But…but…”everyone knows” – Battle of Garcia Hernandez

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Voödoo 6 von Inyanga


Jun 29 • 25 tweets • 9 min read  Read on Twitter

Life is full of things “everyone knows”. They tell you something can’t be done and often are right. Those things however are often facades, true only sometimes and can be broken by determined men who refuse to lose. Like the King’s German Legion at the Battle of Garcia Hernandez.

1/ By the summer of 1812, the Napoleonic Wars were reaching their climax after over two decades of fighting. Things looked bad for the anti-Napoleon Coalition. Napoleon was at the gates of Moscow and Prussia and Austria had been either knocked out of existence or into neutrality.

2/ The British were holding on by their fingernails in the Spanish peninsula and about to go to war in America. Up until this point the war on the peninsula had been a seesaw affair, but under the Duke of Wellington the Allies were determined to strike a blow against the French.

3/ In the British/Portugese/Spanish Coalition Army were Hanoverians who had escaped Napoleon’s occupation of their homeland. Reforming their army under the head of the House of Hannover King George III of England calling themselves the King’s German Legion.

4/ The Coalition hammer blow on the French came at the Battle of Salamanca, which routed the French in Spain. Wellington however, knew the importance of not letting his enemy regroup, ordered as much of the retreating French Army pursued and destroyed as possible.

5/ This task fell to his cavalry who came upon the rear of the retreating French Army at the town of Garcia Hernandez. With their own cavalry abandoning them, the French infantry rearguard formed tightly packed defensive squares.

6/ This should have been it for the battle, pursuit ended, mission failed. Cavalry simply can’t break infantry squares right? Squares were doctrine, almost as good as the gospel against cavalry.

7/ The tightly packed formation which had existed since the Greeks and was designed to present an impregnable wall of sharp steel through which vulnerable horses could not penetrate.

8/ You could be poked, prodded and shot with pistols, but as long as the square held the cavalry stood no chance. Victor Davis Hanson wrote almost an entire book on free men with spears beating rich men on horses time and time again.  

9/ At Garcia Hernandez, the egalitarian and merit based French were the epitome of the Free Man, while the aristocratic and wealthy men of the King’s German Legion were their polar opposites. Everything in history and logic said the squares should hold against the Cavalry.

10/ As the German cavalry thundered towards their own doom, the French of the 76th Regiment of the Line loosed two musket volleys, killing the onrushing German Commander and scores of cavalrymen. And then the French made a crucial mistake.

11/ As the swords of the Germans were about to touch the French bayonets and force a German retreat, a French officer (we shall call him Chef de Bataillon Demp) got greedy. Trying to get one last volley into the Germans, he ordered his front rank to fire.

12/ A musket ball tore into the bodies of King’s German Legion Trooper Post and his horse, mortally wounding both. But in his last seconds Trooper Post steered his 1,200 pound missile of human and horse flesh directly into the French square at over 30 miles an hour.

13/ The French had fired too late and Post’s death ride had not broken the square, but it had cracked it. Seeing his chance, Captain Friedric von Ulsar-Gleichen, now in command after starting the day as 4th in line dove into the gap of crushed Frenchmen created by Post. Alone.

14/ Hacking and cleaving his way through the French square, he held the gap open. His squadron quickly followed behind him and they proceeded to massacre the 76th French regiment, who were conveniently packed together like pigs in a pen.

15/ As the French troops fled for their lives they ran into the second squadron of King’s German Legion cavalry, led by their commander Major-General Eberhardt Otto George von Bock who despite being mostly blind, had told his staff to simply point him at the French.

16/ The neighboring French squares of the 6th Light Infantry, watched the vengeful Hanoverians slaughter their comrades and began to waiver as the bloodthirsty and now combined Legion turned its attention their way.

17/ Once again the Germans charged a French square against every tactical recommendation of the day, and once again, they broke the square. The 6th panicked and fled from the German sabers, most didn’t make it and were hacked to death on the Spanish plains.

18/ Having lost the protection of their comrades, the French were harvested in the open field like rabbits. The battle shocked Europe as far as Moscow. Napoleon would be turned back in Russia, and by the next year his fate was sealed. 

19/ Squares were invulnerable and yet these soldiers from this conquered state had shattered not one, but two squares of veteran Imperial troops, all because of one mistake, and the courage of a dying man. 

20/ We’ve all heard it: “You can’t” or “You’ll never” or my personal favorite “well what can you do?”. The answer is always nothing: until you try. Maybe you will fail, odds are you will at least once. 

21/ But without the attempt, without looking your opponent square in the eye and saying “you may win, but I’m not going to quit” you will never succeed. The greatest things both large and small often come in the face of the things that have always been previously true.

22/ Even in your own life this is true. Everyone has their “I’ve tried to lose weight/work out/build a network/finish that sequel for years and it never worked, why try again” thing.

23/ We all have stared down our own infantry square, whatever it may be, and we all feel the inevitability of failure looming. But that doesn’t mean we don’t straighten our shoulders and kick it straight in the dick anyway. And if we lose, we get back up, and kick it again.  

24/ Because it only takes one mistake, one crack, one tiny little bit of hope for us to charge through and once we do, our world will never be the same again. Get out there and get back to work. You’ve got this.  

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