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Archive for May, 2007

30 May

HP90 – Crimean War


Crimean WarCrimean War (October 1853 – February 1856), war fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula between the Russians and the British, French, and Ottoman Turkish, with support, from January 1855, by the army of Sardinia-Piedmont. The war arose from the conflict of great powers in the Middle East and was more directly caused by Russian demands to exercise protection over the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman sultan. Another major factor was the dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the holy places in Palestine.

This war gave the world:

  • Raglan sleeves (named after the 1st Baron Raglan, probably because it was designed to fit his coat for the arm lost in the Battle of Waterloo),
  • The cardigan sweater (named after James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, a British military commander, during his service in the Crimean War.),
  • The balaclava cap (The name “balaclava” comes from the town of Balaklava in Crimea. During the Crimean War, knitted balaclavas were sent over to the British troops to help protect them from the bitter cold weather.),
  • Florence Nightingale (her most famous contribution came during the Crimean War, which became her central focus when reports began to filter back to Britain about the horrific conditions for the wounded.),
  • The “Charge of the Light Brigade” immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (a disastrous cavalry charge led by Lord Cardigan during the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854 in the Crimean War. It is best remembered as the subject of a famous poem entitled The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whose lines “Theirs not to reason why / Theirs but to do and die” have made the charge a symbol of warfare at both its most courageous and its most tragic.)
  • And the epic novel War and Peace by Count Leo Tolstoy who was there as a young Russian artillery officer, and who’s experiences in Sevastopol did much to shape War and Peace.

Why this war was important

Changed the balance of power in Europe, weakening Russia, strengthening the imperiled Ottoman Empire, and leaving France the greatest military force in Europe, while Britain remained the greatest naval power. Austria gained strength both Germany and Italy achieved long-awaited unification, and the US, hardly an innocent bystander in this conflict, used its friendship with Russia to take possession of Alaska and Hawaii. Also, despite what American Civil War historians have said, it was the first war to be reasonably well documented by photographers, the first to take place in the age of the telegraph, the railroad, and steam-driven ships, the first in which mines played a significant role in naval warfare, and the first to propose a major use of chemical warfare. There were even war plans for a submarine and a proto-tank.

Because the British allowed newspaper correspondents to witness what went on and to write about it without censorship, the British public and later much of the world knew what was happening as in no previous war ever fought. The French imposed strict censorship during the war, but later a number of French officers managed to write about their experiences, as did the Sardinian’s, who joined the allied cause later in the war. The Turks wrote little, but the Russians wrote much.

How and why the war started

Tsar Nicholas I (who by the way was 6’ 4” tall) needed Mediterranean access. To do so he would have to reach an agreement with the Turks, but that would be meaningless if Britain’s powerful navy chose to block the way. The tsar tried to ally himself with the British but they refused.

Frustrated by his failure to convince the British to join him, as well as by the Turkish inflexibility, the tsar next sent Prince Alexander S. Menhikov to convince the Turks to accept Russian rule over the holy cities, a role that singularly ill suited the acid-tongued elderly nobleman, who hated the Turks. Menhikov did a horrible job. He offended the Turks often and threatened war whenever the Turks were difficult.

To deter Menhikov’s threats France and Britain responded with a threat to occupy Moldovia and Wallachia (now Romania) if the Turks did not give into Menhikov’s demands. The Turks ignored this. The tsar was not bluffing. On July 3, 1853, Russian troops marched into Moldiva and Wallachia heading for the Danube River. This area was under a kind of joint rule. The Turks had governors there, but no troops. The Turks did not receive tribute from the 2.3 million residents of this area.

Russia’s invasion was clearly provocative. Russia now claimed the tribute for itself, but no fighting was involved.

Austria called for a conference in Vienna. It was attended by Britain, France and Prussia but not Turkey or Russia. The conference produced an agreement acceptable to all parties in attendance.

The Turks were sent the agreement. They made some minor changes. Russia would not accept these new changes. The Turks responded with an ultimatum. When Russia did not responded by withdrawing its troops, Turkey declared war on October 5, 1853, sending 90,000 troops toward the Danube and 75,000 East toward the Caucasus.

