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Short Rounds

Improbable Wars: The Austro-Papal War, 1708-1709

In the middle of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), with Europe split into two warring camps over whether a French-supported Bourbon or an Austrian-supported Hapsburg should ascend the Spanish throne, Pope Clement XI (r. 1700-17.) secretly decided to abandoned his neutrality to favor the Bourbon claimant, and attempted to engineer the defection of some of the petty Italian states from the Hapsburg to the Bourbon camp.

This came about because the Pope was annoyed with the Austrians for having marched through the eastern regions of the Papal States in 1707 in order to invade Naples, a Spanish viceroyalty held by the Bourbonist claimant.  In addition, since Naples had been a papal fief for more than 500 years, it irked Clement that the Austrians had decided to take it without asking his permission.

Now, Clement's change of heart soon came to light, resulting in tensions with the Hapsburgs, to the point where the pope threatened to excommunicate the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph I of Hapsburg (r. 1690-1711).  With Clement becoming intransigent, the Austrians decided to threaten war.  Clement refused to back down.

In 1708, an Austrian army invaded the Papal States.  It wasn't much of an invasion,.  As the Austrians advanced, slowly, because they really didn't want to fight the pope, the outnumbered and outclassed papal army retreated on every occasion that a fight might have occurred, earning itself the derisive nickname “gli Papagallini – the Papal Chickens.”  By late 1708, the Austrians had occupied most of the eastern Papal States.  On January 15, 1709, Clement made peace with Joseph I, and acknowledged the Hapsburg Charles III as king of Spain.

FootNote: The Anglo-Papal War.  Earlier in 1708, Pope Clement had rather openly supported a Jacobite attempt to initiate an uprising in Scotland (the "Second" or maybe "Third Jacobite War").  So when the Austrians went to "war" with the pope, since Britain was allied to Austria, Sir John Leake, commanding the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Squadron, threatened to bombard Civita Vecchia, the principal port of the Papal Sates.  Since the Austrians didn't want the pope completely humiliated, they dissuaded Leake from this action, and he confined himself to supporting their invasion by taking many French and Italian prizes off the coast, and conveying support to support Austrian forces in Naples.

 

Animal Transport

Perhaps the most British general of the Victorian age, Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913) was so capable that he was satirized by Gilbert and Sullivan as "The very model of a modern major general," and the phrase "All Sir Garnet" came to mean "everything's right and proper." 

Wolseley was commissioned in the British Army in 1852 and rose quickly, campaigning against Burmese, Russians, Indians, Canadian insurgents, Fenians, Ashanti, Egyptians, and even Sudanese, almost always with success; his attempt to relieve Khartoum in 1884 was the only notable failure, and he was put in command far too late to save the day.  Later made the commander-in-chief of the British Army, Wolseley initiated many reforms, including the restructuring of the regimental system in the 1870s and the creation of a reserve system in the 1890s.

But it was Wolseley's skill as at organization and logistics that underpinned his success.  When he took the field, everything quite literally was ready. 

In 1869 Wolseley, attempting to help other officers become better at their craft, wrote The Soldier’s Pocket-book for Field Service.  This was a thick handbook that covered everything an officer needed to know to help plan and conduct a military operation, embodying Wolseley's own experience, and what he learned through extensive reading (he was also a pretty good amateur historian).

Some idea of the detail in The Soldier's Pocket-book can be seen in Wolseley's discussion of the use of animal transport, in theaters where railroads were unavailable.  Since no army in that era had to cope with so many diverse environments while on campaign as did the British Army, which rarely operated in places that had railroads, this was invaluable information.

AnimalSpeed Pack Load Draught Load Work Day
Ass * 4.0 mph 150-175 pds 900 pds 15-16 miles
Camel 2.5 300-600 1000 20
Dog * 6.5 na 160 60 by sleigh
Elephant 3.5 800-1200 8000 15-20
Horse 4.0 250-400 350 15-16
Human 2.5 40-80 120-150 4-8
Llama * 2.5 65-125 na 12-18
Mule 4.0 150-300 500 15-16
Ox 2.2 160-200 300-500 4-6
Reindeer 18 na 300 50-100 by sleigh
Note: Since Sir Garnet didn't campaign in places where some types of beasts of burden were in common use, we've added a few of these, as indicated by an asterisk. Pack Load includes weight of the pack; Draught Load includes that of the vehicle; na, not applicable for military usage.

Naturally, load limits and work day vary depending upon climate, the size, strength, and condition of the animal, and how long it's been working; horses, mules, and elephants may be able to work for 15 or so miles a day when they're fresh, but after several days of hauling heavy loads, they'll begin slowing down.

It's worth recalling that although these figures are drawn from nineteenth century experience, the world's most mechanized armies have been finding mules and horses quite useful in Afghanistan of late.

Note:  Copies of Wolseley's handbook come up for sale from time to time, The Soldier's Pocket-Book for Field Service .

 


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