Monday, September 30, 2013

On to the Commune

Lots of speculation today about the Siege and the genesis of the Commune.  Learning things about Napoleon Trois I did not know I knew.  Puttng myself in the place of a Parisian in January 1871.  Chaotic time.  My fictional hero seems more and more appropriate.

La chute de Napoleon Trois

Such a sad story, the hope and frenzy and anticipated delight in Paris in July of 1870!  They actually thought French troops would be in Berlin by the Fall, as in the time of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Somehow they avoided looking the facts in the face.  These oh-so-rational Frenchmen could not read the signs of failure before Sedan.  And the storm of hatred that burst on Paris after Sedan and blew out the Empire was proportional to the delusion.  The other part of the story, that Napoleon's capture allowed France to fight on, leading to the Commune, is just as tragic but not so well known.  It ties ogether the narrative in a satisfying way, though.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Military and morale

Thinking about the renovation of Paris.  But more investigating the ins and outs of morale and tactics and how they influence each other.  Bit pathetic following Father and Son, Emperor and Prince Imperial floundering around in the wake of losing armies.  Zeitgeist, indeed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Napoleon toughs it out

The beginning of the arvtakes shape, with mobilization, alliances and Napoleon's health problems.  A little drama.  And Loulou adds pathos.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ems again

Trying to wrap up the outbreak of war from the French perspective.  It was a trainwreck.  Need to go back over La Débâcle by Zola.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bismarck collides with Napoleon III

Good stuff today about the second Empire.  The contrast between Bismarck and the French is drawn pretty strongly.  Napoleon's gang might have been more fun to hang around with, but I'd bet on Bismarck to get the job done.

Napoleon gets it together

Ah, that crazy Napoleon is finally acting like the second coming of his crazy uncle.  But I don't need to tell his whole story.  Just enough so his actions - or lack of them, his errors and disasters in 1870 will be a little more understandable.  If I can bring him to life as definitively as Bismarck, they will be worthy opponents, even though the French army was overmatched.  In the literary world, it's not necessarily whether you win or lose on the battlefield.  It's all about style.  Although I fear even in this arena, Bismarck will conquer.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Napoleon Day Three

Just re-telling the story of Napoleon III makes me shake my head in wonder.  How did he do it?  What was he thinking?

And how can I turn my life around in the same way?  Well, I'm doing it,just by writing 3000 words a day.  I never thought I would do that.  But here we are.

The political lessons are just as important a s the historucal. And far more frightening.  Good thing they didn't have teleprompters back then.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Got started on the Fifth Segment, about good old Napoleon III, one of my favorite guys.  What a story! He had a good time, this scion of the fantastic Bonaparte.  It seemed that just when he was about to run out of money or incentive or ambition, something would turn up, usually in the shape of a ditzy dame.  But I repeat myself.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Acton's Nationality - Second day

Interesting stuff forva political science major and political philosopher.  Wonder why I never ran into this theory before.  I'm quoting liberally from the essay, from the Home and Foreign Review of 1862.  30 pages.  Burke, DeMaistre show up.  I try to make some parallels to the present day.
Have to go to Napoleon tomorrow.  Hope I can get my 3000 words in before that class.  Then up to Smithville.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


A lot of different topics emerged from my reading today.  I did keep my concentration on Bismarck, but the problem is that the Siege of Paris just wasn't all that long.  I know, to the people in Paris it must have seemed a long time, what with eating cats and dogs and rats and camels and elephants and then having to deal with shells exploding in one's favorite bistro.  The price of a balloon ride out must have gone higher than the balloons.
The more I read and write about Bismarck, though, the better I like the guy.  A mensch, already!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Got Bismarck through to the bombardment of Paris.  I feel as though I've been living at a mansion in Versailles for the last week or so.  Questions of military honor and strategy have been occupying my mind.  Psychology, too.  Bismarck was the psychologist par excellence.

So on we go down the long descent toward the Commune.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Done with Nietzsche for now

Today I tried to tie in some of what I've heard about Nietzsche with his service as a medical orderly during the Franco-Prussian War.  Also, I got a chance to use my book about the Paris Exhibition of 1867.  That has tons of cool pictures of cannon and rifles - I love the Chassepot! - and medical equipment, which came in handy when penciling in a few descriptions of a medical orderly's life. 

