The Great Ridiculous War

Zach – Welcome back! Today we will be discussing the causes and beginning of the first World War, also known as the Great War. We are joined by our guest panelists, starting with Anna Komemne, first woman historian.
Anna – It is a great pleasure to be here as always.
Zach – Next we have Julius Caesar. Dictator of the Roman Republic.
Caesar – I will enlighten all that listen.
Zach – Then we have Buffalo Calf Road, Cheyenne woman warrior and killer of Custer.
Buffalo – (Nods)
Zach – And last and certainly not least, because if I said that she’d cut off my head, Hua Mulan! Famous woman soldier from China.

We get kitted out and hit the trenches as we discuss WWI!


Mulan – Let’s get started.
Zach – And so we shall! Our topic today is the First World War. You will notice that we don’t have our favorite guest, Napoleon.
Anna – That was… what you call, sarcasm, right?
Zach – Yes, that was heavy sarcasm, but there is a reason he’s not with us today. The reason is, he’s too close to the subject.
Caesar – What do you mean? He was almost a hundred years earlier.
Zach – We’ll find out as we get to it.
Mulan – I understand that they called it, the war to end all wars? Sounds rather naive, don’t you think? Do they not understand human nature?
Zach – Well, that has to do with the culture that dominated Europe at the time. Europe has been at relative peace ever since they defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. And well, a whole lot hadn’t changed in the past hundred years.
Buffalo – How could it not change? My people saw you Americans change a great deal in that time.
Zach – True, they developed trains, machine guns, planes and cars, but the way they fought wars didn’t really change.
Mulan – I talked with Napoleon for a while. I was interested in his way of warfare and we compared notes. From what I understand, they got into formations, concentrated rifle fire with artillery support. They hauled everything around with horses and Napoleon developed the Division, large formations of 12 battalions with 12 batteries of cannons. That’s 12,000 rifle men and seventy two cannons.
Anna – And each nation had dozens of these Divisions.
Caesar – Wait a minute. How could they form and sustain such large armies? Not even my legions were that large!
Zach – That’s right. These are the largest armies that the world had ever seen and with firepower more devastating than anything they’d had before. They now had cannons that created bigger booms, machine guns that fired a whole lot of bullets and bombs dropped from the air. This was industrialized and mechanical slaughter. But there was a problem.
Mulan – They didn’t change their tactics.
Zach – Correcto!
Buffalo – So they would march slowly towards a forest of machine guns?
Zach – Pretty much. Yup.
Mulan – That’s insane. They’re sending their men to their deaths. It’s wasteful to say the least. Murder at most.
Zach – It’s a horrible thing to think about. But before we get into the nitty gritty of how the war was started and fought, let’s talk more about Europe before the war broke out. As I said, not much had changed since the fall of Napoleon. Europe was a peaceful place that was ruled by the ideas of the Enlightenment, a philosophy that basically said that reason, rationality and liberalism are the way to go. Europe, though controlled by monarchies, were governed by constitutions and the rule of law, that everyone was equal under it.
Anna – They didn’t believe a war could break out in their day and age. They had been at peace for so long that they thought a war was impossible.
Caesar – Again, they forgot human nature. They also thought no one would start a war because they were too prosperous and no one would want to disturb such great money making.
Mulan – But war broke out.
Anna – Yes, and it was the most devastating war the world had seen. Ten million dead. Two million dead in France and four million dead from Germany. 630,000 war widows in France alone and countless others that never had a chance to get married. There were hundreds of thousands of veterans that were so maimed that they had to have special communities where they could vacation just to get away.
Mulan – Those are cold facts. Your historians tend to shrug this off and say “oh, they quickly repopulated after the war,” but they forget to take into account the emotional damage the war did to Europe.
Zach – The war was so devastating that it shattered their belief in rationalism, humanity and democracy. It left the whole continent embittered, shattered and vengeful. Germany, in particular was full of rage at having lost the war. They hadn’t been allowed to mourn their dead properly like other countries. France and England buried their dead as heroes. Germany only got unmarked mass graves in France.
Anna – So, this war shattered the unified, peaceful culture in Europe and replaced it with an angry, hopeless, and disillusioned one; a culture that would allow the atrocities that happened in the second world war. The second World War was fought with some of the same people, such as Winston Churchill who was Lord Admiral of the Navy and Rommel and often fought in the same places.
Zach – Remember, no one say the “H” word around here. I’ve promised my readers that we will not mention a certain evil dictator’s name.
Caesar – I’ll try.
Buffalo – But Europe wasn’t a bunch of hippies before the war. They had warrior societies like us Cheyenne. Every man had to join the military for two years and then go into the reserves, like that National Guard you were in, Zach.
Anna – Yes, we in the Roman Empire..er…Byzantium to distinguish it from Caesar’s western empire, had a theme system like that as well.
Zach – Every male was in the reserves, so they all knew about military life first hand and this allowed a potential for MILLIONS of soldiers.
Caesar – If I had had that many soldiers, I could have conquered all of Germania!

