Category Archives: cocktail

Franco-Prussian War

Progressive emperor, progressive cape

Sadly, veterans of the 1870 Franco-Prussian War have (likely) passed away.  But it was not so long ago that French newspapers would run occasional mentions of an ‘incident’ involving a grizzled French military vet throwing his Merlot at a middle manager from an international conglomerate.  Those irrepressible old coots came to their loathing of MBAs honestly, as the last survivors of a war which helped turn the world into the dull, competence-worshipping boot factory we find ourselves in today.

In the middle years of the 19th century, the European balance of power was shifting (as was its wont).  France found itself with another Napoleon as Emperor, albeit one pursuing liberal economic policies and looking after the French reputation for classy living.  Just as one great album can make a band’s reputation, so too did the recent memory of Napoleon Bonaparte kicking everybody’s ass linger in European minds.  Or at least in French minds.  Napoleon III felt this strongly enough, in fact, that he took the time to declare, “The Empire means peace,” as if everybody was still worried.

Moltke spent years looking for a young boy named Andrew Wiggin

To the Northeast, meanwhile,  Prussia was on the rise.  The 1866 Austro-Prussian War had made Prussia the dominant German state, and now they were busy constructing a modern military.  Chief of the General Staff Helmuth von Moltke turned Prussia’s General Staff (already unique in Europe) into its most formidable weapon of war.  His intense and superb officer training created highly skilled and motivated officers who could be trusted to ably and quickly maneuver the armies placed under their command.  While France maintained the European tradition of an officer corps concerned with carefully sculpted facial hair and chic winter tunics, the Prussian General Staff was an unparalleled war-mongering think tank, devoting all their time to applying science, industry, and history to military advantage.

In addition to a superior, if somewhat less entertaining, army structure, the Prussian state also benefited from the leadership of the “Iron Chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck.  This aristocrat spent a rather unimpressive spell in the Prussian army among the bosoms of buxom beerwenches.  As he aged and the wenches’ affections waned, Bismarck turned his attention to the other great pastime of the aristocratic class: political machinations.  Armed with the forward-thinking notion that the great questions of the day are decided “through iron and blood,” Bismarck set out to unify the German states.  Goaded by tension relations and Bismarck’s cagey diplomacy (or lack thereof), France declared war on Prussia on July 19th, 1870.  Seen as the victims of French aggression, the other Germanic states came to Prussia’s defense.

France’s war mobilization effort was hampered by paperwork, confusion, and fur-trimmed parade gaiters which did not match the regimental livery.  By contrast, the Prussian General Staff used the dense Prussian railroad system to mobilize nearly half a million troops in three weeks.  The well-equipped and well-trained Prussian forces won a series of victories over the French in August 1870.  As the Prussians moved into France (the beginning of that habit), Napoleon III and his top general Marshal MacMahon decided it was a good time to tackle the pressing issue of prison reform.  They formed an army out of 130,000 pressed-in prisoners from Parisian jails.  Surprisingly, this army lacked discipline.

The hardened criminals of 1870 Paris jails report for military duty

In a last-ditch attempt to stop the Prussian advance, Napoleon and MacMahon fortified their forces on high ground around the city of Sedan in Northern France.  Sadly, they did not occupy the highest ground (a reoccurring problem: see Dien Bien Phu).  The Prussians surrounded Napoleon’s army, set up their best-in-class artillery on the higher ground, and fired down upon the French troops.  On September 1st, after a few days of shelling and some disastrous charges, Napoleon III surrendered.  The Prussians captured the French Emperor, over 100,000 French soldiers, and several thousand monogrammed silver cigarette cases.  While fighting continued until 1871, the war was essentially over.

So if you find yourself at work, frustrated by a mirthless Wharton graduate unimpressed by your sharp tie and demanding that you attend a conference titled Dynamic Deliverable Solutions for Bi-Cameral Production Trees, try throwing your Merlot at him.  Or just blame the French.

Drink: Iron and Blood

[ingredients:]

  • German apple cider
  • Goldschlager
  • Jagermeister
  • Bierstiefel (aka the German beer boot)
  • iron shot glass
  • red food coloring

[preparation:]

  1. Lay the groundwork for a unified drink by placing the ingredients together on a table.
  2. Prepare a hearty shot of 60/40 Goldschlager to Jager.
  3. Pour yourself a Bierstiefel of warm apple cider.
  4. At the opportune moment, drop the shot into the cider, unifying the German ingredients.
  5. Add red food coloring to taste (depending on your views on the necessity of blood in solving the questions of the day).
  6. Drink victoriously and salute a brilliant future!
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French and Indian War

The Siege of Quebec was a pivotal 1759 battle in the North American theatre of the Seven Years War.  In the battle, British General James Wolfe’s derring-do defeated an undisciplined French and Indian force, striking a blow against the French colonial presence in North America.  The eventually-victorious British allowed some French colonials to remain in North America, paving the way for Canada’s peculiar cultural makeup and marking the end of the NHL’s “Original Two” era.

