Elements and war
November 20, 2008
Hinc Terras Cruor
Inficit omnes fusus & rubuit mare.
Quoting this short, visual passage from Seneca’s Phaedra, Edmund Borlase (historian and physician) opened his history of the execrable Irish rebellion, written in 1680 to chronicle events forty years before.
This is a long text that merits another entry, but it is initially striking where it highlights the role of the environment in fighting. Some forces that the Parliament had tried to deploy had been thwarted by the elements, which were not in league with political decisions:
Some Forces indeed the Parliament had sent to the Sea-side, and others were on their March, yet Winds and Tides, Votes and Councels, did not equally agree…
Elsewhere, the rebels are described as advancing with the help, and under the subterfuge of the countryside:
But when they came to Black-hale-heath, between Kilrush and Rathmore, about 20 miles from Dublin, the Army of the Rebels drew up in a place of advantage, to hinder the passage of the English Army, having two great Ditches on each Wing, so high that we could see no more then the heads of their Pikes, and with such a hill before, (betwixt them and us) that we could scarce see their Colours, the wind also on their backs, and a great Bog a mile behind them. However the Lieutenant General called a Councel under a thorn hedge, (being loath to venture so gallant an Army on such disadvantages)…
Of course this is a traditional part of warfare, but it may be interesting to consider the implications of knowing how to use the landscape when fighting for land. When the winds were fair, supplies, and news, could be received, but when winds were contrary, men ran out of food (‘all the former and late long continuing Easterly winds, bringing us no other Provisions then those few, Cheese and Butter’).
Hopefully within this site weather, or environment, and war will develop into a large category. Please do leave suggestions in the comments for other texts to be added in relation to this topic.