"Duke it Out"
The phrase “duke it out”, meaning “fight”, appears to derive ultimately from a nickname of one of the Great Captains, the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852).
It seems that the Duke had a rather prominent nose, so distinctive, in fact, that his troops often referred to him as "Old Nosey". So the word “duke” soon became a synonym for “nose” in working class English slang, attested during Wellington’s own lifetime. That, in turn, led to the rise of the threat “bust your duke”, meaning “punch your nose”, and thus to “duke buster” as slang for “fist”, which was soon shortened to “duke”.
By further evolution, the phrase “put up your dukes” developed as an invitation to fight and “duke it out” became slang for “fight”.
While some etymologists apparently do not agree with this derivation, it’s worth noting that there is in London a mini-monument to the ducal proboscis, suggesting how notable it was.
Col. Carbuccia Honors an Old Soldier
The scion of a Corsican family with a long tradition of military service, Jean-Luc Carbuccia (1808-1854) graduated from Saint-Cyr in 1825 and was commissioned a sous lieutenant in the 17th Regiment of the Line. In 1830 he participated in the French invasion of Algeria, where he would spend most of his military career, punctuated by short tours of garrison or staff duty in France. An outstanding soldier who led from the front, Carbuccia eventually accumulated three wounds, four citations, and the Knight’s Cross of the Légion d'honneur, while earning the respect of such notable soldiers as the Duke of Aumale and Marshal Thomas Robert Bugeaud, Governor of Algeria.
Promoted colonel at age 40, on August 31, 1848 Carbuccia took command of the Foreign Legion’s 2nd Infantry Regiment. This made him commander of the garrison at Batna, in the east central part of Algeria, controlling the caravan route through the Aures Mountains from the coast into the Sahara.
The assignment suited Carbuccia. A devoted student of ancient history and a gifted amateur archaeologist, the post was in historic territory, near the site of the Roman town of Lambaesis, capital of the ancient province of Numidia, which had been for centuries the home base of the legio III Augusta. Carbuccia initiated evacuations at Lambaesis, and his report, Archéologie de la subdivision de Batna earned him a medal from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres; Since his troops often helped him in his work, Carbuccia accepted the honor on behalf of the regiment.
Among the ruins at Lambaesis was the tomb of Titus Flavius Maximus, who had been prefect of the III Augusta some time in the Second Century. The pyramidal tomb, about seven meters high, had been erected by Flavius’s heir, the Centurion Julius Secundus, who had been left 12,000 sesterces for the purpose, an enormous sum, ten times the annual pay of an ordinary legionary. The monument had managed to endure the ages largely unharmed, but was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1849.
Feeling a certain connection with Flavius, who was, after all, by way of being his “predecessor” in command of the garrison at Lambaesis, Carbuccia decided to restore the man’s tomb. The ruins were carefully disassembled, each stone being numbered and catalogued. During the deconstruction of the tomb, Flavius’ ashes were found in a very deteriorated leaden urn. Carbuccia arranged for the ashes to be encased in a zinc canister, which he replaced in the tomb as it was carefully rebuilt stone-by-stone. In the end, only one stone was found to be missing, and Carbuccia replaced it with one that carried an inscription describing the restoration of the tomb. The work done, Carbuccia turned out the garrison of Batna and held a formal funeral parade, with bands playing and the firing of salutes.
Carbuccia’s archaeological work by no means interfered with his military career. He commanded his regiment with distinction during the siege of Zaatcha (July 16-November 26, 1849), a place renowned for holding out against a protracted investment by the Bey of Constantine a decade or so earlier. Carbuccia also took part in the campaign to subdue the Berbers of the Nemencha district of the Aures Mountains in May and June of 1850, during which he found time to conduct an archeological survey of the region, which he published as Description des ruines situées sur la route suivie par la colonne du général de Saint Arnaud, mai-juin 1850 dans les Nemenchas et dans l’Aurès. In 1853, Carbuccia led a column of some 200 legionnaires experimentally mounted on camels in a campaign against some Saharan tribes, a highly successful innovation that soon become common practice for desert operations.
In 1854 Carbuccia was promoted to general de brigade and transferred to a staff assignment in Paris. As the Crimean War had just broken out, he requested active duty and was given command of a brigade composed of the two Foreign Legion regiments. About a week after landing at Gallipoli, Carbuccia came down with cholera and died within a few hours on July 17, 1854.
Praenominal Note: The praenomen of Flavius Maximus, who but for his tomb would be unknown to history, is sometimes erroneously given as “Quintus”
Book Note: Although Carbuccia has apparently not attracted any biographers, there’s quite a bit about him in Douglas Porch’s excellent The French Foreign Legion (New York: HarperCollins, 1991)
Gunpowder, invented in China sometime between AD 900 and 1100, probably reached Europe by way of the Arabs in the thirteenth century. Although today we often think of gunpowder as having had a revolutionary impact on warfare, it was little more than a novelty for many years, whether in China, the Moslem world, or Europe. Though gunpowder began to have some use in sieges during the thirteenth century, the first known appearance of cannon on a European battlefield was at Crecy (1346), with no known effect. By the century's end heavy bombards were capable of smashing down walls while smaller cannon began proving of some use on the battlefield as well. By the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century firearms were sufficiently advanced as to provide an overwhelming advantage when used against peoples who were entirely unfamiliar with them. This sparked the era of “Gunpowder Empires.” The easiest way to define a gunpowder empire is to say that it was one that had firearms sufficiently sophisticated as to give it such a decisive advantage over someone who did not possess them, that the latter were totally overwhelmed.
- The Ottomans in the Balkans and the Middle East beginning from about 1450.
- The Portuguese in Africa and the Indian Ocean from about 1500.
- The Muscovites in Russia from about 1500.
- The Saadi Moroccans in northwest Africa and the Sahel from about 1500
- The Safavids in Persia from 1500.
- The Spanish in Mexico from 1519 and in Peru from 1526.
- The Mughals in greater India from about 1526.
These empires lasted for varying periods, but all endured for at least a century, and some arguably into the twentieth century, as in the cases of Portuguese, the Ottomans, and the Muscovites, their fates largely decided by combinations of internal and external pressures.
Of course, in some areas gunpowder empires did not arise. For, example neither the British nor the French were able to subdue the indigenous peoples of North America by sheer firepower. In part this was probably due to the fact that Indian populations were relatively thin and unsettled, thus providing no “strategic” objectives which might be threatened or seized and thus force a decisive confrontation. In addition, in their competition to secure First Nations’ support against each other, the British and the French were both quick to begin supplying firearms to the Native Americans, who proved adept at integrating them into their traditional ways of war, a development that also occurred in New Zealand, among the Maori.