1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby Arancaytar » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:46 pm UTC

-KF- wrote:Kinda hoping Tricorn Guy will be a recurring character.


Actually, I was wondering if he's wearing a beret under that hat.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby savanik » Wed Apr 11, 2012 2:13 pm UTC

Slightly related - Am I the only person who has real trouble telling what color somebody's eyes are? I generally can't unless I get within two / three feet and really actually look for it, at which point I generally get rather strange looks from people.

Seems about the same range for seeing somebody's 'whites', generally speaking, and altogether too close for comfort when they're shooting at me.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby xiander » Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:02 pm UTC

Revolutionary war?

I Hardly know her! :)

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby Iranon » Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:14 pm UTC

DarCK wrote:I'm not sure which bothers me more those that need to dehumanize their enemy to kill them or those that don't.


Easy, those who do.
Either killing enemy combatants is justified and doesn't require self-deception, or one has the obligation to refuse service. In case of conscription, the latter would be followed by the next tough question: what to do when one's government oversteps its bounds.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby San Fran Sam » Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:56 pm UTC

iChef wrote:As it seems this a revolutionary war battle and the people in the comic are using muskets that bullet in panel 4 shouldn't be elongated and it shouldn't be spinning. Shouldn't it be a sphere traveling in either a fairly straight line (if they are at close range) or a slight arc. The mini ball and the rifle are still a few decades out at this point.


Not to be pedantic but it is spelled Minie ball, not mini ball.

Oh, okay. Let's be pedantic.

HAND. :mrgreen:

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby smiffy » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:02 pm UTC

Cal Engime wrote:As I'm sure a lot of foreign readers will be coming to this thread to find out what this is a reference to, "don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes" is an order famously given at the (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bunker_Hill#.22The_whites_of_their_eyes.22]Battle of Bunker Hill) in the American Revolution. It's become something of a cliché, and most people are probably not aware of its source.


Oh, it's older than that.
At Dettingen, Flanders, on 27 June 1743, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw (5th Baronet) gave to the men of his regiment, the 21st of Foot (the Royal Scots Fusiliers), the order "Dinna fire till ye can see the whites of their e'en," from which the saying "Don't fire until you can see the whites of their eyes" is taken. This is the earliest record of the phrase being used.

Mind you, his men were fighting cavalry at the time, rather than infantry, so he *may* have meant the whites of terrified horses' eyes.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby hawkinsssable » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:13 pm UTC

After reading the first panel, I thought the comic was going to go something like this:

Image
(the joke being that they have no eyes)
But I'm glad it didn't.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby JimsMaher » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:18 pm UTC

"Don't fire until you see through the fragile facade to the human being within."

Facade wasn't used in the figurative sense until the mid-19th century ... Romantic Anachronisms.
Does that make this another time travel comic?

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby scharb » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:41 pm UTC

The Redcoats, anticipating the "whites of their eyes" policy, smoked a boatload of imported East Indian weed and arrived at the battle with dilated pupils and red corneas. The militiamen never fired a single shot and lost the battle.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:37 pm UTC

radtea wrote:Wilson's claim translates as, "History is made by idiots." It explains a lot really, particularly the frequency with which humans attempt to solve problems of scarcity by creating more of it, which is what mass organized killing does as its first, primary, most certain, predictable and reliable effect. Some episodes of mass organized killing--which is in economic terms a dead weight loss, adding nothing to the productive economy--have now and then resulted in settlements that are less awful than the situation that preceded them, but this is so rare that no one who isn't thinking entirely with their emotions would take it seriously as a rational justification for mass organized killing in the future.


That's true when human labor is the limiting resource. Then the more people who are killed, the bigger the shortage.

But when some other resource is limiting, then to the extent that the iron laws of supply and demand apply, the population size will inevitably drop to meet the demand for labor. When there are more people than needed the poorest of them die. War gives the possibility that it will be somebody else's poor people who die instead.

"Let's divert resources from productive activity into building machines that kill and train our young men to kill and then engage in mass organized killing that will certainly create untold misery in the hope that something randomly good will come out of it!" is not exactly an inspiring rallying cry for anyone who is more rational than a hormone-addled teenage girl.


