Introduction to Battles
Ah, battles. Thousands of men meeting in the field of glory to decide the fate of Empires! What could be more exciting! Well, lots of things, most of which do not result in mass dismemberment and death, but I digress. This is my introductory post about battles, and possibly wars. Rather than clutter up my limited posts on same with repeated caveats and codicils, I putting them all here. Henceforth I will be placing a link to this post at the beginning of any battle and war post, for the edification of those who haven’t stumbled across Doug’s Darkworld before.
First caveat: Everything the gentle reader has ever seen on TV or in movies about battles and wars is complete balderdash. This would even include the History Channel, which has gone downhill since I wrote this post. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself, sometimes I think the world portrayed in Idiocracy is actually coming to pass before my horrified eyes. At least blogging keeps me from running screaming into the streets in frustration. Mostly.
Second Caveat: Unlike how they are portrayed in mass media, wars and battles are very organized affairs. Not always of course, humans are humans after all, but for the most part the side with the best plan and the best trained and practised soldiers had a huge advantage. Movies tend to show all battles as two big groups in a field fighting it out. While of course this did happen, but usually only when both sides were confident of victory. And even then it wasn’t the mass mob action portrayed in the media. In reality, both armies would usually march around the countryside for an entire season (or years even) trying to create a situation where they could fight the battle on their terms.
OK, those are the big two things to keep in mind. Now, when I write about a battle, I am trying to tell the story of the battle. While I strive for accuracy, I am not trying so much as to give a detailed account of the battle, as I am trying to convey succinctly the events of the day, especially the mood and setting. So while I will always be as factual as possible, I may use poetic license in deciding what details to include or not include in each story. It also should be noted that the details of even modern battles are sometimes in dispute, and when we get to medieval or older sources, well, accounts of a battle can vary considerably. I have done my best to stick to facts there seem to be common agreement about, and if there is major dispute over some aspect of a battle, I have tried to mention that too. Lastly, if I have left out some important facet of a battle, that’s what comments are for. If I have to edit a post because some sharp eyed reader points out an egregious error or omission, it wouldn’t be the first time.
In other words, my posts on battles should not necessarily be regarded as literal history, they are the stories of these battles. We may not remember most of them today, but at the time they were life and death, literally. These were real people with real lives, and their deaths were real deaths. And these people were related to the people alive today, if the gentle reader is of European ancestry especially, they lost family at just about every battle I will write about. These are the stories of how and why our ancestors met and fought in blood drenched fields. The stories of their accomplishments … and what they didn’t accomplish. For good or for ill, battles are integral and crucial threads in the tapestry of our past. The threads from every battle lead to the present, understanding them can yield understanding of our present. Our ancestors died to bring us this present, the least we can did is to try and understand why.
“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,”
— L. P. Hartley (1895-1972)
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is being used for educational purposes, it is not being used for profit, and its use here in no way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: Unknown, possibly the German government. It shows a group of German assault guns and half-tracks advancing during the Battle of Kursk in 1943. Note the extra armour tacked onto the guns (probably Sturmgeschütz IIIs.) The Germans had to crudely upgrade a lot of existing weapons as the war progressed as newer and better Allied weapons were developed and deployed. Germany’s new weapons were slow getting into the field because of Hitler’s foolish decision to cancel all weapons programs in 1940. I chose the picture becasue it has a haunting quality. The fighting at Kursk was the last great German offensive in World War Two (not counting the Ardennes offensive in 1944 which was dwarfed in scale by the Kursk Offensive and had essentially no chance of changing the outcome of the war;) the men in this picture knew that this was their last chance to win the war. It didn’t go well, most of the men and vehicles in this picture were advancing to their doom. Some of the men probably suspected that as well. God rest their souls.)