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Author Topic: PzLdr History Facts  (Read 10061 times)
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« Reply #180 on: May 03, 2017, 08:22:05 am »

After the nasty surprise of Doolittle's Raid in April, 1942, the Japanese High Command scrambled for a response. And while they did that, the Army and Navy both agreed that a further expansion to the south was in order. In an effort to cut off Australia's supply lines to the east, the Japanese planned to occupy the Solomon islands, and Port Morseby on New Guinea. To accomplish this, they sent the usual surface escorts, and transports. to back it up, they also sent Carrier Division 5, SHOKAKU and ZUIKAKU, veterans of the Pearl Harbor strike, and Japan's most modern fleet carriers. They were accompanied by the light carrier SHOHO. Commander of the operation was Admiral Inoue.

At first the operation seemed to go smoothly. Tulagi and Guadalcanal and other islands in the Solomons were occupied [Tulagi was the principal objective]. But several Japanese naval vessels and transports were sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft, alerting the Japanese to the presence of what would turn out to be the U.S carriers LEXINGTON and YORKTOWN (Adm. Jack Fletcher) [we knew about the Japanese through the same code breaking that set up the victory in a month at Midway].

And so the stage was set for the next revolution in naval warfare, a battle where the enemy ships never sighted each other. The U.S drew first blood, sinking SHOHO, the first Japanese carrier sunk in the Pacific war. But the Japanese responded with lethal force. Lexington was so badly damaged by the Japanese air attack, and a subsequent explosion from an undiscovered fuel leak she was scuttled. Yorktown suffered so much damage the Japanese assumed she sank, or was at least hors de combat for the forseeable future.

But Carrier Division 5 did not go unscathed. SHOKAKU was so heavily damaged her aircraft had to land on ZUIKAKU. ZUIKAKU was able to do this because her own air squadrons had been heavily depleted in combat with the American planes.

YORKTOWN returned to Pearl Harbor, to be repaired in some three days for return to the fleet - and to Midway. SHOKAKU returned to the naval yards of Japan for, to put it charitably, a more leisurely repair. She would miss Midway. And despite suffering only minor damage, so would ZUIKAKU, because Japanese doctrine required their aircraft carriers to fly squadrons and pilots trained with that ship. So she sat in Japan, taking aboard new pilots. And SHOKAKU's veteran squadron also stayed in Japan while their ship was repaired, also missing the Battle of Midway.

So what was the result of the Coral Sea? A short term tactical victory for the Japanese. But operationally, and strategically, it was a disaster. With Carrier Division 5's withdrawal, there was no assault on Port Morseby by sea. Instead the Japanese landed troops on the north side of New Guinea, and began trekking over the Kokoda Trail, creating a meat grinder they committed troops to for over a year.

Additionally, the Japanese now began building an airfield on Guadalcanal with the view toward interdicting the sea lanes to Australia from there. that would lead to the first U.S invasion of the Pacific war, and a slugfest that would not only cost the Japanese Army massive casualties, but would, despite several victories lead to the increasing erosion of the Japanese fleet, and particularly, her air arm.

And finally, the effect of the Coral Sea on Midway was catastrophic. Nagumo's KIDO BUTAI sailed into battle with one-third [at least] of its strength in Japan. The Americans would have naval parity. And the Japanese seemed to have failed to notice the improvement in American air operations. That failure was compounded by the success of U.S torpedo bombers at Coral Sea. At Midway, the Japanese CAP fixated on them to the point that when the U.S dive bombers appeared, the Japanese fighters were on 'the deck' , away from the carriers. The result was three carriers, AKAGI, KAGA and SORYU severely damaged in five minutes [all would sink or be scuttled], and the fourth carrier, HIRYU, severely damaged that afternoon, and sunk that night. It was a loss, coupled with operational losses around the Solomons for the next year, that destroyed most of Japan's experienced air power, and led to the Battle of the Philippines Sea, also known as "The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot".

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« Reply #181 on: May 07, 2017, 10:06:35 am »

1763 - Pontiac's Rebellion Starts:

By 1763, the British had won the French and Indian War, and both the Indians and the English colonists were grappling with the results. Many of the Indians, who had sided with the French were unhappy with the British government, especially Gen. Jeffrey Amherst, the British commander in North America. Amherst didn't much like Indians, and refused to continue long standing practices based on Indian custom, particularly the exchange of gifts prior to councils. The colonists were unhappy because the British government put all the territory beyond the Appalachians off limits to colonial settlement and exploitation, creating it as a sort of Indian preserve.

Enter Pontiac. Pontiac was an Ottawa, a tribe from the upper Midwest, who had fought for the French. Allied with a Delaware Holy Man, Pontiac [well in anticipation of Tecumseh] began preaching a united Indian federation, and war with the British on a large scale by a military alliance of the Indians, using a series of coordinated attacks on ALL the British outposts in the contested territory.

The offensive was set to begin in Spring, 1763. Pontiac reserved for himself, his people and several allies, the job of taking Ft. Detroit for the British. Other tribes targeted some dozen other posts. Within days, by subterfuge, surprise attack, etc. [one group got into  one fort by faking a lacrosse game and "accidentally" tossing the ball over the wall. The British let them in, a massacre followed], the Indians had captured ten of the forts. But Pontiac never got off his attack on Ft. Detroit. When he arrived there for a pow wow, with his braves carrying concealed weapons, he found the garrison deployed in combat formation, armed to the teeth. The garrison commander had ben forewarned, possibly by an Indian mistress. Pontiac was forced to undertake a siege, which considering Britain's naval domination of the water, and Ft. Detroit's location, was not likely to be successful, despite the eventual use of some 1,000+ warriors.

The Indians put the frontier to the torch, but the rising was doomed to failure. As a polity, the Iroquois refused to participate. The British reacted firmly, and pitilessly [there is an apocrophal story that Amherst had smallpox laden blankets distributed among the Indians]. And although the rebellion continued for a year, by 1764 it was largely over.

Still, it came within a whisker of success, and its results were devastating all around. the Indian alliance shattered. The colonists, displeased with both British policy [the government in London now began moving toward taxing the colonists for the upkeep of the military in the New World, and still officially barred settlement in the contested area] and the length of the conflict, began looking toward defending themselves. And what would be American attitudes toward Indians, nevergreat since King Philip's War, began to harden.

And Pontiac? The British made peace with him, but his self-proclaimed stature angered other Indians who had joined the revolt. Pontiac was assassinated by a fellow Indian in 1869, the first such victim in a list that would grow to include such luminaries as Sitting Bull.


Mt. Pele a 400 something foot volcano on the island of Martinique culminates a series of tremors and eruptions with a pyrophlastic flow that engulfs the town of St. Pierre. The cloud of ash and superheated gasses kills everyone in town, except for two people [one a prisoner in a subterranean jail cell. It capsizes ships in the harbor. The town is destroyed.


It is probably the most famous sinking of a non- military ship in the history of warfare. Around 1400 hours, as she rounded the tip of Ireland on her way to Liverpool, R.M.S LUISITANIA is struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat in her engine roof. She sinks in some 20 minutes, with over 1,000 of her total complement of around 2,000 killed. The death toll includes over 100 Americans.

Despite warnings posted in U.S. media about the exclusionary war zone around Britain, and despite the fact LUISITANIA was carrying munitions, making her a military target, Americans are outraged, and Wilson threatens war. The Germans agree to halt unrestricted submarine warfare, and apologize. War is averted until 1917, when the Germans again declare unrestricted submarine warfare, which coupled with several other moves [the bone headed ZIMMERMANN telegram comes to mind], lead to America's entry into the war on the Allied side, and Germany's defeat in 1918.


A German general once described the war in the Soviet Union as 'an elephant battling ants. In the end, despite horrendous losses, the ants will win'. If ever that aphorism was true, it was at Dien Bien Phu.

Dien Bien Phu was a battle of French creation, in a location selected by the French, in accordance with a French strategy to force the Viet Minh to engage the French in a battle of attrition. It succeeded in bringing on the battle, but was a failure.