—–

In the 17th and 18th centuries, France and Great Britain held a series of “exhibition wars” in North America.  The purpose was to introduce European colonialism to a new market, and get developing soldiers more playing time.  These wars had all the good parts of European play (glory, death, spoils) without the bad parts (unruly peasants, despoiled fox-hunting grounds).  Everybody also got to say “North American theatre” a lot, which is really fun.

The fourth war took place between 1754 and 1763.  Sadly, poor branding resulted in way too many names: The French and Indian War, aka The War of the Conquest, aka The Seven Years’ War (note that 1754 to 1763 is nine years).  This list doesn’t even include names the Native Americans gave to this latest round of colonial fisticuffs.

Boras kept the top 2 fur trappers out of the draft

The backstory was familiar.  The French and British were trying to outmaneuver each other for economic and military opportunities, and for the rights to the best Native Americans in the amateur draft.  In 1754, tensions in both North America and Europe caused the two nations to throw down their sticks, pull off their gloves, and go at it.  Both sides brought starters over from the Old World, and the play was spirited.  The hearty French “Les Habs” (as their fans called them), with their entertaining coalition of stocky fur trappers, Iroquois Confederacy warriors and French soldiers, scored major victories at Fort Oswego and Fort William Henry.

In June of 1758, British coach King George pulled the goalie and instructed General Wolfe to take Quebec before the horn.  The British sailed twenty-two ships up the hazardous St. Lawrence River right into the heart of French Canada, much to the surprise of the Habs capitaine the Marquis de Montcalm.  The British hoped to bombard Quebec into submission, but Montcalm’s “stay at home D” and Habs rookie keeper Patrick Roy made it clear that wasn’t going to happen.

thanks for reading the alt-text!

Is it "Roy" or "Wah"? Let the War decide.

After three months of plotting, General Wolfe decided to attempt a risky upstream troop landing.  The British sailed up the river, past the French D line, who apparently missed the conspicuous British whispering and even-louder “sssshhh, lads!” from the officers.  Wolfe managed to land 3,300 first-string troops on the outskirts of Quebec during the night of September 12th, 1758.  Montcalm had almost 14,000 troops in the area, and had he waited for them to amass, he could have attacked the British from two sides.  Instead, he hastily attacked the British line on September 13th with only 3,500 troops, a motley O-line of French soldiers, Native Americans, and French militia.

The “Siege of Quebec” ended within the regulation three 20-minute periods.*  The British troops’ mastery of musket fire and the neutral zone trap, combined with Montcalm’s poor field generalship and puck control, led to a British rout.  The first British volley sent the French line into a retreat, although Wolfe was killed almost immediately by a brutal Iroquois enforcer’s cross-check.  Brigadier-General George Townshend organized two battalions to turn and face French reinforcements approaching from the rear (the reinforcements Montcalm had failed to wait for).  Those French also retreated, allowing the remainder of Montcalm’s army to complete their retreat into Quebec.  This is the first known use of the famous French military tactic called Two French Armies Retreating In Opposite Directions.

Montcalm's enforcers spent the entire siege in the penalty box.

Montcalm, who was not required to wear a helmet (having been in the league prior to the 1747 helmet rule) was struck by a stray puck and died the following day.  Most of the French forces abandoned Quebec and the remaining garrison signed over the city to the British on September 18th.  The British won a resounding naval victory in November 1759 which ended French hopes of reinforcing their colonies.  By 1760 most of the fighting had ended, and the Treaty of Paris formally ended the exhibition season on February 10, 1763.  The British allowed French colonists remaining in Canada to keep their property and Roman Catholic religion, resulting in the bilingual problems Canada experiences today.

Commentators on both sides of the Atlantic approved of the off-season trades.

The following off-season was a busy one.  Britain offered France the choice of keeping either its North American possessions or the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique (all of which Britain had invaded).  French chose to cede Canada.  That same season Spain traded Florida to Britain for Cuba and five navigational sextants, then spun those sextants off to obtain Louisiana from France (a move Don Cherry called outstanding).  France was unperturbed by the loss of Nouvelle France; French hockey blogger Voltaire declared that the Treaty of Paris cost France only “a few acres of snow; France ftw!”  No one anticipated, however, that the Spain-Britain trade would eventually result, two centuries later, in that most unholy of apparitions, ice hockey in Florida.

*Another example of poor branding.  A siege that lasts an hour is no siege at all.

Drink: The Siege of Quebec

[ingredients:]

  • 1 recently-emptied (not cleaned) 16 oz maple syrup jug
  • 2 oz French Brandy (cognac/Armagnac)
  • 1 oz Canadian Ice Wine
  • 1 tsp Drambuie

[preparation:]

  1. Pour ingredients into jug
  2. Shake or swirl to mix.
  3. Garnish with a maple leaf.

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The Spanish Armada

The fiasco that was the Spanish Armada featured many things which seemed impressive. A massive flotilla of warships, Sir Francis Drake, fireships, a “Reverse Normandy” invasion plan, an intra-varsity Christian crusade. Unfortunately for Spain, only some of these things lived up to their hype, and most of them weren’t Spanish. In 1588 the English defeated the “invincible” Spanish Armada, striking a blow against the Spanish empire from which it never fully recovered.

