since Pope Hormisdas and Anastasius continued to be at loggerheads over the Acacian Schism. Neither were the deposed bishops returned to their sees. Seeing Anastasius failing to honor his promises, in late 515 Vitalian mobilized his army and marched again towards Constantinople. His army captured the suburb of Sycae (modern Galata) across the Golden Horn from the city and encamped there. The 2 magistri militum praesentalis, Patricius and John, were unwilling to engage their old friend Vitalian, thus Anastasius gave command of his forces to the former praetorian prefect of the East, Marinus, a trusted and influential aide. Despite his lack of military experience, Marinus defeated the rebel fleet in a battle at the entrance of the Golden Horn; according to the report of John Malalas, this was achieved through the use of a sulphur-based chemical substance invented by the philosopher Proclus of Athens, similar to the later Greek fire. Marinus then landed with his men on the shore of Sycae and defeated the rebels he found there. Disheartened, Vitalian and his army fled north under cover of night.

Once back in northern Thrace, Vitalian went into hiding, while many of his erstwhile aides were captured and executed. Nothing is known of him for the next 3 years, although a short remark by a chronicler seems to indicate that he resurfaced and led another armed rebellion during the last months of Anastasius’ life. When Anastasius died in July 518, he was succeeded by Justin I, the comes excubitorum (commander of the imperial bodyguard). The new emperor quickly moved to strengthen his rule, dismissing a number of potential rivals or enemies. At the same time, he called upon Vitalian to come to Constantinople.

Upon his arrival, Vitalian was made magister militum in praesenti, named honorary consul, and soon after raised to the rank of patrician. As a well-known champion of Chalcedonian orthodoxy, he was to play a role in the new regime’s reaffirmation of the Chalcedonian doctrines and reconciliation with Rome. He played an active role in the negotiations with the Pope, and in 519, he was one of the prominent men who escorted a papal delegation into the capital. Vitalian also took vengeance on the staunchly Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch, Severus, who had celebrated Vitalian’s defeat in a panegyric: Justin ordered Severus’ tongue to be cut, and Severus fled to Egypt along with Julian, Bishop of Halicarnassus.

Finally in 520, Vitalian was appointed ordinary consul for the year. Nevertheless, the former rebel continued to pose a potential challenge to Justin, and more importantly to his nephew and heir-apparent, Justinian. Thus, in July of the same year he was murdered inside the Great Palace along with his secretary Paulus and his domesticus (aide) Celerianus. According to John of Nikiou, he was killed because he was plotting against Justin; most chroniclers, however, put the responsibility for the crime on Justinian’s desire to rid himself of a potential rival for the succession.
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Old 04-23-2017, 01:06 PM   #4527
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April 23, 1891
Sinking the Blanco Encalada

In 1891, after a series of struggles about multinational nitrate interests, Chilean President José Manuel Balmaceda refused to sign the national budget passed by Congress and then dissolved Congress. The dissolution split both the Chilean Army and Navy, with some forces remaining loyal to Congress and others to the President. An armed conflict ensued after a mutiny by the navy, which at that time was docked at Valparaíso.

Supporters of those forces loyal to Congress, including members of the dissolved assembly and their backers among nitrate interests, bought weaponry from Europe and the United States. Better equipped than the forces loyal to the President, they rapidly captured Chile’s northern provinces, which had recently been conquered from Bolivia and Peru during the War of the Pacific, and which contained the valuable nitrates.

Since the Congressionalists controlled all of the current ships in the Chilean Navy, the Balmacedists commandeered vessels nearing completion in England and France, including the torpedo gunboats Almirante Condell and Almirante Lynch. These were built by Laird Brothers, the same firm that built the Confederate raider Alabama30 years before. Both carried an armament of five Whitehead torpedoes, two 14-pounder guns in echelon on the forecastle and one on the poop, four 3-pounders and two machine guns. Their maximum speed was around 21 knots.

The 2 ships arrived at Valparaíso on March 21 and docked at Quintero Bay on April 18. While at Quintero, their commanding officers, Cmdr. Carlos Moraga of Almirante Condell and Cmdr. Juan Fuentes of Almirante Lynch, were informed of the possibility that Blanco Encalada, a Congressionalist ironclad, was going to be in Caldera Bay in 5 days. The two commanders consulted and sent their proposal to attack Blanco Encalada to the Balmacedist government, which was approved.

