Posts

Taking a hiatus

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Thank you to everybody who has read any (or all) of my posts over the last few years.  When I started posting to this website at the very beginning, I don't know what I really expected but it certainly wasn't an extended run that would cover so many topics and result in the number of visitors that have dropped in.  I'm going to take a break for a little while to rest, reset, and refocus, so there won't be any posts for a bit.  As there are no firm plans going forward, the next step will be something of a surprise to all of us.  I'm wishing you all the best until we reach that point!  Brian "The Geographist"

Geography of War - The Landing at Cape Helles

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The Landing at Cape Helles (World War I) Date: April 25-26, 1915 Modern Location: Northwest Turkey Combatants: Allied forces (led by Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston) vs Ottoman Empire forces (led by Colonel Halil Sami Bey) Summary: The Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century was a mere shadow of the world power that it had once been.  After years of decline under the rule of various sultans, an uprising by a group of intellectuals and military leaders calling themselves the Young Turks had taken control in an attempt to create a new political and social reality for the nation.  In an era that saw the rise of entangled international alliances there were few countries who did not have treaties that promised support in the event of war.  The Ottoman Empire was geographically situated at an internationally critical location, as they controlled the only point of access to the Black Sea - a skinny strait of water between Europe and Asia known as the Dardanelles.  Ministers fro

Geography of War - The Battle of Milvian Bridge

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The Battle of Milvian Bridge (Roman Civil War of the Tetrarchy) Date: October 28, 312 Modern Location: Rome, Italy Combatants: Roman legions loyal to Emperor Constantine vs Roman legions loyal to Emperor Maxentius Summary: The politics of the Roman world in the fourth century AD were complicated.  In an effort to quell the wars of succession that had ravaged the empire for many years, Emperor Diocletian developed a system known as the Tetrarchy in 293 that provided for two emperors, equal in power and both holding the title of augustus, to control the eastern and western halves of Rome.  Both had a designated successor that ruled alongside them, each being referred to as a caesar.  Diocletian had previously groomed his own caesar, named Maximian, before elevating him to co-augustus and ruler of the western half of the Roman empire in 286.  To help with affairs in the eastern half, Diocletian named Galerius as his new caesar, while Maximian chose Constantius.  The two emperors chose to

Geography of War - The Battle of Little Bighorn

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The Battle of Little Bighorn (The Great Sioux War) Date: June 25, 1876 Modern Location: Southern Montana, United States Combatants: Indian confederation, including Lakota, Dakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe tribes (led by Sitting Bull) vs. United States Army (led by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer) Summary: On Nov. 6, 1868, the United States concluded signed the Fort Laramie Treaty with 181 Sioux and Arapaho leaders to end Red Cloud's War, ceding the lands of the Black Hills to a group of Indian tribes that considered the land to be sacred.  Six years later, however, the US Army sent an expedition into the region under the command of George Custer to determine a location for a new fort and to survey the area's natural resources.  When the report came back that there was abundant gold in the hills, American settlers began relocating to the area in breach of the treaty's guidelines.  President Ulysses S. Grant, recognizing the obvious problem and seeking to avoid a deadly confro

Geography of War - The Battle of Creçy

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The Battle of Creçy (Hundred Years' War)  Date:  August 26, 1346 Modern Location:  Northern France Combatants:  England (led by King Edward III) vs France and Bohemia (led by King Philip VI and King John the Blind) Summary:  The king of England had a compelling claim on the French throne.  When the French monarch, Charles IV, died in 1328 without any children there were several options for who should have taken his place.  His nearest male relative was his nephew, England's Edward III, whose mother Isabella was the eldest surviving daughter of France's King Philip IV.  The nobility in France had confirmed many years before that a woman could not ascend the throne, but the question was unsettled whether she could pass along a claim that she did not possess.  They eventually named Charles' cousin the rightful heir and crowned him Philip VI.  Edward initially seemed to accept the decision, and traveled to France in order to swear vows of homage so that he could maintain co

Geography of War - The Battle of Adwa

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The Battle of Adwa (First Italo-Ethiopian War) Date: March 1, 1896 Modern Location: Northern Ethiopia Combatants: Ethiopia (led by Emperor Menelik II) vs. Italy (led by General Oreste Baratieri) Summary: In the late 19th century, much of the African continent had been controlled and colonized by various European powers.  Ethiopia had been influenced by the Italian occupation of Eritrea to the north, but its loosely-connected tribes remained largely autonomous under the leadership of an emperor.  In a battle for succession after the death of Emperor Yohannes IV in 1889, Italy supported a claimant named Sahle Mariam who eventually was able to build a strong enough confederation to successfully assume the title of Emperor Menelik II.  The bond between the two nations was seemingly strengthened by the signing of the Treaty of Wichale which formally recognized Italy's control over Ethiopia's neighboring coastal colony of Eritrea and provided substantial financial support for the new

Geography of War - The Battle of Gettysburg

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The Battle of Gettysburg (American Civil War) Date: July 1-3, 1863 Modern Location: South central Pennsylvania, United States Combatants: Union Army of the Potomac (led by General George G. Meade) vs. Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (led by General Robert E. Lee) Summary: Just two years into the Civil War, the vast majority of fighting had taken place in the southern states.  Confederate forces had only made a single large-scale advance onto Union soil, which had ended with a stinging defeat at Antietam in September, 1862.  After a string of successes culminating in a decisive victory at Chancellorsville, Gen. Robert E. Lee hoped to move his army into Pennsylvania to finally win a meaningful battle in the North, perhaps to stoke growing sentiment among the Union population to make peace with the Confederates and end the war that had already caused over 200,000 casualties.  The newly-appointed commander of the Union army was Gen. George G. Meade, replacing Gen. Joseph Hooker after