Dien Bien Phu lay in a valley to the west of Hanoi in what became North Viet Nam. It was in a position to disrupt Viet Minh troop and supply movements. The French decided to airborne in their elite paratroopers [including those of the Foreign Legion], and build a series of interlocking positions and fire bases, as well as an air strip. Re-supply, reinforcement and medevac were to be supplied by air, as was tactical fire support.

But the plan was based on a flawed premise, that the Viet Minh couldn't get enough troops with heavy support of their own onto the target, and based on a geographical absurdity - the French left the high ground to the Viet Minh.

The Viet Minh commander, Giap, had two aces to play: unlimited manpower, especially porters, and a host of U.S 105, and 155 mm. howitzers, courtesy of the Red Chinese [captured from the Kuomindong].

Giap had his engineers cut trails up to the hills surrounding Dien Bien Phu.  Using natural caves, and man-made ones, he then had the artillery disassembled and hauled up the trails in pieces, where the tubes were then reassembled. He did the same with anti-aircraft guns. And when all was ready, the Viet Minh opened the offensive.

The French held out, with rising casualties, diminished forces and ammunition, and a shrinking perimeter, until May 7, 1954. They lost control of the airfield, and several firebases early, and they never recovered from that. Air supply was spotty at best, and never successful in bringing in the necessary tonnage [a la Stalingrad].

The French surrender did not end the first Viet Nam war for independence, but it was the final nail in the coffin. France exited Indo-China soon afterward. In 11 years, American troop units would enter the southern half of the country [the Republic of Viet Nam], to take up the cudgel against the communists [advisors had been there since the Eisenhower days].

There you have it - four for 7 [and that excludes the German surrender on May 7, 1945 [see the thread on that in PzLdr HISTORY FACTS].

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« Reply #182 on: May 09, 2017, 10:17:25 am »


He was born in northern Mongolia, date uncertain. He was named for a Tartar chieftain his father had captured around the time of his birth. He was descended from royalty. His grandfather, or great grandfather, Kabul Khan [ I have anglicized all the spellings where possible], had been paramount Khan of all the Mongol Khans, and was famed for having pulled the beard of the then Chinese Emperor, and dying for it. His father was Yesugai Bahadur [The Valiant], leader of the Borigjin clan of the Mongols [their unity had collapsed]. His mother was a woman stolen on her bridal journey to a Merkit chief named Houlon. His name was Temujin. He was born with a blood clot in his hand. And he has become known to us as Genghis Khan, the "Universal Ruler".

His childhood started like any other Mongol child. He learned to ride, shoot the bow, hunt, herd the horses and livestock. But as the son of a chieftain, it differed, too. At the age of nine or so, he accompanied his father east, to get a bride. Her name was Bortei, and Yesugai and her father agreed on a betrothal, and as was the custom, Temujin remained with her family as a quasi-indentured servant, so they could see what type of man their daughter would eventually marry. But at that point, the whole trajectory of Temujin's life changed.

A rider from his clan arrived at a gallop. His father, Yesugai, on his return from the betrothal, ran into a hunting party of Tartars, the clan's, indeed all the Mongols traditional enemies. Steppe tradition mandated safe conduct and hospitality in such cases. Yesugai was welcomed, fed - and poisoned. By the time Temujin arrived home, his father was dead. Worse, his clan, sworn to his father, abandoned Temujin, his mother, his father's other wife, his brothers Kassar and Temuge, his sister, Temulun and his half-brothers, Bektor and Belgutai, leaving them with almost nothing.

Forced to live on rodents, fish and whatever else they could catch, the family eked out a living in the mountains. but all was not well. Bektor was older than Temujin, and thought that by right he was the 'man' of the family. But Bektor's mother was not Yesugai's principal wife. Houlon was. And under Mongol custom, that made Temujin head of the family. Tensions and trouble arose. At some point Bektor either took by force some fish Temujin and Kassar had caught, or refused to share a bird or birds he had killed.  As a result, Temujin and Kassar ambushed Bektor and murdered him.

As rumor of the murder swept across the Steppe, it caused some of Yesugai's old clansmen to remember his family, especially his son. And either through fear or loathing, they began to hunt him. At one point he was captured by the Tadijut, Targotai, who instead of killing him, put Temujin in a Kang [wooden collar used to yoke oxen], and enslaved him. But Temujin, with a little help from some of Targotai's followers freed him, and he escaped.

Over the next several years, Temujin built a following. His men were chosen for two traits, loyalty and merit. Nobility was not a requirement to gain favor or rank. They included Muhuli, who would eventually be Temujin's deputy in China, Jelme, and his younger brother Subodei, and several others [He would later add a bowman who had almost killed him in battle, Jebe the Arrow Lord].

But Temujin needed allies. So first, he rode east and clasimed his bride, Bortei. He then took her dowry, a black sable fur, and rode west to the land of the Kerait, a mostly Nestorian Christian people ruled by Toghrul, known to the Chinese as Wang Khan. Torghrul had been Anda [blood brother] to Yesugai, and Yesugai had put him back on his throne after Toghrul's brother had forced him into exile. Accepting the sable, Toghrul sealed an alliance with the Mongols. Temujin also renewed an Anda relationship with another Mongol [Jerait] clan leader named Jamuga.

And then disaster struck. Temujin was surprised by a Merkit attack [the tribe to whom his mother was being sent all those years ago. they didn't get Temujin, but they did get Bortei. And by the time Temujin, Jamuga and Toghrul got her back, some nine months later, she was with child.

Jamuga and Temujin combined their clans for a while, but they soon fell afoul of each other. Jamuga believed only nobility should have positions of power. Temujin didn't. They soon parted, but warfare flared over a stolen horse. And it set the stage for a set of shifting alliances [Temujin was declared Genghis Khan, Jamuga was declared Gur Khan by his faction], and ever increasing war among the Steppe tribes. and by the time the smoke cleared, Temujin had defeated or rallied all the tribes and clans of the steppe under his banner. Some came willingly, some by conquest. One, the Tartars, by genocide. Every Tartar male talled than an ox cart wheel linch pin was killed. and, as with all other tribes and clans, the Tartars were broken up and distributed throughout the Mongol clans. Temujin was nationalizing the Steppe peoples.

Temujin had also built a highly organized army, based on units of ten: Arban [10]. Jagun [100], Minghan [1,000- the basic Mongol maneuver unit], and Tuman [10,000 - the division]. Armed with compound bows that could outshoot the longbow, shoot through armor, fired a variety of arrows, including whistling signal arrows], scimitars, maces and hooked lances, to drag an enemy horseman off his horse, or feet, the Mongol soldier went on campaign with a string of from five to eight horses, a raw silk shirt, used to assist in pulling arrowheads out of wounds, several quivers of arrows, milk curd and other dried food. In a pinch, they would drink their horse's blood [a Tuman was 60% light cavalry, and 40% heavy cavalry]. Drum signals and colored flags were used to signal during day, and colored lanterns were used at night.

Expertly led, trained and battle tested, the Mongol Army was ready for bigger things. Genghis Khan turned his gaze southward. to China.

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« Reply #183 on: May 10, 2017, 08:45:15 am »


The first major power Genghis Khan set his sights on was China, but it was not the China we think of now. Starting in the 10th century, a unified china was attacked by two waves of horse nomads from Manchuria, the Khitans and the Jurchid or Jurchens. Both succeeded in conquering and occupying northern China, while the Sung Dynasty of the Han Chinese was driven south of the Yangtze River, where it held sway until 1279 AD.

The Jurchen overthrew the  Khitans, driving the ruling caste west, where they took over a predominantly Moslem country, which became known as Kara Khitai [the Khitans were Buddhist]. Also to the northwest of the Jurchin was Hsia-Hsia, a nation of Tanguts.