Blanco Encalada was a central battery ironclad, its main guns in sidemounted casemates and able to fire either broadside or forward/aft. She displaced 3540 tons and made 14 knots. Her main battery comprised six 9” muzzle-loading rifles, plus a 20-pounder, 9-pounder and 6-pounder. Her belt armor was up to 9” thick. Completed in 1875, she had participated in the War of the Pacific as the Chilean Navy’s flagship.

Blanco Encalada arrived at Caldera Bay on April 22, under the command of Captain Luis Goñi, escorting several transports. The troops on these ships landed and captured the surrounding railroad and town of Copiapo. At about 0120 on the 23rd, Goñi returned to the ship. Although it was known that Balmacedist torpedo boats were nearby, the Congressionalists believed that they would not attack the transports. Because of this, torpedo nets were left onshore, and watertight bulkheads were left open.

At 0400, Almirante Condell set out toward Caldera Bay, with Almirante Lynch 20 yards behind her. The armed steamer Imperial traveled with the torpedo boats, taking up a position to the left of both boats. It was to wait some distance off Caldera, in order to escort the ships back home when the attack ended. Both torpedo boats entered Caldera at roughly 1530. When they were 500 yards from Blanco Encalada, both boats came under fire by rapid-fire guns on board the ironclad, which only had 7 men stationed as guards. About 100 yards from Blanco Encalada, Almirante Condell fired her bow torpedo. It missed and landed on shore, unexploded. Moraga then turned his torpedo boat into the direct fire of the ironclad and fired both his starboard torpedoes. The front torpedo hit, but failed to explode, and the rear torpedo passed clear under the target.

As all of Blanco Encalada’s guns were occupied by Almirante Condell, the crew did not notice Almirante Lynch approaching from the opposite direction. From 50 yards out, Almirante Lynch fired her bow torpedo, which missed, and then her forward starboard torpedo after executing a turning maneuver like Almirante Condell had done. The second torpedo struck Blanco Encalada, creating a hole roughly 7 by 15 feet The ship sank within minutes, taking 182 men with it. Several of the men who escaped, including Captain Goñi, did so by clinging to animals in Blanco Encalada’s cargo hold, including a llama and a cow.

As she was sinking, the torpedo boats fired their 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns at the survivors, killing about 40. The torpedo boats also fired at the transport Biobio, which had been trying to rescue the surviving crew. The entire engagement lasted 9 minutes, and Blanco Encalada sank 2 minutes after the torpedo hit. As Lynch and Condell left the harbor, they spotted the transport Aconcagua, which they attacked with their 14-pounder guns (after ruling out their Gatlings due to their potential for overkill). The Aconcagua surrendered after an hour and a half battle, but the torpedo boats were unable to seize her due to an approaching ship which they thought was the cruiser Esmeralda. It turned out to be the neutral HMS Warspite. Almirante Lynch was slightly damaged in the battle, suffering hits to her steam-pipe and flooding in her aft compartment, but besides that, the 2 torpedo gunboats were undamaged.

The sinking of Blanco Encalada was followed by an attack by the torpedo craft on her sister ship, Almirante Cochrane, at that time moored at Iquique. Almirante Cochrane retreated before any torpedoes were fired. On August 28, the Balmacedist army was defeated at the Battle of La Placilla, and 3 days later Congressional forces marched into Santiago, effectively ending the Chilean Civil War. Blanco Encalada underwent some re-floating attempts after the war, which were ultimately unsuccessful, and she was left in Caldera Bay until being demolished in 1954 when a new bridge was under construction.

The battle had a wider impact on naval weapons development as Blanco Encalada was the first armored warship sunk by a self-propelled torpedo. News of the attack spread and navies of several major powers realized the potential of torpedoes as a cheap counter to expensive pre-dreadnoughts, which led to the acceleration of torpedo boat (and eventually submarine) production, the addition of torpedo nets to ships for use when they were moored in port, and the addition of torpedo tubes to surface ships.
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Old 04-24-2017, 11:56 AM   #4528
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April 24, 1916
Easter Rising

By the late 19th century, resentment against the British rule in Ireland began to show a violent side again with the Irish Republican Brotherhood secretly plotting. The formation of the Republican political party Sinn Féin (Ourselves Alone) in 1905 was further evidence of growing anti-British sentiment. Further dissatisfaction came to the surface in 1913 with a general strike in Dublin. Parallel to this, opposition to Home Rule was growing within Ireland itself (in the protestant dominated north-east) in the form of Unionism. Northern Protestants were worried about losing their privileged position, and scared of an independent Ireland. While the Unionist Ulster Volunteer Force imported arms illegally and unopposed by the law, the Nationalist Irish Volunteers were harassed by the law. (The British Army shot dead several people in Dublin after being jeered at by locals).