Zach – So, now we get into how the war started. I’m going to put this as delicately as possible.
It was completely moronic.
Mulan – A continent of fools.
Anna – But how did it start. I’m a historian and I’m still confused.
Buffalo – I don’t understand how you Europeans can complicate everything. It’s almost as if you’re afraid of simplicity.
Zach – Well, Buff, I’ll try to make this as simple as possible.
Caesar – Good luck. I read the books you suggested and I’m still not certain how it all came about.
Mulan – I thought it was simple. One country wanted to fight a smaller country but the small country had a big friend that stepped in so the other country called in its big friend and….
Buffalo – I’m confused already.
Anna – I’m not sure it can be simplified in such terms.
Mulan – Sure it can. I must admit that as a soldier, things are much simpler.
Zach – Well, let’s start at the beginning.
Caesar – I need an Aspirin.
Buffalo – I’m going to get a drink.
Zach – I got some Dew in the fridge.
Anna – Might I bother you to fetch me one as well?
Mulan – Me as well.
Caesar – And bring those…what did you call them?
Zach – Hot pockets.
Caesar – Yes! Bring to me Hot Pockets!
Buffalo – Say please.
Caesar – I never say please.
Buffalo – Then you never get Hot Pockets.
Caesar – Um…well…please?
Buffalo – That’s better.
(Buffalo steps out.)
Zach – So, as I was saying, we start at the beginning and take this step by step.
Caesar – From what I read, all the trouble started with an assassination of a patrician.
Anna – A nobleman by the name of Archduke Ferdinand. He went down to Bosnia for an annual military inspection.
Zach – But he chose the wrong day. It was the anniversary of a huge defeat of Serbia by the Ottoman Empire. That just ticked them off even more.
Anna – So some rebels, with guns and bombs from the Serbian military armory ambushed the Austrian duke and killed him.
Mulan – Austria didn’t appreciate that and wanted to punish Serbia. But Serbia had a big friend, Russia. Austria was afraid Russia would step in. So they went and asked their own big friend, Germany if they would “have their back.”
Caesar – They should have acted with some boldness. If they just went ahead and attacked as was their right, no one would have noticed or cared much, but since they went crying to Germany, this got the attention of Russia.
Anna – We must understand that the Austro-Hungarian Empire at this time was a weak, divided empire that wanted to prove to the rest of Europe that they weren’t weak. So they mobilized their armies to get ready for war.
Zach – And this made Russian begin a pre-mobilization. A full mobilization is the final step before declaring war and would cause Germany to mobilize or even declare war.
Mulan – But Austria wasted time. The assassination took place on the 28th of June and waited until the 5th of July to ask Germany.
Zach – On the 6th the Kaizer gave his thumbs up and promptly went on a three week long cruise. Bad timing there buddy.
(Buffalo comes back in with bottles of Mountain Dew and microwaved Hot Pockets.)
Caesar – Finally!
Buffalo – You’re welcome, jerk.
Mulan – Thank you Mrs. Road.
Zach – So, the Kaizer gave Austria their promise to support them in case Russia steps in, but a war was the last thing Germany wanted. So Austria decides to send an ultimatum to Serbia, a strongly worded letter telling Serbia that they’re Austria’s plaything now. But they waited until the 19th to get together to write it. I don’t know why they waited two weeks.
Mulan – But this gave time for the French minister to reach Russian on his little trip. So, when Russia heard of this, they were able to immediately talk to France about it.
Buffalo – What happened with the ultimatum?
Caesar – It got to Serbia on the 23rd and they had till the 25th to answer. At first they were about to cave in and do what the Goths…er…Austrians wanted. But then they heard from their ambassador that Russian wanted to support Serbia and this made them too big for their togas and so they decided to reject Austria’s demands.
Mulan – They sent their rejection and immediately began preparing for war. Russia then began their pre-deployment.
Zach – I’ve experienced this pre-deployment before. We get word that war might be coming and so we get in contact with our chain of command and the units start preparing their equipment. It’s kind of nerve racking because you don’t know if it’s going to happen or not.
Anna – English and French ambassadors told Russia to stay calm and not mobilize because that might cause Germany to declare war on them.
Mulan – Now enters a villain. While Russia and Austria began to try to talk to each other, an Austrian count named Berchtold, secretly began to prepare for war and was about to send out a call for full mobilization. But before he could, there was a small skirmish between Austria and Serbia and this gave Berchtold the excuse he was looking for and declared war on Serbia.
Buffalo – But he wasn’t the chief. How could he do that?
Zach – He didn’t have the authority or power, but he did it anyway and the rest of the government just went along with it because…I don’t know, they’re stupid. This was the 28th of July. Then Russia was about to declare their full mobilization.
Buffalo – But why? What does Austria fighting with Serbia have to do with Russia? I’ve seen the map. They’re far apart.
Caesar – It was pointless. They had no reason to do so. They were only afraid that if Austria went to war, then Germany would mobilize and that meant a whole German army on Russia’s boarders.
Mulan – It was fear and mutual distrust then.
Anna – At this time, the Kaizer sent the Tzar a telegram saying “It would be quite possible for Russia to remain a spectator of the Austro-Sebian conflict without involving Europe in the most horrible war she has ever witnessed.”
Caesar – He knew what was at stake.
Buffalo – So, the German chief didn’t want war? So why are they blamed for it?
Anna – Because the Franks won and the victors get to write the history.
Zach – Well, the telegram made the Tzar cancel his mobilization.
Buffalo – But it didn’t end there, did it? Who messed up?
Mulan – The German Chief of Staff, Moltke, wanted a partial mobilization but then Austria sent all its eastern divisions south to Serbia to beat up on them, but this left the east weak against Russia. So when Moltke heard of this, he ordered his partial mobilization.
Buffalo – So this made them look two faced to Russia.
Mulan – And then Russia went ahead with their full mobilization.
Anna – That was the 31st of July and Germany declared war on Russia.
Caesar – Then France declared war and England. It was like falling pillars, one knocking the other over and the whole temple tumbles over.
Zach – So, Germany followed the schlieffen plan which was developed by a total dork who only cared about time tables and troop movements. He concocted this plan that made Germany go through neutral Belgium and rush to Paris and knock France out of the war.
Mulan – Isn’t that the plan they used in the second World War?
Zach – It is but it didn’t work this time because as the plan said itself, they just couldn’t get enough troops to Paris quick enough to knock them out.
Buffalo – So, their plan was doomed from the beginning?
Zach – Yup.
Caeser – but Germany went ahead with this asinine plan and went into Belgium.
Mulan – And committed atrocities there. This made the Belgians hate Germany and shamed Germany. Their offensive went into France came to a stop before they got to Paris.
Anna – And that’s where the war turned into a meatgrinder. The war wasn’t about gaining ground or objectives, but about enemy deaths. The war was an atrocity and everyone could see the systematic death that happened daily.
Zach – And the final result was?
Anna – a traumatized Europe. Gas attacks were used. Hatred was stoked like a fire and hope was shattered. The second World War was just a continuation of this one, only now they had less morals and mercy.
Buffalo – I still find it hard to imagine millions of deaths. Custer only had about two hundred with him.
Zach – Smaller battles in WWI killed more people than Waterloo or Sekigahara. The larger battles, like Somme were total atrocities that saw thousands and thousands get mowed down. It was a new era and a much darker one. Things wouldn’t be the same. This war created the second World War and that shaped the modern world we live in now.
Anna – So, why should we care about the first World War? Because it created the world we now live in. Just look at a map of Europe today.
Buffalo – That’s not a good thing.
Mulan – A war without honor, pity or mercy. I wouldn’t want to be a part of such a thing. Numbers shouldn’t mean more than a person’s life.
Buffalo – I feel like mourning.
Zach – Have some Mountain Dew. That always cheers me up.
Caesar – And bring me more Hot Pockets!
Buffalo – Quiet or I’ll show you what I do to loud mouth braggarts.

