History for the Fantasy and Sci-Fi writer

Zach – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian. I’m doing this from Japan so I’m alone today.  Today’s topic is from a presentation I gave at ‘Life The Universe and Everything,’ a writer’s conference held in Provo Utah. This is from last February where I tried to dispell myths about medieval combat and warfare in general and tried to show how the realities of such warfare are actually very fascinating and could add depth, realism and drama to a fantasy story. Yes, fantasy, by definition can really do anything it pleases, but there still has to be logic behind what they do and this is why I’m here, to bring logic to fantasy (and sci-fi) combat. Too many times I’ve read a fantasy book where the two armies clash in mass blobs, everything gets into a confused mess and somehow the hero and villain end up facing each other.

Yeah, you know you've seen this a dozen times. King Aurther, Willow, Dark Knight Rises, and so on.

Yeah, you know you’ve seen this a dozen times. King Aurthur, Willow, Dark Knight Rises, and so on.

Well, it turns out that battles are actually a little more complex and organized than that. See, there these little things called strategy and tactics.  Think of strategy as the big picture and tactics as the finer details. Strategy is the war, why your army is invading and what they’re after, where are they going and how are they going to win the war. Tactics is what you do in the battle. What units are placed where and how they move and fight. Then there is the weapons and equipment which seldom seem to be done right.

I’ll deal with each in turn. Each one will depend on the nature of the civilization you are writing about. A democratic Elven Republic that uses trade to make itself powerful will recruit, train and use soldiers in a completely different way than a Theocratic Orkish Kingdom that focuses on agriculture.

So, let’s take some examples from history. Ancient Rome. At its height it spread from England to the Mid-East with dozens of vassal kingdoms as allies. Rome recruited soldiers from all over its Empire and sent them to legions far from home. So, a Sarmatian could be sent to serve in a legion stationed in Gaul. A Libyan could be sent to Greece and a Briton could be sent to garrison Jerusalem. Wherever they went, they were trained and equipped in a similar manner so that their unifying culture became the Roman Military. It no longer mattered where they were from, they were all Legionaries now and were expected to devote their (probably) short lives to the Legion. This was quite different from how just a few centuries later, Charles Martel would recruit his soldiers. At that time, France was mostly agricultural and the soldiers were no longer life long professionals. They were farmers that had nothing much to do when they weren’t farming. So, Martel recruited young farmers for his army, but had to send them back home so they could harvest their crops in time. So, Europe developed a “campaign season” based around the harvesting of crops. (And it sucks to fight in bad winter weather.) The Venetians had a completely different way to go about warfare. They were mostly a maritime power and every citizen that sailed was expected to train with the crossbow to learn how to defend their ships.  Warship captains also hauled and sold cargo on the side to earn a profit while at war. Their land battles were mostly done by mercenary armies because the Venetians themselves cared little for land.

Okay, let’s look at a fantasy example. Let’s take (and I’ll just be making this up as I go,) an Elven kingdom ruled by a woman who’s very powerful and has ruled as monarch for centuries.  Hers is an enlightened monarchy and her kingdom has enjoyed peace. Are there other races? Sure, how about some civilized trolls, minotaurs, harpies and some centaurs. Why not. But then the nearby human empire starts expanding and using ork mercenaries to launch raids. Oh oh, time for war. The enlightened ruler refuses to do a mass conscription and instead gives a heart rending speech to her people imploring them to sign up and fight for their land and liberty. (I’m sure it’d make a great scene in the book.)  Many sign up. Many don’t.  So, they get a small but very loyal and dedicated army. They use their tiny core of experienced veterans to train these new recruits in time for the human invasion. They have to integrate the different species as well. They put trolls and centaurs into their own units as heavy infantry and cavalry. Harpies become scouts and maybe light missile tropes.  The human army invades and is looking to take territory, so they start by taking cities. This is a mono-race army of only humans (maybe they’re racists) with little cavalry and many men in heavy armor and long pikes.  They move slowly but unstoppably. So, the Elven kingdom, afraid of a stand up field battle, uses its cavalry and scouts to harass the enemy and try to split them up and only after weakening them do they attempt a pitched battle. They are outnumbered 2 to 1 but they are fighting for their freedom and country and are side by side with their brothers and townsmen. The humans are out for plunder and “three hots and a cot.” They don’t really have a cause and don’t really care. They’re confident because they think elves are weak and haven’t really stood up to fight yet. The two armies clash.

Who wins?  Well, there’s a whole lot to go through before that question can be answered. That was just one example on how culture and civilization effects how a country fights. Does your country have access to a lot of horses? Dedicated war horses take a lot of land and grain to train and a lot of time and money to get the rider trained and kitted out. Medieval Japan did not have a lot of cavalry because they didn’t have the space to do it properly. The Mongols had nothing but open space.  The Byzantines made the space at the expense of their once powerful infantry legions. Even the battles of medieval knights were mostly infantry affairs. What about technology? Does your fantasy kingdom have a tech advantage over their enemies? Do they have siege cannons? Do they have crossbows? Repeating crossbows? Byzantine flame throwers?

The Byzantines used a cheat code and got flamethrowers and laser bears.

The Byzantines used a cheat code and got flamethrowers and laser bears.

What about population? China had a much, much larger population than Western Europe and as such had much larger armies. After the worst outbreak of Black Death in Medieval Europe during the Hundred Years War, we saw large armies shrink down to small raiding parties. Smaller armies also could mean that each man is much better equipped. Massive armies might only afford a shield and helmet for their men.

A feudal kingdom like the Holy Roman Empire was a collection of quarreling kingdoms that sometimes agreed to work together. The Turks used different types of troops from their different parts of their Empire so it was a mish mash of whatever they had.

Religion. Is your religion pacifist in nature? For example, The Byzantines were Christian and as such they actually avoided fighting far more than their Pagan ancestors and relied more heavily on strategy, subterfuge and simply paying their enemies off. Or, is your religion a blood thirsty one that delights in slaughtering heathens? Or is money the root of all happiness in your fantasy religion? Individualism or conformity? Honor or whatever gets victory?

So, do you see how the culture can affect your military? If you’re writing about battles, you have to have your culture fully fleshed out and understand how that changes the way they fight and wage war.

Now, the big picture: Strategy.

Here’s the thing, every battle has a purpose. Every army sets out to accomplish something. If an army sets out to invade a neighbor, what’s the best way to accomplish that? Are the cities fortified? Open? Or are the bases of power castles and forts outside the cities? Is farmland what they’re after or the control of rivers or mountain passes? Maybe islands or other centers of trade? Let’s look at Hannibal’s invasion of Italy. He was arguably one of the greatest generals of all time. He accomplished what so few generals in history have ever accomplished: the complete encirclement of a Roman army. Every battle he fought he completely annihilated the enemy to a humiliating degree. It was so bad that the Roman general Fabian refused to fight him face to face and just ran around Italy avoiding contact with Hannibal. So….why is western Europe speaking Latin based languages and not Cartheginian? Simple, Hannibal didn’t know what to do to win the war. After his shockingly amazing victory at Lake Trasimene the city of Rome, capitol of his enemy, was wide open to attack. There was maybe a couple of inept guards between him and the complete destruction of the Roman Republic. But he didn’t move.  He sat there and waited for the Romans to surrender. Meanwhile, Rome quickly gathered another army, trained them up and sent them out again.

This was an example of how no matter how brilliant you are or how powerful your army, if your strategy sucks, you’ll probably lose.

Here’s the main thing to know about strategy. If you only take away one thing from all of my ranting here, its this: Every army survives on its belly. In fantasy how many times have you seen depictions of vast armies of evil marching from horizon to horizon and everyone you see is warrior in black armor intent on death.

Looks cool, gotta admit that, but slightly impossible.

Looks cool, gotta admit that, but slightly impossible.

There’s a problem with that.

How do they eat? Armies travel on their bellies. Miss one too many meals and your army is either too weak to move or are ready to mutiny. An army that’s so friggin’ huge that it shakes the earth also has to have a baggage train almost as numerous as the soldiers. Armies require a lot of food and a lot of stuff. They’ll need blacksmiths and all that comes with it. They’ll need doctors, blankets, food, carts, tools, laundry stuff, LOTS of FOOD, weapons, armor horses, food for the horses, food, surveyors, accountants, food, money, lots of money, food, shoes, clothing and food. Sure, the initial shock invasion can travel light, but if the baggage train doesn’t meet up with them soon, they’re stranded and either dead or captured. (Examples: Blitzkrieg, Iraq War, Normandy, the First Crusade, etc.)

What I’m trying to say is that your entire strategy will revolve around logistics. The three ‘B’s’. Beans, blankets and bullets. (or blades if you’re writing fantasy.) Most of the time the army that gets the three B’s where they need to be, when they need to be there will win. Why did Nazi Germany focus on U-boat action around England? They wanted to cut off all supplies to starve them out. Why did Grant focus on the Mississippi in the Civil War? He wanted cut off the South’s main supply lines. Why did Lee’s army fight at Gettysburg? They were looking for shoes.

The ironic thing is, the bigger the army, the more vulnerable they are to logistics. A vast horde of unbeatable warriors can be beaten by cutting off their supply lines and leaving them cold and hungry. Look at Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Napoleon was undefeatable. His army could march over any three armies in Europe without pause. But the Russians didn’t have to fight him in the field. They just withdrew and let Napoleon come further in until his supply lines were stretched too thin and left him with nothing to find. This also worked against a certain German leader during the next century. So, in your fantasy book, you have an army of war trolls that the good guys can’t possibly beat in a fight? Starve them out. Burn the crops before them and attack their baggage trains and supply lines.  The three B’s.

Look at Joan of Arc’s first heroic battle at Orleans. Why was that city so important? A novice writer will say, “its an important city” and leave it at that. But the reason Joan knew she had to keep Orleans from falling was that it was a transportation link between the Dauphin’s territories. Cut that link and each part would be essentially cut off from resupply or reinforcements. It was about the three B’s.