Home Rule was to be introduced in 1914 but was put-off because of World War I. Hundreds of thousands of young Irish Volunteers were sent off to the trenches, in the belief that Ireland would be peacefully granted Home Rule. Over 50,000 young Irishmen died in the trenches.

By the summer of 1914 it was clear that the extreme elements of Irish Nationalism were now determined on a rebellion. A meeting for September 1914 of the “Physical Force” men was organized by Thomas Clarke. All future signatories of the 1916 proclamation were present. It was agreed that they would: make contact with Germany for military assistance, plan for a Dublin Rising, and increase the size of the now severely decimated (as a result of going to France to fight) Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army (a far smaller force set-up in 1913 to protect strikers during the lockout). With such a small force (c.12,000) it seems unlikely that the IRB (Irish republican Brotherhood) thought they could beat the British in open rebellion. However, planning continued.

By 1914 Roger Casement’s (a recently retired diplomat and Irish nationalist) sympathies were firmly with Germany. It was decided that Casement would be sent to Germany to procure arms and attempt to raise an Irish Brigade from prisoners of war. He obtained a formal statement of support from the Germans, including a pledge to keep Ireland free in the event of a German victory. He failed to raise an Irish Brigade and his movements were already being monitored by the British.

In March 1915, the 7 IRB Commandants met (this was not an Irish Volunteer meeting) to discuss a possible rising in September. A military council was also set-up by the IRB in May. However, not enough arms had been landed, a crucial factor for success.

An unlikely danger came from James Connolly after he had been too open about his rebellion beliefs. Action had to be taken against him which also highlighted the need for urgency. It could only be a matter of time before the plans were uncovered by the British authorities, so the IRB decided it must act or face the possibility of being arrested. Time was by now not on their side. As 1916 neared final plans for a rebellion were made by the IRB. Easter 1916 was set as the date with Connolly in total cooperation. They all agreed that a rebellion would have to occur before the end of the war for maximum military effect. All this time Eoin MacNeill (the head of the Irish Volunteers, not an IRB member, and unaware of the IRB’s plans for a rising) had been purposely kept in the dark.

The big problem of getting enough arms for a rebellion prevailed into 1916, and henceforth plans were organized by John Devoy. The Germans were completely against the notion of sending troops but cooperated with the arms problems. 20,000 rifles with ammunition were to be sent in April, but the British authorities had broken the German codes and were expecting something. The arms left the German port of Lübeck on April 9, bound for landing on the Kerry coast (the southwest of Ireland). But by now, however, Casement was disillusioned with the both the rising and the Germans and anxiously left on a submarine with the firm intention of halting it. Things began to go horribly wrong when the Aud, the German ship disguised as a Norwegian merchantman put in at the wrong port. The British were by now scanning the horizons searching for her. On Friday while waiting in Tralee Bay the Aud was captured by the Royal Navy. When she reached Cork harbor the German captain, who was still in command, scuttled her and the arms were lost; to the British, a rising now seemed impossible. Things seemed to have gone completely their way.

An article published in The Irish Volunteer on April 8 called for maneuvers on Easter Sunday (the 23rd). Eoin MacNeill was still unaware that the maneuvers were in fact to be a rising. The famous “Castle Document”, purporting that the leaders of the Volunteers were to be arrested by the British, the organization disarmed, and Dublin to be occupied by the British Army was in fact a forgery and was planted on MacNeill. He was informed of the planned landing of arms and he issued an order to take part in a “defensive war”. He was not informed that the Aud was captured but on Saturday discovered the forgery, and issued a countermanding order. By now the Authorities in the Castle were in confusion because of the many rumors going around. The 7 main leaders spent Easter Sunday deliberating on a decision for a rising on Monday. Although it was obviously hopeless they came to a decision and Padraig Pearse issued an order at 8 PM. The rising would go ahead.

About noon on Easter Monday, April 24, elements of the Irish Volunteers began to assemble. MacNeill’s countermanding order meant that most did not turn up. Officers desperately tried to rally more men but only a pitiful 1600 turned up. The plan was to take the city by holding a defensive crescent of strongpoints on each side of the city. Headquarters would be the General Post Office (GPO). The rest of the country was expected to rise in support of the Dublin rebellion and reinforce it. A withdrawal to Tyrone (100 miles north) and a guerrilla war was to be waged if things did not go well in Dublin. Even with 10,000 turning out, this plan seemed quite optimistic, but in the present situation things were fairly hopeless. Pearse said, “There are many more things more horrible than bloodshed and slavery is one of them”.