Geography of War - The Battle of Tours

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The Battle of Tours (Islamic Invasion of Gaul) Date: October, 732 Modern Location: Western France Combatants: Umayyad Caliphate (led by Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqui) vs Francia and Aquitaine (led by Charles Martel) Summary: After the fall of the Roman Empire, the majority of western Europe fell into small feuding states.  By the year 700 AD, a threat from external invaders had become a legitimate concern as the Umayyad dynasty had established control of lands across northern Africa and across the Middle East, forming the second Islamic caliphate after the death of Mohammed.  In 711 AD, Umayyad forces crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into the Iberian Peninsula and began to conquer the Visigoth kingdom that controlled most of modern-day Spain and Portugal.  It took just eight years for the Umayyad caliphate to consolidate control of the peninsula, creating the Islamic state of Al-Andalus, and turn their focus towards the Franks to the north.  The invaders did not seem to take the Germanic tr

Geography of War - The Battle of Yehuling

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The Battle of Yehuling (Mongol-Jin War) Date: August-October, 1211 Modern Location: Northern China (NW of Beijing) Combatants: The Mongol Empire (led by Genghis Khan) vs. Jin China (led by Wanyan Chengyu) Summary: In the year 1211, Genghis Khan was on a mission.  After emerging victorious five years earlier from a bitter struggle to assume leadership of the Mongol confederation to the north and then defeating the rival Tatars to the east, he set his sights south towards the Chinese Jin empire.  Although the majority of the Jin population were ethnically from the Han and Khitan people groups, the emperor and leadership came from the Jurchen people group, originally from Manchuria.  Khan was unimpressed by the new Jin emperor who had ascended in 1208, named Xingshing, and publicly insulted him as an ineffective and cowardly ruler.  Emperor Xingshing, on the other hand, focused his defenses against the southern Song dynasty did not consider the Mongols to be a legitimate threat even after

Geography of War - The Battle of San Jacinto

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The Battle of San Jacinto (Texas War for Independence) Date: April 21, 1836 Modern Location: Southeast Texas, United States Combatants: Republic of Texas (led by General Sam Houston) vs. Mexican Republic (led by President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna) Summary: The month after the fall of the Alamo, which cost the lives of such popular soldiers as William Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie, the armed forces which represented the Texas Revolution were in full retreat.  As the army under the command of Gen. Sam Houston moved eastward towards the Louisiana border, fearful citizens began fleeing in what became known as the Runaway Scrape.  Trying to outrun the oncoming Mexican army on foot, settlers burned whatever they could not carry and even threw artillery pieces into rivers to prevent them from being used by the enemy.  Houston did not believe his volunteer soldiers were prepared to face the professional Mexican army, but the Texians (as they called themselves) were motivated to attac

Geography of War - The Battle of Teutoburg Forest

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The Battle of Teutoburg Forest Date: September, 9 (AD) Modern Location: Northwest Germany Combatants: Roman legions (led by Publius Quinctilius Varus) vs. Germanic tribes (led by Arminius) Summary: In 55 BC, Julius Caesar built bridges across the Rhine River to engage Germanic tribes on their own soil.  The northern extent of Rome was expanding, and the area that currently encompasses northern Germany was a formidable but enticing target.  Pushing the boundary if their frontier from the Rhine to the Elbe took 60 years of fighting, but by 7 BC the tribes in the area were largely pacified and Romans were more involved in colonizing than conquering.  Part of the strategy employed while subduing enemies included taking young hostages back to Rome for education and military training, then returning them to their native regions to communicate and negotiate with the peoples near their homes.  One such hostage was named Arminius, the son of the chief of the Cherusci tribe.  By the time he retu

Geography of War - The Attack on Pearl Harbor

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The Attack on Pearl Harbor (World War II) Date: December 7, 1941 Modern Location: Oahu, Hawaii, USA Combatants: Japan (led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto) vs. United States (led by Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter Short) Summary: On the morning of December 7, 1941, the United States was not at war.  Negotiations with the Japanese Empire, who was upset that the Americans had cut off oil and other exports to their island nation in the midst of their war with China, had been ongoing for several weeks but remained largely unfruitful.  In need of such resources, the Empire planned for a contingency - a preventative strike against the United States and their Pacific Fleet.  By setting out while peaceful negotiations were ongoing and attacking before a declaration of war, Pearl Harbor cannot be considered a battle and those Americans who were involved were technically non-combatants.  The quite of a Sunday morning was broken a few minutes before 8 am when the first Japanese d

Geography of War - The Battle of Vittorio Veneto

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I am currently visiting Italy and in recognition of that fact I thought it might be interesting to look at an important moment in Italian military history.  It comes from a war that receives fairly little mention in American textbooks, but is a battle of great importance to European history.  I hope you enjoy and learn something new, as I have! The Battle of Vittorio Veneto (First World War) Date:  October - November 1918 Modern Location: Northeastern Italy Combatants: Austro-Hungarian Army (led by Archduke Joseph August) vs Allied forces, including Italy, UK, France, and USA (led by General Armando Diaz) Summary: The two major armies fighting in the Italian theater of WWI had exchanged devastating victories over one another during the previous 12 months, with Austria-Hungary inflicting 300,000 casualties on the Italians at the Battle of Caporetto in November 1917, followed by Italy's successful defense in the Battle of Piave River in June 1918 that cost the invading army 118,000 c