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This Seat of Mars

This Seat of Mars: War and the British Isles, 1485-1746

Charles Carlton
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 336
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    This Seat of Mars
    Book Description:

    Shakespeare was not exaggerating when he defined being a soldier as one of the seven ages of man. Over the early modern period, many millions of young men from the four corners of the present United Kingdom went to war, often-and most bloodily-against each other. The almost continuous fighting on land and sea for the two and one-half centuries between Bosworth and Culloden decimated lives, but created the British state and forged the nation as the world's predominant power.

    In this innovative and moving book, Charles Carlton explores the glorious and terrible impact of war at the national and individual levels. Chapters alternate, providing a robust military and political narrative interlaced with accounts illuminating the personal experience of war, from recruitment to the end of battle in discharge or death. Carlton expertly charts the remarkable military developments over the period, as well as war's enduring corollaries-camaraderie, courage, fear, and grief-to give a powerful account of the profound effect of war on the British Isles and its peoples.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18088-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Introduction: This Seat of Mars
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    Long ago—far longer than I care to remember—I first visited Culloden Moor in Scotland. There were four of us, part-time soldiers in Britain’s Territorial Army from different infantry regiments, halfway through a selection course for the Special Air Service. We were young, we were incredibly fit, confident in having passed the first half of the selection, apprehensive about the second, a gruelling trial in the Cape Wrath area right at the north-west tip of Scotland. We knew little about what had happened at Culloden, although we knew that what the young men had endured there over two centuries...

  7. CHAPTER 1 Early Tudor Warfare, 1485–1558
    (pp. 1-19)

    The first army to reach the field of battle in Leicestershire, on 22 August 1485, was Richard III’s.¹ The king arrayed his forces, nine to ten thousand strong, placing himself in the centre with John Howard, duke of Norfolk’s division, to the west, and that of Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, to the east. About a mile to his south east were the five thousand men, commanded by Thomas Stanley, earl of Derby, whose commitment to Richard’s cause was doubtful. Henry Tudor approached from the west with an army five thousand strong. His military record was undistinguished: in 1483 he...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Give Me Spirit: Joining and Training
    (pp. 20-35)

    Between the Battles of Bosworth Field and Culloden, war affected millions of inhabitants of the British Isles. For many it was the most important experience of their lives—for too many it was the last. For instance, of the period’s seventy leading literary figures, twenty-one (or 30 per cent), saw combat, which profoundly affected many of them.¹ For instance, fighting as a young man in the French Wars of Religion made Sir Walter Raleigh more sceptical, perhaps an atheist. Edmund Spenser’s experiences during the Irish Wars permeate his poetry. John Donne’s combat during the 1596 Cadiz and 1597 Azores expeditions...

  9. CHAPTER 3 This Happy Breed of Men: Elizabethan Warfare, 1558–1603
    (pp. 36-62)

    History does not record whether during the first performance ofRichard III, probably in late 1591, any in the audience gave a hollow laugh as John of Gaunt boasted that ‘this happy breed of men’ was safe from ‘the envy of less happier lands’. The plain fact of the matter was that during the last third of Queen Elizabeth’s reign ‘this precious stone’ was plagued with war. Although the reign began fairly peacefully, by its last two decades England increasingly became involved in wars, on land and at sea, both abroad and in Ireland. In many ways the Armada of...

  10. CHAPTER 4 Why Men Fought
    (pp. 63-78)

    As they anticipate their first experience of combat most soldiers ask themselves two fundamental questions. First, what really makes a person fight when he—and today she—is in combat, and, second, will I fight and not run away? To paraphrase Shakespeare, they ask what gives humans the stomach to fight, and do I have it? These question are very different from asking why nations or groups go to war, or why individuals join the armed forces in the first place. They relate to why people actually fight, kill and run the risk of being killed. The answers are complicated...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Those Were Golden Days: Early Stuart Warfare, 1603–1639
    (pp. 79-95)

    In retrospect, at least, the period between James I’s accession to the English throne in 1603 and the outbreak of the British Civil Wars in 1639 seems a pacific interregnum between two periods when war was dominant. From the perspective of the Civil War, it could have been seen as a lull before the storm. ‘O those were golden days!’ recalled Peter Hausted, an Oxford don.¹ For the first half of this interval such an interpretation is valid. James pursued a largely peaceful policy because he disliked war; because England needed to rest after the huge military effort of the...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Low-Intensity Combat: Campaigning
    (pp. 96-110)

    Most of the typical soldier’s time was not spent in battles or sieges, but in the dull, usually arduous routine of campaigning and garrison duty. The former was sometimes punctuated by guerrilla attacks, skirmishes and ambushes. The latter could become a siege if the enemy made a concerted attack (see Chapter 9). In what Winston Churchill called ‘a well-written, soldierly account’, Sergeant John Millner of the Royal Regiment of Ireland described his experiences. They were typical of a veteran soldier. Between 1701 and 1712 Millner served in a garrison or was on furlough for 45.5 per cent of the time,...

