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Review of Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance, 1864-70

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on May 21, 2015

Gabriele Esposito, Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance, 1864-70: Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay & Argentina (Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2015). Maps, Illustrations, Photographs, Index. 48pp. $17.95.

This book provides a succinct overview of one of the bloodiest conflicts in South American history, a war that devastated the population of Paraguay. Gabriele Esposito did an outstanding job of illustrating the significance of the War of the Triple Alliance to military history in Latin America. Esposito’s text on the various phases and forces of the war was aided by illustrator Giuseppe Rava, who provided the artistic talent to the work. Part of Osprey Publishing’s Men at Arms series, this work represents an important contribution to Latin American history for those interested in a brief overview of this historical event.

Esposito examined all aspects of the conflict, including its background. He noted its unusual origins, as Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano Lopez sought to cement his place as the Napoleon of Latin America and conquer neighboring territory to allow his landlocked nation access to the Atlantic. Having served as commander of the Paraguayan army for the previous twenty years, Lopez’s ambition caused him to lead his nation into a disastrous conflict.

After brief overviews of the major campaigns and battles of the war, the work then turns to the specifics of the opposing forces, including equipment, leadership, and organization. The text was aided by rich drawings, period photographs, and beautiful artwork that demonstrated the overwhelming influence of the French military tradition that was prevalent in the Western Hemisphere armies, as evidenced by the similarities between the uniforms of Paraguay and Triple Alliance (Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina), and those of the Union and Confederate armies. While the war began as the American Civil War was concluding, the descriptions provided of the arms and uniforms used by the belligerents indicate significant contributions from European powers, especially Britain, as well as the United States. Esposito noted that the Argentinian Army used sky blue cloth exported by the US for its trousers, similar to what Union troops used, as well as Uruguay’s use of the 1853 Enfield rifle musket, which was used by both Union and Confederate forces (40, 42).

One thing that is important to note with this conflict is the profound influence of other modern wars that occurred approximately at the same time, including the Crimean War, Austro-Prussian War, and the Civil War, on the War of the Triple Alliance. Esposito stressed the important distinctions of this conflict, being the first modern war in South American military history, utilizing telegraph communications, weaponry, use of railroads, and balloon observation (4). This war was a bloody affair, with the population of Paraguay suffering immensely. Esposito noted that the country lost between 65-70 percent of its population as a result of the war, taking decades to recover (3). Paraguay fought a long and bloody guerrilla war until 1876 and Brazil and Argentina annexed roughly half of the nation’s territory. Not only was Paraguay utterly humiliated, it suffered a demographic shock, as less than 30,00o of the 160,000 Paraguayans left alive after the war were male, with the ratio of females to males averaging 4 to 1, with some particularly devastated areas having a ratio of 20 to 1 (22). The people of Paraguay suffered because its foolhardy dictator, with a Napoleonic complex, led it into a war it was unprepared for, a war that claimed his own life.

Esposito’s brief study of this war is a wonderful examination of a major conflict that had profound consequences for the development of South America, but has largely faded from the larger historical memory of the world. Through outstanding research and great artwork, the various forces that fought for control over the Platine region of South America appear as a mix of professionally-trained soldiers and untrained militia, thrust into a major conflagration that proved bloodier (in proportion) that the larger American Civil War. Osprey did an outstanding job of providing information on the men who fought in the War of the Triple Alliance and this is a fine contribution to the larger Men at Arms series that will prove useful to those seeking general knowledge on the war, as well as those who may be interested in wargaming the conflict in miniature and want to know how to paint the forces.

If you have a passing interest in Latin American military history, Armies of the War of the Triple Alliance should be on your list of books to read and acquire, as it will provide a great introduction and lead you towards further reading and exploration on this pivotal conflict.

Posted in 19th Century Military History, Book Reviews, Other military history, World Military History (1700-1900) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Remember the Alamo!-even 179 years later

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on March 6, 2015

Today, March 6, marks the 179th anniversary of the ending of the siege at the Alamo in Texas. This event has gone down in American mythology as a stirring sacrifice for liberty against a repressive Mexican government. The battle and site are etched in Texas memory, being regarded as the cradle of Texas liberty, akin to the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The siege lasted about two weeks, with a handful of Texans (numbers vary from 185-260) battling the Mexican army, led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who commanded 1800 men. The Texans held out against the odds as long as they could, until the Mexican forces finally stormed the mission, at present-day San Antonio, killing the defenders, including William Travis, Davey Crockett, and Jim Bowie, among the well-known defenders.

