Lost Battalion Dispatch #18 for the Week of October 30, 2022

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting
Historical Occurrences

 

The Lost Battalion Dispatch #18 for the
Week of October 30, 2022

This Week in History

A Martian panic, two cavalry raids
and
a plot that backfired

.

Media coverage of “fake news” Martian attack

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles broadcast War of the Worlds, an adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel rewritten as a radio play. Welles was the head of the Mercury group, whose program “Mercury Theater on the Air” was transmitted by the CBS network of stations on Sunday night. The show was up against the most popular radio program of the era “The Chase and Sanborn Hour,” a variety show on NBC. Welles was looking for something sensational to boost his audience.

On the eve of Halloween, he began his broadcast by saying, “We know now that in the early years of the twentieth century this world was being watched closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…” An official-sounding weather report was then followed by a dance music broadcast which was interrupted several times by special reports from astronomers announcing unusual events that had been seen on Mars. A reporter then broke in to describe a meteor strike in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, and something alien crawling out of the crater. Various reporter’s accounts of alien attacks and a warning by a Franklin Roosevelt impersonator playing the “Secretary of the Interior” gave the broadcast a semblance of authenticity.

This, combined with the fact that many of the millions of Americans who huddled around their radios every Sunday night had been tuned into NBC when the broadcast began, caused a wave of panic across the nation. New Englanders fled their homes. Police station switchboards were overwhelmed with calls. Churches were packed with parishioners holding prayer vigils. Hours after the broadcast ended, the truth set in. People had been fooled. There was anger and outrage at the “fake news.” Some tried to sue Welles. It was a wake-up call for the millions of Americans who had come to believe that whatever they heard on the radio was the truth. Sound familiar?

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Desert Mounted Corps Memorial in Canberra, Australia

The last successful cavalry charge took place on October 31, 1917, during the Battle of Beersheba. The battle was part of General Edmund Allenby’s Palestine campaign.

Beersheba was an important strategic location because it controlled lines of communication and possessed freshwater wells. The name of the town means, “Well of the Oath,” dating back to the days when Hebrew patriarch Abraham dugs a well there and a dispute arose over its ownership.

The cavalry involved in the charge were elements of the Anzac and Australian Mounted Divisions, known as the Desert Mounted Corps. Their attack was proceeded by an infantry and artillery attack against the western defensive lines while the cavalry moved to attack from the east. During the morning, conventional mounted infantry attacks and maneuvers were used to capture the important heights of Tel el Saba. Once this was secured, at about 3 PM, the 4th Light Horse Regiment of Victoria and the 12th Light Horse Regiment of New South Wales formed up behind a ridge about four miles from Beersheba. They were armed with bayonets held in their hands with their rifles slung across their backs.

The first half mile was covered at a walk, increasing to a trot as the horsemen came within rifle range of the Ottomans manning the trenches. While still about two miles from the trench line the cavalry came under artillery and machine gun fire and broke into a gallop. The Ottoman guns were quickly silenced by accurate fire from horse artillery batteries supporting the charge. Because the trenches were not protected by barbed wire, the cavalry was able to jump over the leading trench line at a gallop. At this point, the 4th Light Horse dismounted and fought hand-to-hand to secure the trenches along with one troop of the 12th.

The remainder of the 12th continued their mounted charge toward the hilltop redoubts and trenches farther back. Several troops of the 12th dismounted to secure these defenses, but two squadrons led by Captains Robey and Davies remained mounted, reorganized themselves, and charged into the town, capturing a column of Ottoman troops attempting to flee in the process. 171 cavalrymen died in the attack. Over a thousand Ottomans were killed and nearly 2000 were captured.

Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition on November 1, 1478. Their main weapons were later reported to be fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency.

In fact, some people probably did expect the Spanish Inquisition because inquisitions were nothing new. Pope Lucius III issued an ad abolendam against several groups in the 12th century, including the Cathers and Waldensians. Gregory IX regularized the process in the 13th century, putting it into the hands of church officials instead of mobs of peasants whipped into a frenzy by the local priest.

The Spanish Inquisition is more infamous than its predecessors in that it was better organized and more widespread. It included all of Spain and her colonies in Central and South America. Tomás de Torquemada, a Dominican monk, became the face of the Inquisition dues to his zealous advocacy of church orthodoxy. A Spanish chronicler would later call him, “the hammer of heretics, the light of Spain, the savior of his country, the honor of his order.”

The total number of deaths reported varies from 3000 to 5000. To put this in perspective, during the same time frame in other European nations over 40,000 alleged witches were burned. The spread of the Enlightenment into Spain slowed the progress of the Inquisition beginning in the mid-1700s. The first official abolishment occurred when Napoleon took over the country in 1808. Despite this, off-shoots, such as the Peruvian Inquisition persisted until 1820.

The Spanish Inquisition became a meme in 1971 when it was parodied by Monty Python’s Flying Circus

Cardinals Ximenez, Biggles, and Fang torture a victim on “the rack”

Napoleon addresses the Council of 500

The French Directory was formed on November 2, 1795. It was a final attempt to organize a Republic out of the disastrous French Revolution.  After Jacobin leader Maximillian Robespierre and the ironically named Committee of Public Safety slaughtered at least 16,600 people accused of crimes against the state during the Reign of Terror, which ended with Robespierre losing his own head to the guillotine, the National Convention moved to replace itself with a more stable government.

