Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Jean-Paul Marat (Biography)

Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793) was a Swiss-born physician, journalist, and French politician who actively participated in the political events of the French Revolution, which led to the abolition of the monarchy. As a leader of the radical Montagnard faction, Marat was one of the three most important men in France at the time, alongside Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre. He was stabbed to death in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday, a young Girondin supporter, on July 13, 1793.

Jean Paul Marat was born in Boudry, Switzerland, on May 24, 1743, to Giovanni Mara, a native of Cagliari, Sardinia, and Louise Cabrol, a French Huguenot from Castres. He was the second of nine children. At the age of sixteen, Marat left home and set off in search of fame and fortune. He studied medicine in Paris, then moved to London in 1765. There, he not only became a renown physician, but also wrote essays on philosophy: "A philosophical Essay on Man", published in 1773, and "Chains of Slavery", published in 1774. Finally, in 1776, Marat returned to Paris, where he became a physician to the bodyguard of the comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's youngest brother. Marat was soon in great demand as a court doctor among the aristocracy. In April 1786, he resigned his post of court doctor and devoted his energies full-time to scientific research. Nevertheless, in May 1789, on the eve of the Revolution, Marat placed his career as a scientist and doctor behind him and took up his pen on behalf of the Third Estate.

From September 1789, as editor of the newspaper "The Friend of the People", Marat became an influential voice in favor of the most radical and democratic measures, particularly in October, when the royal family was forced by a mob to leave Versailles and move to Paris. He particularly advocated preventive measures against aristocrats, whom he claimed were plotting to destroy the Revolution. Early in 1790 he was forced to flee to England after publishing attacks on Jacques Necker, the king's finance minister; three months later he was back, his fame now sufficient to give him some protection against reprisal. He did not relent but directed his criticism against such moderate Revolutionary leaders as the marquis de Lafayette, the comte de Mirabeau, and Jean-Sylvain Bailly, mayor of Paris. He continued to warn the revolutionaries against royalist exiles who were organizing counterrevolutionary activities and urging the other European monarchs to intervene in France and restore the full power of Louis XVI.

In 1792, he talked about his wish to see a new dictatorship installed where the true values of the Revolution will be implemented. His extremist ideas were accused to have led to the massacre of September 1792. That same month, the monarchy was abolished as Marat was elected to the National Convention where he sat with the "Montagnards". He renamed his famous newspaper to "le journal de la republique francaise" (the journal of the French republic). In 1793, he was elected president of the Jacobins club and asked for the destitution of the Girondins, whom he believed where enemies of the republicanism. On the other side, the Girondins attacked the dictatorship of the Montagnards and their famous leaders, Robespierre, Danton and Marat.

The battle between to two parties ended on June 2nd, 1793. The Convention decided to eliminate the Girondins. This was a very important victory for Marat, who became even more popular. On July 13, 1793 Marat was murdered by Charlotte Corday, a Girondin sympathizer, who was guillotined on July 17, 1793 for the murder. Robespierre, leader of the National Convention gave him a national honor with grandiose funeral. On September 21, 1794 Marat was officially declared an "Immortal" and exhumed to the Pantheon.

Battle of Goose Green (Falklands)

The Battle of Goose Green was a fought between British paratroopers, commanded by Lt Colonel Herbert Jones, and the Argentine Army's 12th Infantry Regiment, under Lt Colonel Italo Piaggi, on May 28, 1982, on east Falkland, during the Falklands War. Although they were outnumbered, the British forces managed to capture the Argentinean forward positions on Darwin hillocks and Goose Green, seizing the small airfield. It was the first ground victory of the war for the British. During the battle, Lt Col Herbert Jones got killed in action and Major Chris Keeble took over the command.

In May 1982, it was autumn in the southern hemisphere; it was very cold as razor-sharp winds blew hard from the southwest. But this cold and humid weather conditions had a more negative effect on the Argentinians rather than on the British, since the bulk of the enemy forces was composed of 18 years old conscripts who had only had two months of military training in the warm sub-tropical province of Corrientes. The 12th Infantry Regiment had been deployed in area around Goose Green by mid April and had lately been reinforced by a well-trained company of the 25th Regiment, totaling 1,200 men.