The Jurched named their dynasty "Chin", or 'Golden' [from which the name China devolved. the Khitans left the sobriquet, "Cathay"], and ruled from Beijing. They fought intermittent wars with the Sung along their southern border, and maintained a military presence consisting of Imperial troops, and mercenary barbarians along their northern border [relying in part on the Gobi desert as a natural shield, and on the then Great Wall as a manmade one]. the Jin had also made extensive use, at different times, of the Kerait and the Tartars, as a policy tool on the Steppe [at one point, when allied with Toghrul Khan, Genghis had served the Chinese. But the use of the Tartars would bite the Jin on the buttocks, once the Steppe people were united under Temujin, who considered the Tartars mortal enemies.

It came to a head when an ambassador from the newly installed Jin emperor came to accept Genghis Khan's oath of fealty. what he got was a stream of saliva to the south, and no oath. Genghis prepared for war.

Like the French 700 years later, the Jin thought they were secure behind their wall. Like the Germans 700 years later, the Great Khan did an end-around. First he travelled over the Gobi in winter [less heat]. He found willing allies in Kara-Khitai, who still hated the Jurchen usurpers [as they saw the Jurchid]. He invaded Tsia-Tsia, and quickly forced them to accept his suzerainty and an alliance. He co-opted most of the nomad mercenaries north of the wall, and several key Chinese [mostly Khitan officers] at strategic gates and strong points at the western end. The Mongols were through the wall with no major battles fought, nor casualties taken.

They then fanned out, raiding, razing and raping their way east and south. Chinese forces were ambushed, outmaneuvered and overwhelmed piecemeal. And soon the Mongols were at major cities. It was there Genghis Khan ran into trouble. He had no siege capability. And unless the Mongols could storm a city, or trick their way in [Jebe lured a Chinese garrison into a pursuit after a feigned withdrawal, after which he and Subedei turned on them, annihilated them, and pursued the survivors so closely, they got inside the open city gates before they could be closed], the Chinese stood a good chance of surviving as long as they had food or water.

Genghis finally arrived at Beijing, and them made peace with the Emperor, who swore allegiance and forked over massive amounts of tribute. But once the Mongols decamped, the Emperor fled south. Genghis, feeling he had been betrayed, returned and sacked Beijing, renewing the war with the Jin.

Genghis Khan returned to the Steppe, laden with swag, artisans, and perhaps most importantly, Chinese Civil servants, doctors, and military engineers. the days of a lack of Mongol siege craft were over [in Khwaresm, the Mongols would use Manganels, Trebuchets, siege crossbows, gunpowder weapons and a full panoply of Chinese siege engineering].

Genghis Khan left an army under Muhuli, who acted as his regent, to continue operations against the Jin, occasionally in alliance with the Sung, because another matter had arisen requiring his attention to the southwest, in the empire of the Khwaresm Shah.

Khwaresm was an amalgam of several provinces and kingdoms conquered over a period of time by the then Muslim governor for the caliph of Baghdad, who went on to proclaim himself Emperor. He was succeeded by his son Muhammed II, who after overrunning several more small appendages, proclaimed himself the new Alexander.

Still, Khwaresm had wealth, commerce, resources. And Genghis Khan decided to open trade relations with the Shah. He sent a large amount of gifts and a letter, proposing peace and trade. The local governor of Otrar, Inalchuk, seized a large caravan, and killed the Mongols with it. when Genghis Khansent an ambassador to Muhammed, seeking redress, Muhammed killed him, and sent his escorts back with their heads shaved.

Now under Mongol custom, an embassy was sacred [one of the first instances of 'diplomatic immunity']. The murder of the ambassador called for war.And war it was.

The Mongols sent a column toward Otrar under Jebe and Jochi, Genghis Khan's oldest son. Although a mere feint, they put up a more than creditable fight agasinst the Khwaresm troops they faced. And while the Muslims watched them, three more Mongol columns debauched fro the Tien Shan mountains. Two, led by two of Genghis' other sons, Ogatai and Chagatai invested or fought Muslim troops along the eastern front [the Muslims were using a static defense, even though they outnumbered the Mongols by over two to one]. The third column, led by Genghis himself, accompanied by Subedei and Genghis' youngest son [and possibly best general of the four sons], Tolui disappeared.

The Great Khan's column went through the Kyzyl Kum desert, and appeared WELL behind the front lines, west of Samarkand. Khwaresm fell apart. Muhammed's mother, a Turk had several thousand of her tribesmen try to go over to the Mongols. They were slaughtered. As the Khwaresm army fell apart, the Mongols fanned out. Normally, if a city surrendered it was spared. If it did not, it was razed. One exception was Merv. During the battle outside the city, one of Genghis Khan;'s sons-in-law, one Toguchar, was killed [he had been sent to the Khan in disgrace by Subedei and Jebe for disobeying orders, and broken to the ranks]. Tolui 'gave' the city to his sister, the widow. She demanded everything die. the Mongols killed every man, woman, child, dog, cat and bird they could find, then rode away. but they returned in three days, caught the survivors they had initially missed, and killed them, too.

Muhammed Shah, and some retainers, fled west for their lives. Genghis Khan sent Jebe, Subedei and two tumen in pursuit, with orders to kill him [Inalchuk, the source of all the sorrow had been captured when Otrar fell. He died when the Mongols poured molten silver in his mouth, ears, and eyes]. The Shah escaped [barely] to an island in the Aral Sea, where he died. Jebe and Subedei then undertook "The Great Raid", riding around the Aral Sea, up through the Caucasus, and then west to the Crimea, where they made an alliance with the Venetians, sacked a Genoese trading post, and prepared to return to the Khan after he summoned them. On the way, they were pursued by a Russian army four times their size, turned on it at the Khalka river, destroyed it and rode east, where they suffered their only defeat at the hands of the Volga Bulgars. It was on this trip that Jebe the Arrow Lord died.

When he summoned Jebe and Subedei back, Genghis also summoned Jochi who was operating on the steppe to the northwest. Jochi refused the summons, claiming illness. But Subedei reported   Jochi didn't appear ill. The problem was solved when Jochi suddenly died, apparently of the illness he claimed. But there is a strong possibility that Genghis Khan had his oldest son killed for disobeying him.

Genghis Khan spent the next few years in Khwaresm, before returning to Karakorum, the capital he had built. But he didn't remain there long.

When Genghis Khan had prepared for his war with Muhammed Shah, he had called on his allies to send him troops. the Khitans complied. Hsia-Hsia didn't, telling the messenger words to the effect that if Genghis couldn't conquer Khwaresm by himself, he shouldn't go. It was now Hsia-Hsia's turn.

It was to be Genghis' last campaign. During an interlude, he fell from a horse while hunting. A man in his 60s [only his grandson Kublai would live at least that long], and having lived a hard life, he made his plans on his deathbed. the khan of the Tanguts was not allowed to see him. Genghis ordered the Khan and his entire party killed after he died. He ordered the entire state of Hsia-Hsia razed. He gave specific orders for his burial, including the legendary provision that his grave be unmarked and unfound. He then passed into myth, and out of history.

Genghis Khan is remembered in Mongolia today as not only the father of his country, but a semi-deity. And he accomplished great things. He built a nation and bonded a people. He started the Mongols on the road to the greatest land empire in history, and in doing so led to an exponential expansion of trade and contact between th e Far East and Europe. And indirectly, once his successors' empires fell, and the Silk road was no longer safe, he may well have led to the Age of Discovery. not bad for a pagan, illiterate nomad born with a blood clot in his hand.

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« Reply #184 on: May 10, 2017, 10:43:57 am »

Genghis Khan had many wives [he tended to marry royalty from every tribe, clan or nation he took], and even more concubines. As a result he had MANY children. But the sons he is remembered for are four in number, and they are all children of his princioal wife, Bortei. They were Jochi, Chagatai, Ogedai and Tolui.

JOCHI was the first born, but a cloud hovered over his birth, since he may well have been the product of his mother's capitivity by the Merkit. And while Jochi was shown equal affection and respect by his father with his siblings,his name in Mongol meant "The Guest". And as he grew to maturity, Jochi became more of a rebel than his brothers. And as such, he either operated under his father's direct supervision, or in an independent command [usually advised by a senior Mongol general]. Jochi did not command formations with his brothers as subordinates.