The signal for the commencement of the rising was supposed to have been quite spectacular. The Magazine Fort, a large store of explosives owned the British Army in Phoenix Park, was to have been blown up by a small party; they broke in but failed to gain access to the main store (as the key was missing) and attempted to blow it up, but failed to explode the whole store.

A party of the Irish Citizen Army under the command of Sean Connolly proceeded at noon to Dublin Castle. A policeman appeared and was shot, but the alarm was raised. They failed to capture the Castle (it turned out they could likely have done so as it was undermanned) and withdrew to City Hall. The GPO was captured without much grief around the same time and the proclamation of the Irish Republic was read out by Padraig Pearse, President of the Provisional Government. The principal buildings captured were: The Four Courts (Edward Daly’s 1st Battalion); Jacob’s Factory in Bishop Street (Thomas MacDonagh’s 2nd Battalion); Boland’s Mills on the Grand Canal (Eamonn DeValera’s 3rd Battalion) and the South Dublin Union Workhouse (Eamonn Ceantt’s 4th Battalion). St. Stephen’s Green and the College of Surgeons were captured by Commandant Michael Mallin’s unit of the Irish Citizen Army.

To the British Forces in Dublin the rising came as quite a shock. They were confident that with only a limited supply of arms the rebels would not rise, and on Easter Monday most British officers were away enjoying a day at the races. The first British incursion into Rebel-held territory came when a party of lancers rode up O’Connell Street and were cut down by fire from the GPO. With this small success the rebels went about their work preparing their defenses with some confidence.

Rumors abounded of a German landing, and a mass rising in the rest of Ireland. However, these rumors were all untrue. The question now was: How long could they hold out? By Monday evening British reinforcements were pouring in from all over Ireland and preparations were being made in England for sending more. General Lowe took charge and Martial Law was declared. The IRB had not anticipated that the British would use artillery. They preferred to think that there would be cavalry charges and street fighting. The lack of sufficient arms proved also to be a vital factor and it was reported that some men were using pikes. Dublin was surrounded quickly and by Thursday 12,000 British had arrived. The rebels had not one machine gun. All they could do now was to sit and wait for the attack.

On Wednesday the bloodiest battle of the whole week was in progress. A party of 17 men in houses on Northumberland Road overlooking Mount Street Bridge faced a whole British battalion. Casualties were massive. After 8 hours, the British had lost 230 killed and wounded. Most of the Irish escaped with their lives. In support of their infantry attacks the British brought a gunboat, the Helga, up the River Liffey to bombard rebel positions.

By Thursday, a cordon had been established to isolate the rebel positions. They began to edge closer in on the volunteers. On Friday, the GPO had to be evacuated because the roof and much of the building was burning as a result of artillery bombardment. Much of O’Connell Street was also burning and the street was a death trap to any volunteer that ventured out. The end was in sight for the rebels. At noon on April 29, it was decided that to avoid further deaths of civilians they must surrender. At 3.30 PM, Pearse handed Gen. Lowe his sword and wrote the surrender order.

The rebels lost 64 killed and 120 wounded. The British had 132 men killed and 397 wounded. Civilian casualties were some 300 killed and 2000 wounded. As the rebels wore no uniforms, the newly-trained and inexperienced British troops took to killing any fighting-age Irish man they came across.

The immediate feeling in Dublin after the rising was of indignation. The rebels were jeered and pelted with rotten fruit by civilians. Much of the center of Dublin had been all but destroyed. Martial law remained in force. Initially 3000 men were arrested but half were released. 1800 were imprisoned in Britain and 100 were sentenced to death. The executions began on May 3 and continued until the 12th. General Maxwell, now the British commander, refused to listen to appeals and 15 were shot by the time he halted them due to public outrage. A great change in public opinion occurred and by June most showed sympathy towards the rebel cause. There was much anti-British sentiment and many felt that the rising had been Britain’s fault. Another reason was because of British atrocities against civilians during and after the rising.

