Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Coming Soon!

It's been a while but new things are in the works! Stay tuned for a pretest game as well as HISTORICON & GUNS OF AUGUST reports!


 1862: A House Divided!

150 year anniversary

The union had divided. After Lincoln's dire plea in 1858 that it not happen (the famous "House Divided" speech), the unthinkable had occurred, and the Union was split and at war with itself.

In 1862 a number of major conflicts played out, but one of the most influential for the later war was, of course, the battle of Shiloh. It was attended by no less of a pensmith than the famous journalist Henry Morton Stanley (of "Stanley and Livingston" in Africa). He is quoted in his own memoirs, but also in volume one of the wonderful work by Shelby Foote on the war, as having recorded the following concerning the Rebel Yell at Shiloh:
After a steady exchange of musketry, which lasted some time, we heard the order: 'Fix Bayonets! On the double-quick!' in tones that thrilled us. There was a simultaneous bound forward, each soul doing his best for the emergency. The Federals appeared inclined to await us; but, at this juncture, our men raised a yell, thousands responded to it, and burst out into the wildest yelling it has ever been my lot to hear. It drove all sanity and order from among us. It served the double purpose of relieving pent-up feelings, and transmitting encouragement along the attacking line. I rejoiced in the shouting like the rest. It reminded me that there were about four hundred companies like the Dixie Greys, who shared our feelings. Most of us, engrossed with the musket-work, had forgotten the fact; but the wave after wave of human voices, louder than all other battle-sounds together, penetrated to every sense, and stimulated our energies to the utmost.
'They fly!' was echoed from lip to lip. It accelerated our pace, and filled us with a noble rage. Then I knew what the Berserker passion was! It deluged us with rapture, and transfigured each Southerner into an exulting victor. At such a moment, nothing could have halted us.
Those savage yells, and the sight of thousands of racing figures coming towards them, discomfited the blue-coats; and when we arrived upon the place where they had stood, they had vanished. Then we caught sight of their beautiful array of tents, before which they had made their stand, after being roused from their Sunday-morning sleep, and huddled into line, at hearing their pickets challenge our skirmishers. The half-dressed dead and wounded showed what a surprise our attack had been.

We believe that no finer topic for historical study than our own American Civil War can be found, and we celebrate it, the 150th anniversary of that key year, 1862, at our summer convention.

This year, Recognition Awards will be given to game masters who host games in our theme.

Please be aware, that although we are promoting this theme, games at the convention can (and do) cover every possible period known to gamers! This is just a way for our staff and gamers to become acquainted with a special period in history, and the conflicts of that time.

“Empires at War”
Colonial Warfare, Imperialism and Gunboat Diplomacy, 1836-1937
Convention Theme – HISTORICON 2012 (July 19-22)