The British 2nd Battalion (2 Para) consisted of 700 professional paratroopers divided in five companies; on May 21, they had landed on the beachhead of San Carlos bay that had been secured by elements of 3 Commando Brigade. On May 27, the British Para advanced in three columns towards Darwin hills. At approximately 03:00 hours of May 28, after naval bombardment from HMS Arrow rained down on the area, the British paratroopers launched ferocious attacks on the machine gun nests located on top of the hillocks.


The first Argentine position to be taken by the Paras was Coronation Ridge, where Lance-Corporal Bingley got killed in action when he tried to take a machine gun nest. The savage fighting raged on for hours as tracers, artillery fire, and flare guns lit up the night. As he charged up a slope to capture an Argentine trench, Lt Col Jones was cut down by machine gun fire from a nearby hillock. However, by 10:00 hours on the morning of May 28, the British paratroopers had succeeded in taking Darwin hills. Then, they launched a final assault on the airfield of Goose Green, which was captured after fierce fighting.

At the end of the day, about 50 Argentines had gotten killed and 160 wounded as most of the conscripts ran away in panic during the battle towards Stanley, leaving behind the non-commissioned and commissioned officers to do the fighting. The British suffered 181 casualties, of which only 17 got killed in action.


Photo of British 2nd Battalion soldiers taken after the battle

Battle of Caporetto (WW1)

The Battle of Caporetto was a World War I battle fought from October 24 to November 10, 1917, between the Italian Army and the Austro-Hungarian and German forces, on the Isonzo River, near the town of Caporetto (Kobarid). During this military engagement, the German stormtrooper units were able to break through the Italian front line and rout the Italian infantry. The German stormtroopers proved to be very effective, taking the Italians completely by surprise.

The Italian Army had obtained a number of victories around the Isonzo area of northeastern Italy, but none of these successes had been decisive and they had also been costly in terms of manpower. After the 11th Battle of Isonzo, there was a general concern among Germany's military commanders that their allies here might falter leaving Germany facing a soft-underbelly on her southern front. Under pressure from the German commander in chief, Paul von Hindenburg, the Austro-Hungarian commander Arz von Straussenberg decided to launch a combined mass attack on the front near Caporetto, which was the weakest point of the Italian front line.

Under the cover of mist, the assault started on October 24, 1917. Although the Italian commander Luigi Cadorna had learned through Aerial observations that a build up had been taking place, the attack took him entirely by surprise. Cadorna ordered immediately a defensive line. But the commander Capello at Caporetto decided to launch a series of counter-attacks that proved to be very costly and unsuccessful. Adopting infiltration tactics, the German units advanced 25 km on the first day. The following days, the central thrust carried out by the Germans threw the Italian forces into disarray, forcing the Italians to pull out men from other sectors to reinforce the central area, leaving gaps through which the German and Austro-Hungarian forces poured through.

This forward movement was so fast that the supply lines were overstretched, rendering the Central Powers forces unable to relaunch another attack against the Italian Army, which had fallen back to the Piave River near Venice. The Battle of Caporetto and the ensuing withdrawal had a great impact on the Italian Army as they had lost 320,000 men; 270,000 lost as prisoners, about 23,000 dead, and 28,000 wounded.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Restauración en Francia (1815)

Luego de la derrota definitiva de Napoleón Bonaparte en Waterloo, el gobierno de Francia quedó provisionalmente en manos del ministro Josef Fouché. De esta manera, Luis XVIII pudo regresar a Paris y el día 8 de julio de 1815, fue restaurado en el trono por los países vencedores (Inglaterra, Prusia, Rusia y Austria).

Los ejércitos de las monarquías europeas aliadas contra Napoleón ocuparon Francia y durante varias semanas se dedicaron a cometer todo tipo de saqueos y desmanes. En el mes de noviembre, Luis XVIII debió firmar el Segundo Tratado de Paris, el cual imponía condiciones más severas que el primero. Francia perdió sus conquistas napoleónicas, quedando con sus fronteras de 1790, siendo modificadas en favor de Prusia, Austria y Cerdeña. El país galo fue obligado a pagar una indemnización de guerra de 700 millones de francos, debilitándolo económicamente.