I know Logistics doesn’t sound sexy for a fantasy story, but it can add a lot of plot and reasons to fight. Maybe your heroes need a port to allow their navy to resupply them? Maybe they want to stop the enemy from getting their horses so they go take the city where most of their warhorses come from. Maybe the enemy is after the part of the country where most of the good guys’ food is grown.  Maybe the Troll army is running for the granary silos or pig farms and the heroes have to stop them from getting to the food. Either way its a reason to fight instead of “because they’re there.”  It’ll add motive and make the world seem more real.

This is the reason that most of Medieval warfare was based around sieges. It was a cheap way to destroy the enemy. You surround them and wait and see who runs out of supplies or gets sick the fastest. Look through Medieval history and you’ll see that many battles were sieges. They were far more common than most realize and they were often fairly mundane and boring affairs. But if you want a siege that is truly epic, look at the siege of Malta and the defense of the Knights of St. John.

But, Zach, sometimes armies fight just to kill the other army!

Yes, I know, and in those cases, the three B’s get a fourth, ‘bodies.’ The side that will win will the side that can throw the most beans, blankets blades and bodies into the fray. WWI is a good example of this. In that war, the object was to win by pure attrition. Objectives were excuses to maul and wear down the enemy army. Germany lost because they just couldn’t keep the (4) B’s going. They failed to strangle England and then America jumps in with ship loads of the (4) B’s.  This is a particularly brutal and pointless form of warfare and if you want to write a dark, gritty fantasy/sci-fi war, this is an interesting model, but remember, the men fighting at the front are just a part of it. The other half of the war is the flow of food, weapons, supplies and bodies. But you run the risk of making the war seem like the same every day, which it would be. Unless you’re going for some depressing artsy kinda book, I’d stick to a more maneuver based form of warfare where more things than attrition matter. The reader will thank you.

Okay, if done right it could actually be really cool and I'd read the heck out of it. But its tricky to do.

Okay, if done right it could actually be really cool and I’d read the heck out of it. But its tricky to do.

Right, on to Tactics! This is the second most important thing to remember when dealing with battle scenes. What we see in movies and most books is two blob armies facing off, a heroic speech from the hero, then the two blobs crash into each other and everyone is mixed in with everyone and the heroism of the good guys wins out.

Um…no. Not really. Even the most barbaric of barbarians used tactics. Take the Goths that invaded Rome. They didn’t fight in a huge blob. They circled their enormous wagons and placed infantry in between the openings. Then their cavalry would sally out, attack the enemy and retreat back inside their mobile fort.  The Goths that fought in the West adopted Roman styles of warfare very quickly. The Mongols had very sophisticated tactics that required precision timing and communication. Their horse archers would charge forward, unleash arrows and charge back in a continuing circle of raining death. The Byzantines would march their infantry slowly while their heavy cavalry would charge, hammer into the enemy and come back behind the safety of the infantry. They’d repeat this until they wore down the enemy with heavy cavalry charges. (That usually didn’t take very long.)

What tactics your army uses will depend on the type of army which depends on the society. Where they fight will depend on the strategy and logistics of theirs and the enemy’s army. Its all interconnected.

Okay, let’s look at how ancient and medieval armies actually fought.

There was a reason they formed lines of different units and there was a reason each unit was placed where they were. Let’s take a look.

Here's a typical battle formation for two opposing armies. The infantry in the middle where a lot of fighting is going to be. The archers are on the flanks (or sometimes behind) to provide missile support and maybe light skirmishers. The cavalry is places on the flanks so they can move out and attack the weak flanks or other weak spots as they appear. The reserves are there to plug up holes and make sure the enemy doesn't break through.

Here’s a typical battle formation for two opposing armies. The infantry in the middle where a lot of fighting is going to be. The archers are on the flanks/sides (or sometimes behind) to provide missile support and maybe light skirmishers. The cavalry is placed on the flanks so they can move out and attack the weak flanks or other weak spots as they appear. The reserves are there to plug up holes and make sure the enemy doesn’t break through.

Right, pretty simple. Now this is where it gets complex. Once the two armies engage, arrows start flying to cause casualties and expose weak spots. The infantry have to progress in formation and not break the line. Here’s why. If there’s a break, enemy can move through and now they’re free to attack the sides and backs of the infantry where they are exposed. This can cause catastrophic problems and often causes a “roll up” where an entire infantry unit is destroyed or sent running by enemy using a break in their line to enter in where they are weak and basically attack their soft spots.

That’s why you have reserves. In many movies (First Knight, Braveheart, to name a few) the reserves are treated like an extra army you just kinda have waiting off to the side and then as a tactical genius the general says “Send in the Reserves!!” and suddenly that side wins because they had an extra army. No. Both sides would have reserves to prevent those super lethal breaks in the line. If they saw an area faltering, the reserves would charge in and support that weak spot. Or, if the flanks were being weakened by a cavalry charge, the reserves would counter-charge the enemy cavalry and save the flank. If the flank falls, then the whole army is in danger of being rolled up.

At Gettysburg, the battle at Little Round top was defended by Chamberlain so heroically because he knew that the flank had to hold or the whole Union army was in danger. Flanks had to be defended and attacked. If you can get a flank you can destroy the entire enemy army. Alexander the Great preferred to charge right down the center. He broke through the infantry to get to the enemy commander. Daring but risky.

Now, Cavalry vs Infantry. This is something that’s also horribly misrepresented in movies and books.  Movies show cavalry as unstoppable juggernaughts that roll over everything. Not quite. Cavalry can smash into and scatter certain unprepared infantry units. Frankish cavalry charges broke Muslim infantry numerous times during the First crusade. But there’s an easy way to counter a cavalry charge by the fiercest horsemen.

Pikes.

Yes, during much of the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and up through to almost the modern age, pikes were the #1 weapon of choice for infantry. Pikes could keep swordsmen at bay and make cavalry charges useless. A horse charging into a wall of spikes will do nothing but get impaled.

Now, light cavalry was used to scout the enemy positions and movements. An essential job. They were also used to harass enemy archers and supply lines.

Cavalry archers could fire and move away before infantry could ever reach them. They could attack and never be attacked in return. The answer was to have cavalry of your own to chase them down or have better missile weapons than them. An army without cavalry was a sitting duck to cavalry armies, something the Roman legions of the West learned too late. The Eastern Romans adapted and their Byzantine armies emphasized cavalry much more than their destroyed Western brethren.

The Swiss Pikemen were some of the most feared infantry in the Middle Ages for a reason. Heavy armor and long pikes. A running wall of death heading straight at you. Yeah, kinda scary.

The Swiss Pikemen were some of the most feared infantry in the Middle Ages for a reason. Heavy armor and long pikes. A running wall of death heading straight at you. Yeah, kinda scary.

You can’t really have a Medieval army without pikes or spears.

Bows weren’t used nearly as widely as movies suggest. Most armies used crossbows and even then not very much. The English were the exception and they used the famed English Long Bow against the French to great effect.

So, now let’s see how this all worked together.

The cavalry charge forward under the cover of missile fire and advancing infantry. The either fight enemy cav or go for exposed flanks or whatever else looks juicy. If they see reserves coming at them, they high tail it out of there and go back and then return to attack a little while later.

The cavalry charge forward under the cover of missile fire and advancing infantry. The either fight enemy cav or go for exposed flanks or whatever else looks juicy. If they see reserves coming at them, they high tail it out of there and go back and then return to attack a little while later. (Okay, not a pretty drawing, but hey.)

But what if one army has a longer line and tries to envelope the other army? Well, then the other army has to lengthen its formations to keep that from happening but risk thinning their lines too much. Its a fine line of long formations versus thickness. Too short and you get surrounded. Too thin and they’ll break through your center. No easy answer because it’ll depend on the situation. A good general will be able to judge what is necessary.

I hope I’ve given you a better idea about how a real Medieval style battle will go instead of just two blobs running at each other and screaming.

Now, weapons and armor.

Certain kinds of armor stop certain kinds of weapons. There are no universals when it comes to weapons and armor. For example. Chain mail is cheap, easy to make and works very well against slashing weapons. But its weak against piercing weapons like spears and arrows. Its also useless against blunt weapons like clubs and maces. The blows will still break every bone under the chain mail.

Scale/lamallar armor is great, but has one weakness. The direction of the scales. If the scales are pointed down, an upward thrust will go through. The Byzantine cavalry angled their armor scales up in order to protect against infantry.

A Byzantine Cataphract in full, multi-layered armor. Felt, lamallar/scale, and chainmail beneath. He was as armored as you got without using plate.

A Byzantine Cataphract in full, multi-layered armor. Felt, lamallar/scale, and chainmail beneath. He was as armored as you got without using plate.

Felt/wool armor. Yes, I’m serious. This stuff stops arrows like kevlar stops bullets, but is useless against stabby and hitty things. Byzantines would put wool/felt armor over or under their metal armor for multiple levels of protection.

Plate armor. Now, I’ve seen in too many movies where an axe or even a sword goes through plate armor. Just no. Swords will bounce off and axes might dent if if you’re lucky. So, if you’re writing a story and a character has plate armor, he’s basically impervious to most things. The only way to stop someone in plate armor is to get in the cracks like the armpit, the neck or eye slits. (Or groin if you’re not nice.)  Something really peircy might penetrate like an armor piercing crossbow bolt at close range or a really big lance going very fast.

And a suit of full plate was far more maneuverable than one might think. The weight distribution was excellent for a fitted suit of armor and the wearer could get up, roll around and mount horses at will. The idea of the knight being hoisted into their saddle is a Victorian myth.  So, if your plucky thief character comes across a noble in plate armor, he has three choices, get out his dagger and go for a gap in his armor, get a mace and smash him, or run. The first two involve risking fight with a trained warrior and you’ll get one shot. The fourth option is to get a bunch of your buddies and dog pile the person in plate armor.