A map of Europe before WWI. Notice the fewer but larger countries and empires.


Now notice all the many countries that gained independence due to the continent tearing itself apart.

Happy Krampus Time!

In honor of the Christmas season, I present a Christmas tradition that has been all but forgotten. What I am talking about is Krampus! Krampus is Santa’s bad cop in their good cop/bad cop buddy team. While Santa’s driving, Krampus is shooting out the window and sliding over car hoods. Santa, as we all know, treats the good kids, but the bad kids were visited by a horrible, demonic creature named Krampus!

You don't want to be on the bad list!

The origins of Krampus date back to Pagan Germany so technically, he’s older than Christmas. Well, Krampus would show up and if you’re lucky, he’ll leave you some coal. If you’re really bad, he’ll beat you with a stick. If you’re REALLY REALLY bad, he’ll put you in a sack and toss you in the river. Maybe today’s kids could use a Krampus.

Krampus should visit Washington DC. He'd find lots of people to toss into the Potomic.

Austria, in the early 1900’s, tried to discourage and outlaw the celebrations of Krampus. But, there’s good news for us Krampus fans! He’s staging a comeback. People will dress up as Krampus and scare the children. Now that is a great Christmas tradition that I could get behind. So, be good for goodness sake, for Krampus is coming to town!

Krampus has a video!

Now he's got paparazi chasing after him. This photo was taken outside of Lindsey Lohan's house. They stopped him before he could put her in a sack.

Was Custer an idiot or genius?

Zach – Today I have a panel of important historical people with me to discuss a topic that’s been debated hotly ever since the late 1800’s: The issue of whether George Armstrong Custer was a total fool or an unlucky but good leader.
Mulan – Being a leader is more than calling out enemy locations while playing Call of Duty.
Matilda – You’re only upset because you kept getting killed by that sniper.
Zach – Ladies! Please, you both rocked at COD3 last night. No need to squabble.

What is going on here? Read on to find out!