Gobierno de Luis XVIII - terror blanco

El monarca francés de la casa de los Borbones decidió gobernar con moderación, restableciendo la Constitución de 1814. Sin embargo, como el país estaba sacudido por problemas económicos y políticos, los realistas culparon de todos los males a los republicanos y bonapartistas, iniciando contra ellos una violenta persecución denominada terror blanco. Durante el mismo, varios militares que se habían destacado durante el Imperio Napoleónico fueron asesinados. El mariscal Michel Ney fue juzgado por una corte marcial y luego ejecutado. Mientras tanto en Marsella, las turbas enardecidas mataron a numerosos soldados veteranos de los ejércitos napoleónicos.

Para pacificar la nación y calmar las aguas, Luis XVIII decidió castigar estos excesos de sus seguidores, iniciando una política de reconciliación. Con ésto, los realistas se dividieron en dos facciones: los constitucionalistas y los ultrarrealistas. Estos últimos estaban conducidos por el conde de Artois, quien era hermano del rey, bregando por el restablecimiento del sistema de monarquía absoluta. En ese entonces, se formó un tercer partido, el liberal, que agrupaba a los bonapartistas y burqueses ilustrados, que habían surgido como consecuencia de la Revolución Francesa.

Las persecuciones contra los bonapartistas y republicanos se reanudaron cuando Luis XVIII nombró ministro al conde Villele, quien era ultrarrealista. Los liberales por su parte respondieron con sublevaciones infructuosas.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Battle of Schleiz (summary)

The Battle of Schleiz was fought between a unit of the French Army, commanded by Jean-Baptiste Drouet, and Prussian forces, led by Bogislav Tauentzien, near Schleiz, Germany, on October 9, 1806, during the Napoleonic Wars. It was the first military engagement of the Fourth Coalition War in which the French came out victorious.

On 15 February, 1806, Napoleon had forced Prussia into agreeing to transfer several of her territories to France and France's allies in return for Hanover, which France had previously taken. On July 25, Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine, a French satellite in Germany. In the face of these French aggressions, the pro-war faction at the Prussian court had convinced King Frederick William, who was determined to go to war against Napoleon.

Brief Summary of the battle

On October 9, 1806, the first clash occurred between the troops of Drouet and Tauentzien near the Oschitz Wood, a belt of timber which lies south of Schleiz. In the morning Drouet's division advanced on Schleiz and engaged Tauentzien's outposts. When Tauentzien became aware of the strength of the advancing French forces, he ordered a tactical withdrawal of his division. Then, Field Marshall Joachim Murat assumed command of the troops and began an aggressive pursuit. A battalion-sized Prussian force to the west was cut off and suffered heavy losses. The Prussians and Saxons retreated north, reaching Auma that evening.

Napoleonic Wars (summary)

The Napoleonic Wars were a succession of armed struggles between France, ruled by Napoleon, and coalitions of European nations governed by absolute monarchies whose objectives were the defeat of Napoleon and the restoration of the French monarchy under the Bourbons. Being a continuation of the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802), the Napoleonic Wars began in 1803 when Great Britain declared war on France after the implementation of the Treaty of Amiens had failed. This immediately led to the War of the Third Coalition (1803-1806), whose important military phases included the Ulm Campaign, pitting France against Austria; the Battle of Austerlitz, in which Napoleon decisively defeated the Russo-Austrian Army; and the Italian Campaign with the invasion of Naples.

Until 1808, Napoleon had always come out victorious, but when he took the decision to invade Spain his problems began as the English-Spanish armies and guerrillas in the Iberian Peninsula would prove that his Grande Armée (Great Army) could be beaten. The Napoleonic Wars took a turn for the worst in 1812, when Napoleon Bonaparte initiated the Russian Campaign which turned out to be a complete military failure as he lost more than 450,000 men, frozen to death in the severe Russian winter conditions, or killed by Russian Cossacks.