Jochi served with the Mongol army in both Jin China and Khwaresm. It was in the latter war that he distinguished himself, commanding a separate, diversionary column [with Jebe] with elan and skill, fighting a superior Muslim force to a standstill.

But it was in Khwaresm that the question of Jochi's birth drove the first wedge into the golden family [so-called because only the descendants of Genghis and Bortei were allowed to wear golden collars on their clothing]. During the campaign, Genghis Khan convened a family council to plan the succession to his throne. Under Mongol custom, that throne should have gone to the first born, Jochi.

Chagatai would have none of it, declaiming in front of both his father and his mother that he would not suffer the rule of "that Merkit bastard". Both brothers came to blows, and it took their father's intervention to separate them without bloodshed. Since Chagatai refused to submit to Jochi, and Jochi Chagatai, Ogedai [the third son] was chosen as his father's successor, Jochi agreeing because Ogedai had always treated him with respect. The war over, Jochi rode out to campaign in the Cuman or Kipchak Steppe. He never saw his father again.

Jochi remained on the Steppe to the west, even when his father returned to Karakorum. He met Subedei on the latter's passage east from southern Russia after the Great Raid, but failed to return to Karakorum despite several summons from his father. He died on the Steppe, either from illness, or at the orders of his father [the Mongols were very adept at poisoning]. He was the only son of Genghis to predecease him. He left several sons, including Batu, Buri, Berke, and Sinkur.

CHAGATAI, the second brother was dour, a strict interpreter of his father's legal code, the Jasagh or Yasa [except for the drinking provisions], and an advisor to his brother, Ogedai. When Genghis Khan died he divided his empire, as was the custom, into four appenages for his four sons. As the youngest, Tolui got the Mongol homeland, and the bulk of the Mongol Army. Jochi's heirs were given all the lands to the west, "as far as Mongol horses had trod". After the Great Raid, that meant Russia. Chagatai got the southern steppe and most of eastern Khwaresm. Ogedai, the new 'Great Khan', got territory west of Tolui's, and Karakorum. Except for  providing advice to his brother, and troops and children for expeditions Ogedai ordered [including ongoing operations in China, the invasion of the West, and the invasion of Korea and the remnants of Manchuria], Chagatai ruled his Khanate and drank. He died sometime around the same time as his brother, Ogedai.

OGEDAI, the third son, and second Great Khan was, in some ways, more successful than his father. Ogedai more than doubled the size of the Mongol Empire, and when he died, it stretched from the Pacific to the Danube. Under Ogedai, the Mongols continued their expansion into the Muslim lands to their south and west, continued their wars in China, and overran the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. But he established trade and diplomatic ties to the west, enforced the religious freedom provisions of the Jasagh, and oversaw the building of Karakorum into a full sized capitol city with walls and permanent buildings. Ogedai died in the winter of 1241, most likely from drinking. His most famous [or infamous] son was GUYK, who became the third Great Khan.

TOLUI Khan showed the most military capability of his generation, performing well in China and Khwaresm. He may also have been the most psychotic of Genghis' sons. His butchery in Khwaresm was legendary.

As keeper of the hearth [read heartland], Tolui had strong cards to play. He controlled the Mongol Mongol Army [his brothers' armies had large infusion of Turks]. He controlled access to Burkhan Kaldun, the Mongols' sacred mountain where Genghis Khan had gone to pray. The capital of the Empire, and seat of the Great Khan, Karakorum, lay in his Ulus. And he was married to the great woman of her age, Sorghatani Beki, one of the daughters of Toghrul Khan [another daughter, Toregene Khatun was married to Ogedai]. But Tolui was loyal to his brother. Tolui died around 1234. the "Secret History of the Mongols" claimed he was sacrificed to save Ogedai's life in some manner, or he died from disease. In any case, Tolui predeceased both Ogedai and Chagatai. Hi had four sons who rose to fame: Mongke, Kublai, Hulegu and Arik Boka.

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« Reply #185 on: May 11, 2017, 08:33:22 am »

It was during the time [and reigns] of Genghis Khan's grandsons that the Mongol empire reached its apogee. It was also during that same period that the fissures that originated in the Jochi-Chagatai antagonism developed into the first cracks that presaged its fall. And it all began at party.

When Subedei rode west to conquer Europe, he not only took with him a large army, but also took princes of all the major houses and their retainers and house guards. Riding with him were Guyuk [son of the Great Khan], Mongke [oldest son of the deceased Tolui], Kadaan [son of Chagatai], and the ostensible commander of the army Batu [son of the deceased Jochi], and Batu's brothers.

It was at an initially convivial gathering in southern Russia, that Guyuk and Batu almost came to blows over who was to be treated as the senior Khan for the occasion. Batu complained to Subedei, and Guyuk [and Kadaan] were sent back to Mongolia for a reaming by their respective fathers, before returning for the campaign in Eastern Europe. But while they worked together, the bad blood between Guyk and Batu would fester, deepen, and lead to a dynastic seismic shift.

It was while in Hungary, in the Spring of 1242, that the khans and generals became aware that Ogedai was dead. Under the Jasagh, and Mongol custom, all the Khans and generals were expected to return to the homeland for a Kuriltai, a council, to elect [actually acknowledge] his successor. Subedei was for staying, and continuing the campaign, but Batu refused, more concerned with organizing and protecting his then conquests. Subedei never forgave him.

Ogedai had made clear that his preference for his successor was his grandson, Siremun. But his widow and regent, Toregene Khatun, had her own candidate in mind, and she delayed the Kuriltai until she had the vote in the bag. It was thus through her machinations that her son, Guyuk, became Great Khan.

Guyuk took the throne facing enemies to the west [Batu, who refused to attend], and the East [the House of Tolui]. Ogedei had suggested, after Tolui's death, that Tolui's widow, Sorghatani Beki [his sister -in - law], marry Guyuk. She declined, and he didn't push the matter. But Guyuk was aware of the refusal - and the insult. But, Guyuk began to run the Empire. There is, in the Vatican, a letter he sent to the Pope, ordering to come to Karakorum, bringing the crowned heads of Europe with him, to submit. The letter came to nothing, in part because if he wanted to attack Europe again, he would have to go through Batu's Ulus. And there, his welcome would be doubtful.

But perhaps he had Europe in mind, when he decided to march against Batu, and settle their feud. He raised an army, and headed west. But Batu was ready, having been warned by Sorghatani, and Guyuk died on the march [there is some suggestion that Sorghatani had him poisoned]. In any case, the briefest of the Great Khanates was over, and once again, a Kuriltai was summoned, this time by Guyuk's widow and regent. But this one didn't go as planned. Batu attended, in force, and the successor to the throne this time was no member of the House of Ogedai. Guyk's successor, with batu's backing, was Mongke Khan, son of Tolui. The Supreme leadership of the Mongol Empire, bequeathed by Genghis Khan to his son Ogedai was now in the hands of the son of Tolui.

One of the proscriptions that Genghis Khan had laid down was that Mongol did not shed Mongol blood [in fact enemy royalty had to be put to death in a manner that did not shed their blood]. Mongke disregarded that proscription with a vengeance. He tried and executed numerous 'enemies', and perceived rivals. He tried the men, his mother the women. Among those who died were Guyuk's widow, her female companions, Kadaan, the luckless Siremun, and numerous others. His throne secure, Mongke settled into his Khanship.

And a busy Khanship it was. An attempt by the Ismaili Order of the Assassins to kill him, led Mongke to send a huge army under his brother Hulegu, to sort them out, and complete the conquests of Muslim lands. Over a period of some three years, Hulegu broke the Assassins, sacked Baghdad, destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate, took Syria, and entered the Holy Land. A second brother, Kublai, who had been ruling in northwestern China, continued his campaign, while Mongke himself led an army further south.

