Saturday, 21 December 2013

Trilobites were the most numerous arthropods

The word “trilobite” means “three parts”. It was given to creatures such as Conocoryphe because the body is always divided into three parts, a head, a body and a tail. Trilobites first lived about 550 million years ago and by 500 million years ago were among the most numerous animals.

From "100 Things to knowa bout Prehistoric Life" by Rupert Matthews

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Thursday, 19 December 2013

Gladiator Fun Fact

Spartacus made his prisoners fight as gladiators to amuse the ex-gladiators in his army.

from "100 Facts about Gladiators" by Rupert Matthews.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Ne Ebook - Battle of Oporto 1809

My friend Oliver has a new ebook out. You can buy yours on Kindle.

Author:            Oliver Hayes

The Battle of Oporto was key early British victory in the Peninsular War that ensured that the troops commanded by Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) would not be driven out by the French any time soon.

In March 1809 the French under Marshal Soult defeated a British-Portuguese army just north of the Douro River and pushed on to captured the great city of Oporto. Soult believed that his victory had as good as won the war for him. All he needed to do was rest his men for a few days, then continue south to capture Lisbon. But then British troops were reported advancing north toward Oporto and Sould realised he had a fight on his hands. The battle that followed was a rare instance of Wellington organising an offensive against a prepared and entrenched opponent.

Written by a military author of great experience, this book explains the way battles were fought two centuries ago and explains the course of the action in an accessible but authoritative style.

This lavishly illustrated ebook is a must for anyone interested in the Peninsular War. This book forms part of the Bretwalda Battles series on The Peninsular War.

Chapter 1 - The Peninsular War
Chapter 2 - The Commanders at Corunna
Chapter 3 - Weapons, Soldiers and Tactics
Chapter 4 - The French Army
Chapter 5 - The British Army
Chapter 6 - The Portuguese Army
Chapter 7 - The Battle of Oporto
Chapter 8 - After Oporto

About the Author
Oliver Hayes is a military historian who has written extensively for books and magazines on different aspects of the military. He is now writing a series of books on the Peninsular War for Bretwalda Books.

Plate Armour

Plate armour gave better protection than mail. By about 1300 new types of arrow and thrusting swords had been developed that could pierce mail armour. This led to the development of plate armour, made up of sheets of steel shaped to fit over the arms, legs or body. Arrows and swords tended to glance off plate armour without penetrating.

from "100 FActs about Arms and Armour" by Rupert Matthews.

Friday, 6 December 2013

The Boer Commandos

During the 1880s vast gold deposits were found in the Transvaal, an independent republic in southern Africa populated by European settlers of Dutch descent, the Boers. The Boer farmers had neither the skills nor the capital to exploit the finds, so foreign mining companies and engineers were brought in. By 1895 the number of foreigners, termed outlanders, had grown to become greater than the Boers. Yet the Boer government refused to give any civil rights to the outlanders, and imposed heavy taxes on the outlanders from which Boer farmers were exempt. Since most outlanders were British, they looked to Britain for protection. Britain suggested various reforms, but the Boers refused and war broke out on 11 October 1899. The Transvaal was joined by the second Boer republic, the Orange Free State.

The only professional Boer armed forces were a few batteries of artillery, equipped with the very latest guns from Krupps in Germany. The rest of the Boer army was composed of farmers and others who rode to war with their own guns, horses and equipment. Although each man supplied his own kit, the Boers had large numbers of Mouser 7.65mm rifles, principally those of the 1894 and 1895 models. These rifles were astonishingly accurate over long ranges, had a magazine of five bullets for rapid fire and could be quickly reloaded from a pre-packed clip of ammunition.

Each district had its own unit, called a commando, which elected its officers for a campaign when mustered. The Boers called out their commandos and launched them on a rapid invasion of the two British colonies: Natal and Cape Colony. Within a week of war breaking out the Boer commandos had about 30,000 men under arms. By mid October the towns of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley were under siege. The Krupp artillery was brought up and put into action. The style of the sieges soon developed into long range sniping combat as the Boers waited for starvation to take a grip. Attempts by the British commander in southern Africa, General Redvers Buller, to relieve the towns led to the Battle of Colenso on 15 December.

From The Historical Atlas of Weaponry by Rupert Matthews

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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Outbreak of the American Civil WAr

The US Civil War was fought by officers trained at West Point where they had been taught the theories of Jomini, learned tactical deployments based on those of Napoleon and studied the railway-based campaigns fought in Europe over the previous couple of decades. They had also taken Dunant’s views to heart and medical services in the US military were among the best in the world. In the harsh classroom of the battlefield they would realize that none of these had really prepared them for the realities of war in the industrial age.
The reasons for the outbreak of the war were rooted in decades old disputes about the powers and rights of the federal US government contrasted with those of the individual states. The issue that gave the spark was slavery, supported in the agrarian southern states but opposed in the industrialized northern states. The dispute led several southern states to pass legislation to secede from the USA, the north retaliated by declaring that no state could legally secede. The first shot came from southern artillery batteries firing on Fort Sumter to enforce its surrender.
The armed forces of the USA at this date dictated the early phases of the war. The federal government had control of the US Army and US Navy, but was faced by the fact that many of the best officers and men left at once to return to their southern states. Each state had its own militia, but these were of variable quality with widely differing levels of training and equipment. The southern, or Confederate States, began the war with around 120,000 men who were generally of better fighting qualities than the 150,000 men fielded by the northern or Unionist States. The Confederates had no navy to speak of, while the Unionists had all 80 ships of the US Navy, albeit that most of them were obsolete and undercrewed.
Both sides realized the advantages of railways both to move troops and to keep them supplied. Indeed the Confederates won the first major battle of the war, First Bull Run on 21 July 1861 after they brought up reinforcements by train. However, the over reliance on rail meant that major operations were limited to areas which could be supplied by rail. This restricted the theatres of operations and removed the ability of either side to engage in strategic manoeuvres.
Both sides likewise noted the way Moltke had used telegraph to keep in touch with his scattered armies. The Confederates used telegraph as primarily a means to send information and orders between generals. The Unionists, on the other hand, used the telegraph principally to send messages and orders from the civilian government in Washington to generals in the field. President Lincoln’s habit of interfering in the day to day conduct of campaigns drove his generals to distraction.