Text by Tim Newark

Color plates by Angus McBride, Richard Hook, Graham Sumner, Peter Armstrong, Ed Dovey

and Stuart Priest

ISBN 962-361- 100-5 printed in Hong Kong

Copyright © 2006

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The temptations of conquest are ever present. In 2003, when the US armed forces advanced rapidly through Iraq to Baghdad, a US soldier was heard to say "I can see how the Romans took over the world." Superior military technology can deliver devastating successes, whether today or in the ancient world.

11 is frequently a superiority of organization that can deliver the most solid of conquests. Roman success was built on an extraordinary ability to organize and standardize warfare. Factories produced ihousands of suits of armor and weapons. Discipline ensured that every night, Romans dug and surrounded themselves with ditches and defenses. Engineering talent and sheer patience meant that a Roman warlord such as Julius Caesar was willing to put in months of preparation in order to surround and starve a major Celtic hill-fort into submission. In this methodical way did the Romans conquer half of Europe-and hang on to it for many centuries.

In contrast, Alexander the Great was a brilliant conqueror in that he knew the fastest way to gain victory-charge at and intimidate the commander of the enemy army. That way, he gained the Persian Empire. But his lack of organization and governorship meant his empire rapidly disappeared after his death. It was strength in administration that allowed the Mamelukes to take over control of Egypt; they had mastered every aspect of governing this country. It was their talent for organization that enabled them to defeat two of the greatest threats of the medieval world-the Mongols and the Ottoman Turks.

A strong financial machinery is also vital to conquering success. It was the centralizing skills of Edward III that enabled him to raise tax efficiently and put into the battlefield a bigger and more professional army than had ever before been raised in England. It was an English talent for trading and banking-largely copied from and certainly inspired by the Dutch-that meant that London could become the powerhouse behind the Parliamentarian triumph over the Royalists of King Charles I. And it was this continuing financial strength that funded the dramatic expansion of the British Empire.

But if administration is the key to enduring conquest, there are moments when it cannot be achieved without sheer hard fighting. When the British conquered India, they nearly lost control when the ferocious Sikhs rose up against them. Equipped and armed as European troops and with their own ferocious fighting skills, the SikllS were an awesome enemy, and yet, with soldiers such as the fearless William Hodson, the empire imposed its will at the point of a bayonet. The same could be said of the mercenary Scots who proved fierce conquerors of Muscovites and Germans in the armies of Baltic warlords.

This book reveals some of those conquering warriors and the fierce opponents they faced.


Tuthmosis III, Pharaoh of Egypt. conqueror of the Syrians, 1482 Be

Tuthmosis III was born to one of the many concubines enjoyed by his father, Tuthmosis II, Pharaoh of Egypt in the 18th dynasty. As a result, he should not have been in line to inherit the throne, but he was adopted as a consort by the formidable Princess Hatshepsut during a time of dynastic crisis and thrived under her powerful rule of an empire that spread as far east as Palestine and Syria.

Under her patronage, Tuthmosis developed his martial skills, becoming a renowned archer and hunter of big game. He was also a pious man who gave many donations to the temple of Amun. Like Alexander the Great, he may well have believed he was the son of the god Amun. He prepared himself for the role of conqueror by learning about his grandfather's great victories, establishing an empire from Nubia to Mesopotamia. He was also curious about the world around him, and like Napoleon in a centuries later campaign in Egypt, would travel with artists who made records of the animals and plants in new territories which would be reproduced on his temple at Karnak,

The opportunity to prove his worth finally came in 1482 BC, with the death of Princess Hatshepsut. Tuthmosis raised an army of 10,000 warriors and advanced towards Gaza in 10 days, crossing the Carmel mountains to strike at his enemies at Megiddo. There, he found an alliance of Syrian princes led by the king of Kadesh. Megiddo is famous for being the earliest battle to be recorded in written history. The Annals of Tuthmosis III tell us that his crossing of the mountains was a brilliant strategic maneuver. His advisors had claimed that the pass was too narrow and would expose their army to ambush, but Tuthmosis stood up for his decision and was rewarded by a fast, direct route that took him to a position behind his enemy.

"His Majesty advanced in a chariot of gold and silver," said his chroniclers, "with all his weapons of war, like Horus, the Smiter, lord of might; like Montu of Thebes, while his father, Amun (the god), strengthened his arms." Like the best of ancient warlords, Tuthmosis commanded his army from the front and led the center towards the enemy. "When they saw his Majesty, they (the Syrians) fled to Megiddo in fear, abandoning their horses and their chariots of gold and silver." Such was the panic of the Syrian army that their warriors were dragged up by their clothes over the walls of the city, as the gates remained shut.

Plate 1

If Tuthmosis had followed through at this point and attacked the retreating Syrians as they scrambled into the city a quick victory could have been won. But his men were too distracted by the vast amounts of loot abandoned by the Syrians on the ground before the city. "Now, if only the army of his Majesty had not given their hearts to plundering," wrote the chroniclers, "they would have captured Megiddo when the wretched foe of Kadesh and the wretched foe of this city was hauled up in haste to bring them into the city. The fear of his Majesty was in their hearts, their arms were powerless, the serpent diadem was victorious against them."

By the time Tuthmosis regained control of his army, the moment of panic had passed and he had to settle down to a seven-month siege before he could claim victory. Over the next 12 years, Tuthmosis fought more campaigns in Palestine and Syria, marching through the territory of Kadesh. He even sent his troops across the Euphrates into the land of the Mittani where he set up a stone commemorating his achievements next to that of his revered grandfather. At the age of around 60, he died in 1450 Be.

The painting opposite, by Angus McBride, portrays Tuthmosis at the time of the battle of Megiddo in 1482 BC. He wears the kepresh headwear adorned with a royal serpent coiled to strike, perhaps made of silver metal discs attached to a leather and wicker base. He wears scale armor decorated with the symbolic wings of the hawkheaded god Horus and holds a mace with which he would crush the heads of his captured enemies. Servants in the background carry his other weapons, including his bow.


Alexander the Great. two portraits as a voung conqueror, 330s Be

Alexander the Great had the spirit of the conquistador. He had ambition without bounds, without frontiers, When he stood on the edge of a continent with a group of soldiers behind him, he decided to take it all. Alexander learned his ambition from his father, Philip of Macedon, and he also learned from him a highly effective method of warfare,

When Philip descended from the mountains of Macedonia, he took on the martial states of Greece, warriors that had defeated the mighty Persian Empire as it invaded their land, The strength of the Greeks was based on the phalanx, a group of foot-soldiers, each armed with shield and long spear moving as one body, Philip created his own version of the phalanx, but armed with longer 15- foot pikes called sotlssa. which outreached the spears of the Greeks, To this, Philip also added the flexibility and speed of horsemen armed with sword and spear. They would be his elite warriors, By using both forms of fighting units, Philip overwhelmed the city states and made himself master of Greece,

Alexander served with his father as a cavalryman and saw the effectiveness of the Macedonian fighting force at first hand, His first major battle came in 338 BC when Greek cities, concerned at the rise of Philip, confronted the Macedonians at the battle of Choeroneo. Alexander was aged just 18, but he was put in charge of Philip's cavalry on his left flank, Philip trusted to the power of his phalanx and advanced in an oblique formation towards the Greeks, On contact. the Macedonians then feigned a retreat. which drew the Athenians forwards, making a gap in their Greek line, Alexander charged forward with his elite Companion cavalry to exploit this gap and rode on to massacre the Sacred Band of Theban troops, It was a mighty victory for Philip, which also secured the rising prominence of Alexander,

Alexander was now hungry for conquests of his own, He turned on his father and accused him of no longer having the will to conquer, mocking him as he stumbled, happily drunk, at a party: "There is a man who wants to move from continent to continent and cannot even walk from chair to chair," Soon after, Philip was assassinated and Alexander inherited his war machine,

In 334 BC, Alexander embarked on one of the greatest campaigns ever fought in the history of the world, It would take him from Greece

Plate 2

to the jungles of India, to the deserts of Central Asia, and the exotic splendor of Babylon, But all this belonged to the Persian Empire and its emperor Darius could call upon tens of thousands of warriors from all corners of his dominion, When first he heard of Alexander's appearance, he must have considered it a presumptuous raid, to be swept away like a fly, In the battle of Granicus, Alexander proved he could not be so easily swatted,

A year later, Darius decided to confront this impudent barbarian himself at the battle of lssus. Again, Alexander overturned the numerical superiority of the emperor and hounded him from the field, The situation was now critical. If Alexander was allowed to continue his defiance, then all the kings who owed Darius allegiance would wonder who was in charge and his empire would crumble, Darius had to stop Alexander once and for all. There would be no further chances,

In 331 BC, Alexander advanced from Syria into the heartland of the Persian Empire in Mesopotamia, present-day Iraq, His target was Babylon and on a plain between the ancient towns of Arbela and Gaugamela, Alexander ran into the might of Darius, said to amount to some 200,000 troops, As before, Alexander trusted the majority of his army to hold the Persian advance, while he headed a daring personal cavalry attack on Darius,

It was the right tactic, As Alexander piled on the military pressure, Darius decided he had had enough and ordered his royal chariot to turn round and flee the field, With that. his army disintegrated before Alexander's cavalry and phalanx troops, It was Darius' last chance to hang on to his empire, A year later, he was found dead beside a road, killed by his own desperate supporters, Alexander was now master of the Persian Empire and marched into Babylon, overflowing with riches and welcome for the new conqueror of Asia,

The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, shows, on the left, Alexander at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC, and, on the right, Alexander hunting at Sidon in 333 BC, On horseback, Alexander is portrayed riding his legendary black horse Bucepholus. As was typical of the period, he rides with no stirrups and only a saddle pad, His helmet is silver-plated and he wears the purple cloak of a royal figure, The figure of Alexander hunting is based upon a mosaic and shows him in more relaxed garb, naked but for his hat and cloak,


Roman soldiers, conquerors of Palestine, 1st century AD

Roman interest in the conquest of Palestine came about as a result of its victories against the Persian Seleucids and their establishment of a Roman province of Syria in 63 BC by Pompey the Great. In the neighboring region of Judea, the Romans placed a series of puppet rulers on the throne. The most famous of these was the half-Jew Herod the Great. When Herod died, his kingdom was divided into three for each of his sons, but it was his eldest son, Archelaus, who used Roman power to dominate the region. But such was his unpopularity that 50 Jewish nobles petitioned the Romans to rule them directly. The Emperor Augustus agreed and Judea became a province in AD 6, with Archelaus being banished.