This is a man who's trained since he was a child in the art of fighting. He's wearing the best armor possible and he's ready for you. Your pluck and dagger won't be enough.

This is a man who’s trained since he was a child in the art of fighting. He’s wearing the best armor possible and he’s ready for you. Your pluck and dagger won’t be enough.

So, what level of technology does your civilization have? That will determine what kind of weapons and armor they have. Do they have simple bows, recurve? Crossbows?  How good is their metallurgy? Sword fights weren’t fights where the two characters bang away at each other’s swords. Swords broke and chipped easily when you did that. They either used shields and tried to get in through an opening or they used their swords more like staves and clobbered each other with the pommel. Against unarmored opponents, sure, hack and slash away, but a fight between two armored foes was a brutal affair.

Also, plate armor is friggin’ expensive and hard to make. Each suit had to be tailored to the wearer with exact measurements or the suit wouldn’t fit or move right and become more of a hindrance.

Samurai armor offered a great deal of maneuverability with moderate protection. They were hard to make because of the complexity of each suit and was handed down through the generations as symbols of prestige.

Three dudes you do not want to mess with. Each one will explode on you with a flash of yelling and sharp steel. These were men that did not take warfare lightly.

Three dudes you do not want to mess with. Each one will explode on you with a flash of yelling and sharp steel. These were men that did not take warfare lightly.

So, have you figured out your society? That will determine what weapons and armor they use? Do they have massive armies with simple to produce but not very protective armor? Elaborate and highly protective armor just for the nobles? Breastplates and helmets for everyone like the did in the English Civil War and colonization of America? The armor will determine the weapons and that might affect how the units behave on the battlefield. Different tactics for different foes. In the Army we had something called “METT”  Mission, Equipment, Time and Terrain. Basically that said that the situation dictates what you do. What’s the mission you have to do? What equipment do you and the enemy have? What factor does time play? Do you need to hurry and get somewhere? Beat them before sundown or hold them off until reinforcements arrive like at Waterloo?  What’s the terrain? Are you on a hill like King Aurthur at Baden Hill or are you caught between the enemy and a lake like the Romans at Lake Trasemene? Do you charge down the hill with bayonets like Chamberlain at Gettysburg?

Confused? I hope not.

Confused? I hope not.

That’s a whole lot to think about when writing your story, but each one adds possibilities to add to your story and add depth and reality.  It forces you to flush out your society which will in turn shape everything around your characters. A battle where they have a definite goal they have to do and fight a certain way, “Hold the line until our allies can join us!” Is much more memorable that [The horde charged and we charged and there in the middle of the chaos I saw Demonitor. And so we started our fated duel! But then Demonitor shouted out, "Send in the Reserves!!" And I knew all was lost!]

So, get thinking and then start writing. And for heaven’s sake, finish it!

Zach’s new book

Anna – Oh, Zach insisted that I mention that his new book, “Sins of Prometheus” is out now and that you should purchase it at your leisure. It’s a ….hold on, I wrote it down here…oh, its a “post-apocalyptic” story.  I’m not entirely sure what that is, but he says that its exciting. A young woman travels across a desolate America to find her brother and faces other survivors of the plague. Some are friendly and others are decidedly not.

You can buy it here. Sins of Prometheus.

Olga - By Zachski's book or I burn you house down.

Olga – By Zachski’s book or I burn you house down.

Princess Theophanu

She took over the Holy Roman Empire and showed those barbarians how to do the whole "Imperial Power" thing right.

She took over the Holy Roman Empire and showed those barbarians how to do the whole “Imperial Power” thing right.

Anna Komnene – We’re back with another great discussion about a topic I chose.  Zach sent us a little history of Fukui, the city he’s currently living in. It had something to do with castles, a son of Tokugawa and a phoenix, but honestly, I didn’t read it all. Why talk about that when we can talk about something actually interesting?

Matilda of Tuscany – Actually, I thought Zach’s information was quite fascinating.

Anna – And that’s why you’re not the host, because you’re boring.

Olga of Kiev – I miss Zach-ski.

Gaspar Correia – Really? You do?

Olga – Of course! He was nice man that wore toga and shouted about hot pockets. I like hot pockets.

Gaspar – No, that was Julius Caesar. Zach had the bald head and goatee and drew the pictures.

Olga – I no remember him.

Anna – You don’t need to.  Now, today we’re talking about something near to my heart.

Gaspar – You have one?

Anna – Why must it be “illegal” to have someone’s nose cut off? This so-called “modern age” is very inconvenient. But yes, we are talking about Princess Theophanu of Byzantium. (Sometimes Theophano.) When a powerful Byzantine lady makes a mark on history, I shall pay attention! But our story begins to the west of the Eastern Roman Empire, we look to Germany and the leader, Otto I. Now, if we remember, the Frankish upstart, Charlemagne united a bunch of barbaric Frankish lands into one large kingdom that covered most of France and Germany and Italy. He was crowned “Emperor of the Romans” in Rome on Christmas day in the year 800 AD.  Well, after his death, his “empire” fractured between rival factions.  Well, his descendents never forgot the Western Roman Empire or Charlemagne’s claim to the supremacy of the Roman throne. So, along comes this Otto fellow who manages to unite Germans into one single empire again and calls it the “Holy Roman Empire.” It would last from 296 to 1806 when Napoleon ended it.

Matilda – Well, there are three things wrong with that title. Holy? Not hardly. Though Otto did finally defeat the invading Magyars and ended their invasion of Western Europe. (They settled in Hungary and became the Hungarians.) And for defeating the pagan Magyars, Otto was called the Savior of Christendom. But still, a political aristocracy that murders to maintain power, I hardly call Holy. Besides, they invaded my beloved Italy and attacked my homeland. So, no. Not holy.

Gaspar – I also must say that they weren’t Roman either. But why claim that name? Simple, they claimed to be the spiritual successor to the might, power and prestige of Rome.  But, the fact was, they were the super power in the west so they could claim that title without dispute.  Now, this didn’t go down well with our Eastern Roman friends, the Byzantines. They saw it as barbarians playing dress up.

Olga – Oh, is my turn, dah? Okay, okay. (clears throat) They no Empire either. They just a big kingdom with many dukes that fight each other for power. Sometimes they listen to emperor, sometimes no. Not Empire.

A fair chunk of land. They spent more time fighting each other than other countries. Though, in their time they did fight off the Magyars, the Turks and the Mongols.

A fair chunk of land. They spent more time fighting each other than other countries. Though, in their time they did fight off the Magyars, the Turks and the Mongols.

Anna – Very good, Olga. You’ll make a great historian one day. So, Otto I has his big kingdom he calls an empire ready to go, but he lacks one thing. He lacks prestige. Sure, he has power and the armies to demand respect, but he needs a link to a real Empire and a real legacy. Well, the only choice he had was to turn to the Eastern Roman Empire, the continuation of the Roman Empire that he so haughtily claimed the title to. So, when he had a son, Otto II, he decided to ask Constantinople for a princess to marry and gain that imperial prestige.

Matilda – There was one problem, the Byzantine Emperor wasn’t too keen on sending his imperial daughter to live with a bunch of upstart barbarians. Otto demanded no less than his daughter, Anna. (Not to be confused with Anna Komnene here.) The Byzantine emperor flatly rejected such a preposterous notion and instead offered Otto the daughter of his brother in law from his first marriage. Not exactly the daughter to an emperor, but Otto figured “Hey, its a Byzantine princess. Good enough,” and accepted.

Byzantine emperor is not impressed by your filthy little kingdom.

Byzantine emperor is not impressed by your filthy little kingdom.

Olga – He sent little niece to nasty Germans? She was only twelve, dah?

Anna – I’m impressed, Olga. You did your homework this time. Yes, she was only twelve but Otto just wanted the connection to the Roman Empire. The rest he didn’t care about.  So, little princess Theophanu was sent to Rome to meet and marry Otto II. The was more than a simple wedding. This was the uniting of the two great superpowers of their day and the pomp and ceremony was unrivaled in Western Europe. She had a huge entourage that included skilled artists and craftsmen from Constantinople. It was a most impressive display.

The wedding document still exists. It was written on purple paper with gold ink. This was as swanky as it got back then. This kind of document was reserved only for the most important of occasions and the birth of an imperial dynasty was one of those occasions.

The wedding document still exists. It was written on purple paper with gold ink. This was as swanky as it got back then. This kind of document was reserved only for the most important of occasions and the birth of an imperial dynasty was one of those occasions.

Here's their wedding portrait. Otto II and Theophanu. Its better than most of the sappy wedding photos I've seen.

Here’s their wedding portrait. Otto II and Theophanu. Its better than most of the sappy wedding photos I’ve seen.

Matilda – They were crowned Emperor and Empress of Rome by the Pope in 972. Not bad. Now, being crowned “empress” was as high as it got. She wasn’t just “wife of the emperor.” No, sir. She was full Empress with legal and political power. also, Otto II’s mother was also crowned empress so, they were on equal footing and the two of them didn’t exactly see eye to eye on a lot of things. Her mother in law, Adelaide, called her “that Greek woman.” But the next year, Otto I died and suddenly Theophano was wife of the sole ruler of the Holy Roman Empire.  Now, she was Empress, yes, but she wasn’t very popular. A Benedictine monk called her an unpleasant and talkative woman. But then again, to a Benedictine monk, maybe most women were talkative and unpleasant.

Anna – Well, those German barbarians just didn’t know how to take culture and sophistication. They claimed she was “decadent” because she took baths every day, wore perfume and jewelry that was finer than anything they had. And one of her worst offenses, and I scarce say this in mixed company for the scandal of it, but when she ate, she didn’t use her hands but a…a fork!

Gaspar – Oh, the humanity!