Zach – To help us with this we have firstly, Charles Martel, leader of the Franks that led a very successful war against the Moors.
Martel – Glad to be here as always.
Zach – Next we have Hua Mulan. She took her father’s place in the army to protect her homeland.
Mulan – Thank you.
Zach – Then we have Countess Matilda of Tuscany. She fought the Holy Roman Emperor with her private army, chewed bubble gum and kicked butt until she was all out of bubble gum…then she just kicked butt.
Matilda – As eloquent and truthful as always.
Zach – And our last panelist is new to our discussions, Lord Cornwallis, general of the British army during the American Revolution.
Cornwallis – Thanks lad. It is an honor to be here among a group of my peers. It’s also good to see a representative of His Majesty’s military being accounted for.
Zach – Thank you all for being here.
Mulan – (Looks around) No Napoleon?
Zach – No, sorry. Not this time.
Mulan – Good. He was an annoying, arrogant man.
Zach – So, as I said earlier, our topic is George Armstrong Custer. What most people know about him is that he had a last stand at Little Big Horn. There is so much more to his story. Let’s review his past. It’s the only way to get a clearer view of the man.
Matilda – He graduated last in his class at the Military Academy. Evidently he was no scholar.
Cornwallis – Last? How ever did he gain a commission with such an appalling record?
Matilda – The Civil War.
Mulan – Yes, necessity sometimes bring benefits to soldiers that would normally be passed over.
Martel – He knew General McClellan. That didn’t hurt either. He joined McClellan’s unit and became a cavalry officer. Apparently that was more prestigious than being with the infantry. Fools. Infantry are what win battles.
Cornwallis – And no infantry was finer than the British Red Coats. Most able musket men in the world!
Zach – So, how did he do as a cavalry officer? I must admit that I’m highly curious. During my last deployment to Iraq, I was in the cavalry. So I was a part of the tradition of Custer. The American cy still wears Stetson cowboy hats and fake spurs. We also still have the same red and white flags that denote the unit is a cav unit.
Mulan – He did very well. He killed his enemies and gained success on the field of battle.
Cornwallis – Indeed he did! He fought in most major engagements in the eastern theater. I dare say that he rode over many battlefields that I was victorious on.
Matilda – I take it Custer didn’t fight at Yorktown then.
Martel – He was known for his daring and dashing and lack of fear. When a general muttered that he wished he knew how deep a certain river was, Custer charged out into the river and told the general that it was passable.
Mulan – Sounds like he was a glory seeker fighting for himself.
Zach – Do the rest of you agree with this? Was he a glory seeker?
Matilda – It is a bit difficult to deny when the man wears such garish clothing. A man doesn’t wear such clothing to avoid attention.
Cornwallis – He did have a bit of a flamboyant streak about him. Not very soldierly of him, is it?
Martel – I would say not.
Zach – So, he was at the Battle of Bull Run and the Peninsula Campaign. He performed exceptionally in every battle he fought in and for a Yankee at the beginning of the war, that is saying something. The North wasn’t exactly known for its high quality leadership.
Martel – His friend McClellan had a “case of the slows” as your president Lincoln called it. He was slow to attack and wasted many opportunities.
Cornwallis – But this is not a fault we can accuse Custer of. Indeed the man would attack anything and everything in his way.
Mulan – It shows a distinct lack of common sense. Dashing and feats of bravery do not win wars. Discipline, training and obedience win wars.
Matilda – But it can be said that they win battles. Mulan, I understand that you read your Sun Tsu. Doesn’t it say something about when the enemy is larger than your force, avoid combat?
Mulan – Yes it does. To do otherwise is to play a game of chance that is not in your favor.
Cornwallis – I wish General Washington had read that book. There would never have been a Revolution if that were the case!
Martel – I frequently fought larger forces. Size isn’t the only factor.
Zach – Glad you brought up his habit for charging larger forces. This brings us to his role in the battle of Gettysburg.
Martel – I saw the movie. I’ve never seen so many monologues.
Mulan – I enjoyed it.
Zach – What part did Custer play at Gettysburg?
Matilda – I’m not sure but I can guess that it involved attacking at the first chance he got.
Zach – Pretty much, but let’s be a bit more specific.
Cornwallis – The Confederate cavalry officer….what was his name? Ah! J.E.B. Stuart. He was in charge of General Lee’s cavalry. When Lee encountered the Federal army, Stuart was off riding rough shot over the country side and left Lee blind. Lee didn’t know he was about to face the entire Yankee army.
Mulan – Custer was also promoted to general at this battle.
Martel – Yes, he had his own command. He was the youngest general.
Matilda – He came across J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry. What did he do?
Cornwallis – He charged
Mulan – He charged.
Matilda – Yes, he charged. Lee, at the time of Picket’s charge, sent Stuart’s cavalry to attack the Federal rear. This might have worked but they came across Custer’s unit.
Cornwallis – Yes, yes. We know. He was grossly outnumbered but charged right at them anyway.
Mulan – He was a fool.
Cornwallis – Perhaps, but his charge stopped Stuart’s cavalry from attacking the Federal rear. He accomplished his mission. I’d say that’s a fine officer. It seems reckless, but what was he to do? Also, it is said by Marguerite Merrington in her book “The Custer Story in Letters” “George Custer meticulously scouted every battlefield, gauged the enemies[sic] weak points and strengths, ascertained the best line of attack and only after he was satisfied was the ‘Custer Dash’ with a Michigan yell focused with complete surprise on the enemy in routing them every time.” This is an intelligent man that thought out his strategies.
Matilda – Yes, but at the cost of over two hundred of his own men.
Mulan – At the end of the battle Custer also wrote “I challenge the annals of warfare to produce a more brilliant or successful charge of cavalry” I would not such suffer a boastful, reckless man in my army.
Matilda – That does sound like a glory seeking fool.
Martel – It was a gamble but he won, so he is counted as successful. If he would have lost it would have been looked at as the most foolish mistake ever. Strange how success or failure determine intelligence.
Zach – So, he was a glory seeking man, but he wasn’t stupid and knew what he was doing. He was also highly aggressive.
Mulan – Too aggressive. It is not money or his own life he gambles with. It is the life of his men.
Cornwallis – But this was not Custer’s only daring deed of stiff upper lippedness. He fought the entire Civil War with such dash and grandeur. Indeed, he was even there for Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. If that isn’t the mark of a successful general, then I know not what is.
Mulan – Victory is easy. What tests a person’s character is how they act in defeat. Wouldn’t you say, Lord Cornwallis?
Cornwallis – (clears throat and adjusts jacket. ) I don’t know what you mean.
Mulan – Sending a page out to surrender in your stead and then he tried to surrender to the French officer beside Washington. Washington won. I suppose that makes him a great general, then. Yes?
Cornwallis – What’s next on our discussion, Zachary?
Zach – Well…um…after the Civil War he stayed in the army, was given a chance to be a general in Mexico, turned it down and went out west to fight Indians.
Cornwallis – Yes indeed! Fighting savage locals. Something the British Empire excels at!
Martel – Yes, here we have Custer showing off his great daring and dash once again, but this time his targets were villages with women and children. I wouldn’t call this a noble and valiant war.
Matilda – Yes, he purposefully brought war down on women and children. Some would argue that it was the American Army’s policy to do so, but I don’t think this excuses him. Innocents die in war. It is a sad but inevitable fact. But it should be avoided and not be the goal.
Mulan – Look at the massacre at Black Kettle’s camp. They had a white flag and were offering peace.
Martel – As we said earlier, Custer was a very aggressive man and didn’t know how to hold off from the attack. So, when he saw Indians, he attacked. He also moved into territory promised to the Indians and helped set up settlements. The famous town of Deadwood was one such town.
Zach – This brings us to Little Big Horn. Custer was ordered to hunt down any hostile Indian camp he could. Hostile, in this case, meant that they wouldn’t bow down to the American government. If this wasn’t a case of fighting “The Man” then I don’t know what is.
Matilda – I thought your government had laws against such things.
Zach – Only if they’re citizens…and not since Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act which authorizes the military to detain indefinitely American Citizens. So, the answer is…. not really, but we’re supposed to.
Martel – Custer found his hostile camp, yes?
Cornwallis – Indeed, sir! He found it and then some! He thought he was after a village of nomads. His Crow scouts, traditional enemies of the Lakota, said they saw a large camp along the Little Big Horn River. Custer, being eager to fight before the Indians could flee, ordered his unit to split into three groups.
Mulan – One group went off to cut off escape and Major Reno took his force near the woods and formed a line.
Matilda – But Reno was soon covered in Indians that were very “Hostile” and was forced to retreat. Reno lost a lot of men.
Cornwallis – But it was supposed to be a classic Hammer and Anvil strategy.
Martel – I love the hammer and anvil strategy! But it doesn’t work when your anvil is defeated before the hammer can be brought to bare.
Mulan – Custer then attacked the camp, but before he could cross the river the Indians began…what did you call it last night?
Zach – A smack down.
Mulan – Yes! The Indians gave Custer a “smack up” and chased him up a hill.
Cornwallis – What was the problem? Why couldn’t they take this enemy camp? The problem was that this was no ordinary camp. Custer had stumbled upon a rare gathering of several tribes from several nations. He stumbled into one of the largest gatherings of Indian warriors ever assembled. Custer had a few hundred. They had thousands. I must say, he still should have won. I mean, look at Rourke’s Drift where we British stood tall and showed them what for!
Zach – This is a slightly different situation, Lord Cornwallis. This happened so fast that it threw Custer’s cavalry into chaos. It was a quick route and they fled up a hill to get some kind of advantage over the Indians.
Mulan – It didn’t work.
Matilda – Apparently not.
Zach – Recent archeological evidence has found that Custer died slightly north of the main fighting and had two wounds. One in his head and one in his chest. How this happened, no account really told us. It remained a mystery for over a hundred years!
Matilda – Can I say it?
Zach – Sure.
Matilida – But! We here at Minimum Wage Historian have found out what happened to Custer. The Cheyenne, one of the nations that took part at Little Big Horn, had been sworn to secrecy by their chiefs, telling them not to tell what happened to Custer for a hundred winters because they feared the reprisals of the American Government. Recently the Cheyenne have come out and told the public what their oral tales have said.
Zach – Thanks, Matilda. Well done. Yes, we have uncovered the Cheyenne’s version of events and it fits with the archeological evidence and other eye witness accounts. According Cheyenne tradition, Custer was knocked off his horse by a blow to the head by a warrior named Buffalo Calf Road….and she was a woman.
Mulan – (Fist pumps) Did I do that right?
Zach – Yes you did and it was a well earned fist pump. Buffalo Calf Road Woman was already a famous warrior before the Battle of Little Big Horn. At the Battle or Rosebud, she saved her brother, Chief Comes in Sight. The Lakota, under the command of Crazy Horse were retreating and left their wounded. Well, Buffalo Calf Road, or Brave Woman for short, went out in front of enemy fire, rescued her brother and then rallied the Lakota braves for a come from behind victory.
Mulan – I approve.
Matilda – (claps)
Martel – I could have used her in my army.
Zach – Hold on, I think I have a picture of her somewhere. Yes! Here it is.