The Armada had two nicknames: "Invincible Navy" and "Great and Most Merry Navy". Both terrible names, for different reasons.

If God allowed the Pope to be a betting man, he would have bet on the Spanish in the 16th century. Prevented from betting by workplace regulations, Pope Sixtus V (‘The Big Six-Five’) simply endorsed them. The Spanish were a rich and powerful Catholic empire not fond of the uppity English Protestants across the Channel. The Pope endorsed Spanish King Philip II’s plan to invade England, viewing it as a crusade and promising “Crusade money” should the invasion succeed. Philip lined up the Marquis of Santa Cruz as admiral, the Duke of Parma as general, and Pedro “Ten-Minute Paella” of Sevilla as fleet cook. Certainly an impressive lineup.

"Whoo boy, Your Highness, is this going to piss off the Catholics." "Quiet, you."

The English, under flaming Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, were not exactly innocent victims of Spanish  aggression. In the 1570s, Elizabeth gave Sir Francis Drake and other roguish sailors licenses to “wreck Spanish shoppe.” Drake and the other privateers raided Spanish port cities, attacked Spanish ships carrying New World silver and African slaves, all the while shamelessly hitting on Spanish women. The proceeds of these raids funded Protestant uprisings in Europe. The last straw was Elizabeth’s execution of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots in 1587.

Spanish King Philip hatched a plan: assemble 130 ships under the Marquis’s command, secure the English channel, then rendezvous with the Duke of Parma’s army in the Netherlands. The armada would ferry the troops across the Channel to England in a classic “Reverse Normandy” invasion, and the Protestants, not being in His Sight, would be conquered. Impressive, no?

Ah, the best-laid plans of Popes and Kings. Philip argued with the Marquis over the size of the armada. The Marquis wanted 510 ships, Philip gave him 130, so the Marquis unexpectedly died. Meanwhile, Drake preemptively attacked the Spanish and Portuguese coast, destroying supplies for the Armada and gaining intelligence (including +3 to initiative rolls). Yet finally, commanded by the less-able Duke of Medina-Sidonia (a 2nd-tier Dukedom relegated from the Premier League), the Armada set sail for the Channel.

Marquis: "130 ships? 130 SHIPS! Why you little-gggaaakkk!" *whump*

Drake and the English ships gained strategic position within the Channel while harrying the larger Spanish fleet. The evening of July 28th, 1588 found the Spanish fleet anchored tightly together off the coast of Northern France. At midnight the English, perhaps playing to their enemies’ religious proclivities, sent eight fireships downwind toward the Spanish fleet. Fireships (as if we all didn’t already know) are empty hulls filled with tar, brimstone and gunpowder, lit spectacularly on fire and cast toward the enemy. Impressive certainly, but the Spanish thought they were “hellburners,” demonic floating bombs their Catholic grandmothers warned them about as children. The Spanish ships cut their anchors and scattered. No ships were lost, but the Spanish formation was disrupted and the English moved in for battle.

In the ensuing Battle of Gravelines, the English sank five Spanish ships and damaged many more. The Spanish sailors were trained to fire their cannons once, then close range and prepare to board yee scurvy perros! The English ships were more maneuverable, in better position in the water, had a longer range of cannon, and could fire repeatedly. The English drove the Spanish north, away from the Spaniards’ planned meeting point with Parma’s army, and pursued them until it was clear they would not return south.

The mighty Spanish Armada, running low on food and water (thanks to Drake’s earlier supply attacks), was forced to return to Spain via the hazardous trip north around the British Isles. Many ships had been damaged in the battle, and were missing anchors they had cut to escape the fireships. Cold weather and storms in the north Atlantic (that ol’ Protestant Wind) drove dozens of ships against the rocky shore. The Spanish tossed the cavalry horses overboard, causing cook Pedro of Sevilla to rend his clothes and expletive in their mothers’ milk. Only 67 ships returned to Spain.

Drake knew how to hold the fireship until just before it burned his hand.

The loss of the “Invincible Armada” was a momentous occasion for Europe. The English navy’s superior maneuverability and gunnery skills proved superior to the Spanish fire-and-board naval tactics, leading to a permanent change in naval strategy. Protestant forces were energized by the victory and the English were downright giddy. Finally, it marked the beginning of the decline in the Spanish Empire, opening the door for English and French ascendancy.

The moral of the story? Never call your armada invincible.

Drink: Protestant Wind

[ingredients:]

  • Sangria
  • 151 Rum
  • ice
  • straw

[preparation:]

  1. Assemble a pint of sangria with ample “rocks.”
  2. Cast a flaming shot of 151 upon the sangria!
  3. Drink the sangria with a straw until it is finished amidst the rocks.
  4. Finish the rum.

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