I also like the mitrailleuse, but they're probably illegal to own privately in any place but Texas.

My reading about war has tended to gloss over the actual killing and dying part.  I don't want to be one of those modern writers who stresses the gore or a Sophocles who positively glorifies horror.  Only Alfred Hitchcock can do horror without threatening Western civilization.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Nietzsche at Metz

A little historical fiction, today.  Okay, a lot of historical fiction.  But it tickles me to throw a character into the Prussian/German advance toward Paris.  He WAS really there,mas a medical orderly.  And I keep on digging up historical "facts" that very well, sort of might have happenedvand wouldn't that have been cool.  After all, something had to account for Friedrich Wilhelm's odd take on life.  Nothing will open one's eyes like war.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On to Sedan and Beyond!

With Bismarck, onto the battlefield and victory and all its complications.  I now understand the intricacies of dealing with Frenchies.  No wonder seven thousand books have been written about the F P War.    Found a good one from Kessinger, for free on Kindle, though.  I bypassed Metz, where I caught the train to Frankfurt and Prague in 2007 (?)

Monday, September 9, 2013

That darned Ems Telegram

Wrestling with the Ems telegram again or still.  I learn something every day.  As to war, I learned that most of them can be avoided, or, if desirable, hurried up.  
Oh, and I also learned that Frenchmen are idiots.  I'm sure all the Begians out there will agree.  Ah! La Belgie!  Comme c'est belle!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Morning, Sunday, Football day

Football season requires a different form of discipline to get the games in while keeping my chain unbroken.  Lovely.  It is just wonderful to get something accomplished, every day.  A foretaste of my retirement regime.

Hohenzollern Labyrinth

An exploration today of the ins and outs of the controversy over the Hohenzollern Candidature for the throne of France.  The twists andturns are perfectly suited for the mind of Bismarck.  I enjoyed following it round and round and up and down. One gets an education in European politics just by keeping up with the rationales behind the various positions held by the players.  So many angles, so many implications.
It is marvelous just to watch Bismarck shifting his ground when addressing the different players.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Arms and back to Italy and runup to Spain

Lots of education today.  What is it that made the position of Prussia so central to the Industrial Revolution?  Bismarck, Moltke and Roon, and Garibaldi at Mentana.  Lots of cross-currents make it clear that the paucity of colonies may have been an advantage for Prussia.  They could concentrate on defeating France.  Details matter.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Military hardware

Today's 3000 words taught me a lot about the state of machinery for killing people in 1867.  The state of readiness is quite as important as the range and accuracy of one's cannons.  I also realize I have put together a good variety of sources for the book and don't really need another six months of research before I can write anything.  I will enjoy preparing an updated, improved edition, though.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


The aftermath of the Austro-Prussian war gave Bismarck full rein for his talents.  I had never realized  until I read someof the sources for today's work how much he did, in his deceptively lazy way, to shore up the benefits of Königgrätz.  He may almost have done too much.  The Luxemberg crisis of 1867, though, proved both how necessary his efforts were and how good he was at what he did.  Wonders abound.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Through Sadowa

Bismarck's jolly adventures continue today.  Wow, how that guy could manipulate an alliance!  If he came back to life he'd teach the jokers today some tricks. Where's your magic hat, John Kerry?  You're going to need it!  And lots of ketchup.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bismarck's operating style

Bismarck's wit and wisdom and practicality in the dog-eat-dog diplomatic world of the nineteenth century has always fascinated me.  Today's episode of the book delves into many of his fascinating demarches, with the help of Treitschke, Napoleon III and the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef.

The great Prussian had a number of fascinating habits, but primarily the tactic of concealing one interpretation of a fact by expressing a more outrageous one.  Clever fellow.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Run-up to the Austrian War

Made some distance today with getting Bismarck's plans going to make Prussia into the big dog in Europe.  It's hypnotizing to see the way he operated.  A model for all us aspiring international political kingpins!  He loved to get up at noon and stay up until two in the morning drinking, conversing and putting his deeplylaid plots into action.  Sounds like fun!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Schleswig Holstein

Piloted the ship a little closer to 1870, through the formerly Danish lowlands.  Bismarck is drawing me further into his mesmerizing mind.  I love to see plans come out as planned.  Makes one almost sorry for Bismarck's opponents.