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View Diary: History for Kossacks: When Mercenary Armies Go Crazy (114 comments)

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  •  Here's a good example of mercenary armies (4+ / 0-)

    gone bad: the Thirty Years' War.  

    It all started over religion, but quickly turned into a wholesale sack of the countryside by bands of wandering freebooters.  This left the peasantry with nothing but death, famine and disease.  By the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, it's estimated that roughly one third of the population of modern day Germany, most of them civilians, had died strictly due to the war.  We wouldn't see civilian casualty rates greater than those of the military until WWII.  

    Also, if you have time for a little literature, I'd like to recommend Adventures of a Simpleton (the entire text is on GoogleBooks) by Hans Jacob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen.  The author's true identity's a mystery, but there's no doubt in anyone's mind it's largely autobiographical.  It's a picaresque story of one young man's experiences during the Thirty Years' War--and judging by the humorous tone of the book, he didn't have a very good time.  Although it's a quick and easy read, today it's considered the greatest piece of literature to come out of 17th century Germany.

    Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions.

    by Ice Blue on Sun Oct 28, 2007 at 08:27:24 PM PDT

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    •  Right on! The book looks great! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue

      and thanks for the tip - the 30 Years' War is one I've been meaning to write up at some point, and approaching it from the perspective of out-of-control mercenaries would be an interesting way to do it.  Thanks!  

      •  30years war (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        leolabeth, Ice Blue, Unitary Moonbat

        ZDF (German state TV channel 2) did a documentary based on a mercenary's diary, which I found quite fascinating but did sadly not record, I think the name was Peter Hagedorn or something like that. He apparently fought the war beginning to end, was married twice, had his first wife and eight children die on him, raped at least one captive in between, miraculously survived a gut-shot and one shot through the shoulder, and wrote about all that, which the TV team cross-checked with church archives. With God's Blessing to Hell I don't know if any of this stuff is available in English.

        That aside, I don't quite see how mercenaries are worse than nation-based soldiers, other than that they are likely more expensive.
        I don't think people during the 30-years war cared all that much wether the person forcing them to drink "the Swedish drink" (liquid manure) was an actual Swede or a hireling.
        (Incidentally, my hometown, which is mostly protestant, used to have a bar named "Schwedenschänke" - the Swedish bar - until some years ago, though I have no idea when they started business; it may well have been recent. Quite good and popular, they were. Cheers.)

        Overall, I do love your historiorants.

        Freedom is not just a word. 'Freedom' is a noun.

        by intruder from Old Europe on Sun Oct 28, 2007 at 10:51:32 PM PDT

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        •  It all depends on their leadership. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Cathy Willey

          The Serbs would still have an awfully nasty army if they hadn't been beaten by the UN forces.  And the hero of Simpleton was kidnapped by some Croats who weren't the nicest forces to have around.  But one thing about Grimmelshausen's fictional Croats: their colonel was not averse to caring for his own horse and tack, and he lived under the same shitty conditions as his men.  To this day, I can't imagine a German colonel, for all his good manners, doing the same.

          On the other hand, true professionals like the Gurkhas, Spetsnaz, and our own Green Berets hold such misbehavior towards civilians in the utmost contempt.  Of course, they're not in it for the pay.          

          Still, there's something about these "free lances" that's not to be trusted, least of all by our regular troops.              


          Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions.

          by Ice Blue on Mon Oct 29, 2007 at 06:33:53 AM PDT

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