Because Judea was considered a minor province, it was not garrisoned by regular Roman legionaries but by auxiliaries. Many of these would have included the old soldiers who had served Herod. Many of these would have been Samaritans, recruited because they had a traditional antipathy to the Jews. Most Jews did not serve in the Roman army because they would not fight on the Sabbath. It was a fragile administration and when the Roman rulers demanded a census in preparation for new taxes to be raised, it led to armed rebellion. It was efficiently crushed but resentment remained. Pontius Pilate became the main tool of Roman rule and his crimes against the inhabitants of Judea are recorded in the New Testament of the Bible. It was Pontius Pilate who oversaw the trial and execution of Jesus Christ.

That Jesus Christ was one of many holy rebels at this time in Judea is made clear by the chronicler Josephus. "In this time," he writes, "a Galilean called Judas tried to stir the natives to revolt, saying that they would be cowards if they submitted to paying taxes to the Romans, and after serving God alone accepted human masters. This man was a rabbi with a sect of his own and was quite unlike the others." This man is mentioned again in the New Testament. "After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census," says Acts 5, "he induced some people to revolt under his leadership, but he too perished and his whole following was scattered."

Pilate ruled with little sensitivity towards Jewish religious rites. When he insulted them and they protested he could be ruthless. On one occasion he paid for work on an aqueduct with money taken from the treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem. "This roused the populace to

Plate 3

fury," recorded Josephus, "and when Pilate visited Jerusalem they surrounded him and shouted him down. But he had predicted this disturbance and had his soldiers mingle with the mob, wearing civilian clothing over their armor. They were given orders not to draw their swords but to use clubs against the Jews. Pilate then gave the signal and the Jews were clubbed. Many died from the blows while others were trampled to death as they fled in panic. The fate of those who died stunned the crowd into silence."

The painting opposite, by Graham Sumner, reconstructs the Roman soldiers employed by Pontius Pilate to club protestors in Jerusalem. They are disguised in civilian clothing and carry wooden clubs. Their costumes are based on finds at Masada, which reflect Greek and Roman fashions.

The most famous act of defiance in Roman Judea was the Jewish rebellion of AD 66. It took seven years and several legions before the Romans crushed them and it culminated in the bloody siege of Masada. This was a fortress on top of a plateau rising steeply above the Dead Sea, which had once belonged to Herod. Here, a Jewish force defied the Romans for six months, despite the onslaught of 7000 Roman legionaries and auxiliaries and all their siege techniques. Finally, a massive ramp was built leading up to the walls, on which was mounted Roman artillery. Eventually, rather than be captured, the Jewish defenders set fire to the fortress and committed mass suicide, leaving only two women and five children alive.



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The Roman conquest of Britain began in AD 43, when 50,000 soldiers landed at Richborough in Kent under the command of Aulus Ploutius, They defeated the local Celtic warlord Caractacus and crossed the Thames, The Emperor Claudius then joined the Roman Army and Caractacus was defeated for a second time with the capture of his capital at Colchester. While Caractacus fled to Wales, the Romans quickly extended their control over southern England, capturing hill-forts, the centers of Celtic power,

The future Emperor Vespasian took command of operations westwards in England and the Roman historian Suetonius records that he "subjugated two fierce tribes and captured more than 20 hillforts, including the Isle of Wight," One of these hill-forts must have included Maiden Castle, for excavations at the eastern entrance to the hill-fort reveal the debris of battle, Charred timbers and demolished earthworks indicate a major Roman attack while the skeletons of 38 defenders are scarred with sword and arrow cuts, the spine of one warrior being pierced by the head of a bolt launched by a ballista, a piece of Roman artillery,

By AD 49, the Romans had reached the Severn and plunged into Wales, forcing Caractacus to flee northwards but. as so often happened before, a northern British Celtic tribe, the Brigantes, handed Caractacus over to the Romans in return for an alliance with them against their Celtic enemies, Ten years later, the Romans destroyed the center of the Druids on the Isle of Anglesey and marched northwards,

The rebellion of Boudicca brought an end to this advance, threatening Roman conquests in Britain, Boudicca, or Boadicea as she has been called in later history, was the widow of the Celtic king of the Iceni who ruled East Anglia, Roman tax-collectors had looted the dead king's realm and when Boudicca protested, she was whipped and her daughters raped, With the support of outraged Celtic tribesmen, Boudicca led a revolt against the Romans, taking advantage of the absence of the Roman Governor Paullinus, who had moved most of his troops to north Wales,

Roman Colchester was the first target of Boudicca's fury and after a two day battle, the settlement was annihilated, all its inhabitants slaughtered, leaving only a thin layer of ash for future archaeologists,

Plate 4

Paullinus moved as fast as he could, but it was too late for the Roman inhabitants of London and St. Albans who were wiped out by Boudicca and her warriors, Paullinus finally confronted Boudicca with an army 10,000 strong near tlchfteld. The Celts, typically, began the battle with a wild, howling charge, sending their chariots forward, In rigid lines, the Romans withstood the Celtic assault. flinging their javelins at the Celts and then closing with short stabbing swords, It was a battle of sheer hard fighting and the professional. veteran Roman soldiers eventually prevailed over the Celts who gradually lost their will to fight and fled the battlefield, Boudicca, seeing her army disintegrate before her, could see no way out and committed suicide by taking poison, Boudlccos revolt of AD 61 was the last great resistance shown by the British Celts towards the Roman conquest,

The painting opposite, by Graham Sumner, reconstructs early first century auxiliaries of the kind they may have helped in the conquest of Britain, They wear mail armor and carry oval shields, They wear coo/us-type helmets with horsehair crests, They are all based on Roman images found in France and Germany, The Gallo-Roman officer (top left middle) is based on a sculpture in Avignon, The standard bearer (to his right) wears equipment seen on a tombstone in Neuss,

Auxiliaries were frequently recruited from neighboring regions to those in which they served, This meant they could display a certain ruthlessness against native peoples who they had perhaps always hated and fought against, The Romans exploited this and frequently used Germans to fight against Celts, That they were distinct from the regular legions was demonstrated by their different equipment, including wearing mail rather than strip armor and oval shields rather than rectangular. In reality, however, it is believed that there was less uniformity in both types of warriors than later historians like to believe, Auxiliaries might well buy or recover legionary armor from the battlefield, That said, it was convenient for ancient chronjclers to have this distinction in the two types of warriors and we see this even depicted on Trajan's Column,


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The Roman conquest of Britain came to an end in the 2nd century AD. The Romans now ruled a vast empire that stretched from Syria to Wales. Rather than seeking new territory, their thoughts turned to preserving the way of life they had established. Soldiers were still needed to man the garrisons that fortified the frontiers, but they also needed an army of administrators too and frequently the military was now involved more in the government of their provinces.

When the Emperor Hadrian visited northern Britain in AD 122, he came with a bold idea "Having reformed the army of the Rhine in regal manner," recalled the Augustan History, the Emperor "set out for Britain where he put many things to rights and was the first to build a wall. eighty miles in length, by which barbarians and Romans should be divided." Work began on Hadrian's Wall straight away, starting from a bridge over the river Tyne at Newcastle and stretching right across northern Britain to the village of Bowness on the Solway Firth. The first section, just over 40 miles, was built of stone, but then the materials ran out and the rest of the 30 miles was completed with earth ramparts; later this was replaced with a stone wall. At every Roman mile, a stone fort was built to house a garrison of between eight to 64 soldiers. Two look-out turrets were added at regular intervals in the space between the fortlets. On addition to this, 16 major forts were added behind the frontier line; the largest being at Stanwix, near Carlisle which could maintain an army of 9,000 men.

Although a very impressive work of military engineering that has survived in substantial sections over 2000 years until today, the purpose of Hadrian's Wall is frequently misunderstood. It was less about stopping barbarians entering Roman Britain and more about regulating their access, so that the local tribesmen that passed through it could be charged or taxed on their goods. In truth it would have been impossible to defend the Wall with the same intensity of force as a castle-a few soldiers in the middle of nowhere could do very little to stop a determined breach of the wall.

The rest of Roman Britain was ruled from a network of forts, each housing a legion or similar Roman force. The Roman fort at Caerleon in south Wales near Newport was founded under the Emperor Vespasian, whose legion /I Augusta had played such an important part in capturing the Celtic hill-forts of southern England. The rectangular fortress that was built around AD 75 was constructed of

Plate 5

timber and earth ramparts with a wooden palisade above it. not unlike a Celtic hill-fort. but a more long-term construction of stone walls with towers was later built on the site. Over 5,000 soldiers occupied this military complex, including barracks, workshops, granaries, a hospital and baths. For entertainment, an amphitheatre was constructed outside the walls where the soldiers and locals could enjoy gladiatorial combats and other less bloody shows. Remains of the barracks, baths and walls can still be seen today, along with the amphitheatre.

The painting opposite, by Graham Sumner, recreates the interior of a typical Roman garrison in the early 2nd century AD, although it is based in part on excavations at Malton Fort and Chester. From its elaborate painted decoration, we can see it is meant for a senior officer, such as the commander of the fort. The figures wear their day-to-day clothes and could be military clerks. The figure in the center is an optio. denoted by his staff with brass knob, who was a centurion's second-in-command.

