Von Clueless On War
Today we commemorate a duo-bacle of military ineptitude.
I. On this day in 1071, Andronicus Ducas became the inadvertent father of Turkey. The Byzantine general simply wanted to kill his emperor Romanus IV but was too finicky for an assassination. Ducas waited until the imperial army was fighting Turkish nomads in eastern Anatolia, near the town of Manzikert. He then ordered a retreat, abandoning the emperor to the enemy. Ducas rushed backed to Constantinople to install his cousin on the now empty and available throne.
(In fact, the Emperor Romanus was captured alive. Under the circumstances, the Turkish Sultan could coerce a favorable treaty. Romanus was soon after released; but his return to Constantinople was unappreciated by his usurping successor. The Byzantine retirement package consisted of blinding and exile.)
Unfortunately, the Byzantine Empire was in just as miserable shape. Andronicus Ducas had overestimated the army’s ability to retreat. It disintegrated, leaving Anatolia — half the empire — defenseless. The Turks weren’t nomads after that. Anatolia is now called Turkey.
II. On this day in 1346, the French thought that they had caught the English army near the village of Crecy. For a trapped army the English had placed themselves in an excellent defensive position, astride a ridge. The English had a lovely view, one that wouldn’t be wasted on archers with excellent eyesight and a remarkable new weapon called the longbow. For some reason, the English did not seem to mind that they were outnumbered three-to-one.
The French confident in their numerical superiority and–no doubt–better sense of fashion–did not really bother to organize their plan of battle. They simply charged. Unfortunately, the French knights first had to ride over the French infantry. The aristocrats certainly didn’t mind and the commoners were used to it, but the horses actually were upset. (Of course, they would be more liberal than the knights.) It created quite a chaotic traffic jam, which the English archers further aggravated by perforating everyone within their considerable range.
With the horses so uncooperative, the French knights decided to dismount and, in full armor, attempted to march up the hill to attack the English. The English may have been in more danger of asphyxiation from laughter. The Oxford graduates would have enjoyed the farce, but the archers–being Benny Hill types–missed the irony and simply continued to slaughter the French. In the few hours of the battle, the French casualties were in thousands, the English casualties in the dozens.
You would think that the French would have realized that they were doing something wrong. In fact, ten years later, they used the “tactics” at the battle of Poitiers. At Poitiers, however, they added the innovation of letting the French king be captured.
In time, the French would master the techniques for winning a battle.
1. Be led by a mad, cross-dressing shepardess.
2. Be led by an Italian whose megalomania compensates for shortness.
3. Let the Americans do it.
p.s. Happy Birthday, Prince Albert: http://finermanworks.com/your_rda_of_irony/2008/08/26/questionable-birth-announcements/