The Easter Rising had a profound effect on the course of Irish history. The War of Independence of 1919-21 grew out of it. By 1918 the republican cause was the dominant one in Ireland and the Irish Volunteers were ready to fight if the British continued to refuse Irish independence. The fight would come in 1919.
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Old 04-25-2017, 12:41 PM   #4529
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April 25, 1626
Battle of DessauBridge

In March 1626, Christian IV of Denmark committed his country to the faltering Protestant cause in Germany. However, his dwindling funds increased his dependence on unreliable allies and made it harder to impose his authority on the generals who joined him, notably the veteran mercenary Ernst von Mansfeld. Christian concentrated his main army of 20,000 at Wolfenbuttel to keep the Imperial and Catholic League armies of Wallenstein and Tilly, respectively, divided. Wallenstein was at Halberstadt to the southeast with about the same number of troops, while Tilly, with slightly fewer, stood on the Weser to the west with the Harz Mountains between them.

Christian sent Johann Ernst of Weimar with a small detachment across the Weser to distract Tilly and try to capture Osnabruck. Duke Christian of Brunswick mustered at Göttingen ready to push into Hesse where Count Philipp Reinhard of Solms had mustered 4000 peasants. Aware that the Landgrave of Hesse would probably join them if they got through, Tilly wanted to take Göttingen and nearby towns to secure the frontier of Hesse, which continued to pay a large part of his army.

Tilly’s refusal to cross the mountains to join Wallenstein disheartened the imperial commander, who tendered his resignation no less than 6 times in February and March, in protest at the failure to provide funds for his army. Wallenstein was also concerned at a new threat to his forward base from Mansfeld, who now had 12,000 men at Lauenburg on the Elbe ready to invade Brandenburg and turn his flank. Emperor Ferdinand had no desire to spread the war into Upper Saxony and ordered Wallenstein to remain west of the Elbe, where he began operations against Duke Christian. He was forced to turn back in February when Mansfeld advanced along the Elbe through Brandenburg, while a small Danish corps under Gen. Fuchs followed on the far bank. Mansfeld announced that he was coming to liberate Magdeburg and began occupying Anhalt territory east of the river. Wallenstein soon chased away Fuchs, but learned that Mansfeld was threatening his outpost, under Johann von Aldringen, at Rosslau, near Dessau, which guarded the only permanent bridge between Magdeburg and Dresden. If this fell, Mansfeld could disrupt supplies from Bohemia to the imperial army. Not for the last time, there was talk in Vienna of replacing Wallenstein.

In April, both sides converged on Dessau. Aldringen arrived first, creating a strong position centered on heavy artillery. Due to Wallenstein's inexperience, Mansfeld was overly confident and underestimated his enemy. He increased his pressure on Aldringen from April 12; Wallenstein rushed reinforcements, arriving himself with the main army on April 24, bringing his force to 14,000 men. Mansfeld had bitten off too much, having quarreled with Fuchs, who was too far north to help. With only 7000 men, he was too weak to take the imperial positions. He gambled everything on a final assault at 6 AM on April 25, not realizing the Wallenstein had concealed troops in a wood to the east. These counterattacked just as Mansfeld’s assault was flagging. Mansfeld’s cavalry fled downstream to Havelburg, abandoning the infantry, who surrendered. Mansfeld lost 4000 men, while the imperial army lost 2000.

Mansfeld was able to rebuild his army to a strength of 7000, which gave him an army similar in size to the one he had lost half of at Dessau. His rally did not last long as he died soon after. Duke Christian died on June 26, bringing his operations to a halt. The Danish army retreated into Upper Silesia. King Christian IV and his army were destroyed by Count Tilly in the Battle of Lutter, which left Tilly with the lands of Holstein, Jutland, and Schleswig.
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April 26, 1809
Dalmatian Campaign

On the outbreak of war in April 1809, the major forces in the Italian theater were the Franco-Italian army of the Viceroy of Italy, Eugene de Beauharnais and the Austrian army of Archduke John. In addition, Gen. Auguste Marmont commanded a French corps in occupation of Dalmatia (coastal Croatia). At the end of the War of the 3rd Coalition in December 1805, the Treaty of Pressburg awarded the Austrian provinces of Istria and Dalmatia to the French puppet Kingdom of Italy. Since that time, Marmont had administered the region. Because Marmont’s troops had trained with the Grande Armée at the Camp de Boulogne (as the old II Corps) and missed the bloody battles of the War of the 4th Coalition, Napoleon considered the unit his “finest corps”. Marmont’s “Army of Dalmatia” consisted of 2 infantry divisions commanded by Joseph Perruquet de Montrichard and Bertrand Clausel, about 14,000 troops. There was an especially powerful artillery contingent of 78 guns led by Gen. Louis Tirlet. Marmont’s chief of staff was Jacques-Antoine-Adrien Delort.