Mongke died on campaign [the last Khan to do so]. And now the fissures that had deepened in the Batu-Guyk rivalry, and the rivalry between the houses of Ogedai and Tolui descended to within the house of Tolui itself. There were two claimants to the supreme throne, Kublai, and his brother, Ariq Boka. Each was proclaimed by a Kuriltai, Kublai in north China, Ariq Boka in Mongolia. The result was civil war in the homeland [Hulegu backed Kublai]. Kublai won, his brother was taken prisoner [and mysteriously died soon after]. But the damage was immense. Kublai used not only Mongol but Chinese troops to defeat his brother. And a sizable number of Mongols regarded him as more Chinese than Mongol [the irregularity of his being proclaimed Great Khan in China being an example. And the descendants of Ogedai resented the fact that the Supreme Khanship was now wholly a Toluid enterprise. So Kaidu Khan, of the house of Ogedei, began a log war against both Kublai Khan, and the Chagatids.

And now, despite the Jasagh's demands for religious freedom, religion entered the picture [at least as an excuse for war]. Hulegu [and Kublai] was a Buddhist. Hulegu's wife was a Nestorian Christian. So was Sorghatani, and Kublai's wife. But Berke, Khan of the golden horde upon the death of Batu had converted to Islam. And with him went the Golden Horde. And while Berke, pursuant to Mongke's orders furnished troops for Hulegu's campaign, he was outraged that Hulegu had sacked Baghdad and put the Caliph to death. Plus there was the horse pasturage of Azerbaijan to consider. The result was that Hulegu never made it to the kriltai that elected his brother. He was, instead, in a full blown war with his cousin. And his war against the Muslims came to a halt at a place south of the Dead  Sea called Ain Jalut. In 1260, the residual force he left under his general Kitbuqa was defeatedby the Mamelukes of Egypt, Hulegu's target. The Mongol high water mark in the west had been reached. and within two generations, the Il-Khans of Persia converted to Islam.

The Mongol empire reached its zenith under Kublai Khan. He completed the conquest of sung china in 1279, reuniting China until today, and founded the yuan dynasty. He reformed the government, and expanded commerce, rebuilding a land that had gone through some sixty years of war. He had an incredibly long reign. But by the end of it, several of his military ventures had failed [two invasions of Japan] or stalled [Indochina and Burma], and China's economy was in ruins.

On the wider scale, Kublai had become what many of the 'wild' Mongols feared - a Chines emperor instead of a Mongol Khan. He had gone the way of the Khitans and the Jurchids, not the way of his grandfather. And as he aged, and became more identified with the Chinese, his writ as Great Khan was increasingly ignored. the Golden horde went its own way, and would survive in Russia until the early 15th century when it would be destroyed from, of all places, Samarkand, by Tamerlane. The Il-Khanate, like the remnants of the Golden Horde would become vassals of the Ottoman Turks. The Yuan dynasty would be overthrown by the Ming and driven back to the Steppe, until as vassals of the Manchus, they would again ride into China in 1644, and again be absorbed.

Bu in the wilds of Afghanistan, and the other 'stans, a descendant of Genghis named Babur, driven from his home range by the Kirghiz, would ride south east, invade northwestern India, and begin the establishment of the Mughal empire. But that's another tale for another time. 

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« Reply #186 on: May 13, 2017, 08:27:42 am »

It is probably one of the most famous formations in the history of the Roman Army. Formed in Spain by Julius Caesar himself, it fought from Portugal to Gaul, to Greece to the Middle East. It was immortalized in "The Gallic Commentaries". And it was the unit that laid siege to Masada.

When Caesar, as part of the deal with Pompey and Crassus that gave him the proconsulship of Cisalpine Gaul, traveled to his new post, he first stopped in Iberia, in particular Spain, to recruit a legion to add to the three [VIIth, VIIIth, and IXth] given to him by Pompey. The result was yet another 'Spanish' legion, this one the Xth. And since he recruited it, the Xth was known as "Caesar's legion.

He blooded the legion campaigning in Luisitania, present day Portugal, fighting the tribes near the Serra D'Estrela [Mountain of the Star, Portugal's highest mountain]. So Caesar and his troops may well have battled my paternal ancestors [my father's family is from that region]. In any case, having trained them up, Caesar took the Xth to Transalpiner Gaul, where they participated in the campaigns against the Helvetii, Ariovistus the German, the Belgae, and eventually the entire Gallic revolt.

The Xth was at Alesia, and by that time, two things were obvious. First, they were a crack unit, and second, they were Caesar's "go to guys". Whether under his personal direction, or under his most trusted deputy, Titus Labienus, the Xth got some of the most difficult assignments, and was often in the most critical spot on the battlefield.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon with the XIIIth Legion, initiating the Roman Civil War that made him undisputed master of the Roman world, the Xth soon followed. and at the battle of Pharsalus in Greece, in which Caesar crushed Pompey, it was the Xth on his right that carried the day, beating Caesar's former deputy, Labienus and Pompey's cavalry like a drum, before engaging Pompey's infantry and storming Pompey's camp, sending Pompey in flight to Egypt, and assassination at the hands of the Egyptians.

The Xth Legion fought in the subsequent Civil Wars between first Antony and Octavian against Brutus, Cassius and the other Caesar assassins, and then in the war between Antony and Octavian.Iit was in the latter war that the Xth backed the wrong horse. They stood with Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. And Antony lost the battle, then the war. Cleopatra lost both - and her kingdom. Both lost their lives as suicides.

The Xth legion paid for abandoning the house of Caesar. While they were not disbanded, they were never again transferred out of the Middle East. And they were in the Middle East for the Jewish Revolt that started around 66 A.D. And they stormed Jerusalem for Titus. And after Jerusalem fell, the Xth Legion built its camp on the ruins of the Temple.

But the Xth didn't stay in Jerusalem long. Under their legate, Flavius Silva, the Xth was sent into the desert near the Dead Sea. to a place called Masada.

Masada was a combination summer palace/ fortress built by Herod the Great. It had been seized by Sicarii, Jewish Zealot rebels. Silva was ordered to take it, and extinguish the last ember of revolt. It was a daunting task.

Masada was on a butte, accessible by only by a goat track called the snake's path. It had cisterns with enough water, and stored food to withstand a lengthy siege. On top of that, a besieger needed to bring water at least twenty miles, and other supplies even further.

The first thing Silva did was built a wall entirely around Masada. the troops built it while wearing their armor. Silva' wall served two purposes. First to prevent reinforcements or re-supply from reaching the rebels [highly unlikely in any case], and to serve notice on the Zealots that none on Masada was going to escape.

Silva next reconnoitered the entire hill. And he found a weakness, a natural spur that could be used to build a ramp to the top, a ramp that could support a siege tower to break the wall on that side of the fortress. And build a ramp the Xth did, with massive levies of Jewish slaves. And when it was complete, the Romans hauled their siege tower up the ramp and broke through the outer wall [the Zealots had built a second wooden wall behind it, which the Romans then set fire to]. And according to Josephus, the only author of a history of the so-called Jewish War, the Romans then went back down the ramp, to let the fire burn out, and returned the next day to find all the Zealots dead by their own hand. At least that's Josephus' story. Personally, I think the romans stormed Masada that night, and those they didn't kill, they enslaved. Why? A dearth of bodies. Archaeolgy has uncovered less than ten skeletons from the environs of Masada. Since they re-garrisoned the fortress after the siege, they would have removed the corpses if only for health and sanitation. I doubt they would have cremated, or honorably buried the hundreds of corpses. Yet the area of Masada provides no evidence of them.

Be thast as it may, the Xth continued to soldier on in the Middle East until it faded from the record books. But for over a century, it was one of the most ferocious tools in the roman military arsenal, a legion with an unrivaled combat record on three continents - Caesar's Own - the Xth.

You can get more with a smile, a handshake and a gun than you can with a smile and a handshake - Al Capone
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« Reply #187 on: May 16, 2017, 08:32:15 am »

They fought the longest war against the U.S. in our history. Their operations covered parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and old Mexico. At one time one quarter of the total strength of the United states Army sought to engage six of them in a pursuit that covered three states, and never made contact. they were the Apache.

