Thursday, February 8, 2007

Today in Military History

Today was a fairly eventful day in military history. On this day, in 1807, French Emperor Napoléon I won (barely), the Battle of Eylau, defeating the Russians, and what was left of the Prussian Army. The battle was fought near the little town of Preussisch-Eylau, in East Prussia. The French suffered 10,000-15,000 casualties; the Russians about 15,000. The Russians retreated: four months later, Napoléon would defeat the Russians decisively, at Friedland, ending the War of the Fourth Coalition.

Also, on this date in 1904, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Russian Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur, then a Russian possession, in Manchuria. This attack with torpedo-boats and destroyers began the Russo-Japanese War, and 37 years later, the Japanese would began another major war in much the same way. . .with a somewhat more unpleasant ending, from the Japanese point of view, than the 1904 episode.
ADDENDUM (9 Feb). I decided to add some art. Napoléon at Eylau (1808) is by Antoine-Jean Gros. The naval painting (period and artist unidentified) portrays Admiral Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō, organizer and overall commander of the Japanese attack on Port Arthur - one of the great admirals of world history -- on board his flagship, H.I.J.M Battleship Mikasa, before the decisive battle of the Russo-Japanese War at Tsushima. Mikasa is preserved as a museum at Yokosuka. The early-modern Japanese Navy copied all things British (Mikasa was in fact built in Britain), and the painting of Tōgō closely resembles a similar picture of Admiral Horatio Nelson, the British naval hero, on H.M.S. Victory's quarterdeck prior to the Battle of Trafalgar.

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