Here's "Buff" as we like to call her, rescuing her bro. This was drawn by an eye witness.

She was so Bad A, that the Cheyenne named the battle after her and called it “Where the Girl saved her brother.” She was credited with knocking Custer off his horse and then killing him on the ground. There were other warrior women there as well including “Moving Robe Woman,” “Magpie,” and the awesomely named “Finds them and Kills them.”
Cornwallis – I’m afraid we are simplifying this battle to a ridiculous degree.
Zach – We have a case of Mountain Dew and we’re about to play Street Fighter. We have important things to do. Besides, if someone wants to learn a much more detailed account, then it behooves them to go look it up.
Mulan – We’re done here?
Cornwallis – Wait, we’re not done!
Martel – Not yet. What is the answer to the question? Was Custer a fool or unlucky?
Matilda – He made several blunders that any novice would have avoided. He should have scouted out the camp first. Everyone knows this. No one attacks blindly.
Mulan – He thought he was going into a village of women and children. Why bother?
Zach – Well, we’ve seen that his career during the Civil War was actually quite remarkable and filled with stunning successes. But I think he let his pride and aggressiveness get in the way of his training.
Martel – So, he was no fool, but he was a heartless jerk.
Zach – Well, he made other blunders as well at Little Big Horn, but I invite the readers to go and make up their own minds.
Mulan – Okay, let’s go. I have butt kicking that awaits you.

My books

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a little link up above that says “My Books.” In case you’re wondering what that is, I’m not only a part time quasi-historian, I’m also a writer. I have historical fiction, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. Go check them out, they’re kinda cool if I say so myself.

It's like War and Peace with monsters!

Greatest evil conqueror contest! Special Edition!

Zach – Welcome to another special edition of Minimum Wage Historian! I am joined by our good friend Anna Komemne, first woman historian and Byzantine Princess.
Anna – Thank you. It’s always great to be here.
Zach – It’s always good to have you. Next we have Henry the VIII, King of England!
Henry – Thank you, thank you. The food was excellent by the way.
Zach – Enjoy that Chinese buffet last night?
Henry – Certainly did!
Anna – I enjoyed the steamed dumplings myself.
Henry – General Tso’s chicken was quite delectable. Can we have him here? If he fights as well as he cooks he’s welcome in my army any time!
Zach – I’ll look into that….I’m not really sure he’s a real…well, next we have Cleopatra.
Cleopatra – I preferred the salad bar. When I get back to Egypt I shall institute salad bars in my palace.
Zach – Glad you liked it. And then we have Julius Caesar!
Caesar – Greetings Zach, Henry, Anna. And how are you this evening Cleopatra?
Cleopatra – Hello Julius. (winks)
Zach – And our last special guest panelist is Hua Mulan.
Mulan – It is a pleasure to be here. The buffet was better than the army food I am used to but I saw very little that was “Chinese” about it.
Henry – I was told that there’d be food here.
Zach – Well, I ordered out for pizza.
Henry – Oh, delightful.
Anna – I really enjoy this pizza you have here.
Caesar – I concur.
Zach – Well, what brings us here today is a topic that is too big for one unskilled historian. Our topic today is “Greatest ruthless conqueror.” Our contestants are Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Hernando Cortes and Mehmet II.
Anna – Napoleon? Really?
Zach – Well, he’s annoying but he did stomp all over Europe.
Caesar – Ha! I know a thing or two about that.
Cleopatra – And Egypt, darling.
Caesar – I believe that you were the one that walked over me.
Henry – I never let a woman walk over me.
Anna – No, your girth would require a mountain climber for that.
Zach – Be nice you two. So, what criteria are we judging by?
Mulan – Military accomplishments. Number of victories versus defeats.
Anna – Casualties inflicted verses casualties sustained.
Cleopatra – How good of kissers they were. I’m only jesting.
Henry – Long lasting impact on history.
Zach – Who should we start with?
Caesar – I think we should start with Alexander.

Zach – Very well. Alexander the Great. Alexander took his armies from Macedonia all the way to India. He was unstoppable and undefeated.
Anna – But how was he so successful?  He not only conquered all the unruly Greek city-states, but he also Palestine, Egypt and the powerful Persian Empire.
Caesar – He changed the classic Greek phalanx from a ponderous, slow moving formation to a lighter, faster, but more offensive unit. He lengthened the pikes and decreased the size of the hoplites’ shields. They were able to bring more pikes to bear and were able to move much faster.
Henry – Imagine a forest of spear points running at you at full speed. What could you do but run?
Anna – I doubt that you’d run.
Henry – Why, thank you. I am known for my bravery.
Anna – I was referring to your lack of ability.
Caesar – (laughs) Well, he killed thousands, but mostly all in battle. His modified phalanx’s in wedge formations charged forward rolling over everything that got in the way. Then Alexander used fast cavalry to strike where opportunities presented themselves. That was how he got King Darius. He charged in at a weak point.
Cleopatra – I think you paint his portrait too favorably. In India he slaughtered several cities that refused to submit. That cannot be ignored. He was as much a butcher as any other tyrant. He does however have perhaps the best military record of any general, but what made him “Great” was his impact on the culture. He spread Hellenic culture half way across the world. His general, Ptolemy was my ancestor after all. Greek rulers of Egypt. That’s rather significant I’d say.
Henry – Can you produce any male heirs?
Cleopatra – Pardon me?
Henry – Never mind.
Zach – Yes, he spread the Greek culture and infused it with the cultures of the areas he conquered. The Egyptians adopted Greek rulers, Palestine adopted Greek ways as well. The New Testament is much easier to understand if you understand the basic culture that it takes place in. The Greco-Roman-Hebrew culture is a complex one and it takes a little getting used to.
Mulan – He expanded on the military innovations of his father, but it was his daring on the battle field that won him his victories. He was vastly outnumbered many times, but he struck with power and precision at just the right spot. That is how he won.
Zach – But how does he rank? Okay, we’ll use a scale of one to ten and show the results at the end. First criteria: It’s a bit morbid, but let’s look at body count, actual and ratio. By most vague guestimates his armies killed around a million people, including during battles and razing cities. His ratio of casualties versus enemy casualties was very high. As for battles won or lost he fought ten large battles and lost none of them. 10 – 0. Not bad at all! Next is territory gained. His empire went from Macedonia to India and about 5.2 million square kilometers.
Caesar – Very impressive, even by Roman standards.
Zach – Next is innovation. Much of the ground work for the changing of the phalanxes was done by his father but we do need to give him some credit. Then we have “Lasting Effect.” Alexander spread Greek culture far and wide and altered the areas he conquered for centuries to come. And last we have the “Evil Meter.” Alexander fought for no great cause other than himself. He slaughtered civilian populations and ran one of his own generals through with a spear. He also named about a billion cities after himself which shows a certain…hubris if that’s not too light a word.
Mulan – He was a self serving, egotistical, arrogant jerk. I didn’t go off to fight for my own personal glory.
Anna – He served nothing but himself and didn’t care how many had to die.
Zach – So we can say that he ranks fairly high on the Evil Meter.
Henry – Sounds like a horrible man. Who’s next?
Zach – Let’s go with Genghis Khan next.

