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"Valentine Baker's heroic stand at Tashkessen 1877 " Topic


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451 hits since 28 Aug 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Tango0128 Aug 2017 11:44 a.m. PST

"The Battle of Tashkessen, fought in December 1877 during the Russo-Turkish War, is probably the most competent rearguard action of the nineteenth century. Some 3000 Ottoman troops stalled 25,000 Russian soldiers for four days, allowing the main Ottoman army to withdraw.

It's an action that few people will have heard of today. All the more remarkable when the Ottoman force was commanded by a former British Colonel, Valentine Baker, or Lieutenant General Valentine Baker Pasha, as the Ottomans knew him. The Shipka Pass and siege of Plevna are reasonably well known, with at least 18 roads in Britain named after Plevna, but not one named after Tashkessen

Frank Jastrzembski, in a new book on the battle explains why. Colonel Valentine Baker was the subject of a notorious scandal in Victorian Britain. A well known and highly respected army officer, he was convicted of indecent assault on a 21 year old woman on a train in June 1875. He served a twelve month prison sentence, albeit in more comfort than most of his fellow prisoners, and was then cashiered from the army. Despite support from many in the military establishment, Queen Victoria refused all requests for reinstatement, until just before he died…"

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Amicalement
Armand

Bob the Temple Builder28 Aug 2017 1:17 p.m. PST

I am currently reading this book … and it is excellent. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in late nineteenth century military history.

Huscarle Supporting Member of TMP28 Aug 2017 3:06 p.m. PST

Just purchased on your recommendations, chaps thumbs up

Ramming Inactive Member29 Aug 2017 4:14 a.m. PST

And there is a Shipka pass in Glasgow of all places !

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Tango0129 Aug 2017 11:13 a.m. PST

Glad you like it my friend!. (smile)


Amicalement
Armand

Holdfast05 Oct 2017 1:38 p.m. PST

Really cannot agree with this. I have just struggled through the book, it is such hard going that it has taken almost a month, in an attempt to review it.
While it describes an interesting little action in 27 pages, the chapters leading up to the action and the chapters after it (the other 85% of the book) are turgid and of dubious worth.
For instance, the Russian column tactics of the Crimea are described as 'decrepit', yet those tactics used by the French won in 1859.
The criticism that 'senior officers were dependent on favouritism and influence for their advancement' is certainly true of the Ottoman army but it is by no means unique in this. It was the norm in many other armies at the time, shocking though the thought may be today.
The assertion that 'Russian senior officers performed less than stellar (sic) during the Seven Years' War' is pretty hard, given that they dished out some very serious reverses to the Prussians according to Duffy and to Frederick himself.
There are a host of other eyebrow raisers.The action is variously compared with: Magruder in the Peninsula, Chamberlain at Gettysburg, Cannae, Thermopolae, Sedan (1870), Plevna, Valley Forge and Chancellorsville, while the Russian infantry, moving on its flat feet, conducts a 'Blitzkrieg'. Wow!
Throughout the book I found it difficult to work out which facts were facts and which were the author's opinions.
The writing style is positively Victorian and clunky. An example: 'The act…. had a morally uplifting effect on the whole command, helping to temporarily alleviate the reminder of the task ahead'. This looks like a cut and paste from a 19th Century text rather than a sentence created in 2017.
The battlefield map is offered at two sizes, which might be a help if there was a ground scale, but there isn't.
So unless this period is one with which you are obsessed, I would hesitate before committing to this book.

Cloudy09 Oct 2017 12:46 p.m. PST

I finished reading it last week. I found it interesting but I do agree with you about the writing. I wouldn't call it entirely amateurish but sometimes the choice of words was definitely odd – almost as if an automated synonym generator was picking them rather than a human being… I found the fates of the principals involved to be just as interesting as the rest of the book. Baker's own two-volume account of the war may shed some light on the subject.

Holdfast11 Oct 2017 1:19 p.m. PST

Perhaps it would have been better to reprint Baker's own account.

Cloudy13 Oct 2017 2:10 p.m. PST

It is available on archive.org in several electronic formats. As with so many books that I have in .pdf form, I haven't read it yet but seem to remember that he had quite a bit to say about Tashkessen (as expected).

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