Some countries are rich, others are poor. The rich ones usually own important resources -- farmland, water, minerals, etc -- that nobody has taken away from them. One primary reason nobody has taken those resources is that they have beaten off all comers.

War will not be stopped by waiting to shoot until you can see the fragile human being within. War will stop when we start laughing our heads off when some idiot suggests it, responding that the Soviet Union was defeated without war, China will be defeated without war, Iran is so busy defeating itself that the threat of war could only prolong the Iranian people's agony, and that we have better things to do with our lives than engage in mass organized killing.


I sympathize with your position. But the USA is special. After WWII we were the richest nation in the world, and we controlled the oceans. With the Marshall plan and Bretton Woods we dominated the world economy. The new technology we implemented to win the war (which private enterprise had refused to fund) was probably enough to give us a couple of decades of economic dominance by itself. So we got used to the idea that we could pay any monetary price for our military. We were the richest nation in the world, why should our soldiers die just because we refused to pay for the equipment and training that made the difference? How much did we outspend North Vietnam? How much did we outspend Iraq? How much did we outspend the USSR? Obviously we can't possibly make a profit from that kind of war. That was never the intention. We prepared to fight WWIII to stop evil. "Somebody is WRONG in international relations!" http://xkcd.com/386/

Obviously we can't afford to keep doing that. We are not so rich any more, and some of our critical military supplies must be imported from China. But other nations aren't as spendthrift as we are. Most nations spend lives when they can't afford to spend so much money. And they can afford to spend those lives because they don't believe they have a labor shortage. In many places an army career is a relatively plushy life. You eat well, you dress well, you get better weapons than you could afford for yourself, you might even get a pension if you live long enough.

People will not laugh at the idea of joining the military and doing what they're told, until all over the world most people have something better to do. When you have a lot of men who have nothing to lose, then you can get an army that's ready to risk dying.

War is the least efficient, least effective means of solving any human problem. People who advocate it are the public policy equivalent of quacks who promote crystals and energy therapy for cancer, and should be treated with the same derision, however passionate and sincere their irrational and dangerous beliefs are.


I recently read The Ulysses Voyage by Tim Severin (1987). Severin tried to follow Ulysses's course in a replica of a greek galley, noting various landmarks that matched up with the Odyssey. He quoted Homer:

The same wind as wafted me from Ilium brought me to Ismarus, the city of the Cicones. I sacked this place and destroyed the men who held it. Their wives and the rich plunder that we took from the town we divided so that no one, as far as I could help it, should go short of his proper share. And then I said we should be off and show a clean pair of heels. But my fools of men refused. There was plenty of wine plenty of livestock; and they kept on drinking and butchering sheep and fatted cattle by the shore. Meanwhile the Cicones went and raised a cry for help among other Cicones, their up-country neighbours, who are both more numerous and better men, trained in fighting from the chariot and on foot as well, as the occasion requires. At dawn they were on us, thick as leaves and flowers in their season....


In those days it was possible to hope to fight for a profit. Strike fast, grab the women and loot, and run. In general landlubbers won't follow a raiding fleet unless they have a bigger fleet that's at least as fast.

Why are those days gone? Why can't you, say, make a motorcycle gang and rape and rob your way across the country? Because of the governments with their big armies. You can't fight them, you can't reliably run, and you can't reliably hide. They are too big for you, and they will go after you even when there is no profit to be made by beating you.

Gramvousa has been the key to navigation in this area (near Crete) throughout recorded history. .... In the eighteenth century the island fell into the hands of Cretan pirates who preyed on passing shipping and became such a thorn in the flesh of the mercantile nations that a major expedition was launched by the Royal navy to eradicate them. The rampart cliffs defended the island so effectively that it proved impossible to take Gramvousa by direct assault. The island had to be besieged for the entire summer; the well at the beach was seized to deny it to the defenders in the acropolis, who were forced to drink rainwater from cisterns. Only when the cisterns finally ran dry did the pirate stronghold surrender.