Anna – I’m afraid so, my fellow historians. Theophanu bathed and didn’t eat with her hands. Horrible, I know.

Matilda – I am shocked!

Anna – Well, apparently their marriage was a somewhat happy one because they had five children. One of them would become Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor. Well, life as Holy Roman Empress was a mobile one. The Germans hadn’t gotten the hang of having a stationary capital, so their court moved around from place to place. She had been trained since birth to play the game of politics and she was smart and very intelligent. She was no passive trophy wife. She even traveled with her husband on military campaigns and signed her name on legal documents.

Matilda – But then in 983, 11 years after becoming emperor, Otto II died suddenly leaving his wife and three year old Otto III in a somewhat precarious position. Theophanu knew that if she did nothing, the German nobles would walk all over her and her son and seize the throne for themselves. So, quickly had Otto crowned emperor and named herself as Empress regent. That’s a fancy term for “My son is the emperor, but really control everything.”

Gaspar - Theophanu also unleashed one of her dowery gifts, the enchanted dragon automatons of destruction. These mechanical behomaths ensured that the German dukes would stay in line!

Gaspar – Theophanu also unleashed one of her dowry gifts, the enchanted dragon automatons of destruction. These mechanical behemoths ensured that the German dukes would stay in line!

Anna – No, she didn’t need giant cyborg dragons, Gaspar, she had something better. She had a brain and the courage to use it. For two years she actually had to share the throne with her mother-in-law. The only thing those two agreed on was the safety and future of Otto III. In that they were united. But then Theophanu took the throne as sole ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. So, think about that for a moment. This 12 year old princess from Constantinople comes Germany as a trophy wife and ends up ruling the whole place. Not a small feat by anyone’s standards.

Matilda – Yeah, the German dukes and barons didn’t like her, but that was because she was more sophisticated and maybe more intelligent than them and they didn’t like being told what to do by a woman.

Gaspar – Hold on, I think I have a picture of one of these barons….

Matilda - Well, that's A baron, not exactly...never mind.

Matilda – Well, that’s A baron, not exactly…never mind.

Olga – So, did Theofa..fa..Theo kill peoples?

Anna – No, she didn’t have to. She ruled by her strong will and quick thinking.

Olga – No burning cities?

Anna – No.

Olga – (sighs) Okay then.

Here's a statue of her in Germany where she's buried. So, the German dynasty has a Byzantine princess to thank for their stable continuance.  Didn't teach that in school, did they?

Here’s a statue of her in Germany where she’s buried. So, the German dynasty has a Byzantine princess to thank for their stable continuance. Didn’t teach that in school, did they?

Olga – Don’t forget to like us and the Bookface, dah? Do it or I burn you house down.

Matilda – Also check out Zach’s history book based off our adventures here at Minimum Wage Historian. Fearless: Powerful Women of History!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catherine the Great

They see her rollin', they hatin'.

They see her rollin’, they hatin’.

Anna – Welcome again to Minimum Wage Historian, now under my supreme authority. I, Anna Komnene am the unquestionable autocrat of this blog. Zach is still away in Japan and shall be for some time.
Mulan – You know he reads everything we post, right?
Anna – What’s he going to do about it? Send me a nasty E-mail?
Joan – I do not sink zat he will be very happy, quoi?
Anna – Well, my dear Joan D’Arc, I will deal with Zach, one way or another. I shall use my charms against him.
Joan – Ziss is not a good idea.
Gaspar – Just let her have her fun for now. What harm is it doing?
Olga – Anna, did you remember nachos? I like these so-called nacho stuff. Is very good, dah?
Anna – And unlike Zach, I bring refreshments every time.
Mulan – Well, today we have a fitting subject. A woman who launched a coup and successfully took over Russia and led it through its golden age.
Anna – And this will be the golden age of Minimum Wage Historian.
Gaspar – I think she may have lost it. Its a sad day when I have to lead the discussion. Okay, lets begin. Catherine was born in 1729 in the German kingdom of Pomerania. She came from a noble blood line, but had little money. So, they looked to marry their daughter, Sophia, off to the best bidder. Well, in Russia, the daughter of Peter the Great led a successful coup and took over control of all Russia. She was a merciless ruler that reigned with terror and harshness. She also had a nephew that needed a wife. His name was Peter III and he was the heir. They chose Sophia and had her sent to St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia. An offer like that was one her family could not refuse. Empress of Russia? Yes please.
Mulan – Peter the Great had turned Russia into a modern world power and brought it kicking and screaming out of the Dark Ages. Now there were palaces anywhere and Empress Elizabeth had the largest dress collection in Europe. The language at court was French and they tried really hard to be sophisticated. Catherine was underwhelmed by their sophistication.

Not a shabby place to live. Maybe a bit uncouth, but still homey.

Not a shabby place to live. Maybe a bit uncouth, but still homey.

Anna – Well, Russia was trying to emulate the glory of The Roman Empire. Naturally they fell short but even aspiring to that leaves one with some glory worthy of notice.
Joan – Beware of ze pride, Anna.
Anna – Yes, yes, of course. So, princess Sophia from Germany finally arrives in St. Petersburg and meets her new fiance. He’s a scrawny, sickly thing with all the maturity of an eight year old. All he cares about is playing with his toy soldiers and bragging about how great he is. He also didn’t really like Russia. He was a Lutheran and admired the Prussians, especially Fredrick the Great who at that time was no friend of Russia’s. She also met the future mother in law. Empress Elizabeth was an intimidating figure and Sophia knew that she had to impress this woman and stay on her good side if she was going to succeed in Russia.
Mulan – Sophia knew that Peter was unimportant. She needed to impress the mother in law so she learned Russian as fast as she could. She mastered it in a short time, though she’d have a German accent all her life. She also converted to Russian Orthodoxy.
Anna – Of course she did! Orthodoxy is the one…
Mulan – Anna, please, not now. As I was saying, she converted to Orthodoxy and her name was changed to Catherine. In short, she did everything she could to become a Russian so the people would accept her. she was only a teenager but she knew what she needed to do.
Gaspar – Life wasn’t all expensive clothing and fine meals. There was some odd things in the palace. Empress Elizabeth held weakly balls where everyone had to dress as the opposite sex. It was mandatory and most people hated it. The Empress even commented to Catherine “had I been born a man, it would be you that would receive the apple.”
Mulan – Awkward.
Gaspar – That’s not the worst of it. The court also happened to be flat out dangerous as crap. There were factions all throughout the court and the rivalries were sometimes violent and always dangerous. If Catherine was to survive she would have to navigate through the courtly factions.

All fun and games until someone ends up thrown in a dungeon where they're starved to death.

All fun and games until someone ends up thrown in a dungeon where they’re starved to death.

Anna – Catherine had no allies and no one to help her. She was an outsider. The fact that she survived was proof that she was both intelligent and charming. Not only could she get people to fall in love with her, but she was also the smartest person in the room.
Joan – When she was seventeen, she got married. Qui, she married ze loser Peter. Zay did not like each other and on… I cannot say ziss part.
Gaspar – I’ll do it. On their wedding night, Catherine went up to the room to wait for Peter. She kept waiting and kept waiting. Five hours later Peter stumbled in, drunk and promptly passed out.
Joan – Sank you, Gaspar. I blush at ze thought. Catherine was insulted! She was very angry. This continued for long time. Peter would just ignore ze poor Catherine. She grew bitter and angry against Peter. Also, Peter continued to be ze child. He played with his toy soldiers and even made ze poor Catherine stand guard for hours with a musket. But Catherine was, as zay say, stuck. If she angered Peter, he could banish her to a convent or worse. Cut off her head!
Anna – Yes, she was stuck with Peter. She was his wife and that gave her some status and that meant some protection.
Gaspar – Oh, and just to make things worse, Peter got small pox that disfigured is already unremarkable face.

Yeah, he was a sissy boy. Nowadays he'd be the nerd living in his mom's basement thinking he's hard core because he plays Call of Duty.

Yeah, he was a sissy boy. Nowadays he’d be the nerd living in his mom’s basement thinking he’s hard core because he plays Call of Duty.

Mulan – Now that she was ignored by her husband and the court, she found that she had plenty of free time on her hands. So, she began to read. And read and read. She read the philosophers of the time and believed in the ideals of the Enlightenment. Especially Voltaire. She even began writing letters to Voltaire and though they never met, they considered each other friends. She wanted desperately to be the enlightened Monarch that the Enlightenment spoke of.
Gaspar – She also really liked history.
Anna – A woman after my own heart. We need to get her here.
Olga – She was born German, but I like her. She can be Russian.
Gaspar – How charitable of you, Olga.

Catherine getting her learning on.  See, she didn't get to be empress of Russia by being stupid. She read books and learned from them. "Read books and you too can rule Russia!" I think that should be the new literacy slogan in schools.

Catherine getting her learning on. See, she didn’t get to be empress of Russia by being stupid. She read books and learned from them. “Read books and you too can rule Russia!” I think that should be the new literacy slogan in schools.

Anna – But there was another problem. Her one and only duty was to bear children. Elizabeth had seized power in a coup and to legitimize her claim, she needed heirs to cement the dynasty. Though Elizabeth was highly promiscuous, she had no heirs of her own.
Joan – What is ziss word, “promis-cu-us?”
Gaspar – Um… it means, she eats a lot.
Anna – Nice save, Gaspar.
Gaspar – I live to serve.
Anna – No you don’t.
Gaspar – You’re right. I just didn’t want to hear another sermon. At least she’s Catholic though.
Joan – What are you talking about?
Gaspar – Nothing.

Joan - King of Heaven, why must my co-hosts be so vile and slanderous? Please forgive zem, for I shall not!

Joan – King of Heaven, why must my co-hosts be so vile and slanderous? Please forgive zem, for I shall not!