Roman rule in Britain lasted until the 4th century AD. For many wealthy Celts and Romans, life in Britain was far better than it was in mainland Europe where barbarian invasions from German and Turkic tribes had greatly reduced the wealth produced by the large estates of France and the Balkans. Britain was insulated from this chaos and a strong Romano-British army protected the country from the activity of barbarian raiders, such as German pirates. Officially, Roman rule in Britain came to an end in AD 410 when the Emperor Honorius told the Romano-Britains to look after themselves. It was the same year in which Rome was sacked by the Visigoths.


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Roman legionaries, conquerors of Parthia, 3rd century AD

Parthia always left a bitter taste in the mouths of Romans after the events of the 1 st century BC when M Crassus led a campaign into this realm. Parthia lay to the east of Mesopotamia, in what is now Iraq and Iran, and was dominated by central Asian steppe tribesmen who fought on horseback with bow and arrow and used their martial skills to dismantle the Persian Empire. Crassus was ambitious and had acquired the governorship of Syria. He then wanted to extend his dominion into Parthia and led 35,000 Roman soldiers across the Euphrates.

Most of the troops that Crassus took into Parthia were typically legionary infantry with little cavalry support. The force of the Parthians, on the other hand, was deficient in infantry but strong in mounted archers and mail-clad horsemen. When Crassus collided with a smaller Parthian force near Carrhae in 53 BC, he must have felt confident enough. But the Parthians played to their strengths and avoided the Roman method of war. The mounted archers kept their distance and fired thousands of arrows at the Roman formations, replenishing their quivers from a special supply corps of 1000 Arabian camels. When Crassus sent forward his small force of Gallic cavalry, they were easily dealt with by the armored Parthian horsemen. Such was the demoralizing impact of the Parthian archery that Crassus was forced by his men into negotiating with the Parthians, during which he was murdered. His entire army now fell into captivity, with only a few thousand managing to escape back to the Roman frontier. It had been a disaster and would not be forgotten by the Romans.

Parthia remained an independent realm throughout much of the Roman period and its antipathy to the Roman Empire hindered trade links between Europe and China. By the 2nd century AD, the Roman Empire was strong and keen to press eastwards again. Armenia, a province always dominated by Parthia, was annexed and the Emperor Trajan advanced deep into Parthian territory, reaching as far as the Persian Gulf. Mesopotamia became another Roman province. The Parthians had seen enough and their king fled before the advancing Romans. Rebellions in the Near East forced Trajan to return westwards, but he had established a new frontier in the Middle East. It would be one, however, that was very demanding to maintain and defend. Much of the won territory was later abandoned by Emperor Hadrian for the sake of peaceful relations

Plate 6

with Parthia.

In the later 2nd century AD, the Emepr Septimus Severus took a more aggressive stance towards the Parthians and re-established Roman control in Mesopotamia. He burned the capital of the Parthians, a hammer blow from which the Parthian dynasty could not recover. In the early 3rd century, the Parthians were finally displaced by a new Persian dynasty of Sassanids. As a sign of Roman dominance in the region, Septimus Severus raised three legiones Parthicae. The first and third Parthian legions were made up of local elements and were stationed beyond the Euphrates. The second legion was taken from the region and fought in the west. The Legio /I Parthica performed well and joined Septimus during his second Parthian war, becoming an elite unit within his army.

The painting opposite, by Graham Sumner, recreates two legionaries of /I Parthica as they may have appeared in the 3rd century AD. The figure on the right is based on the Italian tombstone of Aurelius Eptecentus, who joined the unit from Thrace. He carries an oval shield and two spicula spears. He wears plate iron armor of the 'Newstead' type and a 3rd century copper alloy helmet based on one found at Niedermomter in Germany. The figure on the left is another Thracian recruit, carrying a smaller round shield and five throwing spears in a quiver. He wears mail armor and a copper alloy helmet with broad overlapping cheek guards based on one found at Rainau-Buch.


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Bvzantine warrior, conqueror of the Arabs, 10th century

Plate 7

Ever since Muslim Arabs and Turks overran the Middle East from the 7th century AD onwards, it was the Byzantine Empire that stood as the bastion of Christianity in this region of the world. Unfortunately, Byzantium had become exhausted from its centuries long conflict with the Sassanid Persians so when the Muslims made their move on Byzantine Palestine and Syria, the Byzantines were torn apart at the battle of Yarmuk. By AD 638, they had occupied Jerusalem and the next year they removed Byzantine rule from Egypt. By the beginning of the 8th century, the whole of North Africa had fallen under the Islamic sword, but when the Arabs tried to push their luck with an assault on the capital of the Byzantine Empire at Constantinople in AD 718, the Emperor Leo defeated them so decisively that they never again tried to invade Europe via the Balkans.

By the 9th century, the Byzantines had caught their second win and embarked on a series of campaigns that brought them back nearly to the frontiers of the old Roman Empire. The renaissance began in AD 864, when a strong force of Arabs was annihilated at Poson in Anatolia. The next century, Arab dominion was pushed back to the very gates of Jerusalem. The great architect of Byzantine conquest in the 10th century was the warrior-emperor Basil II who ruled from AD 976-1025. He began his long reign with a gruelling but ultimately successful campaign against the Bulgars, which established a Balkan frontier on the Danube. He then turned his attention to the Egyptian Fatimid dynasty, which contested influence over Syria and other Near Eastern cities. By the beginning of the 11 th century, the victorious reputation of Byzantine armies was enough to keep in check any local Muslim emirs in Syria.

The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, recreates a heavily armored Byzantine horse-warrior of the mid- 10th century, of the type who patrolled the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire. It is based on wall-paintings in a church at Cavusin in Cappadocia in Turkey. He wears lamellar armor of bronze scales and an Arab-style head-cloth. His long spear is made of bamboo, reflecting more of an Arabic influence than Byzantine. The greater use of heavily armored cavalry in this period in the Byzantine army is expressed in a book of Byzantine tactics credited to Nicephoros II Phocas, Byzantine Emperor for six years from AD 963, who gained a fierce reputation as a military governor in Anatolia.

The recruitment of more heavily armored cavalry in the mid-10th century gave the Byzantine army a more powerful tactical punch in battle. This was matched by the revival of heavily armored infantry meant to stand rigidly in line like the old legionaries. Some of these would be armed with long, thick pikes designed to resist cavalry attacks in dense formations. Units 1000-strong might be made up of 100 pike men, 400 ordinary spearmen, 300 archers and 200 light infantry armed with javelins and slings. These infantry were expected to be professional soldiers, able to march long distances and serve in garrisons. Infantry tactics were coordinated with cavalry. Hollow squares could be formed in which horsemen might retreat before charging out again. Many of the infantry were recruited from wellregarded fighting nations such as the Armenians.

The new cavalry formations incorporated heavily armored horsemen clad head-to-toe in mail or scale armor, with the horses also armored, wielding maces and lances. These were the kataphraktoi, which acted as an elite strike force heading a broad-nosed wedge intended to crack open enemy formations. Arab writers started to write commentaries on the effectiveness of these warriors, a sure sign that Byzantium had re-established dominance in the Middle East, for however brief a period.


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Saracen castle, built for a governor of Saladin, conqueror of the Crusaders, 12th century

Plate 8

Saladin (or Salah ai-Din) was a Kurdish warrior born in Tikrit in Iraq in 1138. He learned his military skills while in service to Nureddin, ruler of Syria, where his uncle, the Seljuk Shirkuh, was commander in chief of the Syrian army. In 1169, his uncle became vizier of Egypt. but died after just two months. Saladin took over and quickly outmaneuvered his Fatimid superiors, placing Kurds in leading positions and running the country as his family fiefdom. Over the next two years, Saladin secured his Egyptian power-base and ended Fatimid rule, turning it into an Abbasid province, which he united with the Abbasid Caliphate in Syria.

With the death of Nureddin, Saladin became sultan of Egypt and, seeing no obstacles in his way, marched north to capture Damascus. He was now one of the most powerful figures in the Middle East and founded his own Ayyubid dynasty. But with that came extreme danger and Syrian Assassins made two attempts on his life. He responded by laying siege to the fortress of Masyaf. stronghold of the Syrian Assassins, but after a few weeks, he withdrew, never bothering the Assassins again. It was rumored that they had threatened to assassinate his entire family. Saladin preferred more conventional enemies and found them in the western Crusaders.

Previously, he had preferred to leave the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem alone, preferring to have it as a buffer between him in Egypt and Nureddin in Syria. But the Crusaders proved to be irritating raiders. Raynald of Chatillon became notorious for harassing Muslim traders and pilgrims, going so far as to threaten the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In 1185, Raynald looted a caravan of Muslim pilgrims. It was the final straw for Saladin. Two years later, he embarked on a major campaign against the Crusaders. In July 1187, he annihilated a Crusader army at the battle of Hattin and in October he marched into Jerusalem. One of his prizes was the irritating Raynald who he had executed. It was a turning point for the history of the Crusades, ending 88 years of their rule in the Holy Land.

Saladin's capture of Jerusalem set in motion the Third Crusade. The three most powerful kings of Europe, Frederick I of Germany, Philip Augustus of France, and Richard I of England "took the cross" and personally led their crusading armies against the Saracens of Saladin. He hoped to repeat his earlier successes against the western warriors by deploying his Turkic horse-archers against the slower moving

hordes of Richard I as he marched from Acre to Jaffa. But Richard would not have his men provoked into a chaotic pursuit of the Turkic horsemen who would then turn to decimate them. The Crusaders' thick padded armor protected them against the Saracen arrows, while their powerful crossbows knocked over the more lightly armored Saracens.

Having failed to break Richard's army with his steppe-warrior tactics, Saladin confronted him in battle at Arsouf-and lost. Western discipline and heavily armored knights won the day. It left the way open to Jerusalem but Saladin laid waste to the land and Richard preferred to strike a peace treaty with the Saracen leader. It left Jerusalem in Saladin's hands but guaranteed access to the city for Christian pilgrims. Shortly after Richard's departure, Saladin died in 1193 at Damascus.