Overlooking the bay the houses of a Maniot village were being carefully restored to their former condition, and nothing symbolizes the nature of the Mani more accurately than their domestic architecture. Quite simply the Maniots built their homes as forts. Thick stone walls were pierced by small windows to give good angles of fire and protect massive doors built to resist forcible entry. Overhead watchtowers concealed lookouts, and parapets screened sharpshooters and defenders dropping rocks or pouring hot oil and scalding water on an enemy trying to burn down the door. An entire army would have had the greatest difficulty fighting street by street through a Maniot village. but these miniature castles had little to do with repelling foreign invaders. Indeed the Maniots rarely bothered to build a defensive wall around their settlements because their enemies came not from outside, bu from next door. Maniot clan fought Maniot clan, and family feuded against family, like ferrets in a sack. Rarely can a population have been more truculent. They built their homes thinking of murder, violence and ambush from foes just down the street.

Their attitude toward the outside world was not much different. The barren peninsula offered scarcely a scrap of living from the rocky and desiccated land, but it projected like a jagged spike into the main artery of coasting trade. So the Maniots lived by piracy. They harassed passing shipping and acquired a horrendous reputation for rapine. Nothing, it was said, was too inhuman for them. They traded in slaves, selling Christian to Moor or vice versa with equal aplomb.


Throughout history there have been subpopulations who saw no better way to live than to prey on their fellow human. It was just their way of life. Maybe we are better off now that the banker clans do it with little direct violence.

[Why yes, this is an issue I feel strongly about! Thanks for asking!]


I honor your feelings. If you don't care you'd be unlikely to accomplish much. To make a difference you probably also need careful analysis of how the travesty happens, and careful attention to alternatives. We are unlikely ever to reach the point that nobody victimizes anybody else, but we might find ways to reduce it considerably. In the short run an idea might spread that grabs people's minds to the point they lose interest in their ordinary squabbles. Space travel will not be that idea unless we find a way for many more people to reach space. If we had cheap enough energy we might be able to get cheap space travel. Religion probably will not do it, we are probably past the point where one more religion will grab enough mindshare to make a big splash. And ideas are a temporary fix.

An economy with a permanent labor shortage would be a big help. A large number of human jobs that AI and servos can't do adequately.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby SpringLoaded12 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:53 pm UTC

SirMustapha wrote:Sex, lawl.

Oh how the mighty have fallen XD
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby bmonk » Wed Apr 11, 2012 7:49 pm UTC

SoaG wrote:When the 2 variations of 'historical fiction' marketed to men and women collide...



As in this old story?

"At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep hermind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question.

"Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think aboutthan the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie. . . ."
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby Djehutynakht » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:58 pm UTC

Antior wrote:
Djehutynakht wrote:I was on Bunker hill two days ago. You can still feel the hot passion eminating from the battlefield after all these years... except everyone who's there now is old and a bit dull.


I truly hope you're saying that as a continuation of the joke in the comic and you don't actually mean that. I've seen a number of WWI and WWII battle sites here in Europe. I don't believe in 'ghosts', so I think anything you can 'feel' in such a place is simply stuff you imagine to be there because you read about the history of that place. But all I imagine when I visit such a place is hopelessness, disease, bloodshed, pain and death. No 'hot passion'.

'Hot passion' is what's supposed to happen in the bedroom. Or in the room to the left of comic 1039.



Hot passion can be for combat. But yes, I did mean it as a joke.

There's no "battlesite" to truly speak of for Bunker Hill. It's entirely residential (my grandparents live on Bunker Hill). The only thing I suppose you could consider a part of the battlefield remaining would be the park around the Bunker Hill Monument (which is actually on Breed's Hill, which is the real site of the battle, Bunker Hill being the British camp). The Association building the monument had to sell off the rest of the battlefield site in order to finance the completion of the monument.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby SirMustapha » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:46 am UTC

SpringLoaded12 wrote:
SirMustapha wrote:Sex, lawl.

Oh how the mighty have fallen XD


I've been told that brevity is the soul of wit.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby DanD » Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:14 am UTC

iChef wrote:As it seems this a revolutionary war battle and the people in the comic are using muskets that bullet in panel 4 shouldn't be elongated and it shouldn't be spinning. Shouldn't it be a sphere traveling in either a fairly straight line (if they are at close range) or a slight arc. The mini ball and the rifle are still a few decades out at this point.