Cleopatra – What a brute. He lacks any hint of civilization that my dear Julius has.
Mulan – Mongols! Disgusting creatures.
Zach – Yes, indeed he comes from Mongolia and his name was Temujin. His father was a chieftain but when he died of food poisoning, he left Temujin and his mother, Hoelun, desolate and with nothing. She was a tough woman and managed to keep her small family alive for years while other tribes wanted to kill them. They lived in desperate poverty for years until Temujin was captured and held as a slave. He escaped and joined up with his childhood friend, Jamuha. Together they were like a buddy cop movie, jumping over car hoods, and shooting badguys while back to back.
Mulan – They were barbarians. They had no central leader. They constantly fought amongst themselves like rabid dogs.
Zach – True. Temujin saw all this constant anarchy, so he gathered his forces and began conquering all the other tribes in an effort to bring order and peace and end the constant murder that was going on. Also, he despised nobility. The idea that someone received privileges due to birth was disgusting to him. He had been at the mercy of nobles all his life and determined to fight the Man. In his clan a person rose up through merit alone.
Caesar – Very democratic of him.
Cleopatra – So, he wanted to reform the Mongols and make them a bit more civilized. As I understand it, he also wanted revenge against the Chinese for interfering with the Mongol tribes and pitting them against one another.
Mulan – He was jealous and nothing more.
Zach – Well, for a barbarian he had a very hungry mind. He had holy men from every religion; Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity. He brought doctors, philosophers and scholars to his court. He adapted the best parts of all the civilizations he conquered.
Henry – Indeed! He conquered a great deal! From China to Europe and the Asia Minor. That’s a lot to devour!
Caesar – He devoured quickly and kept it down for a long time. Descendents of his family had maintained power until the 1900’s. He changed the political face of Asia for centuries.
Cleopatra – Long lasting effects indeed!
Anna – His forces came to the boarders of the Eastern Roman Empire and went to the walls of Vienna.
Zach – Alright, let’s look at his forces. He had hordes of horse archers that rode very fast and struck very quickly. They stayed out of range of their enemies and showered arrows down on them. They also adopted innovations from the different cultures they met. They used Chinese gunpowder and medicine and invented paper money because they got tired of carrying their loot with them.
Anna – So then, where does he stand in our judgment? Now for our body count, as you call it? According to my research he…and this is really a guess, killed between 30 to 40 million people in his wars across Asia. Not only was he ruthless on the battlefield, but ruthless to the civilians living in cities. He was known for slaughtering the populations of cities in order to cause terror to other cities.
Henry – And victories? Didn’t he fail in conquering Japan?
Anna – That was after Temujin died so it cannot count. However, he did lose some early battles but he won countless others.
Zach – We’ll say its 100 victories to 3 losses. That’s more than respectable.
Cleopatra – Innovations?
Mulan – He ate mice and wore rotten furs.
Anna – He invented money and spread medicine, philosophy, and technology from China to Europe while going along the Silk Road. He invented laws to govern the Mongols, laws that declared that everyone was equal under the law with no exceptions. Not to mention bringing gunpowder to Europe.
Caesar – Land taken. 5.2 million square kilometers. That’s the largest empire ever. It didn’t last as long as the Roman Empire though.
Zach – And now the Evil Meter. How does he rank?
Mulan – The highest.
Cleopatra – He slaughtered millions and millions.
Henry – But he did it because he wanted to bring equality, justice and order to the world.
Anna – And how many tyrants have used that excuse?
Cleopatra – But he did fight for love!
Henry – Love? What do you mean?
Cleopatra – Oh, it’s a fantastic love story. He married his childhood sweetheart, Borte. He loved her but she was captured. He, with his friend Jamuha, fought and won her back.
Anna – Now that is lovely.
Caesar – Who’s next on our list?
Zach – Umm….let’s see…Ah! Hernando Cortes.
Anna – A very mercenary man.

Cleopatra – Indeed! Greed led him to the New World.
Mulan – He and a handful of men came over to Mexico, gathered some local allies and conquered an entire empire. He lost only a handful of his conquistadors but killed hundreds of thousands of Aztecs…and that’s not even counting the smallpox.
Caesar – He did suffer some losses during the Noche Triste when he and his men fled from Tenochtitlan. However, that was nothing compared to what he inflicted on the Aztecs when he returned.
Henry – His army and muskets didn’t hurt his odds either. He had tough, savage, armored and powerful soldiers. The Aztecs were afraid of his horses and thought he was a god. If my enemies thought I was a god I would be in a very good position indeed.
Anna – And how successful was he in battle? How many casualties?
Caesar – He lost 400 conquistadors and killed around 230,000 Aztecs, including almost all of their nobility.
Mulan – That’s a record to boast of. I wish our casualties had been that light.
Zach – And his attack on Tenochtitlan was almost ingenious. He brought portable boats down into Mexico valley and mounted cannons on them. The little boats went up and bombarded the city from the water. Then his other cannons and troops went up the causeways over the lake and began leveling the city block by block in order to bring his cavalry into the fight.
Anna – And innovation?
Caesar – Not really. Just raw brutality and excessive greed.
Zach – Well, he couldn’t have destroyed an entire empire with only a handful of men and be an idiot.
Anna – Agreed. He was a man that could see the opportunities that others did not. When he saw an opening he went for it with everything he had.
Henry – And that was his talent. No innovation really, but he used what he had to maximum effect.
Caesar – And land conquered?
Anna – The Aztec empire was around 800 square miles but led the way to the entire area of Mexico and Guatemala. He opened Mexico up for occupation by Spain and so the entire southwest of the United States. Perhaps he hadn’t conquered or killed much, but his percentages were spectacular. Few people had conquered so much with so little. If we look at the percentages of men and casualties, it would have been if Robert E. Lee’s army conquered the entire world and the Netherworld as well.
Zach – So, how does he rate on the evil meter?
Mulan – Again, we have a cruel man that fought for greed and his own vanity. Fighting for oneself and no higher cause is a terrible thing. He destroyed an entire empire only to gain what gold it had. It’s hard for me to imagine a more evil thing.
Zach – Next on our list is the Sultan Mehmet II. He was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and was famous for conquering Constantinople. By all accounts he was a highly intelligent and educated man.