Supported by Britain, the Turk’s took a firm stand against the Russians, who occupied the Danubian principalities (modern Romania) on the Russo-Turkish border July 1853. The British fleet was ordered to Constantinople (Istanbul) on September 23. On October 4 the Turks declared war on Russia and in the same month opened an offensive against the Russians in the Danubian principalities. After the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, on the Turkish side of the Black Sea, the British and French fleets entered the Black Sea on January 3, 1854, to protect Turkish transports. On March 28 Britain and France declared war on Russia. To satisfy Austria and avoid her also entering the war, Russia evacuated the Danubian principalities. Austria occupied them in August 1854. In September 1854 the allies landed troops in Russian Crimea, on the north shore of the Black Sea, and began a yearlong siege of the Russian fortress of Sevastopol. Major engagements were fought at the Alma River on September 20, at Balaklava on October 25, and at Inkerman on November 5. On January 26, 1855, Sardinia-Piedmont entered the war and sent 10,000 troops. Finally, on September 11, 1855, three days after a successful French assault on Malakhov, a major strong point in the Russian defenses, the Russians blew up the forts, sank the ships, and evacuated Sevastopol. Secondary operations of the war were conducted in the Caucasus and in the Baltic Sea.

The war ends

The fall of Sevastopol ended the major fighting. For the warring countries and world opinion, Sevastopol was the key to victory; soon after its surrender, Austrian threats to enter the conflict, probably to be joined by Sweden and perhaps Norway, led Russia to negotiate, and peace followed. Russia accepted preliminary peace terms on Feb. 1, 1856. The Congress of Paris, a long discussion between French, British, and Austrian dominated peace conference, worked out the final settlement from February 25 to March 30, 1856, guaranteed the integrity of Ottoman Turkey and obliged Russia to surrender southern Bessarabia, at the mouth of the Danube, which was opened to the shipping of all nations. Russian dominance in Eastern Europe would end, and all the European powers guaranteed the independence and integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey was left deeply in debt to France and Britain, but the peace treaty meant having twenty years of breathing room before another war with Russia began the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

The Crimean War was managed and commanded very poorly on both sides. Disease accounted for a disproportionate number of the approximately 250,000 men lost by each side.

Total Casualties of the war are probably over one million, in addition to an untold number of men, women, and children left permanently disabled by wounds or debilitated by disease.

  • ½ million deaths = Russian
  • ½ million deaths = Turkish
  • 100,000 = French
  • 25,000 = British
  • 2,000 = Italian

The war did not settle the relations of the powers in Eastern Europe. It did awaken the new Russian emperor Alexander II (who succeeded Nicholas I in March 1855) to the need to overcome Russia’s backwardness in order to compete successfully with the other European powers. A further result of the war was that Austria, having sided with Great Britain and France, lost the support of Russia in central European affairs. Austria became depended on Britain and France, which failed to support her, leading to the Austrian defeats in 1859 and 1866, which in turn led to the unification of Italy and Germany.

America’s Involvement

Few accounts of Crimean War mention the involvement of America, but American interest in the war was intense. Major newspapers throughout the country carried hundred of articles. The newspapers in America began to take Russia’s side. After all the French and other European governments had recently criticized American aggression in their war of expansion against Mexico. This hardened American attitudes toward France. As soon as the Crimean War broke out American Colonel Sam Colt went to Moscow to sell his famous revolvers and rifles. Other arms merchants followed his example. 15 American mechanics arrived to help with Russian railroad development. The US minister to Russia Thomas Seymour adored Tsar Nicolas I. 30 American surgeons (20 of who trained in Paris) volunteered to go to Sevastopol, where they were welcomed enthusiastically; half of them would die of disease before the war ended. 300 Kentucky riflemen asked the US government for permission to fight for Russia, but their request was denied.

Russia would later express its gratitude. Including approval of the Annexation of Hawaii by the US and support for the Union during the American Civil War. Perhaps most important, first leased then later sold, Alaska to the United States. Rather than risk its seizure by Great Britain.



Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 3 p.737

24 May

HP92 – Jamestown


jamestownI’m Jason Watts and your listening to history podcast number 92, Jamestown.

Jamestown, site of the first permanent British settlement in North America, founded May 14, 1607, located on a peninsula (later Jamestown island) in the James River in Virgina. Named in honor of King James I, the colony initiated the cultivation of tobacco, established the first representative government on the continent in 1619, brought the first African slaves to the colonies, and built the first Anglican church in America. Situated in an unhealthful marshy area, the colony always had a small population because of a high mortality rate.