The painting opposite, by Stuart Priest. recreates one of Saladin's castles built for one of Saladin's governors, Izz ai-Din usorno. in northern Jordan in 1184. It was erected to guard some iron mines which the Crusaders once possessed. The dry moat that surrounded the fortress was carved out of solid rock with just a single pillar left to support the wooden bridge. The castle originally consisted of four towers built around an inner courtyard. but other bastions were later added.


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Sir Hugh Calvelev, freelance conqueror, Hundred Years War, 14th century

When Edward III took control of the English throne, he proved an adventurous warlord of tremendous military ability, Weary of the Celtic campaigns of his father and grandfather, he embarked on a series of campaigns in France where he laid claim to rule that kingdom as well. This conflict became known as the Hundred Years War and during it English forces won three tremendous victories over the French, at Crecv Poitiers and Aqincourt.

These victories came about in part due to a revolution in English medieval warfare, The wars of Edward I and Edward III were notable for being fought on a new scale with a new intensity and professionalism, Edward I gathered armies 30,000 strong, some three times larger than the average force in earlier medieval warfare, Although based around feudal dues of loyalty and service owed by leading noblemen, knights and their retainers, the majority of the troops in these larger armies were paid for and included foreign mercenaries, Such large armies required complex organization and lots of food, They could not rely on feudal allegiance and the possibility of battlefield loot alone, The cost of war rose enormously, Edward l's first Welsh war cost around 20,000 pounds, but Edward Ill's campaigns in France from 1369 to 1375 are estimated to have cost 670,000 pounds, Much of the money to pay for this from ever more effective tax-raising as well as big loans from foreign bankers, which were not always paid back,

Typical of a new breed of military entrepreneurs was Sir High Calveley, Born in Cheshire about 1315, he went on to become a professional warlord, or freelance, raising troops at his own cost and fighting for pay and booty in Spain and France, Jean Froissart records the reminiscences of Bascot de Mauleon, another medieval mercenary who rode with Calveley, He describes their life in search of money and adventure, "I was in Brittany at the battle of Auray under Sir Hugh Calveley," remembered Boscot. "I recovered some of my losses, for we won that battle and I had some good prisoners who earned me two thousand francs,"

"So I went to Spain under Sir Hugh Calveley with a command of ten lances and we drove King Peter out, Later on, when there was an alliance between King Peter and the Prince of Wales and he wished to put him back on the throne of Castile-which he did-I was there, again in Sir Hugh Calveley's company, and I returned to Aquitaine

Plate 9

with him, The war was started again between the King of France and the Prince, We were kept very busy because they fought us really hard and many English and Gascon captains were killed, though I stayed alive, thank God,"

This is a fascinating insight showing how war had become a business for some medieval warriors, They could find good employment with a successful warlord, such as Calveley, and prosper-both deposing kings and then putting them back on their thrones! In France, however, it was a different tougher kind of war with much higher stakes,

For Sir High Calveley, the war in France proved the making of him, He progressed from being mercenary warlord to a much-valued ally of the English Crown, In 1375, he was made Governor of Calais and then the next year he was Governor for life of the Channel Islands, He carried on his various duties until in his late 70s he died in 1394,

The painting opposite, by Peter Armstrong, portrays Calveley in 1351 (left) at the battle of Auray, and then (right) as Seneschal of Limousin in 1370, The body armor is a mixture of plate and mail and in bolh portraits he is shown wearing a bascinet closed helmet; on the right the visor is removed allowing the wearing of a great helm over ii, His tight fitting jupon carries his heraldic device of three calves passant sable,


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Mameluke warrior, conquerors of EgVpt. 14305

When Saladin cut short the rule of the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt in the late 12th century, he instituted the rule of a new regime of warriors-the Mamelukes. Originally, a Mameluke was a military slave, bought in from the Kurds or Syrians, or from Turks fleeing before the expanding Mongols. Increasingly, boys from Christian enemies would be received in tribute and then trained in military schools and converted to Islam. This development soon led to a caste of highly professional and effective military figures. By the 13th century, the Mamelukes had become the indispensable military force deployed by Egypt in its clashes with Christians and other Muslim powers. They even fought successfully against the Mongols.

Forming a core of 10,000 troops, they were usually trained as expert archers and entered battle well armored on horseback. Further troops might be recruited from Bedouin tribesmen but they were nowhere near the same quality. The Mamelukes chose their own officers and could be rewarded with grants of land. After a succession of victories, they gained more and more political influence and became part of the government of Egypt.

By the middle of the 13th century, they were strong enough to grab power for themselves and Sultan Aibey became the first Mameluke to rule Egypt in 1250. He initiated a dynasty of Mamelukes from Turkey and Armenia who reigned until 1390. Their most celebrated leader was Baybars al Malik al Zahir al Din al Bundugari who stopped the advance of the Mongols at the battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, captured the forts of Jaffa and Antioch and snuffed out the power of the Crusaders. A later sultan AI Nasir was defeated by the Mongols at Homs in 1299 but gained another significant victory east of Damascus in 1303.

The Burgi Mamelukes, of Caucasian origin, took over the rule of Egypt in the 15th century when they managed to defeat two Ottoman armies in Anatolia and prevent their landing in Egypt. It took until 1517, near Cairo, when the Ottomans finally beat the Mamelukes and added Egypt to their empire.

The painting opposite, by Ed Dovey, recreates the appearance of a Mameluke warrior in 1432. He carries a white quiver and a highly polished sword made in Damascus. He wears a hat of brushed dark red wool. In actual fact, the portrait is of the Burgundian diplomat

Plate 10

Bertrandon de la Broquiere who disguised himself as a Mameluke to Join a merchant caravan on his way home from his adventures in the Middle East at this time. He visited Egypt, Syria and Turkey, just at the time when the Ottoman Empire was expanding. He wrote a book about his journey called Voyage a'Outtemet. which contains much useful information on the appearance and equipment of the Saracens, Mamelukes and Turks.

Bertrandon described his Mameluke outfit thus: "Two ankle-length white robes, a whole-cloth head-dress, a cloth girdle, a pair of fustian trousers to tuck my shirt into, a little carpet for sleeping, a sack to put my things in ... I had a cloak made of white silk covered with poplin, which was very useful during the nights ... I had to buy the sword and quiver secretly for, if the police had found out, those who had sold them to me and I would both have been in danger. The swords of Damascus are said to be the finest and most beautiful in Syria ... They cut better than any other swords I have seen."


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Ferdinand of Aragon, conqueror of the Moors, 1481

After the fall of Jerez de la Frontera in 1264, the Christian Spanish Reconquisto had ground to a halt. For over 200 years, in the southern tip of Spain, the Moorish Emirate of Granada held on as the only Muslim state left in the peninsula. New energy was given to the campaign to expel the Moors from Spain with the dynastic marriage in 1469 of Isabel of Castile to Ferdinand of Aragon (born in 1452). In 1474, Isabel was crowned Queen of Castile and five years later, Ferdinand became King of Aragon. Together, the couple ruled most of Spain, a country that was to become the military superpower of the 16th century.

Initially, Ferdinand had hoped through his marriage to obtain control of the Castilian crown, but his wife had a far stronger will than he expected and retained sovereign authority in her own realm. Both agreed, however, on the importance of strengthening royal authority at the expense of the power of Spanish nobles. To this end, Ferdinand recruited the Santa Hermandad, or Holy Brotherhood. a kind of military police that enforced the royal will. Religious conformity was also pursued and the Pope further empowered the king and queen by appointing three inquisitors to deal with heretics and other offenders against the church. It was the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition, another powerful weapon of the monarchy.

In 1482, Abu 'Abdulla Muhammad, better known as Boabdil. demonstrated that the Moors could still prove a thorn in the side of their now more powerful neighbor by invading Castile. But in the campaign he was taken prisoner and was only released on the condition that the Emirate of Granada would pay tribute to Ferdinand and Isabella. But the Spanish war machine was already in motion and Ferdinand launched a campaign to invade Moorish territory. From 1484- 1486, the western parts, including Ronda, fell to Castilian-Aragonese forces. Then in 1487 came the vital ports of Malaga and Almeria, reducing the Kingdom of Granada to a small stretch of land connecting the city to the coast.

A final push came in 1491, when Ferdinand and Isabel demanded that Emir Boabdil surrender the city of Granada. He refused, the Reconquisto was resumed. and Boabdil was forced to give up in 1492. The Treaty of Granada, signed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel. promised to protect Muslims and Jews living in the Emirate, but soon after the Spanish Inquisition took over and there was a mass

Plate 11

exodus of Muslims and Jews to Morocco, Algiers, and the Ottoman Empire.

The painting opposite, by Angus McBride, recreates King Ferdinand at the siege of Malaga in 1487. He wears a full suit of armor, now preserved in Vienna, over which he wears a coat of Moorish-style fabric. He carries a broad-bladed spear of the type used by Christian and Muslim light cavalry. Ferdinand was fearless in battle and was nearly killed in an incident during the siege of Malaga. Resting with some of his guards, he could see a small unit of his infantrymen under attack from Berber horsemen. Grabbing a spear and not bothering to put on the rest of his armor, he rushed off with his guards to help his infantry under attack.


Ferdinand charged into the middle of the skirmish and one of his servants was immediately struck down to his side. Ferdinand killed the Moorish assailant with his spear, but was now without a weapon. He went to draw his sword, but realized, in the rush, he had left it behind at his camp. Five of his guards had to shield him as the rest of his soldiers fought off the Moorish horsemen. His senior officers praised his bravery but were also critical of his reckless behavior and Ferdinand. for his part. swore never again to enter battle without his sword Although this was a display of old-fashioned military virtue, it was Ferdinand's new Spanish artillery that eventually won the day. pounding the city into submission.