Apache was not the name they gave themselves. Depending on the band, they called themselves Dineh, Tinde, Inde or a variation of one of them. Their name for themselves meant "The People" [as most tribal names meant]. 'Apache' was a Zuni word. And it meant 'Enemy'. And it is by THAT name that they have come down to us in history.

The Apache originated in the Pacific northwest, probably in Alaska. They were, and are Athabaskan speakers, like the Haida and other northwest Indians. And somewhat like the wanderings of the Celtic tribes through Europe, the Apache journeyed southward, through the Rockies, and possibly the Black hills [making enemies of some poverty stricken Indians who, as the Comanche, would become some of their fiercest antagonists], finally settling in western Texas.

The Apache in Texas led a semi-agrarian life. they had fixed villages, which they farmed, and still hunted game, including Bison. And there they might have remained, except for the arrival of the Comanche. The Comanche had metamorphassized with the coming of the horse. Referred to as 'finest light cavalry in the world", they became the "Lords of the southern Plains". And one of their first orders of business was to attack the hated Apache. and being sedentary, the apache were easy to attack. The result was with the exception of the Jicarilla Apache, the Kiowa-Apache, the Lipan Apache, and the Mescalero Apache, the Apache were driven out of Texas, and into Sonora, New Mexico and Arizona. And there they stayed.

But the Apache, even in defeat, were not unified. With a social structure based on bands, they were constantly at war with each other [which greatly facilitated hiring Apaches to scout against their cousins for the U.S. Army]. In fact the Navajo, a separate tribe today was originally one of the largest Apache bands, and became one of their greatest enemies, allying with the Spanish and Comanche to drive the apache west in New Mexico.. The Apache division tended to run north-south. The northern Apache comprised the tonto, the white Mountain, the Arivipa and some others. The southern Apache, the Apache of the movies, and the "A" Team of the tribe were the Chiricahua, and included the Chohoken, the Chihenne, the Nedni and Bedenoke. And to their east were the Mescalaro and the Lipan [Jicarilla and Kiowa-Apache played non-existent to miniscule roles in the Apache Wars.

Being driven west changed the Apache. They became, in a sense, mountain Indians, preferring to live higher up the topography. they also became masters of the arid environment they now lived in. And they became masters of guerilla war.

Apaches did not see the purpose of counting coup, galloping around wagons whooping and charging. They seldom scalped. Indifferent horsemen at best [they carried little of the reverence Plains tribes did for the horse. They would ride one to death, eat it, make a canteen out of its intestines, and steal another] They preferred the ambush, and fighting on foot [They were trained to run all day with a mouthful of water, and it was claimed they could outrun a horse uphill]. The long distance raid [they regarded northern Mexico as a Wal-Mart] was a specialty.

Apache war parties were often small, but for a major operation, such as Janos, or the siege of Tuscon, various bands [normally Chiricahua bands] would come together under a paramount war leader. Initially that chief was Mangas Coloradus, chief of the Chihenne. Mangas, a giant of a man [well over 6' tall]was paramount not only because of his prowess in war, but also because of his daughters. He had several and married them off to other chiefs, creating a family bond on top of the tribal one. And his most famous son-in-law, the Apache who would supplant him was the chief of the Chohoken, Cochise.

The first contact between the U.S. Army and the Apache went smoothly enough. We were fighting a war with the Mexicans, one of the Apaches' traditional enemies, and they were fighting them at the same time. But friction developed with the Treaty of Gudalupe-Hidalgo, since one of its provisions made our Army the guarantor of Mexican freedom from Indian attacks [Apache and Comanche]. the apaches couldn't understand why they had to stop their forays into Mexico.

Much of apache war was the result of the revenge raid. they traded with some Mexican towns, but Mexican state governments offered bounties for apache scalps, including women and children [Geronimo lost his wife and children this way]. And a massacre, to the Apache, required a response. And that response required murder, mayhem and torture [and the Apache were the ultimate masters of torture], whereas a raid to steal livestock, goods and slaves would be more measured in its violence.

And so, most of our early contact with the Apache was fairly low key. Until the flogging of Mangas Coloradus, and the taking of Mickey Free.

Gold was found on Chihenne land, and miners rushed in. When confronting some of them, Mangas was grabbed, tied to a tree and horsewhipped. they then foolishly let him go. At about the same time [1860], a half breed boy from southern Arizona was kidnapped by Tonto Apaches on a raid, and carried north. A Lieutenant named Bascomb met Cochise under a flag of truce and demanded the boy back. when Cochise told Bascomb, truthfully, that his people didn't have Free, Bascomb seized Cochidse, his brother, and another Apache. Cochise escaped, captured a stagecoach and offered to swap the passengers for his brother and the others. Bascomb hanged them. Cochise tortured his prisoners to death. the war was on.Cochise brought Mangas, the Chihenne and other bands into his war. the Apache fought one battle [Apache Pass], and lost [They were dug in on high ground behind breastworks, but the Army had artillery, which they had never seen]. From then on, it was siege, ambush and hit and run raids. They forced the evacuation of the mining town of Tubac. they had Tuscon surrounded. they stopped the Butterfield stage from running. And then the U.S. Army left to go east and fight the civil War. Desperate, the citizens of Arizona invited the confederacy in. Cochise whipped them, too. And with the approach of Union troops from California, and the loss at Glorietta Pass, the Texans withdrew.

By 1870, Cochise, still undefeated, was growing weary. Mangas Coloradus was dead, lured into a parlay under a flag of truce and murdered. So Cochise used a burgeoning relationship with one tom Jeffords to put out peace feelers. As a result, he met MG O.O. Howard. Allowed to pick his own reservation [the Dragoon Mountains], and his own Indian agent [Jeffords], Cochise made peace, a peace that held to his deasth.

But peace didn't last. Trouble arose with the Chihenne over Ojo Casliente, the "Warm Springs" and where their reservation should be. The government wanted to concentrate the Apaches at San Carlos. But the best areas were already settled by the northern Apache bands, and they were enemies of the Chihenne and Chohoken. The Chihenne  kept trying to alternately go back to Ojo Caliente, or alternatively make a go of San Carlos. they failed at both, and losing hope, Victorio went to war.

Victorio was probably the ablest Apache war chief. He had a firm grasp of both tactics and operational strategy. He raided both sides of the border, and would retreat to Mexico if things got hot. It was during one such 'breather' that Ulzana, a brother of Chihuahua, led five braves on a three state raid that netted some 300 horses, and a pursuit by 5,000 troops that never made contact.

Victorio was assisted by Nana, a 90 year old chief, Chihuahua, Ponce and a group of rising subchiefs. He was also accompanied by his sister, Lozen, a warrior maiden. Lozen supposedly had 'power' that let her sense the approach of enemies. She was also an excellent horse thief. Unfortunately for Victorio, Lozen wasn't with him at Tres Castillos [a geographical feature called 'Three Hills']. Victorio's latest attmpt to cross the border into the U.S. had been stopped by Benjamin Grierson and his 10th Cavalry at a Texas waterhole.

Caught napping at Tres Castillos [Victorio was famous for always having a back way out. Here there was none], Victorio was surrounded by the Mexican Army, and killed in battle.

But while Victorio's war was dying, trouble flared up in Arizona, when the U.S. tried to force the Chohoken onto San Carlos. Compounding the problem, Cochise's successor, his elder son, Taza, died after a trip to Washington. His second son, Naiche, fellunder the spell of a warrior/Shaman with the power to avoid bullets. his name was Geronimo [his real name was Goyalthe - "He Who Yawns"].

Cochise's people didn't take well to San Carlos, and thus began a series of breakouts, raids and skirmishes that would last some fifteen years.