Anna – So, Catherine had to produce an heir, but Peter would not…um…do his duty. So, a “Plan B” was developed by Empress Elizabeth. After eight yeas, Elizabeth noticed that a certain young nobleman was paying Catherine a lot of attention. She encouraged this and hinted to Catherine that she had a higher duty to the crown that martial fidelity. This was a green light for Catherine and for the first time, she fell in love. Soon after, Catherine found herself pregnant.
Joan – So, Peter finally did his duy, quoi?
Gaspar – Sure….
Mulan – She gave birth to a boy and Elizabeth took the boy away to raise herself.
Olga – What a rude woman! I would never let someone else take my child!
Anna – She had no choice. If Elizabeth got angry with her, she’d throw her in a cell and lose the key.
Mulan – She was trapped and had no say. Then her lover was promptly shipped away to a far corner of the Russian Empire. Catherine was also forgotten about. Having provided an heir, she was no longer important. No one questioned who the father was. So, she was completely alone. Catherine did not sit around, write vampire poetry and bemoan her station, she got to work. She began building alliances and making friends at court. She befriended the English ambassador who gave her a gift of a lot of money which she used to buy informants at court.
Anna – She also became pregnant again. It was certainly not Peter’s child and Peter, though he didn’t care about Catherine, started to grow unbearable and angry. He began to anger everyone at court with his immature and rude behavior. He also estranged the Russian nobles by remaining close to the Prussians, Russia’s enemy at the time.
Joan – One of her new friends was a man named Orlav. Dis Orlov was captain of ze Guard and a very dashing man. He and two brothers were very popular and had power. Orlov was ze soldier, and a dashing man. Catherine became friends with him.
Gaspar – And by friends we mean…well…you get the picture.
Joan – What picture?

Think of a mafia hitman in fancy clothes. "Ya need someone whacked Cat? Yeah, me and my boys can handle that. We'll fit 'em for cement shoes."

Think of a mafia hitman in fancy clothes. “Ya need someone whacked, Cat? Yeah, me and my boys can handle that. We’ll fit ‘em for cement shoes.”

Anna – Orlov was no great thinker or political strategist, but what he was was muscle. Karl Mark said “power comes from the barrel of a gun.” The Orlov brothers were her gun.
Mulan – But then Elizabeth died and her great protector was gone. At the funeral she wore black and meant it. Peter on the other hand giggled throughout the ceremony. Also, now that he was Tzar, he withdrew Russia’s armies from Prussia, gave back all the territory they had won and he even dressed his soldiers in Prussian uniforms. I for one could not tolerate this! That would be like dressing me up as a Mongol! I’d die first.
Anna – Or me as a Frank.
Joan – Pardon? What iz wrong with ze Franks?
Anna – Nothing at all. Let’s get back to Catherine, shall we? Peter was busy angering every class, faction, group and organization in Russia and people were growing tired of his idiocy. So, Russian nobles started talking. The wanted to get rid of Peter in a hurry and the only other person they could think of that they all could agree on was Catherine. She was smarter than them and they finally realized it.
Mulan – This was a very dangerous time for Catherine. One word to the wrong person and her plots would become known to Peter and she’d be executed. She made careful plans and took a long time in gathering the people she could trust. Then one night, Orlov came and woke her up in the middle of the night. One of their conspirators had been arrested and it was a matter of time before he cracked and gave away the plan. If they were going to survive, they had to launch the coup right then and there. Catherine agreed. It was all or nothing.
Gaspar – This is when Catherine pulled the ace out of her sleeve.

She unleashed the secret Automatons of Destruction! These alchemical monsters had giant cannons and were impervious to weapons. Just one could destroy whole regiments of soldiers. Sure, the Tzar's body guard had the best sorcerers in the kingdom, but they were no match.

She unleashed the secret Automatons of Destruction! These alchemical monsters had giant cannons and were impervious to weapons. Just one could destroy whole regiments of soldiers. Sure, the Tzar’s body guard had the best sorcerers in the kingdom, but they were no match.

Joan – I sink Gaspar is lying. You know where liars are thrust down to, no?
Olga – Oh! What happened next?
Gaspar – There was a terrible fight in the streets of St. Petersburg that saw half the city destroyed.
Anna – Or Catherine fled her villa where she had been staying separate from her husband and gathered the palace guard in St. Petersburg. Catherine knows that if she does not overthrow Peter, he would eventually get rid of her. She also knew that she would be a much better ruler than him and also knew that the nobility were desperate to get rid of Peter. It was a perfect storm of opportunity that she grabbed without hesitation. So, Catherine jumped in her royal carriage and had her hair done on the way. She had to look good for her revolution!
Joan – It is important to look ze part when a person is in charge. I changed my hair and put on ze men’s clothing to command my soldiers.
Mulan – I can relate to that.

I don't tolerate people messing with me. It's only my military discipline that keeps me from leaping across this table and strangling Gaspar.

I don’t tolerate people messing with me. It’s only my military discipline that keeps me from leaping across this table and strangling Gaspar.

Gaspar – I don’t need clothes to prove I’m awesome. I have this ferocious beard to do that for me.
Olga – I have my flame thrower.
Anna – The pen is mightier than all of those. Even the beard. Catherine arrived at the guard barracks to St. Petersburg at dawn and tells the men there that Peter is a threat to Russia and if they wanted Russia not to fall into the hands of Prussia, they needed to support her. The guards fell to their knees and pledged their loyalty on the spot. Then Catherin dresses in a palace guard’s uniform, big hat, coat, riding boots and all. Yeah, she looked awesome.

She dressed as a man and basically said she was more of a man than her loser husband.

She dressed as a man and basically said she was more of a man than her loser husband.

Mulan – The army when they see her, proclaim her Catherine II, Empress of Russia. She promptly had Peter, who was clueless, arrested and a few days later he was strangled to death by his guards. There is no evidence that Catherine ordered the hit. He had a long list of enemies. Peter III had reigned for only six months.
Olga – He was no Russian. (spits)
Anna – They called her “Empress Regent” and assumed that she’d hold power until her son was old enough to reign.
Gaspar – Yeah, that didn’t happen.
Anna – No, she reigned until her death. Technically, she was an usurper and had no legal right to the throne and there were factions within the court that wanted the throne as a kind of constitutional monarchy. Catherine had to keep her throne and head during the first few trying years. she had to show that she was strong enough to lead.
Joan – So, a German woman usurper took ze throne and she managed to keep it?
Gaspar – Not bad, huh?
Anna – That was not all she did. Catherine began a program of expansion. She conquered weaker neighbors and spread the Russian Empire westward and southward. She took territory on the Black sea, most of it belonging to the Ottoman Empire. I say, good! They took my beloved city of Constantinople. They can crumble for all I care.
Gaspar – Easy there, Anna. We’re supposed to be neutral as historians.
Anna – Of course we are. Thank you, Gaspar.
Gaspar – That’s why I’m here.
Mulan – Catherine conquered the Ukraine and defeated the Turks so bad that she had Russian proclaimed in a legal sense, the protector of all Orthodox people in the Ottoman Empire.
Anna – And here’s why: she thought of Russia as a third Rome. She wanted to create the pan Orthodox sphere that Byzantium once ruled. She wanted to recreate the Byzantine Empire and this thought would guide Russia all the way to the Crimean War. It was a golden age for Russian. And, true to Russian tradition, she partitioned Poland with Germany.
Joan – She also loved ze arts. She patronized writers, actors, artists and musicians. Her private collection is now a museum. Why, she even wrote many plays and books herself. Catherine paid for scientists to come to Russia to help Russia modernize. Little by little she made laws to modernize Russia and bring it out of the Middle Ages. She even worked to create a middle class. Her key for this was education. She stressed education and even started a school for the daughters of nobility.
Joan – Catherine made religious equality a goal and allowed Muslims free practice of zer religion. But of course, Jews, Muslims and Catholics had to pay more taxes. She was not perfect, quoi?
Gaspar – Now, I Gaspar, Bearer of Truth need to discuss a certain matter. There is a rumor which I shall not say aloud in mixed company, about Catherine the great and how she died. She died of a stroke. Any other rumors about how she died were created by her enemies after her death. There, that matter is put to rest.
Anna – Thank you Gaspar, what ever would we do without out you?
Joan – What were ze rumors?
Gaspar – I’ll tell you when you’re older.
Anna – Catherine ruled Russia with more competence and authority than any ruler before or since. She was the most powerful woman in the world during her lifetime and the model of an enlightened monarch.

Yeah, she was gangsta. She kicked her husband off the throne, led Russia into a golden age of expansion and education and did it all with style and moxy.

Yeah, she was gangsta. She kicked her husband off the throne, led Russia into a golden age of expansion and education and did it all with style and moxy.

 

Anna – Also, don’t forget to “Like” us on Facebook.

Gaspar – Also, don’t forget to look at Zach’s book, “Fearless: Powerful Women of History.”

 

Battle of Jutland

Anna – Welcome back to Minimum Wage Historian where I, your provisional hostess, Anna Komnene will guide you through the interesting twists and turns of history. Zach sent a letter from Japan, but I didn’t read it. I’ll post it later or something if I find it interesting.
Matilda – And I, Matilda of Tuscany will aid in today’s topic along with Olga of Kiev, Gaspar Correia and Jane Austen.
Gaspar – Why is Jane Austen here again?
Matilda – Because she has more experience with the British Navy than all of us combined.
Anna – And because I like her books.
Jane – Thank you, my dear Anna. Now lets begin our charming discussion about the Royal Navy.

Gaspar - A WWI dreadnaught. I had to show something manly. The estrogen in this room is suffocating me.

Gaspar – A WWI dreadnought. I had to show something manly. The estrogen in this room is suffocating me.