The conquest of Granada was not Ferdinand's only achievement. The year 1492 was also notable for the voyage of Christopher Columbus, sponsored by Ferdinand and Isabella, which became the first step in the creation of a Spanish overseas colonial empire in America. In 1508, Ferdinand joined the League of Cambrai against the republic of Venice, which resulted in the conquest of Oran and Tripoli in the North Africa. Next. he annexed the kingdom of Navarre in 1512, extending the borders of Spain from the Pyrenees to Gibraltar.


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Stefan Batorv. conqueror of the Muscovites, late 16th century

Stefan Batory was a Prince of Transylvania who became King of Poland. He was born in 1533 to a powerful Hungarian warlord at a time when the mountainous region of Transylvania was part of the Hungarian kingdom. He learned hard military lessons from the tough frontier warfare against the Ottoman Empire. He succeeded to the princedom in 1571 and held it for four years before being elected King of Poland in 1575. This came about as a result of Henry of Valois fleeing Poland to become King of France, but Stefan was not the only claimant to the throne.

The wealthy Hanseatic city of Gdansk had backed the Emperor Maximillian and when Stefan became king he attacked the port. The merchants of Gdansk called on Danish ships to protect the city from the sea and Scots mercenaries to fight against a land assault. In the end, Batory failed to take the city, but in return for allowing Gdansk to retain its independence, he received a very useful income of gold to fund his future wars.

This was a difficult period for Poland. The male line of the Jagiellonian dynasty, which had ruled Poland since the late 14th century had become extinct, and as a result, all members of the Polish nobility could vote for their king. It meant a period of instability and when Maximillian made his claim, the country almost erupted in civil war. On top of this, the royal treasury was empty and the eastern region of the country was being threatened by the Russian Tsar, Ivan the Terrible, who had already conquered parts of Livonia. To secure Batory's rights to the ::>olish throne, he married Anna, the last remaining Jagiellon, nearly ten years older than her husband.

The Russian march on Poland had begun in 1563, when Ivan the Terrible captured the fortress of Polotsk and Livonia, all the way to the River Dvina. Batory had to act decisively to stem the Muscovite advance and he signed an alliance with King John of Sweden in 1579. At the head of a joint Polish-Lithuanian-Swedish army, Batory entered the captured territories of the Muscovites and reconquered Polotsk. In 1580, he pushed on to recapture another fortress at Vielikie Luki and then, in the following year, Pskov. This vigorous attack by Batory ensured a peace treaty in which Poland regained Livonia and the Tsar was allowed back the parts of Russia captured by the Poles.

Lifted by his victory against the mighty Muscovites, Batory planned a

Plate 12

crusade against the Ottoman Turks, but he died before this could materialize in 1586, some saying he had been poisoned by his two court physicians. Part of the key to Batory's military success was in his reform of the Polish Royal Army. He brought a new sense of discipline to it with his selected infantry, recruited from peasants on the Crown estates (wybraniecka), who were given blue-grey uniforms-the first such uniforms to be introduced into an Eastern European army. The famous winged Hussars gradually replaced the old mounted spearmen (jazda kopijnicza) and a register of Ukrainian Cossack volunteers was established. To this formidable horde, he also added Transylvanian, Hungarian and German mercenaries, plus a new arm of Polish artillery. Finally, his corps of engineers achieved great feats in building wooden roads through the marshy forest wildernesses of Poland and Russia.

The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, shows Batory (left) as Prince of Transylvania in 1571. His fur hat is decorated with egret or heron feathers and he holds a gilded Hungarian saber. On the right Batory is shown as he might have appeared during his campaigns against the Muscovities in 1580. He wears Hussar eastern-style armor over a mail tunic, again holding a Hungarian saber.

Interestingly, a link has been made between Stefan Batory's brief reign as Prince of Transylvania and the legend of vampires in this region. His family badge bore three wolf's fangs and his niece, Elizabeth Nadasdy, became notorious in 1610 for murdering 650 young maidens and bathing in their warm blood so as to preserve her own youth.


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Religion played an increasingly important role in European warfare throughout the 16th century. Under the reign of Elizabeth I, England became a Protestant nation and this, at once, put her in opposition to Philip II's Spain. Bastion of the Catholic cause, Spain was rich, aggressive and maintained the world's first truly global empire with possessions that stretched from Peru to the Philippines. Philip II was the armored fist of the Pope and considered any war with Protestants as a crusade like that against the Turks.

Fortunately for England, the great Spanish king was mainly concerned with the Netherlands in which numerous wealthy Dutch towns had revolted against his authority and declared themselves a Protestant republic. This long war absorbed much of his wealth and energy, but Elizabeth, through supporting the Dutch with soldiers, and allowing raids against Spanish ships and ports irritated Philip and eventually he succumbed to the demands of the Pope who wished to see a mighty crusade launched against England. In 1586, plans began for an invasion of England.

Philip ordered the Duke of Parma, his commander in the Netherlands, to prepare his army to be shipped across the Channel in a fleet commanded by Admiral Marquis de Santa Cruz. England delivered one final insult in 1587 when Sir Francis Drake sailed into the Spanish port of Cadiz and destroyed 24 ships in an operation later called "singeing the beard of the King of Spain." Santa Cruz repaired the damage to his fleet, but died before the expedition was finally ready. His place was taken by the Duke of Medina Sidonia. Word of the invasion electrified England and Elizabeth was compelled to raise a defense force of some 45,000 men from local militias. This was a very serious threat from the only global superpower in the world. A fleet commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham and Francis Drake gathered along the south coast of England.

The great Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon in spring 1588. The fleet comprised 130 vessels, including 20 galleons, mounted with at least 1,000 big cannon. It was manned by 8,500 sailors and 19,000 soldiers and a further 27,000 troops waited with 194 barges in the Netherlands to join it. Elizabeth, Queen of England, had heard reports of the great Spanish endeavor throughout the previous year but, like any head of a major European state, was anxious about the cost of providing an adequate defense. To keep an army waiting, ready for action, was enormously expensive and even county militias had to be fed and equipped.

Plate 13

In the middle of July 1588, the Spanish Armada was Sighted off Lizard Head on the southern tip of Cornwall. English naval forces mobilized, consisting of Lord Howards's fleet of 34 ships and Drake's fleet of 34 based in Plymouth, a London fleet of 30 ships and another fleet of 23 vessels off the Downs under Lord Seymour in the eastern English Channel. The first shots were fired outside Plymouth where the English fleet used their advantage in possessing more long-range cannons to sink one Spanish ship and damage several others. The Duke of Medina Sidonia's instructions were not to engage the English navy in a battle, but to sail on up the Channel to meet with the Duke of Parma's invasion fleet at Calais and escort him to England. This meant, in effect, the Spanish now had to run a gauntlet of English assaults.

Towards the end of July, the Armada arrived at Calais, but Parma was not there, having been blockaded in Bruges by a Dutch fleet. The English fleet, now united, contented itself with long-range cannon fire, rather than risking close combat with so many Spanish soldiers on board Sidonia's ships. At night, the English sacrificed eight of their own ships by setting them on fire and letting them drift among the Armada hoping to create a terrible fire. Sidonia cut his anchor cables and the Spanish fleet drifted northwards. The English closed and harried them with broadsides of cannon fire, picking off individual ships.

Strong winds prevented Sidonia from approaching either Dunkirk or Bruges to repair damage and gain new supplies, pushing the exhausted craft into the North Sea. Sidonia had no choice but to sail around Britain, his crew suffering terrible hardships from hunger and thirst. Although realizing the main danger had now past, English ships managed to sink or capture 15 Spanish ships, while a further 19 were wrecked on the Scottish and Irish coasts. Thousands of men died, with under half of the original fleet limping back to Spain. It was not so much a victory for England as a catastrophe for Spain.

The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, recreates English militiamen of the London Trained Bands raised to meet the danger of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The figure on the right carries a caliver (0 smaller version of the musket) and wears a uniform short red cassock. The figure in the middle is an ensign and carries the flag of the Portsoken Ward Company of the East Regiment. The figure on the left is a pikeman of the Honourable Artillery Company, one of England's oldest established regiments.


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English light horseman, conqueror of the Irish, 1603

The English had fought a long war against the Irish throughout the Middle Ages and this came to a climax in the 16th century when the Tudors led major campaigns of conquest. It was frontier warfare at its most brutal and both sides enacted great atrocities against soldiers and civilians. The Irish triumphed at guerrilla warfare and proved this in a series of devastating blows to the English.

Hugh O'Neill had been brought up among the Tudor English and had learned the ways of the government forces. They considered him an excellent puppet ruler for the province of Ulster in northern Ireland. But once O'Neill was back in Ireland, his Gaelic pride rose and he established a power-base for himself. In 1595, he was declared a traitor to the interests of Elizabeth I and an English force was sent to bring him down in 1597. Sir Henry Bagenal of Newry was instructed to relieve a fortress on the river Blackwater besieged by the Irish. Many of the troops he brought with him were raw recruits poorly equipped. "The want of the men's apparel is such," wrote a contemporary, "that if they be not speedily relieved, many will march without shoes or stockings."

Bagenal paid a high price for his lack of preparedness. As he marched his troops to the Blackwater they passed through hilly wooded ground, perfect guerrilla terrain. The Irish fired at them from close cover and soon the English force was strung out, losing its coherence. O'Neill used the treacherous land and placed a trench protected by thorny bushes in the way of the English. Part of the English forces was caught the far side of the trench and was decimated. The main force could not break through the barrier. Bagenal rode forward but was shot in the face. The English now panicked and broke and were hunted down in the woods. It was a savage lesson for the English.

The greatest fear for Elizabeth I was that the Irish would exploit their Catholic ties and call in the Spanish to help them against the English. Hugh O'Neill wrote to the Spanish on several occasions and they finally came in 1603 at Kinsale. The Irish linked up with them and besieged the English in Kinsale, but by coming so far south they were beyond their familiar territory in the north of the country and were compelled to fight a more conventional battle which favored the English. Failing to act in unison with the Spanish formations, the Irish panicked and were broken by the English pike and shot units. The

Plate 14

Spanish sailed back home and Hugh O'Neill's dreams of independence were over. With his surrender, Ulster came firmly within the English firmament.