The Army sent in George Crook, a man who had more experience fighting Indians than anyone else in the Army. Crook immediately hired northern Apache scouts to hunt their southern brothers. He lightened the cavalry units he had, using mule trains instead of wagons, and kept his troops in the field for much longer periods of time. and he had success, time and again. But each time, the same thing happened. The hostiles were brought in, re-settled, stirred up, and took to the brush. Setting the spark could be as little as forbidding a Tiswin drunk, or telling the braves to stop beating their wives. Or it could be the killing of a Holy Man during a fracas at Turkey Creek, and the murder of troopers by Apache Scouts. the result was always the same. More burning, murder, and looting over vast distances, and an enemy that disappeared to the eyes of all but the Apache Scouts.

Crook brought Naiche and Geronimo to bay one last time. He agreed to let them and the rest of the chiefs follow him back to Arizona [they were in Mexico]. Chihuahua honored his word, as did several others. But Naiche and Geronimo fled back to the Sierra Madre. And Crook was relieved of his command.

Crook's replacement was Nelson A. Miles, an Indian fighter with experience on the Northern Plains against the Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Nez Perce. Adamant in his certitude that HE knew how to fight Indians, he sent the Apache Scouts back to the reservation, got rid of the mule teams and went after the Apache the same way he had the Northern tribes. And the result was a big fat 'zero'. The Apaches ran rings around the Army, Miles couldn't find them, let alone bring them to battle; and so, quietly, he brought back the scouts. Except now Chiricahua provided the scouts. Even they were sick of Geronimo. And a deputation of Lt. Charles Gatewood, and tweo Apche scouts found Geronimo in the Sierra Madre with his band of some 20 followers. And the warriors had had enough. they refused Geronimo's order to kill the truce party, and with support gone, Geronimo agreed to meet Miles in Skeleton Canyon in the U.S. where he, Naiche and his band [including Lozen] surrendered, with the understanding that after two years in Florida, they would be returned to Arizona.

But the government lied. They weren't allowed back to Arizona for almost twenty years, To add perfidy to dishonesty, the government shipped ALL the Chiricahua, including the Apache scouts with them. The Apache wars were over.

The Apche were moved, eventually from Florida to Alabama [Lozen died there], and then, eventually, to the reservation at Ft. Sill, where the resident tribe, the Comanche, welcomed their old enemies. Geronimo died there, after falling off a horse into a puddle in a rainstorm while drunk, and getting pneumonia [He had marched in Teddy Roosevelt's inauguration with Quanah Parker and Rain In The Face, and unsuccessfully petitioned Roosevelt to return the Chiricahua to their homeland].

The Apache were not allowed to return to Arizona until the twentieth century. Naiche became an able chief, once removed from Geronimo's baleful influence. Chihuahua led an exemplary life. And the Apache have gone on to serve in the military they fought so long with devotion and distinction.

But they are best remembered as peerless in war, unbroken in adversity. Or,as Crook described them [and the neighboring Yavapai], "Tigers in human form".

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« Reply #188 on: May 19, 2017, 02:21:29 pm »

They are forever linked with the Northern Plains, "Dances with Wolves", and Custer's Last Stand. they were one of the greatest practitioners of war on the Plains, and had an enviable record in fighting with the U.S Army. They supplied western history and lore with some of its greatest Indian figures: Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse. And yet the Sioux were not native to the Plains. They were woodland Indians from Minnesota, and they first entered western history when one branch of the tribe, The Lakota migraterd west, both for hunting of buffalo, and to escape the pressure from theiretter armed adversaries to the east, the Ojibway or Chippewa.

There were three principal branches of the Sioux [THAT name was an abbreviation of the Ojibway name for them, "Snake"]. the Dakota [also known as the Santee] stayed in Minnesota. The Nakota ranged to their west. But it is the Lakota ["Allies"] with which we are most familiar, and which we associate the words Sioux and Dakota [wrongly] with.

The Lakota were organized in a confederation of bands [like most tribes]. There were the Oglala, Hunkpapas, Sans Arcs, Two Kettle, Minneconjou, and Blackfeet [not to be confused with the tribe to their northwest].  They cooperated in fighting their enemies, and sharing their hunting grounds. They allied with certain tribes [the Cheyenne and Arapaho], and made war on almost everyone else [the Crow, Shoshone, Nez Perce, Pawn, Mandan, Hidasta]. And the fighting was generally over the home range of the northern buffalo herd, and was fought over hundreds of years.  Thus the Lakota drove the Kiowa out of the Black Hills around 1775, and drove the Crow off the last of the Powder river Buffalo range one hundred years later [while they were still engaged in hostilities with us.

The U.S.- Sioux history was stormy, to say the least. In 1862, while the Civil War raged, fed up with injustice, crooked Indian agents and poor behavior by many whites, the Santee [Dakota], in Minnesota went to war under their chief, Little Crow. The war was bloody. And when it was over, Abraham Lincoln commuted the death sentences imposed on all but 38 of the Indians sentenced to hang [Little Crow was shot to death while picking berries after a year on the run by a Minnesota farmer]. At least one of the Indians who survived was a chief named Inkapuda, who would appear later in history, on the other side of the Mississippi.

Relations with the Lakota fared little better. And the Lakota usually came out on top. Just before the Civil War, a Mormon traveler's cow wandered into a Lakota camp, and one of the warriors, as a joke, treated it like a bison, and killed it with arrows.

A detachment of soldiers under a lieutenant showed up, demanding the Indian responsible be turned over. the Chief, either Ten Bears or Standing Bear offered recompense. The argument grew heated, shots were fired and the chief was killed. At that point the Sioux killed all the soldiers. they then left. One of the children who observed the battle was a boy called 'Curly'. He would grow up as Crazy Horse.

During the Civil War, there was little conflict between the Whites and the Sioux on the northern Plains. Lakota were active, however, on the southern plains, where, in support of their Cheyenne allies, they made war to avenge the Sand Creek massacre. Sioux warriors raided the length and breadth of Kansas and Colorado with the Cheyenne, and got their first taste of the U.S. Army on the southern Plains after the war. They weren't impressed.

Hancock's war, named for the U.S general commanding the operation was a fiasco. Fresh from the Civil War, the Union officers, including Hancock and LTC George Armstrong Custer, had to adjust on the fly to an enemy who:[a] wouldn't stand and fight set piece battles, and [b, could ride rings around them. Custer learned his business [albeit with a year's suspension thrown in] Hancock never did. But when the smoke cleared, the Southern Cheyenne surrendered [numbers of their tribesmen opted to go north with the Lakota, and eventually, became so close in speech and manner to them that the southern Cheyenne couldn't understand them].

The next go-round with the Sioux was Red Cloud's War, which the Sioux won. Highlighted by the Fetterman massacre, and unrelenting organized and persistent pressure from the Indians, the Army abandoned a route to the Montana gold fields called the Bozeman Trail, and the forts they had built to protect the Trail before Red Cloud signed a treaty, and went on the reservation. From the Army's perspective worse was yet to come.

Following a period of peace, the Army was ordered into the Black hills to survey and explore. There were several battles between the Army [Custer], and the Sioux, which could best be characterized as draws, although the Indians failed to stop the survey o the exploration. But the discovery of gold led to an influx of miners which the Army, despite its best efforts couldn't stem. On top of that, there was a recession in the country, and the government wanted the gold.

The result was an effort to get a new treaty giving the Black hills to the U.S. for cash. Red Cloud and many of the reservation Indians were amenable, if the price was right. But there were a number of non-reservation Indians, led by the Hunkpapa Holy Man, Sitting Bull, who lived 'wild' on the area designated for the Sioux by Red Cloud's Treaty, but not on the reservations. They refused to sign. So, in the winter of 1875, they were ordered onto the reservations by the end of January, or be treated as 'hostiles'. Aside from the impracticality of their being able to get to the reservations by the deadline, they had no intention of doing so. It would be war.

The Army's campaign started with a blunder of major proportions. A winter attack was made on a Cheyenne village. Result? The Cheyenne lined up with the Sioux [as did the Arapaho]. But as Spring came, and the U.S. Army took the field, the Sioux on the northern Plains prepared, unknowingly, for their zenith.