Except for being on the wrong side, the spiral is perfectly period. Quite a few American irregulars (so basically the entire army) were armed with rifles, which were popular among hunters for accuracy at longer range. They were unpopular for military use because the slower rate of fire (longer loading time) was a major problem, and massed fire limited the need for individual accuracy.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby jaion » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:23 am UTC

This was all I could think of when I saw the comic:

In 1814 we took a little trip
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon an' we took a little beans
And we caught the bloody British at the town of New Orleans.

Refrain:
We fired our guns an' the British kept a'comin'.
There wasn't nigh as many as there was awhile ago.
We fired once more an' they begin to runnin'
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

We looked down the river an' we seed the British comin',
There must a'been a hundred of 'em beatin' on the drum.
They stepped so high an' they made their bugles ring,
We stood beside our cotton bales an'didn't say a thing.

Refrain

Ole Hickory said we could take 'em by surprise,
If we didn't fire our muskets 'til we looked 'em in the eyes.
We held our fire 'til we seed their faces well,
Then we opened up our squirrel guns an' really gave 'em ...well!

Refrain

Yeah, they ran through the briars an' they ran through the brambles
An' they ran through the bushes where the rabbits couldn't go.
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn't catch 'em
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

We fired our cannon 'til the barrel melted down,
So we grabbed an alligator an' we fought another round.
We filled his head with cannon balls an' powdered his behind,
An' when they touched the powder off, the 'gator lost his mind.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby Linux0s » Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:28 am UTC

Ala hawkinsssable, this was my first thought on the first panel:
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby Proginoskes » Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:30 am UTC

radtea wrote:
Proginoskes wrote:"History is made by men who do not consider the consequences of their actions." -- Robert Anton Wilson, The Historical Illuminatus! Trilogy


Wilson's claim translates as, "History is made by idiots."


Yes, but this is almost verbatim.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby BlitzGirl » Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:39 am UTC

Iranon wrote:Given the rate of (undeclared) female soldiers in that conflict, I don't think there is any safe sex assumption to be made here.

That's why I thought I could be overthinking what I was thinking about what I thought initially was a female character. Or something. It's also possible that the figure on the left is a woman disguised as a man, and the middle character has a collection of false beards, etc.

Interesting note - if you read this comic and are actively thinking of Long-hair as a woman, the glance between characters in panel three and the exchange between Tricorn and Long-hair in panel four both take on kind of creepy implications. But I don't think Randall was considering this comic a commentary on mixed-gender forces, so I'm still leaning toward all three characters as male.

Also, I'm pretty sure Richard Stallman counts as a man with long hair.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby EpicanicusStrikes » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:47 am UTC

SirMustapha wrote:
SpringLoaded12 wrote:
SirMustapha wrote:Sex, lawl.

Oh how the mighty have fallen XD


I've been told that brevity is the soul of wit.


Brevity is many things, including one of the first signs of surrender.

It's okay. You ran a good, long fight. Take a break. You deserve one.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby DougL » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:40 pm UTC

Theamazingjex wrote:
-KF- wrote:[url=http://xkcd.com/1041]Mouseover: Don't fire until you see through the fragile facade to the human being within.


If we could somehow devise a gun trigger that would not activate outside this range of empathy, the problem of war would be solved once and for all.

qvasi wrote:Personally I find it stranger that they're hiding behind cover (indicating fairly modern/guerilla warfare) while being given a pep talk suitable for the old school "stand up straight in bright red uniforms and fire at each other"-tactic. =)


The minute men were entrenching prior to the battle of bunker hills so this seems legit to me.


Both sides would use cover when available, encluding entrenchments and forifications. Both sides also trained their regulars to stand in straight lines and shoot.

The problem with random cover like rocks and trees is that you give up formation density and hence volume of fire, and your smoke inevitably gives your location away anyway. So it's one of you vs. a company of them, you get one shot, and then you either run (giving up your cover and letting the company shoot back, or stay where you are, accept that you probably can't reload efficiently, and get overrun and killed).