Most of us attribute the early colonies with the Pilgrims, however this group was not trying to escape religious persecution it was hoping to make some profit in the new world. In 1607 Virgina was largely unknown. It was named to honor Elizabeth I, England’s “Virgin Queen”. The new region, which stretched from present-day North Carolina to New England was thought to have untold hidden prizes in the form of gold and other precious minerals. The Northwest Passage was also fabled to exist in this New World. The Northwest passage was supposed to be a passage to the Orient, where the explorers would gain access to the riches of the Orient. Anxious to seize the new resources King James I, approved the plan to settle this new huge territory.

Two companies were to establish colonies. The Virgina Company of London was licensed to utilize the southern section of the territory and the Plymouth Company which was comprised mainly of investors from Plymouth, England, was to colonize the northern portion. In 1607, after just one year, the Plymouth Company failed in their efforts to colonize the Atlantic Coast of modern-day Maine. The Virgina Company chose the Chesapeake Bay area hoping it might be the gateway of the Northwest Passage.

The Spanish had a short-lived mission in the largely uncharted lower Chesapeake in the late 16th century. A group of settlers from the nearby Roanoke colony also had trekked the lower Chesapeake region in 1585-86. Unfortunately, the collapse of Roanoke and the mysterious disappearance of its colonist, coupled with the unwillingness of the Spanish to share intelligence with their English rivals, meant no one on the first voyage had sufficient knowledge of the area or its inhabitants.

Nonetheless, the leaders of the Virginia Company, comprising many prominent members of England’s political and business empires, attempted to set the colony on path. They selected seven men as Jamestown’s governing council, though rather than naming them straight away (an perhaps discouraging other investors from joining), they enclosed the names in a box only to be opened upon landing in Virginia. Along with the names, they included a lengthily set of instructions for founding and operating the colony.

144 sailors and settlers left for Virginia in 1606 aboard the Godspeed, Discovery, and Susan Constant, the largest of the three ships, with Newport at the helm. Among the 105 settlers making the voyage, more than one-third were male investors. Undoubtedly hoping to protect their investments and provide leadership, their aim was to make a quick profit on the gold and silver. They expected to mine and return to England as rich men. Although, many would never see their homes again.

In April 1607 they arrived on the Virginia coast. Newport opened the box containing the instructions for the endeavor. The appointed seven councilors included Newport, Smith and Wingfield, who was also selected as first president of the council.

Instead of providing leadership for the colony, the council devolved into factionalism and trivial jealousy. The bickering among the leaders proved to be deadly for the new colony.

The leaders selected a marshy strip of land barely attached to the north shore of the James River and named it Jamestown after their king. Newport returned to England in June with two ships carrying samples of sassafras and clapboard, which the settlers had produced in the seven weeks since founding Jamestown.

After Newport left, the council ordered most to search for gold and working to produce goods to ship back to England. Their search for precious minerals took valuable time and energy away from constructing shelters and maintaining crops, the few crops that they had planted. The various expeditions between 1607 and 1610 failed to find significant mineral deposits or the rumored passage to the Pacific.

As the region’s summer heat began to wear on the Englishmen, their choice of location proved to be increasingly impractical. Fed by the salty James River, wells turned putrid during the late summer, and a major drought that corresponded with their arrival minimized the chances of finding fresh water.

And while sporadic attacks by local Indians caused wounds and a few deaths, the major killers were dysentery, typhoid and salt poisoning from the afore mentioned wells. When Newport returned from England in January 1608, just over a third of the original settlers were left. Wingfield had been removed as council leader on charges of plotting with the Spanish to destroy the colony, and Smith again faced hanging by his rivals. The leaders had completely turned against each other, and those who remained in power were ready to give up and return to England, leaving the non-investors to fend for themselves in the Virginia wilderness.

Newport’s return provided brief relief. He brought new supplies and 100 new settlers. However, shortly after the supplies were unloaded and repairs begun on the fort had begun, a fire destroyed all but three buildings and the majority of the supplies intended to last the entire winter. The survival of the colony now depended on the Powhatan Indians.

The Powhatans were a loose association of about 30 tribes whose lands spanned from the James River to the Potomac River and from the Atlantic to the site of modern Richmond. They were led by Wahunsonacock, who had commanded leadership of several small tribes in the vicinity of Jamestown in the 1570s. He proved daunting match for the English.