To oppose Marmont, Archduke John detached General-Major Stoichevich’s brigade. By May, Stoichevich commanded about 7740 infantry, 120 infantry, and 240 gunners.

Though outnumbered, the Austrians won the opening round of the campaign. Between April 26 and 30, Stoichevich mounted a series of attacks on the Zrmanja River crossings at Ervenik, Kaštel Žegarski, Obrovac, Vagic, and Kravli Most. Fighting in a rainstorm, the Austrian grenzers drove the French from a mountaintop position on April 30. During the retreat, the civilian population joined in harassing the French. The widely dispersed French forces were driven back to Knin (Kürn) and Zadar (Zara). For a loss of 250 casualties, Stoichevich inflicted losses of 1000 dead and wounded, while capturing 200.

For 2 weeks the front stabilized, with the Austrians unable to capture Knin. Meanwhile, Bosnian and Turkish irregulars began attacking the Austrians. Hearing of the defeat of Archduke John at the Piave River on May 8 and the French eastward advance toward Laibach, Stoichevich prepared to withdraw.

On May 16, Marmont inflicted a sharp defeat on the Austrians at Pribudić, 9 miles northwest of Knin. While a holding force of French skirmishers and artillery probed at a well-defended mountaintop position, he sent the 23rd Line to strike the Austrian flank. The attack succeeded in overrunning the Austrian defenses. Of 13,000 soldiers on the field, the French suffered few casualties. Out of 9000 men, the Austrians suffered losses of 200 dead, 500 wounded, and 300-600 captured, including Stoichevich. The next day, the 2 sides clashed at Gračac, 28 miles northwest of Knin. In this action, Marmont admitted losing 300 dead, without reporting other losses. The Austrians, now commanded by Col. Matthias Rebrovich, reported losing 300 killed and wounded before retreating toward Gospić.

On May 21, Marmont located Rebrovich’s forces deployed behind the Lika River near Gospić. Holding back 1 of his divisions as a reserve, he sent the other into a cross-river attack. To open the action, the French voltiguer (light infantry) companies waded across the river at a ford under fire. Taking possession of the bluffs on the far side, they fought off repeated Austrian assaults. The French fed reinforcements into a bridgehead that was commanded by 12 Austrian guns. To counter the enemy’s local superiority in artillery, the French formed in a single line with 3-pace gaps between men. The skirmish line was backed by groups of ten men, each led by an officer. Mule-carried mountain howitzers were brought up to provide fire support.

Noting that the Austrians fought in 3 disconnected forces, Marmont hurled his main blow at Rebrovich’s center. Although a battalion of the 81st Line suffered heavy losses from the Austrian guns, the French began to prevail. An attack by the 18th Light stormed the enemy battery, capturing 5 cannons. As the Austrian center retreated hastily, Marmont turned against the enemy wings and threw them back also. The French lost 134 dead, 600 wounded, and 270 captured out of the 11,000 men engaged in this tough fight. The Austrians admitted losing 64 dead, 500 wounded, 200 captured, and 2 guns.

Rebrovich’s command joined with Ignaz Gyulai near Zagreb (Agram) at the beginning of June. After taking Gospić, Marmont continued northward and reached Trieste on May 28 and Ljubljana (Laibach) on June 3.

On June 26, Marmont’s corps intervened in the Battle of Graz, joining with Jean-Baptiste Broussier to drive Gyulai to the east. After pursuing the Austrians for 2 days, he received orders on the 29th to proceed to Vienna at once by forced marches. Despite the victory, Napoleon remarked to Eugene, “Marmont has maneuvered badly enough; Broussier still worse.” He believed that Marmont should have been at Graz by June 24. Not only Marmont, but Broussier, Eugene and other outlying elements of the emperor’s armies were called upon to march to Vienna, leading to the climactic Battle of Wagram (see posting).

After Wagram, Napoleon cross-examined Marmont about the Dalmatian campaign. He then criticized the general’s actions for 2 hours. Wrung out by the experience, Marmont returned to his tent. To his surprise, he later found that he had been nominated for promotion to Marshal of France. But Napoleon also sent him a letter noting that, “Between ourselves, you have not yet done enough to justify entirely my choice.” Three men became marshal after Wagram. Of the three, the soldiers composed a ditty, “MacDonald is France’s choice, Oudinot is the army’s choice, Marmont is friendship’s choice.”
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