  13. CHAPTER 7 All Diseas’d: Civil Wars and Commonwealth: Events, 1638–1660
    (pp. 111-143)

    In April 1786 Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were touring England, the nation from which the United States had just won a war of independence. They made a pilgrimage to Edgehill, the first battle in the first of three British revolutions that culminated in their own. Adams was irate at the locals’ ignorance of what had happened at Edgehill. ‘Tell your neighbours and your children that this is holy ground,’ the future president declared, ‘all England should come in pilgrimage to this hill once a year.’¹

    Now each year many thousand people do come to Edgehill, and to the other...

  14. CHAPTER 8 Talk You of Killing: Civil Wars and Commonwealth: Impact , 1638–1660
    (pp. 144-161)

    In ‘The Civil Wars’, a poem written in 1609 about the Wars of the Roses in 1609, over a generation before the actual British Civil Wars, Samuel Daniel observed:¹

    O war! begot in pride and luxury,

    The child of malice and revengeful hate,

    Thou impious good and goodly impiety

    That art the foul refiner of a state.

    Daniel was using the word ‘refiner’ as a metallurgist might: to enhance, strengthen, even purify the state. Between 1638 and 1660 war was the crucible that forged several key issues of the British experience: the relationships between the component parts of the British...

  15. CHAPTER 9 High-Intensity Combat: Battles and Sieges
    (pp. 162-178)

    Hotspur has just survived a battle, which (with sieges) are the most intense experiences that war inflicts upon its participants. He is extremely dry for, as a veteran of the Battle of Kohima (1944) recalled, ‘fighting is the most dehydrating experience known to man.’¹ Thus, during the Four Days’ Battle (1666), Lieutenant Thomas Browne had a stock of beer handy so he could grab a bottle as needed.² Hotspur is physically exhausted, breathless, even to the point of fainting, because combat is hard labour, demanding intense physical effort. ‘It was very hot work for about two hours,’ Colonel Blackadder told...

  16. CHAPTER 10 Restoration to Glorious Revolution, 1660–1688
    (pp. 179-198)

    ‘I stood in The Strand and watched it and blessed God,’ wrote the diarist John Evelyn on 29 May 1660, for he, like millions of his fellow subjects, was thanking his Maker for the restoration of Charles II. Five days earlier the king had sailed from Holland aboardthe Naseby(hastily rechristened theRoyal Charles) and landed at Dover, ending fourteen years of exile on the continent. His journey to London was a triumph. At Dover, Canterbury, Rochester, Deptford and Southwark, commoners and the quality welcomed their new king with universal enthusiasm. So crowded was London Bridge that the king...

  17. CHAPTER 11 The Peril of the Waters: War at Sea
    (pp. 199-214)

    War at sea is very different from war on land. As has been argued, the sea is an inherently dangerous environment, where men drown in storms, or die from diseases that spread like wildfire in the crowded insanitary conditions aboard ship, or they perish from poor rations or a lack of food and water. Indeed, war marginally increased one’s chances of dying at sea. Because it is such a perilous place, survival at sea requires great skills, gained only from experience. It also demands a harsh discipline, for the results of disobedience, or even negligence, can be fatal to all...

  18. CHAPTER 12 Let Slip the Dogs of War: After the Glorious Revolution, 1688–1746
    (pp. 215-236)

    During the two and a half centuries before the Glorious Revolution, England—and then Britain—had never been much of a military power. To be sure, the English (and Welsh) had crushed the French in several decisive battles in the Hundred Years War (c. 1337–1453), and had roundly defeated the Armada in 1588. Yet for most of this period the British Isles were involved in internal warfare, dealing with rebellions and Civil Wars.

    During the two and a half centuries after the Glorious Revolution, Great Britain became a—and then the—major power in European and subsequently in world...

  19. CHAPTER 13 The Hurlyburly’s Done: The Aftermath of Combat
    (pp. 237-257)

    This chapter will examine what happened when the battle’s lost or won. It will look at the quick and the dead, at those who survived intact or wounded in body or mind, and at those who perished to be mourned and sometimes remembered. It will investigate the joy of victory, the anguish of defeat, and see how people adjusted to both. In combat men tried to surrender, and some were successful only to experience the ordeal of being held prisoner. Those who came home from the wars had to readjust to civilian life, perhaps to rejoin old families or else...

  20. Conclusion: The Hand of War
    (pp. 258-265)

    It was a bleak, treeless place, some five hundred feet above sea level. A cold east wind of sleet and rain blew into the faces of the prince’s men drawn up on the west side of the moor on 16 April 1746. They were tired, very tired, having marched as far south as Derby, in an impossible quest to place James II’s son on the throne. Here, 130 miles from London, they turned back north, to be harassed as they trudged the 450 miles almost to home. At Culloden, five miles east of Inverness, their leader decided to make his...

  21. Notes
    (pp. 266-307)
  22. Index
    (pp. 308-332)