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Short Rounds

Daily Routine in Frederick’s Army

One of the most famous military organizations of all time was the Prussian Army during the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786).

Following the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), when various armies had marched freely across their lands, the Hohenzollern princes of Brandenburg-Prussia decided to build the most powerful army possible to defend their sprawling, poor, and sparsely populated territories. The result was a unique military establishment. On Frederick’s accession as king in 1740, Prussia, 12th in population among the European powers, with but 2.5 million people, had the fourth largest standing army, some 60,000 troops.  

Under the conscription regulations of 1733, boys were registered at the age of ten, so that the army could keep track of potential recruits. Men were drafted at 18, usually for 18 to 24 months, depending upon the arm of the service to which they were assigned. Thereafter, they went into the reserve, usually to be called up for of two or three months active duty each year, for refresher training, which could be accomplished in the “off season,” the country being heavily agricultural.

About a third of the army consisted of “foreign” personnel, non-Prussian men who had enlisted – or “crimped” – for permanent service. These men garrisoned the country’s fortresses and served as the cadres of the territorial regiments. 

When on active duty, the troops were subject to a harsh discipline and a rigid routine. But this was not necessarily as onerous as is generally believed. Consider the daily routine of Prussian troops, on active duty in peacetime.

Time                Activity

0400                Reveille

0500                Morning formation

0600                Training

0730                Musket Drill

0830                Tactical Drill

1200                End of training day

Afternoon        Lunch, cleaning equipment, supper, guard mount for those assigned, etc.

2130                Curfew, summer; 2030 in winter

 

So even when on active duty, Prussian troops, including the “foreign” troops, were pretty much off duty for about half of each day. In addition, most troops were usually formally off duty about one day in three. During their off duty hours, Frederick’s soldiers were free to seek work or run little businesses, or visit their families, the regiments being territorially based, or engage in other activities.

 

The U.S.S. Princeton “Jinx”?

In 1843 the U.S. Navy commissioned its first screw-driven steam warship, the U.S.S. Princeton. She was the first ship in the fleet to bear the name of George Washington’s famous victory in 1776. She has been followed by five successors. But the original Princeton and three of her successors in the Navy list have been plagued by bad fortune.           

1st Princeton.  Commissioned in September of 1843, Princeton spent the next few months on trials and making demonstrations, and seemed an excellent vessel. On February 28, 1844, President John Tyler and a host of dignitaries were sailing up the Potomac aboard her when one of the ship’s new breach loading cannon exploded during a salute. Dead were Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, Rep. Virgil Maxey of Maryland, Rep. David Gardiner of New York, Capt. Beverly Kennon, Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment and Repairs; and the President’s valet, while some 20 others were injured; the President himself was below decks at the time, wooing the young woman who would shortly become his second wife, Julia Gardiner, the congressman’s daughter. Princeton subsequently served with the Home Squadron, 1845-1847, and the Mediterranean Squadron, 1847-1849. In July of 1849 she was surveyed, found rotted, and ordered dismantled.

2nd Princeton. A steam screw sloop, the second Princeton incorporated some structural elements of the dismantled original vessel. She spent most of her first year of existence in various shipyards undergoing repairs to her engines, and thus missed taking part in Commodore Matthew G. Perry’s expedition to Japan. In mid-1853 she began two years service off the East Coast and then in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, but was placed in ordinary in mid-1855. Two years later she became a receiving ship at Philadelphia (where new recruits were processed and trained), and served in this role for nine years, until sold.   

3rd Princeton. A gunboat, Princeton commissioned in time to serve with the North Atlantic Squadron during the Spanish-American War, and later saw service during the Philippine War, as part of the Pacific Squadron, as a station ship in Samoa, and then during World War I as a training ship at Seattle, after which she was sold out of the service.

4th Princeton (CVL-23). One of nine ships originally laid down as light cruisers that were converted to light fleet carriers while under construction. Commissioned in early 1943, Princeton had a distinguished career in the Pacific, earning nine battle stars. But on October 24, 1944, during the Leyte Operation, she was struck by a single bomb from a Japanese dive bomber, which exploded in her hanger deck, causing devastating fires and touched off a series of explosions. Heroic efforts to save the ship almost succeeded, when a final devastating explosion took place which literally destroyed her forward section, and she went down soon afterwards; casualties were very heavy aboard Princeton, and also the cruiser Birmingham, which had been alongside supporting fire fighting and rescue efforts. 

5th Princeton (CV-37). An Essex Class fleet carrier, Princeton commissioned in November of 1945, commanded by Capt. John M. Hoskins, who’d lost a foot during the disaster that afflicted the light carrier Princeton the previous year. She saw active service during the Korean War, earning eight battle stars. In the late 1950s she was converted into a helicopter carrier (LPH–5), and served during the Vietnam War, helping to develop Marine Corps vertical envelopment tactics. She was decommissioned and stricken in 1970 and sold for scrap.

6th Princeton (CG-59). A Ticonderoga Class guided missile cruiser commissioned in 1989. On February 18, 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, Princeton detonated an influence mine off Faylaka Island in the Persian Gulf, which in turn set off another mine nearby. Although damage was extensive, only two crewmen were seriously injured. After completing repairs, the Princeton returned to service with the Fleet, and has been active in Operation Northern Watch, Operation Just Cause in Afghanistan, and in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

So, of six ships in the navy that have borne the name Princeton, one suffered a devastating accident, one was sunk in action, one was heavily damaged in action, and one was so poorly constructed as to hardly see any active service at all.

 


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