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General Pakenham's Neck

Sir Edward Michael Pakenham (1778-1815) had a long and distinguished career in the British Army and in politics.  Entering the Army when he was only 16, he served in Ireland (against United Irishmen in 1798), North America, the West Indies and Denmark. In 1810 he commanded a regiment on the Iberian Peninsula, serving under his sister’s husband, Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington.  From then until the end of operations in the Peninsula in early 1814, Pakenham fought in the battles of Busaco, Fuentes d'Oñoro, the defense of Almeida, Salamanca, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse, while rising to lieutenant general, earning the Army Gold Cross, being appointed Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath and later receiving the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.  Appointed commander of British forces in North America, Pakenham was killed leading a stupid frontal assault on the American defenses of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, a dismal end to an otherwise distinguished career.

In the course of his years of service, Pakenham had been twice wounded with peculiar consequences.  On June 22, 1803, while a lieutenant colonel commanding the 64th Foot (today incorporated in the Mercian Regiment), Pakenham was struck in the neck when the British captured St. Lucia, in the West Indies, from the French.  The wound healed, but left him with "a distinct cock to the head."  Two years later, he was again wounded, on February 2, 1809, while commanding the 1st Battalion, 7th Royal Fusiliers (today incorporated in The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers) during the capture of Martinique, hardly 50 miles north of St. Lucia.  This wound was also in Pakenham’s neck and, when it healed, it was found to have "corrected the defect rather neatly."

 

Scorecard: The Russo-Turkish Wars

Countries that are neighbors are often at war with one another, and few have gone at it more often than Russia and Turkey.  Though they’ve been at peace for nearly a century now, in the 350 years between 1568 and 1918 they came to blows over a dozen times, totaling nearly 50 years of hostilities, actually eclipsing England and France in the number of conflicts during the same period.

Prior to the mid-1500s, the two empires had little interaction, their territories being separated by the Tatar Khanate of the Crimea, to which the Russians paid tribute, and the Khanate of Astrakhan, both client states of the Ottoman Empire.  That began to change in 1556, when Ivan the Terrible (r. 1533-1584) conquered Astrakhan.

  • First Russo-Turkish War (1568–1570):  In 1568 the Turks undertook a somewhat belated attempt to throw the Russians out of Astrakhan, with offensives against Astrakhan and Azov, at the mouth of the Don, but committed inadequate resources and lost.
  • Second Russo-Turkish War (1571–1574):  The Turks decided to try again, with much more substantial forces, and an alliance with the Tatars.  Initially the Russians took some big hits, the invaders devastating the central part of the country and even burning Moscow.  But the Russians recovered, and inflicted several major defeats on the invaders. The war ended as a draw, leaving Russia in control of Astrakhan.
  • Hiatus: For century, although Russia and the Tatars often fought, the two empire were occupied elsewhere, the Turks trying to expand in the Mediterranean and the Russians to the east and northwest, while both pitched in against Poland.
  • Third Russo-Turkish War (1676–1681):  The Turks undertook a new war with Russia. The Turks’ alliance with some of the Ukrainians alienated many of the Cossacks, who then supported the Russians.  Despite some fierce fighting, the war was essentially a draw, though the Russians did cease paying tribute to the Tatars.
  • Fourth Russo-Turkish War (1686–1700):  Peter the Great (r. 1682-1725) allied Russia with the Habsburgs, Poland-Lithuania, and Venice against the Ottomans, and conducted successful campaigns against the Crimea, securing some territorial gains, expanding rights for pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and gaining some other concessions; after which he went off to attack Sweden.
  • Fifth Russo-Turkish War (1710–1711) – The Pruth Campaign:  Following his devastating defeat by Peter the Great at Poltava in 1709, King Charles XII of Sweden (r. 1697-1718) took refuge with the Turks, whom he convinced to declare war on Russia.  A Russian attempt to invade the Danubian Principalities (today part of Romania) failed miserably, and Peter was forced to return some of the territories he had annexed in 1700.
  • Sixth Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739): Allied with Austria, the Russians undertook a war to annex the Crimea.  Although the Russians were generally successful, the Austrians did poorly, and when Sweden threatened to attack Russia, a compromise peace was concluded.
  • Seventh Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774):  A series of border incidents caused Catherine the Great (r. 1762-1796 ) to declare open war, in which the Russians were generally successful on all fronts, even operating a fleet in the Mediterranean which supported rebellions in Ottoman territories.  Russia gained direct or indirect control of vast territories, including Southern Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus, and the Crimea.
  • Eighth Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792): A Turkish attempt to reverse the results of the 1768-1774 war led to Russian victories on land and sea, as well as defeats at the hands of Austria, with some notable gains by both Russia and Austria.
  • Ninth Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812):  After Russia suffered several defeats by Napoleon in Europe, the Ottomans allied themselves with France and attempted to secure control of the Danubian Principalities.  The Russians generally did well, but gained only Bessarabia in a peace hastily concluded on the eve of Napoleon’s invasion of their country.
  • Tenth Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829):  Taking advantage of Ottoman reverses in the Greek War for Independence, the Russians undertook a remarkably successful war, gaining territory on the Danube, and control of Georgia and parts of Armenia in the Caucasus. The Turks also had to recognize- the full autonomy of Serbia and the Danubian principalities, which essentially became Russian client-states.
  • Eleventh Russo-Turkish War (1853-1856) – the Crimean War: A complex diplomatic imbroglio over the control of Christian sites in the Holy Land provided a pretext for France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia to go to war with Russia.  Although fought on several fronts, the campaign in the Crimea was the major one, and the Russians suffered the loss of Sebastopol.  At the peace table, however, the Russians made no notable territorial concessions, although a clause prohibited both them and the Turks from having a fleet in the Baltic, which greatly favored the latter.
  • Twelfth Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878):  Inspired by Turkish atrocities in the Balkans, the Russians first backed local rebellions and then invaded.  Campaigning more or less successfully in the Balkans (allied with Romania and Serbia), Russia gained some territories in the Caucasus and restoration of its right to have a fleet in the Black Sea. Her allies Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro attained full independence, while Bulgaria became autonomous of the Ottomans.
  • Thirteenth Russo-Turkish War (1914–1918) - World War I:  When the Turks allied themselves with Germany, Russia opened a front against them in the Caucasus, where they were generally successful, gaining considerable territory.  Their operations, however, were interrupted by the Russian Revolution, which permitted the Turks to regain some territory, despite their devastating losses elsewhere in the post-war settlement.

Since 1918, Russian and Turkish relations have often been testy, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, when the Soviets demanded partial control of the Dardanelles, and the return of territories in the Caucasus that had been ceded to Turkey in 1918. The latter crisis disappeared after the United States extended military and economic assistance to the Turks.

 


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