Anna – He was a heathen and a…I should hold my tongue. He destroyed my beloved city of Constantinople.
Henry – Well, he spread his empire into Eastern Europe and destroyed the last remains of the Roman Empire.
Caesar – That is hard to say. There were only a few thousand defenders and Constantinople. Most of the populace had fled already. Out of all our contestants, he had probably killed the least.
Cleopatra – He did conquer a lot of territory and defeated many armies. Not to mention, his conquest of Constantinople was brilliant.
Caesar – Right! There was a great chain across the harbor so he packed up his ships and carried them across land. Then his highly trained troops, his Janissaries stormed the walls after his giant cannons blew holes in them.
Cleopatra – What was that quote he said when he walked through the ruins of the Byzantine palace?
Anna – “The spider weaves the curtains in the palace of the Caesars;
the owl calls the watches in the towers of Afrasiab.”

Mulan – He won against a crusade by the Hungarians. Then tore to pieces what little remained of the Byzantine Empire that had held back Islamic expansion for centuries. But when he tried to conquer Hungary they turned him back. I must declare it a draw. But then Vlad III Dracula waged a war of hit and run and ambushes against him. Dracuala boasted of impaling thousands of Turks. So Mehmet turned his full attention against Dracula and during a night attack, I’ve done such myself, Dracula struck deep into Mehmet’s camp and almost killed him right there. He lost other battles, won some and was turned away from Italy.
Cleopatra – I dare say this isn’t looking too good for his record. He did great job at Constantinople but progressed only with great difficulty in the rest of Europe.
Henry – He did conquer the Balkans and the Crimea, both very troublesome areas. Where is that pizza?
Mulan – Yes. I too am hungry and I desire pizza.
Anna – I’m hungry as well.
Zach – I ordered it already and it should be here soon.
Mulan – And Mehmet on the Evil Meter? Couldn’t we have found a better name for that?
Zach – No, we couldn’t. Well, he…
Anna – He’s the worst. He destroyed the city of the Caesars and of Constantine. He was a vile destroyer.
Zach – Well, he didn’t do anything horrible for his times and he fought for his empire and his religion. At least he had a cause.
Mulan – Right! The last contestant.
Anna – Must we really?
Zach – Yes, we must. Josephine made me promise to include him.
Anna – (groans)
Mulan – Napoleon Bonaparte.

Cleopatra – Was he really short?
Zach – No, that’s a myth. He was average height for his time and the shortness thing comes from English propaganda and a slight mix up in the English and French system of measurements.
Caesar – So, Napoleon was a Corsican who enrolled in the French army as an artillery officer. There he learned how effective artillery could be. That was the secret of his success. He made his artillery mobile and concentrated his firepower where it was most needed at the right times.
Mulan – A technique still used by you Americans.
Zach – That’s right. In the artillery our motto was “Shoot, move, communicate!” Napoleon didn’t invent anything and technology stagnated during the Napoleonic wars. What made him so innovative was that he used what he had in a completely new manner. He was almost always out numbered and innovated the idea of Total War. Instead of merely taking the field, his goal was to destroy the enemy and their means of resistance.
Cleopatra – He had trouble in Egypt! He never got the hang of handling the navy.
Henry – It isn’t that he didn’t have the hang of it, its that the English were so much better! (laughs loudly)
Caesar – he took over almost all of Europe except for England.
Zach – I’m sure Sir Winston Churchill could relate to that.
Mulan – What are the casualties?
Anna – At the battle of Leipzig there were over 90,000 casualties and that is just one battle in the very long and bloody war. Some estimates say about two to three million dead because of his wars.  Some say as much as seven million.
Mulan – And why this bloodshed?
Caesar – He fought for his ideals of the Revolution. He wanted to throw down nobility and create a state where all were equal under the law. He even wanted equality for the Jews. He changed the face and history of Europe and not to mention warfare itself.
Cleopatra – And his success?
Mulan – He took all Europe and it took several countries gaining up on him. He used mass conscription to create an enormous army.
Anna – My fellow historian Victor Davis Hanson does not have a high opinion of him. He said “After all, the military record is unquestioned—17 years of wars, perhaps six million Europeans dead, France bankrupt, her overseas colonies lost.”
Cleopatra – But Wellington, when asked who was the greatest general of the day, answered: “In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.”
Zach – We can’t deny that he was a great general. For over a decade he fought almost undefeated against all of Europe and always outnumbered. How many other generals can fight England, Germany and Russia at the same time?  He was also loved by his soldiers. I can’t say I ever loved any of my officers, so for me that says something.
Mulan – He was an arrogant man that craved power. He claimed to fight for the revolution but then crowned himself emperor. Hypocritical I think.
Zach – Our friend, Matilda Countess of Tuscany would be interested to know that when Napoleon took Italy, he used the “Iron Crown of Lombardy” to crown himself king of Italy.
Caesar – So, let’s see the final score! Remember, the more evil, the lower the score.

Alexader the Great:
Casualties inflicted versus taken. 8
Victories versus Defeat 10
Lasting Effect 6
Land Taken 8
Evil Meter 2
Total: 35

Genghis Khan:
Casualties inflected versus taken 7
Victories versus Defeat 10
Lasting Effect 7
Land Taken 10
Evil Meter 4
Total: 38

Cortes:
Casualties inflected Versus Taken. 10
Victories Versus Defeat 6
Lasting Effect 7
Land Taken 6
Evil Meter 2
Total: 31

Mehmet II
Casualties inflected versus taken. 5
Victories Versus Defeat 5
Lasting Effect 5
Land Taken 5
Evil meter 7
Total: 27

Napoleon:
Casualties inflected Versus taken 8
Victories Versus Defeat 9
Lasting Effect 8
Land Taken 8
Evil Meter 8
Total: 41

Zach – The winner is……Napoleon!
Anna – No! This must be a mistake.
Mulan – We should have had Emperor Quin in there.
Henry – Well, he wasn’t really French. He was Corsican after all. And he never beat our navy!
Zach – Where did Caesar and Cleopatra run off to?
Anna – They left a little while ago.
Henry – Who cares about those two love birds? Where’s the blasted pizza?