The painting opposite, by Christa Hook, recreates an English light horseman of around 1600. He is shown in armor on horseback, wearing a combination of plate and mail. His burgonet helmet offers good protection and is painted black to prevent rusting. He carries a pistol and sword. The tops of his long boots are pulled up to protect his legs from accidental injury while on the march. On foot, he is shown in everyday dress wearing a full-length cassock and a highcrowned red cap as depicted in contemporary paintings.

While campaigning in Ireland, Irish clothing was recommended for the equipping of English soldiers, being both cheaper and more durable than that imported from England. But Lord Burgh, Lord Deputy of Ireland, could not accept this because such clothing was made by the very Irish they were fighting and they would thus receive "Her Majesty's good coin, wherewith they buyout of Denmark, Scotland and other parts, powder and munitions to maintain their rebellion."


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Scots mercenaries, serving Swedish conqueror, Gustavus Adolphus, 1630

For some time in contemporary histories, outsiders had noted two types of Scots people. "For some are born in the forests and mountains of the north and these we call men of the Highland," wrote John Major in his History of Greater Britain. "By foreigners the former are called Wild Scots ... One part of the Wild Scots have a wealth of cattle, sheep, and horses, and these with a thought of the possible loss of their possessions yield more willing obedience to the courts of law and king. The other part of these people delight in the chase and a life of indolence. Their chieftains eagerly follow bad men if only they may not have their need to labor, they are full of mutual dissensions and war rather than peace is their normal condition. The Scottish kings have with difficulty been able to withstand the inroads of these men."

Such were the prejudiced views of the Scots held by outsiders, but the upside of this reputation for aggression was a huge demand in Scots Highlanders as mercenaries. It has been calculated that in the early 17th century, some 30,000 Scots served with the Swedish army of the soldier-king Gustavus Adolphus in his campaigns of the Thirty Years War. One of the most famous of Scots mercenary recruiting agents was Donald Mackay, first Lord Reay; so much that a local proverb said: "He who is down on his luck, can still get a dollar from Mackay". He is believed to have sent some 10,000 Scots to Europe and was so successful that recruits were restricted to the highlands and islands. Mackay raised his own fighting 500-strong unit called the Green Brigade, which went into Swedish service in 1629. It was organized along Swedish military lines with some soldiers armed as pikemen and some as musketeers.

One reason for this mass exodus of Highland men to fight abroad may have been events at home. With the accession of a Scots King James VI as James I of England in 1603, there was a strong backlash against the Highland clans. Several clans were outlawed to stop their internecine fighting, while the importation of whisky was prohibited to the Western Isles. It was claimed that "one of the special causes of the great poverty of the Isles and of the great cruelty and inhuman barbarity which has been practiced by sundry of the inhabitants has been their extraordinary drinking of strong wines and aqua vitae (whisky) brought in among them, partly by merchants of the mainland and partly by traffickers among themselves." On top of this came a ban on the speaking of Gaelic, the traditional language of


Plate 15

the Highlanders. For many Scotsmen to go abroad and fight as a mercenary was a way of preserving their national identity (and get a decent drink too!).

Alexander Leslie, known as "Leslie the Great", was one of the most famous Scotsmen to fight for Gustavus Adolphus. He entered Swedish service in 1605 and was rapidly promoted until he became colonel of a Swedish territorial regiment. He became a key commander in the Swedish campaign in Germany in 1630, ending up as governor of the Baltic coast. In 1636, he became a fieldmarshal. When he finally returned to Scotland, he was appointed lord-general of all Scottish forces, and led the Scots at the battles of Marston Moor and Dunbar.

The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, recreates three mercenaries in Swedish service. In the middle is a Highland musketeer. He is portrayed as shown in many caricatures of the period, as a ragged bare-legged wild warrior. He wears a belted tartan plaid and a Highland bonnet. He carries a dirk and a single-~dged shortsword. He uses the "Swedish feather", a combined musket-rest and short stake to deter cavalry assaults. The figure on the left is a recreation of the Marquis of Hamilton in 1631, clad in the cuirassier armor of a senior officer. On the right is Thomas Muschampe, an Englishman serving as lieutenant-colonel. His blue sash and partisan weapon are typical of that used by senior soldiers in the army of Gustavus Adolphus.


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London volunteers, conquerors of the King, English Civil War, 1640s

The English Civil War of the 17th century was the last great civil war to afflict Britain. It was the culmination of a series of struggles throughout the Middle Ages in which the centralizing power of government and monarchy were challenged by other potent figures such as nobles and wealthy commoners. This last civil war was especially notable for the core of opposition to absolute royal power came not so much from aristocratic families, but among the increasingly important and powerful middle class who were using the considerable profits of trade and manufacturing to raise their profile in politics through Parliament. These were the men and women who supported most strongly the Protestant Reformation begun by Henry VIII and grew intolerant of the pretensions of the autocratic Catholic King Charles I. These were the battle lines.

Weakness is frequently the first step on the path to war and King Charles I exhibited it immensely. The son of James I. he represented a new Stuart dynasty, which united the crowns of England and Scotland in 1604, making the first move towards the concept of Britain as a united nation. His military judgment was poor, however, and 1639 he led an army into Scotland to quell unrest. but at the last moment he lots his nerve and settled on compromise. A year later, he led a second army into Scotland and was soundly beaten at Newburn, forcing a treaty out of him and leading to raids on northern England. Parliament had failed to back this campaign financially and was dissolved as a result. but its intuition had been correct and many English politicians saw that Charles was a man who could not win a war. A rebellion in Ireland brought Charles into further conflict with Parliament and on 10 January 1642, Charles left for York to establish an independent military base, while Parliament assumed control of government armed forces.

Pivotal to this war was the role of London, the richest city in the country. When it swung its considerable financial weight behind the Parliamentarian cause, you could say that the fate of the King had already been sealed. but much hard fighting lay ahead. London was also important because it was a major producer of arms and equipment. Standardization of equipment. clothing and weapons became important when the Parliamentarian forces established the New Model Army in 1645. Large quantities of weapons were ordered, stimulating a significant military industry in London and allowing for unit costs to be lowered. In one year, from 1645 to 1646, the following

Plate 76

orders were received: 8,050 matchlock muskets, 3,300 firelock muskets, 5,600 pikes, 10,200 coats, 9,000 shirts, 20,200 kitbags and 23,700 pairs of shoes, Many more contracts followed and London manufacturers must have grown rich on them, but it also meant they delivered on time with high quality assured.

The New Model Army had, for the first time seen in Britain, a uniform, consisting of a red coat and grey breeches with each regiment bearing its own distinctive color lining shown at the cuff, Tactically, it was modeled on the latest Dutch military ideas (the Dutch having beaten the Spanish to win their independence were regarded very highly by the rest of Europe) and maintained a ratio of two musketeers to every pikeman. Armor was not worn by the pikemen.

The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, shows volunteers of the London Trained Bands who joined the Parliamentarian cause. Many of them were wealthy merchantmen who could supply themselves with the best arms and equipment of the day. The two leading figures are shown wearing orange sashes, a sign of support for the Parliamentarian cause. The officer on the right carries a halberd as a symbol of rank,

The result of the English Civil War was to have a profound effect on the future government of Britain. Absolute monarchy would never again plague Britain and Parliament became the sovereign power. Revolution would never again be viewed as necessary to change the political situation. Power became steadily, if slowly, democratic. It gave a new stability to Britain, which would help it become one of the richest and most successful nations in the world. laying the foundations for its empire.


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PhiliD SkiDDon, conqueror of Rovalists, Banle of Nasebv, 1645

In June 1645, Royalist and Parliamentarian armies gathered for what would be the decisive battle of the first phase of the English Civil War. The battlefield was at Naseby in Northamptonshire in the heart of England. On the morning of 14 June, Prince Rupert rode out with a small force of Royalist cavalry to explore the area. He saw a group of Parliamentarian horsemen retreat before his own warriors and this strengthened his confidence. He recommended that the King deploy his soldiers for a battle.

In truth, the troops Rupert had seen were merely scouts, and behind the hills, Thomas Fairfax commanded a Parliamentarian army 13,000 strong, 4,000 more than King Charles had at his command. On this occasion, Charles' usual timidity might have served him well by ordering a retreat, but Rupert was keen for combat. A central formation of some 4,000 Royalist footsoldiers armed with muskets and pikes advanced. flanked by 5,000 cavalry. Fairfax arranged his men in a similar manner with cavalry on the flanks, the objective of both sides being to defeat one or other flank and thus roll up the center, attacking the enemy on several sides until he broke.

To begin this process, Fairfax ordered his dragoons to take up a hidden position behind hedges on the left wing of the battlefield. Fairfax had chosen his ground well. for not only did he surprise the Royalists with the full strength of his army when he emerged over the ridge of the hill. but they would have to attack him up the slope. Prince Rupert was now seized by a do-or-die spirit, knowing that the only advantage he still possessed was to attack first. Raising his sword into the air, he spurred his horse forward and the Royalist cavalry charged, almost 2,000 of them. It was undoubtedly impressive and in the early stages of the Civil War would have scattered the Parliamentarians, but Fairfax and his men were trained veterans and his dragoons began sniping at the cavalry from behind the hedges. The slope further reduced their impetus and when the Royalist cavalry clashed with the Parliamentarian horsemen it was as equal forces, both discharging pistols at close range and then fighting with swords.