So the method was used where there was a solid wall or fence available so you could have both cover and density, or to try to get SOME use out of untrained militia.

SpringLoaded12 wrote:The redcoats were known for the "oldschool" tactic you described, while the American soldiers abandoned it for the sake of their overall strategy during the Revolutionary War -- a war of attrition, wearing down the redcoats as much as possible. In fact, the battle that the whites-of-their-eyes line comes from (as I recall) was the Battle of Bunker Hill, which is a great example of this strategy at work. Though the Americans technically lost the battle and the redcoats took control of Bunker Hill, redcoat casualties of the battle were far greater than American casualties, so it served as a pseudo-victory.
The Americans then retreated into a heavily wooded area nearby and the redcoats followed after them. While the redcoats continued their "march in straight orderly lines in the open with bright red uniforms" routine, the Americans hid among the trees in their much less noticeable navy blue and gray uniforms, popping out easily fire on the tactically vulnerable redcoats.
So yeah, the Americans in the comic hiding behind cover isn't as strange as it seems.


American regulars wore blue coats when available, every bit as visible as British Red, and rifles were frequently REMOVED from new recruits who brought their own and replaced with muskets since rate of fire was seen as more important than accuracy for most men. (Both sides had specialized rifle units for snipping.)

Lexington and Concord represented an early American attempt at irregular tactics vs. a British unit that hadn't seen combat in years. Estimates I've seen of total casualties indicate that the Americans may have lost more than three times as many men as the British, who marched to their objective and then marched back. British losses almost all came at the end of the day, when the British were exhausted from about 30 miles of marching, an expedition willing to simple set camp and continue the next day might have done even better.

Irregular militia from cover LOST to regulars, IIRC that's what happened every single time it happened, throughout the entire war from start to finish. Meanwhile the British had actual engineering units and fortification units specifically trained to construct useful cover and both sides built and used such fortifications.

It's a popular myth that the British were beat by American irregulars, in fact they were mostly beat by American and French regulars using almost identical tactics. PRO-British American irregulars were beaten by revolutionary irregulars, and the irregulars somewhat hindered British scouting and foraging. But George Washington ended the war with an army that looked an aweful lot like the British he was fighting, because that's what worked.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby DougL » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:46 pm UTC

SpringLoaded12 wrote:
qvasi wrote:
iChef wrote:As it seems this a revolutionary war battle and the people in the comic are using muskets that bullet in panel 4 shouldn't be elongated and it shouldn't be spinning. Shouldn't it be a sphere traveling in either a fairly straight line (if they are at close range) or a slight arc. The mini ball and the rifle are still a few decades out at this point.

Could not the elongation of the bullet be motion blur, and the speed line indicates random tumbling rather than rifle induced spin?

Personally I find it stranger that they're hiding behind cover (indicating fairly modern/guerilla warfare) while being given a pep talk suitable for the old school "stand up straight in bright red uniforms and fire at each other"-tactic. =)

The redcoats were known for the "oldschool" tactic you described, while the American soldiers abandoned it for the sake of their overall strategy during the Revolutionary War -- a war of attrition, wearing down the redcoats as much as possible. In fact, the battle that the whites-of-their-eyes line comes from (as I recall) was the Battle of Bunker Hill, which is a great example of this strategy at work. Though the Americans technically lost the battle and the redcoats took control of Bunker Hill, redcoat casualties of the battle were far greater than American casualties, so it served as a pseudo-victory.
The Americans then retreated into a heavily wooded area nearby and the redcoats followed after them. While the redcoats continued their "march in straight orderly lines in the open with bright red uniforms" routine, the Americans hid among the trees in their much less noticeable navy blue and gray uniforms, popping out easily fire on the tactically vulnerable redcoats.
So yeah, the Americans in the comic hiding behind cover isn't as strange as it seems.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby Someguy945 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:07 pm UTC

qvasi wrote:Personally I find it stranger that they're hiding behind cover (indicating fairly modern/guerilla warfare) while being given a pep talk suitable for the old school "stand up straight in bright red uniforms and fire at each other"-tactic. =)


I'm not an American Revolution war buff but wasn't this war characterized by the stark contrast between the British and American engagement styles?