Wahunsonacock commanded the trade throughout his region, especially copper, skins, pearls, and tobacco. He undoubtedly saw the arrival of the English, with their wealth of metal goods, weapons, and glass beads, as an chance to maintain his position as Powhatan leader.

The desire for trade on both sides kept the colony alive through their first winter. John Smith played a pivotal role in establishing contact with the Powhatans, trading for food throughout the fall of 1607. He became vital as the ambassador between the English and Powhatan.

The Indians originally welcomed Smith as a trader, but as the settlers’ need for corn and meat increased, it became increasingly complex to work with Wahunsonacock. Smith used threats and force, coupled with rewards of trade goods, to acquire enough food to keep the colony alive.

Smith’s efforts, along with the death or departure of other council members helped Smith achieve leadership of the colony in September 1608. He quickly organized new rules to make the colony more self-sufficient, though his “no work, no food” policy made him less popular than ever with the other gentlemen.

Smith took pleasure in his greatest success during Jamestown’s early years when he concentrated on securing food and making merchandise to be returned to England for profit. He sent men to live at the falls (near present-day Richmond) and at the mouth of the James River to attain food sources; this plan put him further at odds with other leaders. He returned to England in October 1609, luckily for him, he missed the coming disaster of the following winter.

By late 1609 Wahunsonacock had had enough of the Englishmen. As the drought continued, the Powhatans’ food supplies also dwindled. The English settlers’ raided Wahunsonacock villages taking what little food they had and ruining relations.

During the winter of 1609-10 the Powhatans cutoff trade with the English and overwhelmed their fort. More than 200 settlers were trapped inside, and with minimal food they perished. Parties from the fort, sent to re-establish trade with the Powhatans, were ambushed and slain. Disease and starvations persisted through the winter; the settler’s were reduced to eating horses, rats, shoe leather … and each other. Only 60 Jamestown colonists survived the brutal winter, which is now known as the Starving Time.

In 1610 Jamestown was about to be abandoned by its inhabitants when Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, arrived with new energy and new supplies.

New leaders instituted martial law and responded to Powhatan attacks with their own. By 1614 Wahunsonacock’s forces were largely defeated and English settlers began expanding along the James River. A fragile peace was established in 1614 when Wahunsonacock’s daughter Pocahontas married Englishman John Rolfe.

Jamestown fell into decay when the seat of government of Virginia was moved in 1699 to the Middle Plantation (later Williamsburg).

By the mid-18th century the peninsula had become an island. Conservation efforts halted the erosion of the site, and excavations uncovered artifacts. In 1936 the island was incorporated into the Colonial National Historical Park, and 17th-century replicas have re-created the colonial atmosphere.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

The History Channel Magazine, March/April 2007, ‘Easy Riches Seduce Investors’, by Kevin Maijala, p. 28 – 34

10 May

HP91 – Hawaiian Volcanoes


Hawaiian VolcanoesHi my name is Michelle; I’m the wife of the History Podcast’s founder Jason. I have presented some episodes quite a while ago, so I thought I’d release an episode after an extended hiatus.

This podcast is on the History of the Hawaiian volcanoes. Here’s some insight as to why I selected this particular topic. I have always been intrigued and fascinated by volcanoes. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to view the dramatic differences in the size, scope, and topography of a few volcanic areas. I have visited Mount Lassen, a volcano in Northern California multiple times. Plus, I walked the calderas of Yellowstone National Park, a few years ago. These volcanic areas are definitely scenic, despite the foul odors caused by sulfur gases. The volcanic chain that makes up the Hawaiian Islands is so beautiful and vibrant. Seeing Diamond Head on the Island of Oahu and the volcanic rocks on Kauai, I decided to learn more about this volcanic chain that forms the Hawaiian Islands. The main Hawaiian Islands visited by tourists consist of: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii.

Here’s a brief discussion to the History of the Hawaiian Volcanoes:

The Hawaiian Volcanoes are a type of volcano called hotspots. In geology, a hotspot is a location on the Earth’s surface that has experienced active volcanism for a long duration of time. The hot and fluid type of magma creating these volcanic products is basalt. Hotspot volcanoes tend to be shield volcanoes that rarely erupt explosively and practically all are found on oceanic plates. The Hawaiian volcanoes are the most studied hotspot volcanoes and are situated in close proximity to the Pacific Plate. Most of the Hawaiian volcanoes, specifically the volcanoes that make up the Hawaiian Islands, go through several defined stages of evolution during their lifespan. These growth stages are impacted by the position of the volcano in relation to the hotspot, whether the volcano’s summit lies below, near, or above sea level, as well as by the composition of the lava being erupted.