The Army moved against the hostiles in three columns: Gibbon from the west, Terry [with Custer] from the East, and Crook from the south. Crook was hit first. Crazy Horse led some 1,000 to meet him, engaged Crook at the rosebud, and but for the bravery of Crook's Shoshone and Crow scouts, would have thrashed him. As it was, Crook withdrew, but failed to tell either Gibbon, or Terry, of his curtailment of operations.

Within a week, the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho had killed Custer, and over 200 of his men, forced the rest into a defense, and rode away, breaking down into smaller bands as they did. For the rest of the summer, Terry and Gibbon followed the Indians, but never seemed to catch them.

But that breather had ominous overtones. The Army gathered its strength of a winter campaign, bringing Nelson Miles, Wesley Merritt and Ranald Mackenzie into play. And they obtained results. By the Spring of 1877, the Cheyenne and Crazy Horse surrendered [Crazy Horse would be killed on the reservation shortly after his surrender], and Sitting bull had fled to Canada. Within months, Northern Cheyenne and Sioux were scouting for the Army against the Nez Perce. And the Northern Plains were peaceful until a Paiute named Wovoka proclaimed a new religion, characterized by a "Ghost Dance", which would bring back the buffalo, and all the ancestors, with the concurrent disappearance of the whites. Several Sioux traveled to the site of Wovoka's preaching, and came back with word of the new religion, but with one important change. Wovoka's religion was not violent. When he said the whites would be gone, he mean they'd just leave or disappear. The Sioux who brought the Ghost Dance back claimed Ghost Dancers medicine shirts would make them immune to gunfire. And they preached a more proactive removal of the whites.

Tensions began to run high. Sitting Bull, back from Canada voiced approval of the Ghost Dance. Indian police sent to arrest him wound up in a gun battle with his supporters. Sitting Bull and his son were among those killed.

And the last tragic act of the Ghost Dance was Wounded Knee. the Army [including the 7th Cavalry] was sent to bring a band of Sioux who had fled the reservation to avoid trouble, and  some Ghost Dancers back to the reservation. During a search for weapons, a Sioux fired his rifle. As the firing spread, Hotchkiss guns on the ridge above the Indian camp opened fire. Many of the Indians, including the Minneconjou chief, Big Foot, were killed. It was a sad end to a proud People and warrior tradition. Almost unbeatable until the winter of 1876, the Sioux found themselves against an implacable enemy who fought according to his own schedule, and in all weather. And for the first time since they debouched onto the Plains in the 1700s, the Sioux fought someone who treated them like they treated others, someone they couldn't defeat.
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« Reply #189 on: May 22, 2017, 09:53:30 am »

They were expert riders. But so were the Huns. They were famous as bowmen. But so were the Parthians. They built an empire. But so did the Persians.  And yet, one of the great questions is "How"? For they were illiterate, lived on the margins of civilization, were weakened by a culture of internecene warfare, and were surrounded either by inhospitable terrain, or well armed civilizations.

The answer is twofold: the genius that was Genghis Khan, and the army he created that didn't suffer a major defeat until 1260. Genghis Khan has been discussed in parts 1 and 2 of "The Golden Family". But his army deserves a separate treatment.

The popular vision of the Mongol army is comparable to a swarm of locusts with weapons, a cloud or tide of horsemen flowing over the land with little rhyme nor reason. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Mongol Army was organized on the decimal system. the smallest unit was the Arban [10 men], which elected their own commander. The next higher unit was the Jagun [100]. Above that was the Minghan [1,000], which was the basic maneuver element of the Mongol Army [the equivalent of the modern brigade]. And above that was the Tuman [10,000 men], the Mongol Division, commanded by a Mongol general [as was the Minghan] chosen by the Khan himself. And in the field, Minghans and Tumen might be tasked with independent operations [see the 'Great Raid' by Subedei and Jebe Noyon, the diversionary attack on Poland in 1241 by Buri and Kadaan, and the battle of Liegnitz], or be part of the Ordu [army, from which we got 'horde] itself.

The Mongol Army operated in a standard formation in moving to contact, vanguard, left wing, right wing, rear guard, and the center [which would be where the Khan and his Kashik  [body guard/ staff school] would be. When contact with an enemy was made, the portion of the aemt making contact would immediately become the vanguard, and the entire army would pivot to that reality. Each Tuman consisted of 40% heavy cavalry, and 60% light cavalry. Each soldier rode to war with a string of anywhere from three to eight horses [usually five]. All were equipped with hard rations [yogurt cheese, kumiss, dried meats], a sewing kit, a file for arrowheads and weapons, a sword, mace or axe, one or more raw silk shirts [arrows would drive the silk into a wound without the silk breaking, allowing an easier arrow withdrawal]. If the soldier was assigned to the heavy cavalry, he was also equipped with a lance with a hook below the point [to pull an enemy off his horse, lamellour armor and a helmet. His horse might also be armored. If assigned to the light cavalry, the soldier might have a helmet, but more likely a hat or cap, and no armor.

All Mongols carried the bow. It was their main weapon and devastatingly effective. Like all horse nomads' bows, the bow was compact, and recurved. It was not a self bow, but a compound bow, made of wood, animal horn, sinew, laquer and glue made from fish. It was exceptionally powerful, capable of easily outdistancing a long bow, and shot a variety of arrows [hunting, armor piercing, whistling -for signaling, etc.] . Mongols went on campaign with at least two quivers of arrows on their horse.

And it is here we begin to see some differences between the Mongols, and their cousins, the Huns. Tthe Mongol Army had a supply train. Using oxen and Bactrian camels, the supply corps. carried thousands of arrow bundles to be made available just to the rear of the fighting, for units to replenish their quivers [they also carried food, uniform parts, clothing, etc.].

When the Mongols first invaded Jin China, they were stymied by the walled cities. By the time Genghis Khan invaded Khwaresm, the Mongol Army had a siege train of Chinese engineers. And by the time they invaded Russia in 1237, no city could stand against them. It appears they also introduced the west to explosives during their campaigns in Russia and Eastern Europe. They also used some kind of smokescreen [ Liegnitz] in battle.And they brought a medical corps of Chinese doctors with them to render medical aid to their wounded.

Mongol armies moved at speed. Subedei set a record [270 miles in less than three days] that stood until 1940 when Erwin Rommel did 100 miles in a morning on his way to Cherbourg [but his unit was mechanized. And one reason they could do this [aside from switching out horses] was their ability to move at night. Mongol units moving at night used vari-colored lanterns to signal each other [Yes they had a signal corps]. During daylight hours they used signal flags, mirrors, the aforementioned whistling arrows, and a kettle [nacarra] drummer or drummers, mounted on Bactrian camels.

The Mongol officer Corps was largely based on merit. Subedei, the Mongols', and IMHO, history's greatest general was the son of a blacksmith. By breaking up the clans and tribes and 'homogenizing' them during his rise to power,  Genghis was able to utilize the abilities of generals who had been from other tribes [Kerait], clans [Tadijut], or even enemies [Jebe]. He also used his Kashik as a training ground for future officers. A member of his bodyguard, in certain situations, could give orders to a Minghan commander. And if proficient he rose.

The Mongol Army made extensive use of intelligence, both strategic, tactical, economic, political, and social to sow dissension in the enemy they were about to attack, and to formulate a concept of  operations for the campaign. The Mongols preferred the indirect approach, striking from where least expected, both tactically and strategically. They were the masters of the feigned retreat and the ambush. They had standard tactical formations and battle drills, which they used to great effect in utilizing an 'arrow storm' to soften an enemy up before a heavy cavalry charge [see, again, Liegnitz].

From the rise of Genghis Khan until the reign of his successor's successor, the Mongol Empire was the first hyper power that the world had seen until Rome. Mongol armies  had ridden, conquered and spread terror from the Pacific to the Danube, and from Moscow to the Holy Land. Their defeats came from intra-family quarrels and wars, which weakened them in the face of enemies. But they were, and are, history's greatest Army.

You can get more with a smile, a handshake and a gun than you can with a smile and a handshake - Al Capone
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