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby brandtsound » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:23 pm UTC

DougL wrote:It's a popular myth that the British were beat by American irregulars, in fact they were mostly beat by American and French regulars using almost identical tactics. PRO-British American irregulars were beaten by revolutionary irregulars, and the irregulars somewhat hindered British scouting and foraging. But George Washington ended the war with an army that looked an aweful lot like the British he was fighting, because that's what worked.


That's true, they myth is largely propagated because the war in the South was very much an unusual war under the command of General Francis Marion (and later Greene) who tended to use quick - hit and run- attacks on British forces- but it would still be very conventional style fighting.

In the war in the north, American forces increasingly fought like regulars (after Lexington & Concord), especially after training from Baron Frederick von Steuben (Prussian). Both because these tactics worked with the weapons of the day (or else, why would we still use very similar tactics in the Civil War if guerrilla warfare worked so well for us in the Revolution?)

"Guerrilla" style tactics were only widely used against supply lines- but that tends to be true in most wars and is not that unusual.

Washington wanted the Colonial Military to project professionalism- and that required fighting as regulars, however, with much of the war not going so well, it was beneficial to use news of successful guerrilla attacks against supply lines, etc. as propaganda for morale.

A great source to learn more about this would be Guy Chet's book The Triumph of European Warfare in the Colonial Northeast.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby billybobfred » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:12 am UTC

No call back to the "thighs" comic? Okay then.
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby J Thomas » Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:56 am UTC

DougL wrote:Both sides would use cover when available, encluding entrenchments and forifications. Both sides also trained their regulars to stand in straight lines and shoot.

The problem with random cover like rocks and trees is that you give up formation density and hence volume of fire, and your smoke inevitably gives your location away anyway. So it's one of you vs. a company of them, you get one shot, and then you either run (giving up your cover and letting the company shoot back, or stay where you are, accept that you probably can't reload efficiently, and get overrun and killed).

So the method was used where there was a solid wall or fence available so you could have both cover and density, or to try to get SOME use out of untrained militia.


That makse sense. People say the american strategy was to kill expensive british troops, and otherwise avoid crippling defeats enough to stay in the field until the british gave it up as a useless expense. An army that seemed ridiculously expensive to colonists may have been no big deal to the british government. I can imagine the british thinking they didn't need a force that could win, just one that could keep rebel areas permanently disrupted until the rebels were willing to negotiate a reasonable surrender.

If the strategy was to make british casualties, finding ways to use cheaply-trained troops to kill expensive troops would be a big part of it.

SpringLoaded12 wrote:The redcoats were known for the "oldschool" tactic you described, while the American soldiers abandoned it for the sake of their overall strategy during the Revolutionary War -- a war of attrition, wearing down the redcoats as much as possible. In fact, the battle that the whites-of-their-eyes line comes from (as I recall) was the Battle of Bunker Hill, which is a great example of this strategy at work. Though the Americans technically lost the battle and the redcoats took control of Bunker Hill, redcoat casualties of the battle were far greater than American casualties, so it served as a pseudo-victory.
The Americans then retreated into a heavily wooded area nearby and the redcoats followed after them. While the redcoats continued their "march in straight orderly lines in the open with bright red uniforms" routine, the Americans hid among the trees in their much less noticeable navy blue and gray uniforms, popping out easily fire on the tactically vulnerable redcoats.
So yeah, the Americans in the comic hiding behind cover isn't as strange as it seems.


American regulars wore blue coats when available, every bit as visible as British Red, and rifles were frequently REMOVED from new recruits who brought their own and replaced with muskets since rate of fire was seen as more important than accuracy for most men. (Both sides had specialized rifle units for snipping.)


That makes sense. If the unit will be close up to a whole lot of enemy troops, slow precise rifles wouldn't be so useful.

Lexington and Concord represented an early American attempt at irregular tactics vs. a British unit that hadn't seen combat in years. Estimates I've seen of total casualties indicate that the Americans may have lost more than three times as many men as the British, who marched to their objective and then marched back. British losses almost all came at the end of the day, when the British were exhausted from about 30 miles of marching, an expedition willing to simple set camp and continue the next day might have done even better.

