War and Trauma: A History of Military Medicine since the Ancient World

It was in fact during the Napoleonic wars at the beginning of the 19th century that the organized practice of military medicine began. By Dr. Charles Van Way, IIIColonel, US Army Reserve, Medical Corps, RetiredEmeritus Professor of SurgeryUniversity of Missouri – Kansas City School of MedicineDirector, UMKC Shock Trauma Research Center War is an actual,[…]

Foederati: Subsumed by Ancient Rome and Bound to Defend It

Foederati were the tribes that were bound by a treaty to defend Rome but were neither Roman colonies nor citizens. Introduction Foederati were peoples and cities bound by a treaty, known as foedus, with Rome. In Republican times the term identified the socii, whereas during the Imperial period it was used to describe foreign states, client kingdoms, or[…]

Sons of Mars: An Historical Overview of the Military of Ancient Rome

The purpose for and use of the military shifted between the Republican and Imperial periods. Introduction The military of ancient Rome, according to Titus Livius, one of the more illustrious historians of Rome over the centuries, was a key element in the rise of Rome over “above seven hundred years”[1] from a small settlement in Latium to the capital of[…]

Battlefield O’ahu: Japan’s Opening Attack on Pearl Harbor

The attack came with no warning, as aircraft emblazoned with red disks bore down on the moored ships from all directions. Introduction Just before 8 am on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, many of the sailors aboard naval vessels moored in Pearl Harbor were getting ready for leave and preparing for church services. In a[…]

The Path to Pearl Harbor

When Germany and Italy declared war on the United States days later, America found itself in a global war. The Roots of the Conflict While Japan’s deadly assault on Pearl Harbor stunned Americans, its roots stretched back more than four decades. As Japan industrialized during the late 19th century, it sought to imitate Western countries[…]

Krak des Chevaliers: A Medieval Hospitaller Crusades Fortress

At its peak, Krak des Chevaliers housed a garrison of around 2,000, allowing the Hospitallers to exact tribute from a wide area. Introduction Krak des Chevaliers, also called Crac des Chevaliers, Ḥiṣn al-Akrād, literally “Fortress of the Kurds”), and formerly Crac de l’Ospital, is a Crusader castle in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. The[…]

Greek Fire: An Ancient Byzantine Mini-Nuke

Weakened by long wars with Sassanid Persia, the Byzantine Empire’s development of Greek Fire came at a critical moment. Introduction Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire beginning c.672 CE. Used to set light to enemy ships, it consisted of a combustible compound emitted by a flame-throwing weapon. Some historians believe it could be ignited on contact[…]

Militia in Great Britain from the 17th to 19th Centuries

The Militia of Great Britain were the principal military reserve forces of the Kingdom of Great Britain. England Following the restoration of Charles II in 1660, parliament passed several acts empowering the Lord Lieutenant of each county to appoint officers and raise men for a militia force. Although the king commanded the forces, they were[…]

The Marian Reforms: Becoming a Professional Army in Ancient Rome

In order to understand the Marian army, one must consider the military structure of pre-Marian times. By Philip MathewAncient Historian Introduction The Marian Reforms were a set of the reforms introduced to the Roman army in the late 2nd century BCE by Roman general and politician Gaius Marius (157-86 BCE). Through these reforms, the Roman army[…]

Gloria Exercitus: A History of the Ancient Roman Legion

Because legions were not permanent units until the Marian reforms, hundreds were named and numbered throughout Roman history. Introduction A Roman legion (Latin legio, “military levy, conscription”, from legere “to choose”) was the largest military unit of the Roman army. A legion was roughly of brigade size, composed of 4,200 infantry and 300 cavalry in[…]

Fire Gilding of Arms and Armor in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

The practice of amalgam gilding goes back many centuries. It was used by the Romans to apply gold onto silver, known as silver-gilt. Gilding is the application of gold to the surface of some other material. Many techniques exist for doing this. A surface may be inlaid with gold wire (often referred to as damascening),[…]

Horse Armor in Europe from Antiquity to the Early Modern Era

What is probably the first man-made armor for any animal appeared as early as 2600–2500 BCE. Introduction Mankind has used animals such as onagers (wild donkeys), horses, camels, elephants, and dogs in conflicts for thousands of years, but no other animal has been employed so widely and continuously and was at times so comprehensively protected[…]

Common Misconceptions about Medieval Arms and Armor

Some misconceptions are due to lack of education and experience, and some are utter nonsense and historically vapid. Introduction The field of arms and armor is beset with romantic legends, gory myths, and widely held misconceptions. Their origins usually are to be found in a lack of knowledge of, and experience with, genuine objects and[…]

Infantry in the Middle Ages

The relative inexpensiveness of the infantryman, combined with a shortage of manpower, provided incentives for expanding their use. Introduction Despite the rise of knightly cavalry in the 11th century, infantry played an important role throughout the Middle Ages on both the battlefield and in sieges. From the 14th century onwards, there was a rise in[…]

Battles That Saved America: North Point and Baltimore, 1814

The young republic might have ceased to exist and may have become a mere footnote in the history of the world. By Command Sergeant Major James Clifford, USA-Ret.COCOM Exercise Logistics Planner for Air Force Reserve Command These few words—the opening line of the United States’ national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”—are some of the most[…]

The History of Military Ordnance in America

The American Revolution established the general outlines of the future Ordnance Department. By Karl RubisOrdnance Branch HistorianUnited States Army Introduction The Ordnance Branch is one of the oldest branches of the U.S. Army, founded on 14 May 1812. However, the duties and responsibilities of the profession date back to the colonial era. In 1629, the[…]

A History of Militias in the United States since the Colonial Period

The early colonists of America considered the militia an important social institution, necessary to provide defense and public safety. Introduction The militia of the United States, as defined by the U.S. Congress, has changed over time.[1] During colonial America, all able-bodied white men of all ages were members of the militia, depending on the respective[…]

The ‘Equites Legionis’ and the Roman Cavalry

A view on the Roman cavalry forces, especially the equites legionis. By Dr. Stefan Zehetner Institut für Alte Geschichte und Altertumskunde, Papyrologie und Epigraphik University of Vienna Introduction A view on the Roman cavalry forces, especially the equites legionis. The article describes a possible organizational chart of the legionary cavalry formation in imperial times. By[…]

Suppression and Punishment by Sortition: Decimation in the Ancient Roman Military

Decimation in Beaver’s Roman Military Punishments, by William Hogarth, c.1725 / Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons Punishment by lot for soldiers in ancient Rome. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 11.04.2018 Public Historian Brewminate Editor-in-Chief Introduction Decimation (Latin: decimatio; decem = “ten”) was a form of military discipline used by senior commanders in the Roman Army to punish units or large groups guilty of[…]

A History of War as Culture

Image by Ancient Origins, Wikimedia Commons Ultimately, there is only one warrior culture. Its evolution and transformation over time and place, from our beginnings to arrival in the contemporary world, is the history of warfare. By Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan Military Historian Easter Island Easter Island is one of the loneliest places on earth,[…]

China’s Semilegendary Period: Preliminary Orientations and Legendary Conflicts

King Zhu of the Shang Dynasty Lights the Signal Beacons, a Perspective Picture / Museum of Fine Arts Boston Archaeological discoveries over the past several decades have suddenly infused life into previously shadowy remnants of ancient Chinese civilization. By Dr. Ralph D. Sawyer Senior Research Fellow University of Massachusetts Introduction When warriors battle over territory,[…]