This year’s convention theme covers one hundred years of what can be termed “colonial wars”, generally referred to as when Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 – the 175th anniversary this year – to just prior to the start of World War II. Three major terms generally described the period – Colonial Warfare, Imperialism and Gunboat Diplomacy – and together encompass an era that was rich in military action which has provided gamers the most variety of colorful theaters for their tabletop enjoyment of any period. Basically, any military action from 1836 to 1937 fits into this year’s convention theme – from the most famous to the obscure – and yes even ‘what if’ pulp type adventures of the Inter-war Period (1918-1937) “between the wars”!
“Colonial Warfare” is a blanket term relating to the various conflicts that arose as the result of overseas territories being settled by foreign powers creating a colony. The term usually refers to wars fought during the nineteenth century between European armies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, though it also includes other “Western” type of armies such as those of Japan and the United States (who were “spreading wings” by the start of the twentieth century).
It should be noted that the belief in the superiority of European/Western arms (especially British), served as an important bolster to morale, to forces frequently outnumbered and campaigning in difficult terrain, in an alien environment and often beret not only of reinforcements but even of supplies and water. The confidence arising from such morale was often necessary for simple self-preservation, and martial prowess or the threat of force could also be used to avoid conflict by discouraging a potential aggressor. In reality, however, colonial warfare could be waged with much greater bitterness than experienced in ‘civilized’ European/Western campaigns at that time, and service abroad, often for many years without even a thought of home leave, caused a curious feeling of isolation.
The wars may be split into several categories. A revolt of the indigenous population against rule by the Imperial power; in the 19th century these were rarely successful due to the technological and organizational superiority of the Imperial forces (one notable success was the Haitian slave revolt against French rule). A second category was the war of self-determination by settlers and descendants of settlers against rule by the "mother" country, which did not necessarily involve what was left of any indigenous population but often took the form of a civil war between supporters of the status quo and revolutionaries. A third category was the conflict with neighbors of the colony as part of Imperial policy, either expansionism such as the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer wars of the late nineteenth century and the Italian attack on Abyssinia or as part of a wider conflict such as the World War I campaigns between British/Belgian/French colonial forces and their German neighbors in Africa and Asia.
Although colonial wars usually resulted in victory for the European/Western forces in the long term, there were several defeats for their forces especially in the early stages of a conflict when the Imperial power had not brought its full force to bear. These include the Battle of Isandhlwana (British vs. Zulus) and the Battle of Adowa (Italians vs. Abyssinians) where over-confident European forces were defeated by native African soldiery. In both of these battles, the African armies greatly outnumbered the European armies, suffered heavy casualties, but overwhelmed their enemy.
Examples of colonial wars include the Indian Mutiny and various conflicts waged during the Scramble for Africa, such as the Anglo-Zulu War and the wars in the Sudan. The Anglo-Ashanti Wars of the late 1800s were a typical example of colonial warfare, in which small British armies, equipped with modern artillery and machine guns, repeatedly defeated much larger forces of local warriors. During the 19th century and early 20th century colonial period there was endemic warfare on the frontiers of many colonies in tribal areas, notably for the British Empire on the North West frontier of India, for the French and Spanish in their North African colonies and for the United States in North America against Native Americans and later in South America and the Philippines.
In the nineteenth century, “imperialism” was based primarily on the colonial empires of Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, etc., mainly 1870-1914. During this period, Europe's powers added nearly 8,880,000 square miles to their overseas colonial possessions. As it was mostly unoccupied by the Western powers as late as the 1880s, Africa became the primary target of the "new" imperialist expansion known as “The Scramble for Africa”, although conquest took place also in other areas — notably south-east Asia and the East Asian seaboard, where Japan joined the European powers' scramble for territory.
In the 1870s, European nations were bickering over themselves about the spoils of Africa. In order to prevent further conflict between them, they convened at the Berlin Conference (1884–85), to lay down rules on they would partition up Africa between themselves, defining "effective occupation" as the criterion for international recognition of colonial claims and codifying the imposition of direct rule, accomplished usually through armed force. A decade later, rival imperialisms would collide in the Fashoda Incident (1898), during which war between France and Britain was barely avoided. This fear led to new alliances, and in 1904 the Entente Cordiale was signed between both powers. Imperialistic rivalry between the European powers was a main cause of the triggering of World War I in 1914 (Germany argued that Britain's world power position gave the British unfair advantages on international markets, thus limiting Germany's economic growth and threatening its security).