The result was the Constitution of the Year III, a compromise that ended up pleasing no one. It created a bicameral legislature with a lower house, the Council of 500, elected by popular vote, to draft laws, and an appointed upper house, the Council of Ancients (ancient being defined as over age 40), to approve the laws. Executive power was held by a five-member committee, the Directory, elected from a list of candidates proposed by a secret ballot of the 500 and then chosen by another secret ballot by the Ancients. This was an attempt to create a separation of powers like the United States Constitution. The Directory had no control over taxation or legislation and one member, chosen by lot, was to be replaced every year. Marxist historians point to the era of the Directory as a noble attempt at socialism, but voting rights were very limited and the whole system was rife with corruption.

Dissatisfaction with the results of various elections led to multiple coup attempts, both by royalist supporters and the common people, or sans-culottes. Sans-culottes literally means “without breaches,” a reference to the trousers worn by the working man instead of the fashionable silk knee breaches of the wealthy members of the ruling class. Food shortages and an economic crisis in combination with failed coup attempts eventually led to the same Jacobin deputies who had been responsible for the Terror taking control of the Directory.

To forestall this, a conspiracy planned by Jesuit clergyman Abbe Sieyes, the diplomat Talleyrand, and Napoleon Bonaparte duped the increasingly radical Councils into relocating to a chateau outside Paris by inculcating fear of an uprising by the Paris mob. 6000 troops loyal to Napoleon then surrounded the chateau.

Napoleon first addressed the Council of Ancients, proposing his election as a Director even though he was not of legal age for the office. His request was recieved politely. However, when he made the same address to the Council of 500, he was met by jeers and arguments broke out. Boneparte and his brother Lucien left the chateau and informed the soldiers outside that “twenty Jacobin assassins” had attempted to murder Napoleon with their pens. The soldiers stormed in and dispersed the Council, ending the Directory and establishing Napoleon as the First Counsel of a new government.

Gold coin of Julian minted in Antioch before his
fateful Sassanid campaign

On November 3, 361, Constantius II, son of the famous Emperor Constantine, named his cousin Julian as his successor while on his deathbed. A zealous, but somewhat unorthodox Christian, Constantius had forced Julian to become a Christian early in life. Julian would later become known as the Apostate because, as emperor, he converted from Christianity to Theurgy, a Neoplatonic faith that focused on pantheistic mysticism.

Julian thought Christianity had weakened the Empire and attempted to reestablish the polytheistic worship of ancient Rome. Although he issued an edict declaring all religions equal before the law, he persecuted wealthy Christians, constrained the power of Christian bishops, and forced the Church to return the wealth looted from pagan temples after Constantine had declared Christianity the state religion. He also ordered the Jewish Temple at Jerusalem, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, to be rebuilt, but the effort failed. Christians declared the failure an act of divine intervention.

Assured by an oracle of a successful campaign against the Sassanid Persian empire, Julian led an army all the way to their capital of Ctesiphon and defeated a large Sassanid force there. He was unable to take the city however and died from a wound inflicted in a battle during the retreat. Realizing his efforts to suppress Christianity had failed, his dying words were alleged to be, “Vicisti, Galilaee” (You have conquered, Galilean), referring to Jesus of Galilee.

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s most famous exploit occurred on November 4, 1864, when he destroyed a Union supply depot at Johnsonville, TN. The Battle of Johnsonville was the culmination of a 23-day long cavalry raid that cost Forrest’s cavalry division only two men killed and nine wounded while destroying four Union gunboats, 14 transports, 20 barges, 26 pieces of artillery, $6,700,000 worth of property, and capturing 150 prisoners. The raid was designed to lure Willian Tecumseh Sherman’s army away from Atlanta by destroying its supply lines, but Sherman decided to “live off the land” and began his infamous March to the Sea anyway, ravaging Georgia’s economy in the process.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest

November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day in England, memorializing the 1605 Gun Powder Plot.

The conspiracy was led by ardent Catholic Robert Catesby whose father had been persecuted by Queen Elizabeth I for refusing to convert to the Church of England. Catesby hoped to end the growing persecution of English Catholics during the reign of James I by blowing up the House of Lords. One of the conspirators, Guy Fawkes, planted gunpowder in a rented cellar that extended under the House of Lords. Unfortunately for him, another conspirator sent an anonymous letter to his brother-in-law Lord Monteagle warning him not to attend the Lords on November 5th. Monteagle alerted the government and justice of the peace Sir Thomas Kynvet found Fawkes in the cellar with a fuse, a box of matches, and 36 barrels of gunpowder on the night of 4-5 November.

Fawkes was arrested and revealed the names of his co-conspirators under torture. All of them were killed or captured and the chief conspirators were sentenced to be executed. Fawkes cheated the hangman by jumping off the ladder to the gallows and breaking his neck. Following the plot, more repressive laws were enacted including excluding Catholics from the right to vote. The gunpowder plot had backfired.

Guy Fawkes being burned in effigy

Free Historical Fiction from Ian S. McCaskie

God’s Horsemen, Episode One introduces the story of Alexandros, a Greek, and Roland, a Norman, quasi-immortal warriors, endowed with this gift so that they might confront and defeat the forces of evil. Roland and Alex met after the battle of Montepeloso in 1041 AD, where they were both “killed” fighting on opposite sides. This was Alexandros first “death”. Roland, having experienced his first demise nearly 300 years earlier while fighting against the Umayyad’s in Gaul, took young Alexandros under his wing and they become inseparable companions This first episode establishes the backstory of the characters and sets the stage for their involvement the history-changing Battle of Manzikert. Kindle Vella stories can be read for free on Kindle or on the web. Check it out here: God’s Horsemen Episode One.

About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne Forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

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