Winston Churchill: Leader of the comedic world.


“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen. “

“Although personally I am quite content with existing explosives, I feel we must not stand in the path of improvement.”

“Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.”

“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. “

“Eating words has never given me indigestion.”

“For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself.”

“He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”

“I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.”

“I am easily satisfied with the very best.”

“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

“I am prepared to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.”

“I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.”

“If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

“If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.”

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

“No crime is so great as daring to excel.”

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

And, to end, a quote that’s not funny but perhaps one of my favorite speeches ever.

{Edit}  Let me add a few things first.  I need to frame this quote in the events around it.  For one thing, France had just fallen to the Nazis.  Hitler now how almost complete control of Europe.  The USSR is still Germany’s BFF’s and America has no interest in jumping into the war.  The only country left to stand against Nazi Germany is Britain.  They are smaller, weaker and are basically going up against a superpower that has proven up to this point to be unstoppable.  There was no doubt that Germany was going to invade.  If England fell, America wouldn’t have a base to attack Europe from.  If England fell, the last democracy in Europe would have been erased from the map.   What was tiny Britain supposed to do against this Goliath?   It was almost certain, imposing doom.  But, in spite of all this, Winston Churchill stood up and said “No.”  He would not back down to evil and tyranny no matter what.  He would stand up against oppression regardless of what it would cost.  I’m sure he was frightened.  He was a smart man and had every reason to be frightened, but he chose to do the right thing over the safe thing.  Sometimes a cause is so important that it is worth dying for and he thought freedom was that cause.  Yes, he is a very funny man that liked to drink and smoke cigars, but he was also the right man at the right spot in history to stop the tide of evil that was washing over Europe.  Remember when I talked about Charles Martel being at a focal point in history?  Well, this is one of the biggest.  The balances could have easily gone one way or another and because of this one man, the balance tipped toward justice, virtue and peace.

“What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”

Hua Mulan

At least, we think that’s what her name is. No one can really agree on what her real name is, or when she lived…or where…or who she fought or …well, you get the point. Let’s just say that what we know is legend. She was probably living between 400-600AD, but that’s really just a guess.

But this much we do know, that she was awesome.

Most scholars tend to maybe kind of think that perhaps she could have been possibly in the Han Dynasty. The Han was the second dynasty after the first Qin dynasty that was started by the slightly insane dragon emperor. The Han dynasty was started by a rebel general Liu Bang who was a certifiable BAMF. (there’s a club for serious butt kickers. They have a card and everything. Charles Martel, Belisarius and Ghengis Khan are all members. They meet on Tuesdays.)
Speaking of Khans, in the “original” poem of Mulan, the emperor was refereed to as a khan, which implies he was a foreign ruler, possibly one of the semi-independent kings that ruled under the Han emperor. Also, most scholars tend to think that Mulan was from the northern provinces and her enemies were barbarians from the Mongolian region.
Well, when empires get invaded by barbarian hordes, its usually a pretty big crisis so the emperor/khan called every family to send a soldier to their army. Mulan’s father was once an officer in their equivalent of a national guard. This suggests that she was somewhat well off, like a landed aristocracy. However, her father was too old. She had an older sister that was married and a brother that was much too young. However they were a patriotic family and instead of whining and complaining and occupying random cities, they wanted to do their duty. The father was a military man and had trained Mulan in the arts of warfare. I was surprised to find that this was actually fairly common at this time. So, aside from learning slow dances, how to put on make up and do her hair, she was learning how to kick butt. Sword fighting, archery, hunting etc.

Mulan chillin' at home.

Well, Mulan’s father didn’t like the idea of his daughter running off to join the army, not to mention women couldn’t be in the army anyways. So she dressed as a man and fought a duel with her father without him knowing who she was. She won and then revealed who she was. Convinced that she was tough enough, he let her join the army. She joined as a low ranking officer, equivalent of our “butter bars” in the modern army.
Now let me explain a few things of the Chinese army at this time.

Her weapon of choice was a "Jia," a straight one handed sword usually used with a shield. The standard infantry sword.

A typical crossbow at the time. Unlike Western armies, Chinese armies rellied much more on missle weapons.

They also had these totally intimidating halbred-looking weapons, great from horseback or against mounted bad guys.

And according to the zombie survival guide, they were well equipped to go against the walking dead.

The Chinese army at this time was a very well organized military. Units weren’t mixed so a soldier would be in a crossbow unit or a spear unit. The different groups would be positioned to support the front lines wherever they were needed. They had drums and gongs to tell the soldiers what to do and when.
They had cavalry as well, but like the Romans it was light cavalry without the stirrup. (not yet anyway.)

Some Han light cavalry action! Horse archers were a staple of the steppes!

returning from kicking nomadic butt. They had mass produced weapons and armor.

So, this is the military Mulan joins. Apparently she was also really good at it because she rose through the ranks fairly quickly and eventually became a general. The whole time no one had a clue that she was a woman. She fought for 12 years and at the end she went before the emperor and all the officers and soldiers were offered rewards. She refused money and lands and only asked for a ride back home…a very fast ride home. There were two reasons she wanted to go home in a hurry. One: she wanted to go home and put her feet up. Two: one of the other generals was looking to marry her off to his daughter. That could have been pretty awkward.

Where is Mulan?? I want him to meet my daughter! What?? He left??

So this general sends one of his general buddies to go find Mulan at home. When he arrives he’s greeted by a woman. I’m sure it was highly awkward. Well, the marriage idea was off to say the least, but then that general proposes to her! (at least in some tellings of it.)  Wait a second….how did they fight for twelve years, become good friends and live in camps and NOT know that she was a woman?  Well, my hypothesis is this.  One, she probably had her own tent.  Two.  She wore her armor and helmet everywhere.  Three. Didn’t take a lot of baths…at least nearby the others.  Four. She took disguise lessons from Lon Chaney.
The great thing about this story was that it showed the virtues the Chinese valued. It showed her patriotism and selflessness of serving her country and it showed her humility in not asking or accepting a reward. Also, it showed the value of learning to kick butt.

Kicking butt is a universal value and Hua Mulan excelled at it.