Anna – Let us begin our story in the few years leading up to the first World War. Europe hadn’t had a large war for a few years and their militaries were confident and eager to prove themselves better than anyone else. The nations felt a war was coming and tension was escalating.
Jane – I hate to be rude but I must interject here. At this time, battle ships had several batteries of small to medium sized guns with only 2 to 4 larger guns of about 12 inches. The British watched the war between the Japanese and Russians with great interest and observed that the smaller guns had little to no impact on the battles at all. Also, the splashes the smaller guns created made it difficult to see the splashes the big guns made. That all means that the smaller, more useless guns made the big guns hard to aim. An Italian designer drew up plans for an “all big gun” ship and several nations took notice. The Japanese tried to make one but lacked the big guns. The Americans started making two but were entirely too slow in their attempt. The British though, in record speed created the HMS. Dreadnaught. Not only was it the biggest and most heavily armored ship, it was also the fastest and the most heavily armed. It sported ten of the 12 inch cannons in turrets. It was the first of a new design philosophy of naval ships. It was so radically different than any other ship before it that all ships created like it were called “dreadnoughts.

HMS. Dreadnaught, the first of its class that launched a complete change in the way things were done. Kind of like Led Zeppelin.

HMS. Dreadnaught, the first of its class that launched a complete change in the way things were done. Kind of like Led Zeppelin.

Matilda – When Germany saw the HMS. Dreadnaught, they scrambled to build their own. Once the Dreadnought took to sea, all other ships were obsolete. It was now a race to see who could put more dreadnoughts to see first.
Olga – So, big ship had big guns, yes? Why no do this before?
Matilda – They thought more faster firing guns was better.
Olga- Bigger is always better. Idiots!
Gapsar – I concur. When given the choice between firearms, I always choose the bigger of the two. It’s logic.
Anna – Eventually WWI broke out for moronic reasons and soon England and Germany were facing off over the water. England had a larger navy and a grand tradition of naval supremacy.
Jane – (sings) Rule Britannia!
Britannia rule the waves
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!
Anna – Yes, they dominated the oceans for the past three hundred years. They were confident with every reason to be so. They took their navy and blockaded Germany. If you remember Zach’s earlier post about logistics, you’d know that all warfare comes down to logistics, the movement of supplies, weapons and personal to where they need to go. England was cutting off supplies to Germany from the ocean and Germany had to do something.
Matilda – Germany had one big problem, that was the Grand Fleet of England. It was larger and Germany couldn’t hope to take them on all at once. So, Germany came up with a plan to lure a part of the British fleet out and destroy it one bite sized piece at a time. So the Germans came up with this elaborate plan to send some of their faster, lighter ships up and lure a squadron of British ships they knew were parked nearby. The British squadron was commanded by Vice-Admiral Beatty. They would let Beatty chase them and bring the British ships into the path of the rest of the German navy. The Germans sent out submarines to act as scouts, but the plan was delayed so long that the subs were either destroyed, were chased off, had to go back to shore for refueling or fell asleep.
Anna – There was also another problem. The German’s super-secret plan wasn’t so super-secret. The British had cracked their codes and were listening in on what the Germans were saying. So, they knew the Germans were planning something big on the 31st of May, 1916. So they positioned their fleet in the area and waited.

Gaspar - I had to use this one. It was too good not to.

Gaspar – I had to use this one. It was too good not to.

The German Admiral Hanz Hipper had to break the blockade. That was his one job. The British Admiral Jellicoe had one job as well, to completely destroy the German navy.

The German Admiral Hanz Hipper had to break the blockade. That was his one job. The British Admiral Jellicoe had one job as well, to completely destroy the German navy.

Olga – Oooh! Do I get to see ships blow up now? I need to see fighting or I get bored and leave.
Anna – We’re getting there, Olga.

Here we see the Grand Fleet sailing in parallel columns. This was how they maneuvered in battle. It made signaling the rest of the fleet easier so they could make turns quicker and more accurately.

Here we see the Grand Fleet sailing in parallel columns. This was how they maneuvered in battle. It made signaling the rest of the fleet easier so they could make turns quicker and more accurately.

Jane – Admiral Hipper sailed down to look for the Germans and he was unknowingly heading right at them. If he continued on that path he would go right into the middle of the German fleet and be destroyed. But he had previous orders to reach and certain point and turn around, which as a good British sailor, he did. But then the British spotted two German torpedo boats and opened fire. They missed and the torpedo boats sped back to their own fleet which in turn opened fire on the British fleet, scoring a hit from very long range. Lucky hun! The British then launched a sea plane to scout the Germans out. This was the first time a seaborne plane was used in battle for reconnaissance. Of course we British did it first.
Anna – We Byzantines would rather just set our enemies of fire. So chew on that. As I was saying…oh yes. Admiral Beatty’s job was to keep his ships together to concentrate firepower but do to poor communication on his part to his captains and going faster than his slowest ships, he managed to spread his ship out, something he didn’t want to do. And once Beatty had the German ships in range….he held off firing for 10 crucial minutes and he still didn’t get his ships into a fighting formation. What was he doing? I don’t know.
Matilda – Finally the two fleets engaged and began firing. The Germans took off, leading Beatty south towards the awaiting German forces.
Gaspar – And this is where the German plan comes fully into action. The Germans had gone further than the dreadnaught and came up with a new weapon, a giant robot called a “Mobile Suit.” Leading this elite force of super weapons was a guy nicknamed “the Red Comet.” He was waiting with his force of mobile suits to destroy the British fleet.

The Red Comet was out for blood in his custom painted red Zaku!

The Red Comet was out for blood in his custom painted red Zaku!

Jane – I’m afraid Gaspar is feeling ill today. He must have a brain fever. He has confused Gundam for history. Though the show is most entertaining, it is far from factual.
Anna – He does that. You’ll get used to it.
Jane – I certainly hope not.
Anna – As the fleets sailed south they continued to fire at each other but the weather was in the Germans’ favor and caused nothing but visibility problems for the British. The HMS. Lion was struck in a turret and avoided being blown up completely by the quick action of a morally wounded Marine who ordered the magazine doors shut and flooded before the whole thing could go up and take out the entire ship. But another British ship was sunk. The HMS. Indefatigable was hammered by the Germans until a shell finally blew up one of its ordinance magazines and the ship exploded, killing all but two men.

The worst fear of any captain.

The worst fear of any captain.

Matilda – A little while later another British ship was blown completely up by another magazine hit. It wasn’t looking good for the British and they were almost to the awaiting German fleet. I can’t stand those Germans. Why, when they dared come down into Italy and march through…
Anna – Matilda, Calm down. We talked about this.
Matilda – Where’s my sword?
Anna – We’re professional historians. We have to keep our cool at all times. Remember. Fear is the mind killer.
Jane – While they are working on….whatever it is they are doing, let us continue with the battle, shall we? When another ship was feared blown up, Beatty said, “I fear there may be something wrong with our bloody ships!” That’s a stiff upper lip! But soon they spotted the German fleet in its entirety and immediately turned north to where Admiral Jellicoe awaited. Finally they spotted Admiral Beatty and Jellicoe used signals to ask the location of the German flotilla. Beatty, again with no explanation, did not answer for fifteen minutes. But in order to deploy his fleet to counter the Germans, he had to know where the Germans were and for 20 minutes he was without that information while the Germans steamed right at him. A very dire situation for an admiral to be in.
Olga – This getting good. (opens bag of dorritos.)
Anna – Meanwhile the Germans are completely unaware that a fleet of dreadnaughts are waiting for them. Finally the two fleets spot each other and two of the British ships foolishly wander into range of the German dreadnaughts. They blow up one of the ships and severely damage that one and another one that had rudder problems causing it to go in circles. The British couldn’t catch a break.
Matilda – The heavy capital ships fired and soon the battle was on. The flagships of the admirals were stuck in it exchanging salvos from their giant cannons. The British damaged the German flagship but the Germans blew up another British ship, the unfortunately named Invincible.

The battle was fierce as massive cannons pounded away at heavy armor.

The battle was fierce as massive cannons pounded away at heavy armor.

Anna – Because of poor visibility the Germans couldn’t see the entire British navy and were soon caught in a trap. They were in a position to only fire a few of their ships while the British could fire everything they had. The German admiral saw this and ordered a difficult but well practiced 180 degree turn and got out of dodge in a hurry. The British followed but only carefully.
Jane – I must add that at this time the HMS. Shark was severely damaged and was fighting a losing battle against four torpedo boats and a damaged U-boat. Against all odds he continued fighting until his ship was sunk. He won the Victoria’s Cross for heroism for his valiant effort.
Anna – The Germans were desperately trying to get away but knew they wouldn’t make it to nightfall unless they did something. The the German admirals launched a massive torpedo attack and sent four battle cruisers out to draw British fire in a suicidal mission to save the rest of the fleet. This “death ride” was a brave move by the Germans. The battle cruisers were pounded by heavy guns and all where severely damaged, but they lived and turned south again to catch up with the German fleet just as night fell.
Matilda – But the battle wasn’t over. The British continued to chase the Germans during the night and several short range and intense fights happened that saw more ships sunk. The German ship Nassau rammed the British ship HMS. Spitfire and fired its guns point blank, blowing away the superstructure tower because they couldn’t lower the guns enough to hit the ship. Another British dreadnaught accidentally rammed a German cruiser and sunk it.
Olga – Dah! Dah! Very good. (Continues to crunch away at her chips.)
Gaspar – This was when the Germans…
Jane – Mr. Gaspar, could you be so kind as to bring us all some of that lovely pizza from the oven?
Gaspar – Anything for a lady.
Jane – Thank you, Gaspar.
(Gaspar leaves)
Anna – Thank you Jane.
Jane – Please don’t mention it.
Anna – So, during the bloody night the Germans managed to slip away due to several blunders on the Brit’s part, including the failure of the admiralty in London to telegraph intercepted messages that said exactly where the German fleet was going. One would think that sort of thing would be important.
Olga – Wait, wait. Who won?
Anna – That’s hard to say. At first both sides reported a German victory and the Germans even celebrated it as a holiday until after WWII. But in reality, neither side won. The British lost far more ships than the Germans but the Germans completely failed to destroy the English navy and for the rest of the war the Germans avoided another head on battle like that and stuck to submarine warfare.
Matilda – This was Britain’s once chance to destroy the German fleet and they failed to do so. Both sides did not achieve their goals.
Jane – I believe, ‘indecisive’ is the word. How droll. The British lost 113,300 tons of ship to the Germans’ loss of only 62,300 tons. Though outnumbered, the Germans came out on top but didn’t have the numbers to continue fighting head on. But do not worry my dear readers, the British shall return in the second World War for more daring heroics on the high seas!

