Seasonal Cost of Military Operations during the Seventeenth Century
Even during the twentieth century it was unusual for armies to undertake operations in the winter, and prior to that it was rarer still. But oddly, the cost of maintaining an army seems to have been higher in winter than in summer. A good notion of the seasonal outlays involved may be gained from looking at the experience of the Piedmontese Army during Nine Year’s War (1689-1698), sometimes known as the War of the English Succession.
During this conflict, the Piedmontese were generally allied against France (though they did switch sides right at the end. Their army was one of the better small ones in Europe, and much sought after as an ally. As Piedmont is a mountainous region, “winter” generally lasted from November through April, and the “campaigning season” from May through October
Despite reducing activity and to some extent personnel on active duty during winter, the cost of maintaining the troops was actually higher. Although the expenditure of ammunition was virtually nil, and there were fewer troops on hand, the army not only had to supply additional fuel to those personnel remaining on active duty, but normally used the season to train new recruits and issue new equipment.
|Military Expenditures, Piedmont, 1691-1696|
|1691-1692|| 3.31*|| 2.80|
|1692-1693|| 4.80|| 2.88|
|1693-1694|| 5.31|| 3.74|
|1694-1695|| 5.72|| 4.20|
|1695-1696|| 5.98|| 4.62|
|*In millions of lire.|
Scalp Cane Returns from the Dead
Scalp Cane was a Cheyenne warrior. When his brother was killed by the Crow, Scalp Cane resolved to die avenging him.
Of course as part of the ritual of Cheyenne culture, he had to let people know his intentions. So, getting on his horse, he mounted an old man behind him, and they rode through the village. As they went, the old man loudly proclaimed Scalp Cane’s intention to die seeking vengeance, crying things like, “We have Scalp Cane here with us today. Look at him now, you Cheyenne! Tomorrow he will have left us.”
This ritual proclaiming him as someone preparing to die in action, permitted Scalp Cane to take special privileges. He could eat from anyone’s food, strike those who got in his way, and so forth, without offense being permitted.
As a war party was forming to go after the foe, Scalp Cane natural went with them. But the Crow proved tough opponents. The Cheyenne soon found themselves fleeing for safety.
Among them was Scalp Cane.
Ever afterwards, when one of the Cheyenne warriors encountered Scalp Cane, he would greet him loudly, saying “Hello, you’re back? You don’t look like a ghost.”
Kaiser Bill Wins Another One
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was fond of ending the army’s annual maneuvers by leading a grand charge, usually of cavalry, but occasionally by infantry. For example, during the maneuvers of 1888 he led two divisions of cavalry to “rout” the “enemy.” Of course, being a bulb of notably low wattage, he did occasionally cause problems. For example, in 1893 he became disoriented during the “battle” and led his cavalry against his own infantry. But the following year he was again in proper form, and led his side to victory at the head of 60 squadrons of cavalry.
His successes were occasionally helped along by having the “enemy” troops switch sides – indicated by arm bands of different colors – in the midst of one of his attacks.
In any case, in September of 1904, Wilhelm decided to close the annual maneuvers with a grand assault by the Guard Corps. With sword in hand mounted on his steed, the Kaiser led the packed infantry of the Guard in an unsupported assault against the entrenched troops of the IX Army Corps, driving them from their positions at the point of the bayonet, without a shot being fired.
As one major “captured” during the grand assault observed, “Why do you Guardsmen bother carrying weapons, since you don’t need them?”
Of course, this was hardly the proper way to prepare the Imperial Army for war. And while his antics say much about Wilhelm, they say even more about the alleged professionalism of Alfred von Schlieffen, the Chief of the Great General Staff. Although he privately expressed reservations about the Kaiser’s games, Schlieffen, another supposed military genius, made no effort to put an end to them. Surprisingly, it was the allegedly inept Helmuth von Moltke the Younger who managed to get the Kaiser him to stop meddling in maneuvers.
It seems that one day Moltke quietly approached his Supreme War Lord and resolved the whole matter. Apparently he said something like, “Although Your Majesty and I both know you really can command the troops brilliantly, there are some small minded-people who might claim we’ve rigged the game to make you look good.” This argument seems to have convinced the Supreme War Lord to lay off meddling in the maneuvers..