The Texans had come to settle under provisions of the General Colonization Law, which allowed foreigners to acquire land in Texas and be exempt from taxes for four years, with no requirement to become a Mexican citizen, or Catholic, which was the state religion. Mexico had reasons for attempting to attract settlers to Texas, as the land was sparsely populated and they hoped that settlement would spur economic growth in the area. Immigrants enjoyed a federalist system of government under Mexico’s Constitution of 1824. However, the growing American population eventually alarmed the Mexican government, who began efforts to restrict such immigration and eventually rescinded the law, and Santa Anna’s centralist government and its policies, which angered Texans, used to federalism from previous governments and the United States, chose to revolt and fight for independence.

With the small force at the Alamo engaged, attempts were made by Travis to get reinforcements from Col. James Fannin, but failed, leaving the force to face off against Santa Anna’s army, which was a formidable force. After several days, Santa Anna overwhelmed the garrison and captured the Alamo, with the loss of all Texan soldiers. After the battle, the Texas army faced a brief panic, but soon rallied around the battle cry of “Remember the Alamo” and defeated Santa Anna on April 21 at the Battle of San Jacinto, which forced Mexico to recognize the independence of the Republic of Texas.

This event has been commemorated in many ways since its actual occurrence, including a song by Marty Robbins, the series Davey Crockett, which inspired a coonskin cap craze among baby boomer children in the 1950s, and the John Wayne movie The Alamo (1960). These portrayals often jarred with reality, and, recent attempts to dramatize the battle in the movie The Alamo (2004) have garnered great praise. The Alamo has sparked controversy as well, including whether or not all the combatants were killed, and the nature of Texas as a state.

However, one thing is certain. the defenders fought against long odds and went to their graves defending in a cause they believed in. They gave their lives to maintain the way of life they had known and to resist attempts to curtail their freedom. For that, the siege of the Alamo and its fall must be remembered for their influence on the eventual creation of one of our largest states, as well as their impact on the long history of Mexican-American relations. The Alamo remains the largest tourist attraction in Texas and a reminder to succeeding generations to remember what happened there.

Remember the Alamo!

Posted in 19th Century Military History, Conflict, Other military history | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Book Review of Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598-1621) and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars

Posted by William Young on June 28, 2013

William Young:

An examination of Archduke Albert and the Habsburg Netherlands in an age of religious wars.

Originally posted on International History:

Luc Duerloo. Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598-1621) and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2012. ISBN 9780754669043. Notes. Figures. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvii, 592. $154.95 (Hardcover)

DUERLOO JKT(240x159)The rule of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella over the Habsburg Netherlands lies in the midst of international relations dealing with the Eighty Years War (1568-1648), Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604, War of the Jülich Succession (1609-14), and outbreak of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Dr Luc Duerloo, Professor of Early Modern Political History at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, focuses this study on Archduke Albert VII of Austria (1559-1621) and his control over the Spanish Netherlands from 1598 to 1621. The study is the winner of the Filips von Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde Prize for 2011.  Duerloo is co-editor (with Werner Thomas) of Albert and Isabella, 1598-1621: Essays (1998).

Duerloo explores the life of Albert of Austria, the fifth and youngest son of Maximilian II, the Holy Roman Emperor (r.1554-76), and…

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What’s the matter with the Marlborough historiography?

Posted by William Young on June 24, 2013

Originally posted on Skulking in Holes and Corners:

Given recent events, I decided it was time to explicitly take on the dominant Marlborough historiography. To be honest, I don’t particularly want to – at least not this particular aspect – since I’d thought we were well beyond this. But I guess I was wrong.

A series of posts will follow, so I’ll talk in broad generalities here. Specific details about particular authors and works and arguments will follow in successive posts. Feel free to comment or ask questions; in fact, I’d encourage it.

To start, historiography is the history of historians’ interpretations of a particular historical event, in our case, how English historians over the years have viewed Marlborough and his role in the War of the Spanish Succession (WSS). So here’s my brief rundown of how Marlborough has been interpreted throughout the past three centuries.

Talking it back to the war itself, Englishmen were divided into Tory…

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Book Review of Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy

Posted by William Young on June 14, 2013

William Young:

Great study of the Austrian Habsburg Monachy in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century focusing on war and diplomacy.

Originally posted on International History:

Michael Hochedlinger. Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy. Modern Wars in Perspective series. London: Longman, 2003. ISBN 9780582290846. Tables. Maps. Bibliographical notes. Index. Pp. xviii, 466.

HochedlingerThere are many surveys of Austria and the Habsburg monarchy covering the early modern period. However, few of these studies contain detailed discussions of Austria’s war efforts. Dr Michael Hochedlinger, Senior Archivist at the Austrian State Archives, fills this gap in historiography with an outstanding study of the Habsburg Monarchy’s government and society stressing the military and wars in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hochedlinger was formerly the Head of the Early Modern Section at the Research Department of the Army Museum in Vienna.

This study covers domestic and foreign policy issues, including administrative institutions, state finances, home defense, the standing army, geopolitics, war, and the modernization of the Habsburg Monarchy. Hochedlinger stresses that “Austria rose to European great-power status almost by accident:…

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