And, just because…

jutland poster

Sacagawea

Those are the Rocky Mountains? Please. I got this. Stand back and let me handle this, boys.

Those are the Rocky Mountains? Please. I got this. Stand back and let me handle this, boys.

Anna Komnene – Welcome to Minimum Wage Historian. I’m your host this time around.
Olga – Where’s Zachsky?
Anna – For the hundredth time, he’s in Japan. He’s taking a very long holiday. And I don’t expect he shall return. In fact he means not to.
Olga – So, I get his room?
Anna – If you wish. Just toss his stuff in the garage.
Jane Austen – I must say that that isn’t very considerate of you.
Anna – Its just Zach. Who cares? Let’s get started. Today, as you can see, we have St. Olga of Kiev, Jane Austen, Gaspar Correia and Scipio Africanus.
Scipio – Are you sure you don’t want to schedule Boudica or some other enemy of Rome on this panel, like you usually do?
Anna – Unlike Zach, I’m actually competent.
Gaspar – Harsh, Anna.
Anna – Silence! Ms. Austen, if you would be so kind, could you start us off?
Jane – It would be my most excited pleasure. Let us start with the birth of this woman. Sacagawea was born around 1788 or 89 in what is today Idaho. She was born into the Lemhi band of Shoshone. “Lemhi” was a name given to them by Mormon settlers. The world she grew up in was the world of the Native Americans before the white settlers came. It was a simple and sometimes harsh life. Her band of Lemhi were in a serious predicament and had troubles facing them from every turn.
Scipio – Indeed they did. Let’s look at Indian history from the military side of things for a moment. Indians in the South West had horses they captured from the Spanish. These horses spread north and eastward. At the same time, guns from French fur trappers were spreading west. Eventually the tribes with the horses met the tribes with guns and well…you can imagine how well that turned out. It turns out that in a fight, a gun is better than a horse. So, tribes with horses but no guns had to fall back and watch their hunting grounds be invaded by hostile tribes with better weapons. The Lemhi Shoshone were one of these unlucky tribes.

Don't bring a horse to a gun fight.

Don’t bring a horse to a gun fight.

Anna – It was a simple matter of superior weapons technology. When Sacagawea was born, her tribe had to hide out in the mountains, away from the buffalo and only ventured down into enemy territory to hunt buffalo for the winter. It was that or starve. This enforced poverty lead to a breakdown of traditional Shoshone morals. They were a desperate people who were losing their spirit and their way. In Lewis’s journals we don’t see a very positive light on the Shoshone in that they bought and sold women like property (not a traditional Shoshone thing to do, BTW.) and in all likely hood, Sacagawea had a rough childhood and was probably beaten.
Jane – How horrible!
Anna – It only got worse. Her parents engaged her to marry a much older man in exchange for horses. Though poor, the Shoshone had one thing in abundance: horses, a fact that would come to be very important for Sacagawea later on. I can’t imagine that she would have been very keen on this idea of marrying some old man.
Jane – But surely it was a better choice than what happened. When she was eleven a raiding party of Hidasta Indians attacked their hunting party with terrible ferocity, killing several Lemhis. Sacagawea was kidnapped in this raid and taken for prisoner. Along with another girl named Jumping Fish, she was carried back to the Hidasta’s village. Jumping Fish managed to escape, but Sacagawea stayed and was a slave for three years.
Olga – Oh! I know this part. Indian girl then get fire and burn all Hidastas’ houses. ( Starts laughing maniacally.)
Anna – Umm…not quite, Olga. But thank you for trying. No, a French fur trapper came along by the name of Toussaint Charbonneau. He either bought Sacagawea or won her in a game of chance. Charbonneu took another Shoshone slave as wife. Sacagawea was thirteen years old.  (Olga frowns, yawns and leaves the room.)
Gaspar – Let’s take a moment to look at the character of this Toussaint Charbonneau. He was a fur trapper that spend all his time with the Indians. He had “gone native” if you will. He spent his life far away from civilization. He was late thirties when he married. And he was, and let’s be fair here, a total, complete and utter douchebag.
Anna – Aren’t you being harsh now?
Gaspar – No, I’m just presenting my completely unbiased opinions. We shall see if my judgement proves false or not. I’ll keep a tally of douche points.
Anna – Your contributions are not needed.
Gaspar – Nevertheless, I shall endeavor to track this man’s behavior.
Jane – I’m sure your efforts are greatly appreciated, Gaspar.

Oui, oui! Judge for yourself of my splendid pig-ness. I am, as zay say, ze bag of douche. Count up my DB points at ze end of the post and win a prize from me!

Oui, oui! Judge for yourself of my splendid pig-ness. I am, as zay say, ze bag of douche. Count up my DB points at ze end of the post and win a prize from me!

Scipio – Never mind all that. So, that is where we leave Sacagawea for a moment and go to far off Rome…her…Washington DC. President Thomas Jefferson had just bought the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States by buying land from France that wasn’t actually theirs to sell.
Gaspar – Splitting hairs.
Scipio – Like any good emperor, he wanted to find out about the land he had just acquired, so he organized an expedition to map out this new land and find out if there was a water passage that led to the Pacific Ocean.
Gaspar – Spoiler alert, there wasn’t one.
Scipio – So, Emperor Jefferson chose a Meriweather Lewis, a captain in the army. (A good thing he didn’t choose a lieutenant. Lt’s can’t find their backyard with a compass.) Lewis, a somewhat stoic career officer chose his good friend and fellow officer, William Clark as his co-captain.
Gaspar. With the two captains chosen, they went and hand picked a squad of the best men possible. They chose a rag-tag group of misfits, brawlers, one-eyed fiddle players and ruffians.
Anna – Okay, kind of true. But these men were professional soldiers, not the Dirty Dozen.
Gaspar – The part about the one-eyed fiddle player was true. Each one had unique skills that would help them along their journey. One was a carpenter. Another spoke French. Another knew some basic Indian sign language and others were good fighters.

My name is Cpt. Lewis and I’m putting together a special team, and I need me eight soldiers. Eight American soldiers. Now, y’all might’ve heard rumors about the armada happening soon. Well, we’ll be leaving a little earlier. We’re gonna be dropped into the Great Plains, dressed as civilians. And once we’re in enemy territory, as a bushwhackin’ guerrilla army, we’re gonna be doin’ one thing and one thing only… makin' maps.

My name is Cpt. Lewis and I’m putting together a special team, and I need me eight soldiers. Eight American soldiers. Now, y’all might’ve heard rumors about the armada happening soon. Well, we’ll be leaving a little earlier. We’re gonna be dropped into the Great Plains, dressed as civilians. And once we’re in enemy territory, as a bushwhackin’ guerrilla army, we’re gonna be doin’ one thing and one thing only… makin’ maps.

Anna – There was a great deal of preparation for Lewis and Clark, such as lessons in medicine, map making and wilderness survival. But we won’t get into all that because this post isn’t about them. Let’s just say that after a long while, they and their elite corp of explorers made their way up the Dakotas where they stopped by an Indian village. Here is their problem that’s actually relevant to Sacagawea. They planned to take boats by river all the way to the Rocky Mountains. But they couldn’t cross the mountains with all their gear on their backs. There was just too much of it. So, once they got there, they’d have to buy horses from the local Indians there, the Shoshone. So, they needed to find a guide and hopefully an interpreter. Well…at this camp there happened to be Charbonneau and Sacagawea. Charb’ always looking for an opportunity, saw that he could make a great deal of money by guiding these Americans. So, he went to their camp and offered his services. Lewis and Clark were kind of “meh” on the idea until he mentioned that one of his wives could speak Shoshone. “Gentleman, before you had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.” They shook hands and hired him.
Gaspar – Okay, let me tell this part. So, what does an honest Frenchman do? He goes to the nearest French trading post, tells the French officials there all about it and they bribe him to spy on the expedition. They give him a bunch of swag as payment and he walks back to camp carrying his loot. Lewis and Clark ask, “Yo, where’d you get all that junk?” Charb’ replied, “Oh, the French gave it to me…as a gift! Yeah, that’s right. A gift.” L and C weren’t satisfied with his response so Charb’ thinks that they need him and can’t fire him, so he makes a list of demands like “If you want my services, I’ll go if I don’t have to do any manual labor or obey orders.” L and C were professional military men so you could guess how well that went over. They fired him and kicked him out. A few days later Charb’ came crawling back, begging for the job. They agreed because they really needed Sacagawea.
Scipio – One point for the DB count.
Jane – At first, the expedition’s journals only referred to her as “Charbonneau’s Squaw.” Keep in mind that “Squaw” was a derogatory term, so If you use it I will harshly remind you to mind your manners. She presented Lewis and Clark with a buffalo robe as a present of friendship. But as the expedition went on, they start to refer to her more often and soon start using her name. We shall see why. There was one more detail, Sacagawea was seven months pregnant and gave birth shortly before the expedition set out. For the entire year and a half expedition she would carry her baby in a cradle board on her back.

So, not only was she only 15-16 years old, had to go on a perilous journey, but she had to take care of a baby along the way. That was on top of saving everyone's gear, time and lives. But whatever.

So, not only was she only 15-16 years old, had to go on a perilous journey, but she had to take care of a baby along the way. That was on top of saving everyone’s gear, time and lives. But whatever.