As just shared, various stages of volcanic activity exist, with a majority of the volcano’s growth occurring in the shield stage. During this stage of growth, the volcano accumulates about 95 percent of its mass and it takes on the “shield” shape, hence the name shield volcanoes. In addition, this is the stage where the volcano’s eruptive frequency reaches its peak. The phases of the shield stage consist of: submarine, explosive, and subaerial phases. When volcanoes come close to sea level, the pressures that prevented explosive reactions between erupting lava and water no longer exist. As this point is reached, the volcanoes enter the explosive phase of the shield stage. In this phase, lava and seawater interact to cause explosive eruptions. These eruptions are rich in ash and continue intermittently for several hundred thousand years. Calderas continually develop and fill, and the rift zones remain prominent. The phase ends when the volcano has sufficient mass and height, typically about 4,000 feet above sea level. The constant interactions between seawater and erupting lava at vent locations no longer occur at the conclusion of the explosive phase. During Subaerial Phase, the explosive eruptions become much less frequent and the nature of the eruptions become much more subdued. The edges of the growing volcanoes are unstable causing potential landslide occurrences. This stage is arguably the most well-studied, due to all eruptions that occurred in the 20th century in Hawaii were produced by volcanoes in this phase. Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes are in this phase of activity.

Kilauea and Mauna Loa are two of the most active volcanoes in the world, which are located on the island of Hawaii on the southeast end of the Hawaiian Volcanic chain. In addition, the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii are all less than 1,000,000 years old.

In the northwestern direction, the Hawaiian Islands are progressively older. The extinct volcano that formed the island of Kauai is about 5,000,000 years old. That means that there is a span of 4,000,000 years difference in volcanic age between the islands of Kauai and Hawaii. Evidence has suggested that the hotspot forming the Hawaiian volcanoes is in a relatively fixed position. As a result, the movement of the Pacific Plate has been northwestward at a rate of approximately 10 cm annually. The Emperor Seamounts encompass an entirely submarine ridge that continues northward to the edge of the Pacific Plate. By viewing topographic maps, the Hawaiian Islands are a continuation to the Hawaiian ridge and bend into the Emperor Seamounts.

The ages of the volcanic rocks of the Emperor Seamounts, garnered by dredging and drilling, has determined that the Hawaiian-Emperor Ridge is a progressively older volcano formed at by volcanism at the Hawaiian hot spot. This integral center of volcanism in the Pacific has been active for at least 80MM years. The Pacific Plate has moved over it as just mentioned at the rate of 8 – 10 cm per year. The bend that exists between the Emperor Seamount and Hawaiian Ridge occurred about 40MM years ago. This indicates a noteworthy shift in the direction of the Pacific Plate.

The rationale for a volcanic hotspot maintaining its position for millions of years with a plate passing over it is unknown. A theory is that a hotspot is a deep mantle plume caused by very slow convection of highly vicious mantle material. With hot yet solid material moving upward, partial melting may occur from the lowering of its pressure dependent melting temperature. Within the next couple of decades, due to thorough seismic sounding of the mantle, the knowledge of the mechanics of hotspots should be discovered and understood more fully.

Hope the concise background of the formation of the Hawaiian Volcanoes proved enlightening. In conclusion, I wanted to share that the United States National Parks Service includes the Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park. The park highlights two of the world’s most active volcanoes just mentioned, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Extensive insight on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes are offered at this National Park.

Here’s some relevant trivia:

The Hawaiian Islands form an archipelago of nineteen islands and atolls, numerous smaller islands and atolls, and undersea seamounts trending northwest by southeast in the North Pacific Ocean. The Hawaiian Islands were once known as the Sandwich Islands, which was the name given to the Hawaiian Islands by Captain James Cook on his discovery of the islands on January 18, 1778. The name was made in honor of one of his sponsors and superior officer, John Montague, 4th Earl of Sandwich. During the late 19th century, the name Sandwich Islands was no longer a term used to reference the Hawaiian Islands.

Mahalo or thank you in Hawaiian for listening to this history podcast!