Napoleon was forced to abdicate for the first time after his defeat in the Battle of Leipzig (1813) during the War of the Sixth Coalition and was exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean. However, he escaped from the island and returned to the continent to begin his Hundred Days Campaign. Nevertheless, his new army was composed mostly of inexperienced and lightly trained troops as most of the best and fine French soldiers and officers had been killed in past battles, especially during the Russian Campaign. The last battle of the Napoleonic Wars was the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, in which the French General was thoroughly defeated by the Seventh Coalition forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington.

The Napoleonic Wars had a deep impact on the future political and military development in Europe. Having invaded Austria and Germany, destroying the Holly Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation, an Old Order, Napoleon created great resentment in the German people as his armies committed a lot of abuses. This caused the emergence of German Romanticism, and romanticism in Germany was nationalism. Also, the defeat of Napoleon and the bankruptcy of France by years of war, meant the rise of Great Britain as a new empire, exerting political hegemony in the world for more than a century.

Napoleon issuing final orders at the Battle of Austerlitz, which was one of his most prominent victory in his career. Here at the apex of glory, he defeated both the Austrian and Russian armies on December 2, 1805.

Map of Europe in 1810 at the zenith of his Empire

Thermidorian Reaction

The Thermidorian Reaction was an open rebellion against Maximilien Robespierre, Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, and other extremists who led the Committee of Public Safety during the French Revolution. Robespierre and Saint-Just started and led the Reign of Terror period (1793-1794), during which 30,000 French were executed by guillotine. The Thermidorian Reaction took place on July 27, 1794, which was on 9 Thermidor Year II of the French Revolutionary calendar. It was initiated by Jean Lambert Tallien (Montagnard), who impugned Saint-Just when he was reading a report to the Committee of Public Safety; it was followed by a vote to execute Maximilien Robespierre, Antoine Louis de Saint-Just and several other leading members of the Terror. Prominent figures of Thermidor include Paul Barras, Jean Lambert Tallien and Joseph Fouché. The coup was a reassertion of the rights of the National Convention against the Committee of Public Safety and of France as a whole against the Paris Commune.

The main cause which led to the events of 9 Thermidor (27 July, 1794) was a Montagnard conspiracy, led by Jean Lambert Tallien and Bourdon de l'Oise, which was gradually coalescing, and was to come to pass at the time when the Montagnards had finally swayed the deputies of the Right over to their side. Robespierre and Saint-Just were themselves Montagnards, too. The leftist Joseph Fouché played a large role in the conspiracy. Fouché was likely to be convicted and executed for treason and atheism, since Robespierre himself was about to denounce him in a speech to the Convention, which would have been delivered the day after the coup d'Etat (28 July). Dwelling in the shadows, he made great efforts to convince the main surviving leftists and moderates that they were meant to be the next victims of Robespierre's dictatorship, thus uniting them against Robespierre, and by those means saving his own life.

On 9 Thermidor (27 July), as Saint-Just was in the midst of reading a report to the Committee of Public Safety, he was interrupted by Jean Lambert Tallien, who attacked Saint-Just with vitriolic words, and then went on to denounce the tyranny of Robespierre. The attack was taken up by Billaud-Varenne, and Saint-Just\'s typical eloquence fled him, leaving him subject to a withering verbal assault until Robespierre leapt to the defense of Saint-Just and himself. Cries went up of "Down with the tyrant! Arrest him!" Robespierre then made his appeal to the deputies of the Right, "Deputies of the Right, men of honor, men of virtue, give me the floor, since the assassins will not". However, the Right was unmoved, and an order was made to arrest Robespierre and his followers.

On 27 July 1794, the Thermidorian Reaction led to a skirmish between the Convention troops and Robespierre followers, who holed up with their leader in the Hotel de Ville building. After fierce fighting, the officers arrested Robespierre, who was seriously wounded in his jaw, Louis de Saint-Just, and other leading Jacobins. The new government was predominantly made up of Girondists who had survived the Terror, and after taking power, they took revenge as well by persecuting even those Jacobins who had helped to overthrow Robespierre, banning the Jacobin Club, and executing many of its former members in what was known as the White Terror.

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