"Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."
Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ode to the Horse

I personally admire the bravery and stoicism of the battlehorse. I do not own one, as I hold the opinion that horses are extremely high-maintenance, not to mention that they are pooping machines; however, I do hold them in great respect. They charged through the Greek phalanx in the Peloponnesian Wars, they rode bravely with the first settlers to the New World, they galloped into lowered bayonets, they hurtled across plains in the face of cannon fire, and they even (and most recently) attacked German tanks in World War II.
Now one may argue that the horses simply did what they were told, "theirs was not to reason why, theirs was but to do and die." However, I must point out that horses did have ears, nerves, and eyes, just like humans! They could hear the tremendous clash of shields, gunfire, or cannon fire as they swerved onto the battlefield, they could feel their nervous rider, and they could see fellow horses being mowed down around them. I argue that it was just as brave for a horse to ride into combat as it was for a man! Perhaps even more so. How would you like to ride into a combat situation while being controled? The horses were being controlled by their rider, and so if told to go right, they had to assume that their rider knew what he was doing. If I was on a battlefield, I can tell you right now my first instinct would be to courageously dive into the nearest trench and stay there until the battle was over. If I was being controlled, my first instinct would be to courageously throw my rider, and then dive into the nearest trench. Yet, most battlehorses did not do this, as we can see by the fact that cavalry units became a very important part of armies in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Approximately 77,000 horses were killed in the American Civil War, mostly because the officers rode on them, so the soldiers would aim at the horses, as they were larger targets. Also, an artillery battery pulled by horses could be brought to a complete stop if the horses pulling it were shot down.
These 77,000 horses were just the ones killed in action, countless more were killed by disease. Obviously, this is no comparison to the human loss of life in this war. I respect and admire the sacrifices of humans far more than those of animals, but that will have to be the subject of another post.

Animals in Warfare

I have been trying to convince my parents to let me get a cat for a year now. Ever since I moved back to the good old USA from the Middle East, I have been dying for one. DYING I tell you!
Anyway, I was searching for anything relating to cats, kittens, or cute fluffy mammals, when I came across a very interesting article. In 522 B.C. the Persian army was invading Egypt. Cambyses II, the King of Persia at the time, knew how deeply his Egyptian foes revered cats. (Who wouldn't?!?!?!?!) However, Cambyses II must have been more of a dog lover, because he placed thousands of cats ahead of his advancing army. The cats, scattering all throughout the Egyptian ranks, froze them. The Egyptians, afraid to move for fear of crushing a cat, and afraid to defend themselves, for fear of impaling a cat, had no choice but to surrender the city which they were defending, Pelusium in this case.
Now, I began to think about this, and I was wondering if it could have been used in more recent conflicts. For example, in the Crimean War (1854-1856), the French, English, and Scottish forces were cooped up on the little Crimean Pennisula, jutting into the Black Sea. There were thousands of Russians holding them off. For several years they desperately tryed to break through the Russian lines, but to no avail. After some time, conditions on the pennisula became horrible. Plagues broke out and winter froze many of the men. It was terrible, with up to 300,000 deaths.
Now, I wonder, could all of this have been avoided had the British, French and Scottish generals followed Cambyses II ideas? The Russians' sacred animal is the bear. They do not worship it, but they revere it and respect it. Recently some pyscho in Russia shot a zoo bear and he was mobbed by Russian civilians! Back to the point, what if the British and French had rounded up some 500 bears, and drove them at the weakest point in Russian lines. There would certainly have been some hesitation, and that hesitation may have been enough for British and French troops to sweep into the fortifications. Obviously, once the Russians realized what had happened, they would send thousands of men to repulse the British and French, but that can be dealt with. The hardest part for the British and French in the Crimean War was actually getting to a fortification with few casualties (they attempted to take one at the Battle of Balaclava when the British Light Brigade swept upon a Russian artillery fortification. The Light Brigade was completely shredded but they took the fortification and held it for some time). 
Not only could animals have been used more often in history, but even in current times. I believe that if a group of radical people we are fighting have a sacred animal, then we should use it against them. War is not a gentleman's game, its a game of who can win!