Gaspar – Hard core.
Scipio – So, once the Missouri River thawed out, they crossed and began their journey over the Great Plains. They soon fell into a routine. As they were going against the current, going was slow, so often Lewis and Clark took turns walking along the shore ahead of the boats to make sure there weren’t any obstacles. Sacagawea at first just stayed in the boats but soon began walking along with Clark whenever it was his turn. They didn’t speak each other’s languages, but they soon became friends. She would walk along and gather berries and roots for their dinner stews, a skill that would later keep the expedition alive.
Gaspar – Ok, I have another story.
Anna – (groans)
Gaspar – So, one day as they were making their way up the river, for some reason both Lewis and Clark were on shore and Sacagawea was in the boat with her husband. Good ole’ Charb’ was piloting the boat when a sudden storm came up and threatened to capsize the boat. Any sailor worth his salt knows you never turn into the wind. So, what does Charb’ do? He turns into the wind and tips the boat over. All of the Expedition’s most important equipment goes into the river. Lewis and Clark are yelling from the shore and Charb’ instead of getting a handle on the situation, literally freezes and does nothing. Everyone’s freaking out. Everyone expect Sacagawea. She calmly rescues the equipment that fell in, including some very important map making gear and the expedition’s journals. Since she was the only one to even think about saving their gear, they named the river after her and from that point on, L and c begin to pay more attention to the quiet Shoshone woman.
Scipio – DB point number two, I believe.
Anna – Charbonneau also did some cooking. Some fine Frankish cuisine! He used otter guts to make sausages. See? That’s not so bad, Gaspar.
Gaspar – Yes, but according to Lewis, Charb’ used beaver intestines for the sausage casings, but…I hesitate to say this in mixed company, he apparently didn’t always get all the intestine’s contents out before stuffing them.
Jane – Oh, my. How beastly. I must say that if I were forced to eat…such things, I would surely die of starvation first.
Scipio – DB point three.
Jane – During the trip westward, Clark grew more attached to Sacagawea whom he called ‘Janey’ and her baby, whom he called ‘Pompy’ or ‘Little Pomp.’ But alas, soon Sacagawea fell very ill. We don’t know the exact nature of her infirmity but we do know that it was severe. There are several theories, some of them rather unpleasant which I shall not go into. Clark, who went through some medical training in preparation for the expedition, attended her and did the best he could with his limited knowledge. They still traveled and she lay in the boat in agony. It was the only time they heard her cry out loud, so it must have been horrible. But there was something very curious about this affair. In his journal, Clark said “If she dies, it will be the fault of the husband as I am now convinced.” Like I said, there are some unpleasant theories.
Gaspar – Somehow being responsible for Sacagawea’s near death? DP Point number four.
Scipio – But eventually she started to recover and Lewis and Clark told her husband to make sure she only eats salted buffalo meat and broth. But like the wonderful husband he was, he didn’t care and let her eat whatever she wanted and she fell ill again. DP Point five, by the way. I do have to stop here and mention a curious piece of equipment Lewis and Clark brought along. Gun powder was difficult to store and was subject to weather, something they couldn’t get by with. So, they brought along a gun called a “Girandoni Air Rifle.” It was a repeating rifle, the first and only of its kind at the time, fed by a tube magazine and could hold 22, .46 caliber rounds that shot with the muzzle velocity of a .45 ACP. Not bad. It had an air reservoir that was hand pumped to fill and was quieter than a musket.

If you're going to be gone on a year long huntin' trip, this would be a good gun to have...or during a zombie apocalypse.

If you’re going to be gone on a year long huntin’ trip, this would be a good gun to have…or during a zombie apocalypse.

Anna – There were other adventures as well, such as them almost being drowned by a flash flood. But one day they came to a rocky hill that Sacagawea recognized. She sucked her fingers which was a sign that she was in the territory of her home tribe. Eventually they met the Shoshone and at Sacagawea translated. She was surprised when she saw Jumping Fish, the girl that escaped captivity and even more surprised when she met the chief, it was her own brother. It was the only time they saw Sacagawea cry. With her help they bartered for horses to use in crossing the Rocky Mountains. But something happened to test Sacagawea’s loyalty. She overheard that her brother was going to take Lewis and Clark’s payment and go off to hunt buffalo without giving them their horses. She immediately told Clark and they confronted the chief who swore he’d pay up. Apparently she believed her future was with the people of the expedition and not her tribe. Right there she saved the expedition because they were on a very tight schedule and any kind of delay would have prevented them from crossing the mountains before the snows grew too heavy.
Jane – Sacagawea also met another person she knew, the older man she was once engaged to. My imagination leads me to think that she didn’t care much either way about him. But too soon they had to leave and cross the mountains. Even though it was late August, there was snow in the mountains and soon progress became difficult. They hadn’t brought enough food and when it ran out, all they had was what few animals they could shoot and what Sacagawea could find. If it wasn’t for her ability to find food, they might never have made it through the mountains. When their horses gave out, they ate them, but for Shoshone that is a strict taboo and almost equal to cannibalism, she most likely did not partake of the meager meal. It took them two weeks to pass through the mountains and when they emerged on the other side, they met the friendly tribe of Nez Perce. With their aid they regained their health.
Anna – They left their horses with the Nez Perce and continued on toward the Pacific coast. They met several tribes, some of them unfriendly. But when they saw that they had a woman with them, they new they weren’t a war party and let them pass. So, again, she saved their lives simply by being there.
Gaspar – Hard core. Also, at this time I’d like to add that Sacagawea had her own agenda. She wasn’t there just to help L&C, but she was there on a secret mission from the ancient order of The West Wind, a group of demon hunters and she was on the trail of a vile demon named “Crow Talker.” In the baby’s cradle board she kept hidden the obsidian dagger that would allow her to defeat Crow Talker. She knew he lived by the ocean and only needed the expedition to get her there to fulfill her ancient duty.
Anna – I’m going to slap you one of these days.
Scipio -Eventually our heroes reached the Pacific ocean in time to make camp for the winter. It was to be a miserable time. It was always raining which meant their leather clothes could never dry and all their gear was always damp. It also meant they couldn’t dry any meant to preserve it. Clark reported in his Journal that Charbonneau struck Sacagawea and Clark had strong words with the Frenchman. She was one of their group now and an equal. They even voted on where to make camp and she got a vote like everyone else. Sixth DP point. Striking what everyone in the expedition considered to be one of the bravest, most patient and caring women they had ever met.
Anna – Some local Indians came along with whale blubber which apparently was good to eat, but I think it sounds revolting. But Lewis and Clark wanted to go find this carcass for food. They were about to leave without Sacagawea because she wasn’t a hunter, but she stopped them and said she had come all this way and she was going to see this giant fish. So, they brought her along, but by the time they reached it, it had been picked clean to the bones by other Indians. But at least she got to see the skeleton of the great beast. This shows a strong will and an equally strong curiosity. Perhaps traveling over such great distances made her bolder?
Jane – Like gentlemen, Lewis and Clark wished to bring President Jefferson a gift. One of the local Indians had a shiny beaver robe that was exquisite. But they had nothing left to trade. So, Sacagawea traded her prized beaded belt for the robe so they’d have something to bring back to Jefferson. That was most considerate of her. During Christmas it was noted that Sacagawea gave Clark several white weasel tails as a gift. I’m not entirely certain what significance that holds, but it does appear to be special in some way. I think perhaps that she was ‘particularly close’ to William Clark.
Scipio – The long, wet winter eventually ended and they started on their journey back home. They made excellent time and Sacagawea was able to interpret with a friendly tribe because they had a Shoshone captive with them. At one point they had to choose which pass through some mountains to take and Sacagawea said she knew the mountains and picked for them the shortest way. The fact that they listened to her on so many occasions shows their respect for her knowledge.

That way, for the millionth time.  Instead of weasel tails I should have gotten you a GPS.

That way, for the millionth time. Instead of weasel tails I should have gotten you a GPS.

Anna – I do not think that its any exaggeration to say that the expedition would not have made it without Sacagawea. She helped in many ways, finding food, rescuing vital equipment, good will ambassador so they weren’t slaughtered and translator. And yes, sometimes she pointed the way.
Gaspar – Hard core. In fact, she was so hard core that the United States Army declared her an honorary Sergeant in 2001.

Zach or any other vet could tell you that sergeants are not to be messed with. If a 15 year old girl could earn those stripes, she had to be tough.

Zach or any other vet could tell you that sergeants are not to be messed with. If a 15 year old girl could earn those stripes, she had to be tough.

Scipio – After the expedition Clark adopted Sacagawea’s baby and raised him as his own. But what happened to Sacagawea? Nobody knows. There are two theories. One, that she died in a trading camp of sickness, but some think that may have been Charb’s other Shoshone wife. The other theory was that she went back to her people. The Shoshone have a oral tradition that she returned and spent the rest of her days there. They even have a grave marker to honor her. Which is true? I don’t know. I’ll leave that to the reader to decide.
Gaspar – Like Charb’s ultimate DB score. That I leave to the reader.
Anna – Gaspar has been hardly fair and unprejudiced, but yes, he probably was a rotten pig.

Jane – And please do not forget Zach’s book, “Fearless: Powerful Women of History.” I blush to say this, but I and to be found within those pages, so please purchase this book and do enjoy.  Below is the “Link,” I think you call it.

http://www.amazon.com/Fearless-Powerful-History-Zachary-Hill/dp/1490934340/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380734970&sr=1-1&keywords=fearless+powerful+women+of+history

In Japan

I’m in Japan right now and will probably be here for at least a year. But do not worry my fellow historians for Anna Komemne will take over as host while I’m away. I’ll try to send some reports of local Japanese history when I can. Believe Sacajawea is next up on the schedule. (Assuming Anna follows my instructions. She’s not known for being obedient.)