In the center of the battlefield, Royalist footsoldiers pushed forward, pressing heavily on the Parliamentarian center. Seeing this attack, some of the Parliamentarian cavalry, feeling they had done enough to resist Rupert, turned to help their fellow footsoldiers. It was then that Rupert rallied his horsemen and directed a second charge at the Parliamentarian left flank. This time, he broke the Parliamentarian cavalry and could easily have turned this into the beginning of a victory, but. instead. his cavalry instincts overrode his good sense and

Plate 77

he chose to chase after the scattering horsemen, pursuing them over a mile until he reached the Parliamentarian camp and looted their baggage train. By the time he returned. the Royalist advantage had been lost.

Lord Astley's Royalist infantry, veterans of the King's Oxford army, traded blows with Philip Skippon's regiment. a "preaching and praying" unit of hardened Protestants. Volleys of musket fire exploded at point blank range and bodies tumbled under the impact. Two hundred years later, a mass grave would be discovered on the spot where Skippon's regiment stood in the face of death and suffered the greatest casualties of the Parliamentarian army. By standing solid, Skippon's regiment gave Fairfax precious time to bring in his reserves, including his dragoons, who attacked Astley's fiank. The focus of the battle now shifted to the Parliamentarian right flank where Oliver Cromwell commanded his elite Ironside cavalry. Cromwell's cavalry possessed greater discipline than those of Prince Rupert and with pistols raised they blasted the Royalist horsemen, allowing Cromwell to rein in his own men and assault the side of the Royalist center.

Trying to avoid being surrounded, the Royalists fought a bitter fighting retreat. A recently discovered trail of musket balls show that the fighting continued for over two miles backwards. When Prince Rupert finally returned to the battlefield, over an hour after his victorious charge, all he saw was defeat. Concentrations of musket balls near Moot Hill reveal desperate last stands. Attempts at a rally were made, but Fairfax was relentless, organizing his soldiers in orderly formations, pouring fire into the Royalists. Finally, the Royalists had had enough and they broke. It was a hard victory and Fairfax was determined not to have to go thmugh this again, ordering his men not to loot the King's baggage train but to pursue the fleeing Royalist soldiers, capturing up to 5,000 of them, including their artillery train.

Naseby broke the military power of King Charles. Further minor combats confirmed his cause was over and he surrendered himself to the Scots who promptly turned him over to Parliament in return for 400,000 pounds.

The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, shows Philip Skippon as he would have appeared as Sergeant-Major General at the battle of Naseby. During the combat. he was shot by a musketeer in the right side at close range, but continued to lead his men until they beat the Royalist infantry. Under his breastplate he wears a thick leather buff coat.


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Chief Maqoma defies British conquerors, 1835

When white settlers pushed out from the tip of southern Africa in the late 18th century, they met resistance from the seminomadic Xhosa tribesmen. The result was a bitter series of Kaffir or Cape Frontier Wars from 1799 to 1878. The most robust of Xhosa commanders was Chief Maqoma. Born around 1798, he was the eldest son of Ngqika, the most powerful chief of the Xhosa living along the banks of Fish River. Unfortunately, the Xhosa did not possess the same military administrative strengths of the Zulus to the north of them, but in the personality of Maqoma they had a ferocious battle leader. When his father Ngqika was defeated in a clash with Xhosa rivals, Maqoma was seen to lead charge after charge against the enemy until he had to be carried wounded from the field.

In 1820, the British sought to establish a buffer zone along the Fish River and told Maqoma to leave this territory. Forced to leave his land, he never forgave the British for this and led cattle raids against the colonists. In 1829, Ngqika died and Maqoma became leader of his people. In 1834, he led his warriors in a war against the Cape Colony. This became known as the Sixth Frontier War and Maqoma personally led raids deep into colonial territory. He avoided set piece battles, preferring ambushes on baggage wagons, where he could destroy the colonists in small groups. He was quick to adopt western guns, whenever he could get them, alongside more traditional Xhosa weapons.

Eventually, the colonist wore down the Xhosa and Maqoma was captured. Banished from his lands, he took to drinking heavily brandy and was caricatured as a "drunken beast." Sir Harry Smith, Governor of the Cape humiliated him further by making him kneel before him so he could put his foot on his neck. It was an insult for which Maqoma would seek vengeance.

Maqoma struck again in the Eight Frontier War of 1850-53. From his base in the Amatole foothills, he led raids on British columns and garrisons. He rode on horseback during these assaults, but was fearless enough to dismount and give his warriors orders while British muskets cracked around him. But a sign of desperation came when the Xhosa began to depend on magic charms to protect them against modern weaponry. A vision was proclaimed in which, if the tribesmen sacrificed their cattle, dead warriors would return from their graves. But as they slaughtered their cattle, no warriors came

Plate 78

and they starved themselves for nothing. Eventually, the British outnumbered and outfought the Xhosa and Maqoma was captured again. This time he was imprisoned on Robben Island off Cape Town. He died there in 1873.

The painting opposite, by Angus McBride, shows Maqoma leading his warriors into battle during the Sixth Frontier War of 1835. He wears the traditional clothing of a Xhosa chief, including a leopard-skin cloak and a crane feather in his headdress. Cowhide shields had gone out of fashion as they seemed little use against western guns. Horses were highly prized and frequently stolen from the colonists. Maqoma carries a Xhosa throwing spear.


e 18

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William Hodson, British agent of conquest, 1849

William Hodson was typical of the fearless, ambitious young Britons that fought their way to success on behalf of the British Empire in the 19th century, He was just 24, when this son of a clergyman, educated at Rugby, fought his first battle against some of the toughest opponents of the empire in India during the Sikh War of 1845,

Of his experience during the battle of Mudki. he wrote: "In the most dense dust and smoke, our sepoys again gave way and broke, It was a fearful crisis, but the bravery of the English regiments saved us", A ball (from a shell I fancy) struck my leg below the knee, but happily spared the bone, and only inflicted a flesh wound, I was knocked down twice-once by a shell burst so close to me as to kill the men behind me, and once by the explosion of a mine .. ."

With the end of the first Sikh War, Hodson joined an elite group of officers who administered the new territory under the British Resident. Sir Henry Lawrence, He established the Corps of Guides as a police force to secure the north-west frontier and equipped them with what was the first khaki uniform, When the Sikhs rose again in rebellion against British rule, Hodson led his Corps into the conflict,

Hodson describes one such skirmish in 1849: "I then went at him (a Sikh) myself", He instantly rushed to meet me like a tiger, closed with me, yelling 'Wah Gooroo ji'. and accompanying each shout with a typical blow of his tutwor (sword), I guarded the three or four first. but he pressed closely to my horse's rein that I could not get a fair cut in return, At length, I pressed in my turn upon him so sharply that he missed his blow, and I caught his tutwor backhanded with my bridle hand. wrenched it from him, and cut him down with the right, having received no further injury than a severe cut across the fingers","

With such close-hand encounters, it is not surprising that Hodson won the nickname of "the Company Blade," The second Sikh war ended with the entire Punjab annexed to the British Empire, The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, portrays Hodson in single-combat with a Sikh in 1849,

Sadly, for Hodson, politics entered his career and he was accused of mismanaging the Corps of Guides, On top of this, came the most notorious incident of his life, During the Indian Mutiny of 1857,

Plate 79

Bahadur Shah Zafar of Delhi had proclaimed himself the Emperor of India, Sepoys, civilians, and other Indian dignitaries rallied to his side, After much hard fighting, the British slowly struck back and two columns proceeded towards Delhi. killing and hanging Indians along the way, Outside Delhi. the British established a base to the north of the city and the siege lasted from the 1 July to 31 August,

The arrival of heavy siege guns did not guarantee an easy victory and the rebel sepoys inside Delhi vastly outnumbered the British, But eventually the British broke through the Kashmiri gate and embarked on a savage week of street fighting, When the British reached the Red Fort. Bahadur Shah had already fled to Humayun's tomb, Many citizens were slaughtered, avenging the massacre of European men, women and children in the previous months, This was the bitter tone of the conflict and goes someway to explaining Hodson's action during the campaign,

It was Hodson who managed to arrest Bahadur Shah at the tomb he had fled to, It was a great triumph but then Hodson went on to arrest his three sons-Mirza Moghul. Mirza Khizr Sultan, and Mirza Abu Bokr, After fruitless hours of negotiation, Hodson lost his patience, Private Joseph Bowater of the 6th Dragoon Guards takes up the story:

"Hodson halted his troop, told them the princes were the men who had originated the rebellion and given orders for the European women and children to be foully butchered, and that he had determined that they should die, He ordered them to get down from the cart and strip to the waist, Then, as they remounted and huddled in the vehicle, he shot them dead with his own carbine .. , That was Hodson's way of teaching retribution,"

Even in the angry mood of the Mutiny, this was thought to be going too far. Shortly afterwards, again leading his men from the front, Hodson was shot down as he tried to wrench open a door to rescue the British garrison at Iucknow


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Rani of Jhansi defies British conquerors, 1858

In English history, it is known as the Indian Mutiny, but in India it is called the First War of Independence. The events of the Indian rebellion of 1857 began most notoriously because a rumor spread that the cartridges used in the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle were covered by a greased membrane which had to be bitten before loaded. It was claimed that the membrane was greased by pig or cow fat. which was offensive to Hindu and Muslim sepoy soldiers employed in the British Army. It was claimed by the British, however, that they had replaced the cartridges with new ones, which needed grease from beeswax and vegetable oils, but the rumor persisted. Once the rebellion began there were a host of other resentments against the British, which native rulers and soldiers exploited.

Sepoys joined by prisoners released from prison ran riot in Meerut in May 1857 and slaughtered many British civilians and soldiers, The settlement was burned. The rebels then marched on DeihL where they were joined by other Indians from the local market and attacked and captured the Red Fort. The rebels then demanded that the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II reclaim his throne. At first he was reluctant. but once he agreed he became the leader of the rebellion. The rebels then massacred every European and Christian in the city.

The rebellion mainly erupted in the northern and central areas of India, including DeihL Lucknow, Kanpur, Bareilly and Jhansi. Jhansi was a Maratha-ruled princely state, but when the Raja of Jhansi died without a male heir in 1853, the realm was vulnerable to being taken over by the British Empire. The Raja's widow was Rani Lakshmi Bai and she protested most strongly at the annexation.