While European Powers scrambled for Africa, Asia was also affected during this time. The Portuguese and Spanish colonial empire were smaller, mostly legacies of past colonization; most of their colonies had acquired independence during the Latin American revolutions at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Great Game, which lasted from 1813 to 1907, opposed the British Empire against Imperial Russia for supremacy in central Asia. China was opened to Western influence starting with the First and Second Opium Wars (1839–1842; 1856–1860). After the visits of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1852–1854, Japan opened itself to the Western world (1868–1912). There was also military action in Burma, Indonesia (Netherlands East Indies), Malay, and in the Philippines.
The United States, while it did not have direct colonies like Britain and France, nevertheless wielded a dominant influence over various countries, particularly in Latin America by the start of the twentieth century. It never hesitated to use its economic weight and military power to maintain its sphere of influence and plunder the raw materials, minerals and manufacture of those countries. Although the US prided itself on being ‘anti-colonial’, having broken away from British rule, US capitalism was nevertheless imperialistic from the very beginning.
In 1845, for instance, Congress annexed 390,000 square miles of Mexican territory (the equivalent in area of the original 13 American colonies). Not surprisingly, Mexico declared war on the US, and the Mexican war of 1846-48 followed. In his message to Congress in May 1846, President Polk asserted that the Mexican war was caused by the armed forces of Mexico having "invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil". In the 1890s, when the expansion of American imperialism continued, the US invaded Cuba and the Philippines, annexed Hawaii and other islands (Puerto Rico, etc), and launched a military and commercial invasion of China to plunder the country. If they did not have formal colonial territories like Britain and France, the US nevertheless exerted de facto control of these conquered lands.
US imperialism has always played a counter-revolutionary role on the world stage, ready to use its military power to intervene against any manifestation of social revolution. For example, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the US primarily acted as a self-appointed policeman in Latin America and the Caribbean. ‘‘Banana Republic’ became political shorthand for the kind of corrupt and ruthless dictatorship propped up by the US to protect giant companies like United Fruit. When the US marines were sent to Nicaragua in 1927, President Coolidge blandly explained: “We are not making war on Nicaragua any more than a policeman on the street is making war on passers-by”.
The term “Gunboat Diplomacy” refers to the pursuit of foreign policy objectives with the aid of conspicuous displays of military power — implying or constituting a direct threat of warfare, should terms not be agreeable to the superior force. The term comes from the period of colonial imperialism, where the European powers would intimidate other states into granting trade or other concessions through a demonstration of their superior military power. A country negotiating with a European power would notice that a warship or fleet of ships had appeared off its coast. The mere sight of such power almost always had a considerable effect, and it was rarely necessary for such boats to use other measures, such as demonstrations of cannon fire.
The effectiveness of such simple demonstrations of a nation's projection of force capabilities meant that those nations with naval power, especially Britain, could establish military bases and arrange economically advantageous relationships around the world. Aside from military conquest, gunboat diplomacy was the dominant way to establish new trade partners, colonial outposts and expansion of empire. Those lacking the resources and technological advancements of European/Western empires found that their own peaceable relationships were readily dismantled in the face of such pressures, and they therefore came to depend on the imperialist nations for access to raw materials and overseas markets.
When one thinks of the whole period of colonial warfare, one empire clearly springs to mind – the British. Throughout Queen Victoria’s long reign (1837-1901) there was not a single year in which, somewhere in the world, British soldiers were not fighting for her and her Empire. From 1837 to 1901, in Asia, China, Canada, Africa, and elsewhere, military expeditions were constantly being undertaken to protect resident Britons or British interests, to extend a frontier, to repel an attack, avenge an insult, or suppress a mutiny or rebellion. Continuous warfare became an accepted way of life in the Victorian era, and in the process of fighting these fascinating (and little known) “small wars” the size of the British Empire quadrupled in size.
Running a close second to Britain would be France’s conquest of various colonial possessions, made famous by the exploits of the French Foreign Legion in North Africa. Admittedly, thanks to what research has been made available and especially due to Hollywood, British and French colonial wars are the most widely known (and wargamed!), as opposed to those fought by other European/Western countries. But engrossing as these small wars are – and they bristle with bizarre, tragic, and often humorous incidents – it is the officers and men who fought them that make it a truly exciting period for tabletop wargaming. With their courage, foolhardiness, and eccentricities, they are an unforgettable lot – whether European/Westerner or Native alike.
The entire period of colonial warfare is an aspect of warfare that is often regarded by some wargamers as secondary, even irrelevant, to the general development of conflict in the modern era. Where contemporary, technologically sophisticated were armies pitted against primitive opponents that offered little more than a recipe for a slow march to an inevitable conclusion. This judgment is wrong. First, for an allegedly minor mode of warfare, imperial conflict proved a persistent feature of military activity. No other aspect of this period of European and Western history was more obviously heroic than the conquest of vast empires. Indeed, colonial warfare included some of the fiercest and unique fighting ever seen – on land and on the rivers – and should be equally popular for this year’s HISTORICON convention!