Irregular militia from cover LOST to regulars, IIRC that's what happened every single time it happened, throughout the entire war from start to finish. Meanwhile the British had actual engineering units and fortification units specifically trained to construct useful cover and both sides built and used such fortifications.

It's a popular myth that the British were beat by American irregulars, in fact they were mostly beat by American and French regulars using almost identical tactics. PRO-British American irregulars were beaten by revolutionary irregulars, and the irregulars somewhat hindered British scouting and foraging. But George Washington ended the war with an army that looked an aweful lot like the British he was fighting, because that's what worked.


I had the impression that the american armies mostly did not and could not beat the british armies. They did manage to trap the most important british army when the french navy blocked the port. That gave the british an excuse to quit.

I can imagine that dedicated irregular troops could have been effective sometimes, with the right training. LIke, a british unit is marching somewhere, like the one marching to and from Concord. A sniper shoots at them from a distance their own weapons can't match. Do they keep marching or do they hunt him down? If they don't get him, they get sniped at the whole way by a series of snipers with rifles. OK, they go after him and he runs while he's still mostly out of range. Then another sniper shoots at them and runs a different direction. They find themselves spread out looking for snipers instead of marching to where they're going.

After a while of that they're going to be killing any civilian they find and claiming it's irregulars they killed -- they could easily count up 3 times their own losses. Enough of that could start to depopulate rebel areas, but in the short run it doesn't stop the snipers, it just makes rebels mad.

I can imagine it working. I can also imagine the americans failing to make it work even though with sufficient training it could have done fine. I can imagine the british cutting back trees near the roads to get a good clear field of fire wherever they were likely to march.

So we have the popular story, the common wisdom about what happened. Then we have what the military leaders on both sides claimed actually happened. Then there's what they perhaps could have done if they had known what they were doing. And there are people like me who guess at what could have been possible, but who can never really know -- barring a time machine into alternative pasts,
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby DougL » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:43 pm UTC

brandtsound wrote:Both because these tactics worked with the weapons of the day (or else, why would we still use very similar tactics in the Civil War if guerrilla warfare worked so well for us in the Revolution?)


The American Civil War was near the end of "stand in lines and shoot" being a viable tactic. Minie balls existed, everyone was using rifles and effectively all the rifles were breachloaders so you COULD reload quickly while prone, 12lb field artillery was common and about the lightest artillery anyone was using so ranges for canister were up to something like 400m, there were repeating rifles available and by the end of the war the entire union cavalry and quite a few regiments of infantry were using them.

The improvements in accuracy, range, and probably most of all the ability to reload quickly while prone all meant that skirmishers and open order formations were increasingly the way to go. Even light fieldworks simply could not be overrun by massed charges baring running the defenders out of ammunition. 1870 in the Franco-Prusian war was probably the last time it really worked for anyone who was facing regulars with decent weapons.

The machine gun and smokeless powder finally drove the nail in the coffin of "stand in lines and shoot", but arguably it SHOULD have died shortly after 1870 when people looked back at the American Civil War and the various Prusian wars of the previous decade and analysed what had worked.

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mikrit
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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby mikrit » Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:39 pm UTC

TylerGriffiths wrote:
meat.paste wrote:Ah yes. Romantic War Porn.

His lips trembled longingly as the nerve gas began to effect him. He thrust the atropine pen deep within himself over and over again and felt relief as the burning fluid was released within him, slowly allowing his mind to regain itself after a long bout of painful, contractive ecstasy.


I think you mean affect...


Or maybe meat.paste just has a hobby, and is going "tee hee hee" now. http://xkcd.com/326/

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Re: 1041: "Whites of Their Eyes"

Postby scarletmanuka » Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:56 am UTC

mikrit wrote:
TylerGriffiths wrote:I think you mean affect...

Or maybe meat.paste just has a hobby, and is going "tee hee hee" now. http://xkcd.com/326/

No. 326 was about using the less common correct meanings of "affect" and "effect" (the noun form of "affect", the verb form of "effect") to confuse people, whereas meat.paste simply used the wrong word.


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