Rani was born on 19 November 1835. Her mother died when she was just four and her education was taken over by her father, who taught her horse riding, sword fighting and shooting. When she married the Raja of Jhansi in 1842, she had one son, but he died, and later an adopted son also died. This was all the excuse the British needed to depose her after her husband's death-there was no male heir. In March 1854, they presented her with an annual pension and ordered her to leave the Jhansi fort. It was a humiliation she would not forget.

When the Mutiny broke out, Jhansi quickly became a center of rebellion. A small group of British officials took refuge in Jhcnsl's fort

Plate 20

and Rani negotiated their evacuation, but when the British left the fort. they were massacred. It was a terrible act of treachery for which Britain held her personally responsible.

In September and October 1857, Rani led the successful defense of Jhansi against invading armies from the neighboring rajas of Datio and Orchha. In March 1858, the avenging British Army advanced on Jhansi and laid siege to the city. Rani armed all the local population irrespective of their religion or caste, and women received military training, as well as carrying ammunition and supplying food to the soldiers. But despite a very active defense, the British stormed the city. Once inside, they discovered that Rani had escaped disguised as a man.

In June, Rani led a group of Maratha rebels in an assault of the fortress city of Gwalior, capturing it from its Sindhia rulers, allies of the British. Three weeks later, the British began their assault on the city. Rani led the defensive bravely, riding her horse along the fortress ramparts, but she was caught in a hail of British musket fire and died. Gwalior fell to the British three days later. Rani was only 22, but her reputation has survived as the great heroine of the first struggle for India's independence. The painting opposite, by Angus McBride, shows Rani leading the defense of Gawlior on horseback, sword in hand.



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Crazy Horse, conqueror of the Northern Plains, 1816

The battle between white settlers of the American West and the Native Americans is known as the Indian Wars and was fought from the end of the American Civil War in 1865 until 1890, Much of the fighting was guerrilla raiding in which tribesmen would loot and kill settlers, which would then provoke punitive campaigns by the US Army, Conflict broke out on the Northern Plains when the Sioux and Cheyenne reacted to the invasion of their land by gold miners in the 1870s, The resulting campaign would culminate in the battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 and the greatest victory of the Indian tribesmen over US Army forces,

Crazy Horse was chief of the Oglala Sioux and one of the main Native American commanders at Little Bighorn, He had already tasted victory over the US army at the Fetterman Massacre in 1866, "Of medium height, lithe and sinewy, he was a warrior and a mystic," writes American historian Peter Newark, "in a dream his horse performed a wild and crazy dance, and so he took the name Crazy Horse, He married a Cheyenne girl and this brought him close affiliation with the tribe," In 1876, Crazy Horse led a combined force of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors and was in no mood for compromise when General George Armstrong Custer invaded Indian territory, He had already given General Crook a bloody nose at the battle of Rosebud earlier that year and when Custer then raided a Sioux and Cheyenne encampment the scene was set for a bloody contest,

The battle of Little Bighorn began on 25 June 1876 when the Seventh Cavalry, with some 700 troopers, rode upon a massive Native American encampment, "It was the largest concentration of Indians ever assembled on the plains," says Peter Newark, "containing about 10,000 to 15,000 Sioux and Cheyenne, with about 3000 to 4000 warriors", Typically, the bold and impatient Custer thought it better to attack immediately without waiting for reinforcements,

Scrambling to their horses and grabbing their weapons, Crazy Horse and his Sioux and Cheyenne warriors threw back the initial attack, forcing the US cavalry to retreat across the river to take up defensive positions on the bluffs beyond, Crazy Horse pressed forward his assault on Custer, Superior numbers of Cheyenne and Sioux warriors charged over the Little Bighorn river, A running fight followed until the remains of Custer's five companies of some 225 men were surrounded, Some panicked and shot themselves rather than face

Plate 21

mutilation at the hands of their enemies, Others dismounted to form a defensive position, but even though there was plenty of ammunition to hand, some of their guns jammed and the Indian warriors replied with a hail of arrows and rifle fire before quickly overrunning them, Bitter hand-to-hand fighting followed as the cavalrymen fought for their lives, Custer stood on the top of a hill surrounded by officers and some 40 to 50 men, None survived, The conflict barely lasted half an hour,

Major General John Gibbons later recorded the scene of the aftermath as seen by an officer reporting back to him: "As he approached the ground scattered bodies of men and horses were found, growing more numerous as he advanced, In the midst of the field a long backbone ran out obliquely back from the river, rising very gradually until it terminated in a little knoll which commanded a view of all the surrounding ground, and of the Indian camp-ground beyond the river, On each side of the backbone, and sometimes on top of it, dead men and horses were scattered along, These became more numerous as the terminating knoll was reached, and on the south-western slope of that lay brave Custer surrounded by the bodies of several of his officers and forty or fifty of his men, whilst horses were scattered about in every direction, All were stripped, and most of the bodies were scalped and mutilated","

Crazy Horse and his warriors had won a famous victory, showing the conquering white man could be beaten, but the fact remained that they could never hope to win the war, The painting opposite, by Richard Hook, reconstructs Crazy Horse as he may have looked in the 1870s, An aspect of his mystical medicine man properties is the little white stone slung under his left arm, Before acquiring it, he was wounded twice, afterwards never, Another protective stone is tied into his horse's tail. He carries a Winchester carbine and a lance of the "Crow Owner's Warrior Society" adorned with eagle and owl feathers and a complete crow skin,


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rd owl Warriors of Dahomev defy French conquerors, late 19th century

The French Empire expanded its West African interests along the Gold Coast, bringing it into conflict with the kingdom of Dahomey. When Behanzin, a new King of Dahomey, wished to demonstrate his power by taxing these French colonists, the French, in their fortified trading posts, were uninterested and repulsed several small raids. The French retaliated by sending a small army under the command of Colonel Dodds into the interior. He led a force of 150 French Marines and 800 Foreign Legionnairies, plus 1500 Senegalese riflemen and 300 Houssas under French officers. The Dahomeyan force opposing Dodds was estimated at 12,000 strong, consisting of 2000 elite Amazons, 5000 ordinary male warriors and 5000 armed slaves.

On 17 August 1892, Colonel Dodds began his march into the equatorial forest. His orders recommended the destruction of the kingdom of Dahomey once and for all. This meant a trek of over 70 miles from the coast to Abomey, the native capital. It took two weeks to get near to the River Koto running in front of it. French scouts pushed on through the densely knotted vegetation at the side of the river and in the distance they could see the huts of the King's palace at Kotopa. On the slope beyond the river, they also saw a triple line of entrenchments, with guns sited on higher ground above them. For a tribal chieftain, Behanzin had learned many lessons of European warfare. Dodds, however, decided to keep the attention of the Dahomeyan position while sending the majority of his army northwards about 3000 yards and then crosslnq the river so as to advance around the African defenses.

The battle began with the diversionary shots of two French mountain guns. The Dahomeyan artillery replied with equally accurate shooting, but their ammunition was of poor quality (European traders always anticipated native guns being turned on themselves) and did not explode on impact. Nevertheless, the solid shot forced the French artillery to retreat and the first round of the conflict went to Behanzin. In the meantime, the majority of Dodd's force was hacking its way through the jungle along the river. Dahomeyan scouts were fully aware of the Frenchman's strategy and a contingent of their elite Amazons rapidly advanced to meet them. The Amazons were armed with the latest breech-loading rifles and began to pick off the French soldiers as they descended into the tangled foliage beside the river. Many of the Amazons were expert hunters and to their deadly accuracy they added the frightening power of exploding bullets usually reserved for shooting elephants.

The French were forced back up the side of the river valley. It was the

Plate 22

most serious situation Dodds had ever faced. The water supply of his men was running short and he could not force his way across the river. Emboldened by their success, the warrior women advanced out of the bush, using giant anthills as cover. At one time, they tried to rush the French position, but were met by a fierce volley of bullets. Reluctantly, Dodds had to admit defeat and sent his men back to their main camp.

For a week, the two adversaries glared at each other across the River Koto. While Dodds awaited reinforcements, the Dahomey attacked their camp, but the raid was repulsed with heavy losses. Perhaps because he was suffering greater losses than the French imagined, the King of Dahomey then evacuated his position at Kotopa in order to bring about peace. The next day, Dodds sent his men across the main bridge on the Koto. As the head of the column passed on to the bridge, a mighty fusillade of rifles and artillery cracked open and raked the exposed French army. Furious at the Dahomeyan treachery, the French fixed bayonets and scrambled off the bridge towards them. In ferocious hand-to-hand fighting, the French battled with female and male warriors from trench to trench. In just under half an hour, the resolve of the Dahomeyan warriors was broken and the French captured the lines at Kotopa. It was the turning point of the campaign.

From then on, the fighting was bitter and relentless. In a final conflict at Yakue, the main Dahomeyan attack was launched by hundreds of prisoners and slaves who had been promised their freedom as a reward for victory. Half-drunk with gin and rum, they desperately threw themselves at the French square troop formation. The repeating rifles killed them effortlessly. On 15 November 1892, having just been promoted to the rank of general, Dodds advanced the final miles towards Abomey. As his vanguard marched through the cultivated land on the outskirts of the tribal capital, a series of explosions rent the air. A dense cloud of smoke rose above the concentration of huts. Behanzin, fleeing to the north, had destroyed his capital rather than let if fall into the hands of the French. Within a few weeks, Behanzin was captured. With his downfall, the ancient kingdom of Dahomey ceased to exist.

The painting opposite, by Angus McBride, recreates two Dahomey warriors of the late 19th century. The warrior on the right carries an imported French flintlock artillery carbine. At the bottom of the page is a large belly pouch for carrying bullets and powder. The shark headgear next to it belongs to a Dahomey Amazon armed with a blunderbuss.



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