crimean wars

What My Friends Think I Learned From Writing Fanfiction:

  • Human anatomy

What I Actually Learned From Writing Fanfiction:

  • How to build a flamethrower
  • Tajikistani geography
  • Proper cravat tying
  • How to convert from warp factor to mph
  • 17 synonyms for “pining”
  • Sindarin verb formation
  • How to start a fire with laboratory solutions
  • Every poisonous plant found in Jamaica
  • Minor battles of the Crimean War
  • How to play the sousaphone
  • What a jabot is
  • How long it takes to fly from Jakarta to Bern
  • How to spot a forged painting
  • How to perform CPR on a dragon
  • Angst-written rivalries of 20th century British writers
  • 22 French curse words
  • How to clear your search history so the NSA won’t think you’re a crazy terrorist who needs to perform CPR on a sousaphone-playing French dragon wounded in a chemically-induced explosion during the Crimean War

French 2nd Hussar regiment Vivandiere

c.1854 - Crimean war.
Vivandière or Cantinière were women in the military attached to regiments to provide wine, tobacco, paper, ink and other commodities to the soldiers. They achieved a particularly romanticized status during the Second French Empire due to the increase of their number and the many military campaigns on foreign soil during that era.

Poison Gas

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.

Among the great advancements of the 19th century was the development of the chemical industry. As the Industrial Revolution ticked on, Europeans learned how to produce and commercialize chemicals. Artificial fertilizers, soaps, dyes, petrochemical materials and more became cheap and commonplace as the chemical industry expanded first in Britain, and then in Germany and the United States. Chemistry had made life easier.

Of course, the military also pondered the use of chemicals in weaponry. Some junior soldiers and scientists suggested the utility of poison gas during the Crimean War and the American Civil War, but the trend did not catch on. It was “as bad a mode of warfare as poisoning the wells of the enemy,” announced the British Ordinance Department. The scientist who proposed the notion grumbled. “It is considered a legitimate mode of warfare to fill shells with molten metal which scatters among the enemy, and produced the most frightful modes of death. Why a poisonous vapor which would kill men without suffering is to be considered illegitimate warfare is incomprehensible.” Nevertheless, the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907 banned the use of chemical weapons, one of the councils’ few achievements.

But military thinkers did not give up the idea, especially in the German army. By the spring of 1915 the Germans’ rampage across France had been checked, and a frustrating stalemate had developed. The soldiers turned back to the chemical industry. Germany had the largest chemical production in the world - and if it weaponized it, planners believed, the Entente would not be able to retaliate in kind.

Germans release gas from canister, 1915. This was a dangerous and unreliable method of using gas, and a change of wind could easily hurt the attackers as much as the enemy.

The Germans released poison gas for the first time on April 22, 1915, at Ypres. They released chlorine gas out of canisters, relying on the wind to carry it the Allied positions. The noxious clouds sent several French and Algerian divisions reeling in panic. Two days later the Germans tried it against Canadian soldiers who had plugged the hole in the line. The Canadians choked and gasped, but fought on, stemming the German wave. They had discovered that urinating on a handkerchief and tying it over their mouth and nose created a primitive gas mask. Three days later the British began rushing to the front cotton pads dipped in bicarbonate of soda, which neutralized the gas agent. 

French soldiers wear primitive gas masks.

The Entente loudly attacked the “Hun” for his barbarous use of gas, and then set to work creating their own gas weapons. Chlorine gas, and then phosgene gas, became common weapons. They were horrific weapons. Phosgene had no immediate effects, but within 24 hours soldiers would begin gasping as their lungs filled with fluid. The worst was mustard gas, which the Germans began using in 1917. It rotted the body from the inside and out, blistering skin, blinding, and stripping the mucous membrane off the bronchial tubes. The pain was unendurable.

Aerial photo of a large gas attack on the Western Front.

Using canisters to disperse gas with the wind was common at first, but a very unreliable and potentially dangerous method, so armies began using artillery shells filled with gas. It became normal to fire gas barrages before an attack, because it forced enemy soldiers and artillerymen to don their gas masks, which made fighting or loading guns hard. More sophisticated gas masks were created to protect soldiers, although the filters had to be changed every thirty minutes.

British troops with box respirators. The respirator had to be changed every thirty minutes but it was an effective mode of protection.

The shouts of “Gas! Gas!” and the rattle of gas alarms warned troops to put their gas masks on immediately. The thought of being incapacitated by gas terrified everyone. Yet it did not take long for men in all armies to get used to these drills, and gas actually did not cause a very high amount of casualties during the war, and relatively few deaths. On July 17, for example, the British fired 100,000 gas shells at the German lines at Ypres, but only killed seventy-five of the enemy. Still, gas caused around one million casualties during the war. Gas may have been more terrifying than effective, but the image of men choking and suffocating during World War One had been so horrific that European armies declined to use gas against each other during World War Two.

Types of German gas shells. Used by both sides from 1916, these contained liquid gas which evaporated on impact. This was a much more effective way of releasing gas agents on the enemy.

Many cultures have had some form of a gun-blade combination due to the fact that they are extremely versatile out on the battlefield. The most famous form would be the bayonet that was used during the Crimean War and the American Civil War. The Germans were also known for their axe guns and a lot of these are preserved in the Historisches Museum in Dresden, as seen above.


March 13th 1881: Alexander II assassinated

On this day in 1881, the Russian Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in St. Petersburg aged 62. He had ascended to the Russian throne in 1855 after the death of his father Tsar Nicholas I during the Crimean War.  Decades before the Bolshevik communist revolution would successfully overthrow the Russian monarchy under Alexander’s grandson Nicholas II, there was already a significant anti-tsarist movement in Russia. While Alexander had initiated some liberal and modernising reforms - including the abolition of serfdom in 1861 and the expansion of the nation’s railroads - he had brutally repressed political dissidents. In 1879, a group called the People’s Will was organised and began their attempts to violently overthrow the Tsar. After waging a prolonged campaign in which they assassinated government officials and made attempts on the Tsar’s life, the movement was finally successful in killing Alexander in 1881. The Tsar was killed in St. Petersburg after two bombs were thrown at his carriage by Nikolai Rysakov and Ignacy Hryniewiecki, who were members of the People’s Will. He was succeeded by his son Tsar Alexander III, who punished the people and group behind his father’s assassination. In 1883, work began on the Church of the Savior on Blood, which was built on the spot of Alexander’s assassination and dedicated to his memory.

“Amid the smoke and snowy fog, I heard His Majesty’s weak voice cry, ‘Help!’ Gathering what strength I had, I jumped up and rushed to the emperor. His Majesty was half-lying, half-sitting, leaning on his right arm. Thinking he was merely wounded heavily, I tried to lift him but the czar’s legs were shattered, and the blood poured out of them“
- Police chief Dvorzhitsky’s account of the assassination

This is Timothy the tortoise in the garden of Powderham Castle in 1993. Despite the name, Timothy was actually a lady - and a rather special one. Her little tag reads: ‘My name is Timothy. I am very old – please do not pick me up.’ She was indeed very old, in fact a veteran of the Crimean War where she found herself the mascot of HMS Queen during the first bombardment of Sevastopol in 1854. She had been found aboard a Portuguese privateer the same year by Captain John Courtenay Everard, of the Royal Navy. Later she sailed aboard HMS Princess Charlotte and HMS Nankin, exploring the East Indies and China from 1857-60.

She retired from naval service in 1892 and found herself in the care of the Courtenay family, taken in by the Earl of Devon. From then until her death in April 2004, she lived at Powderham Castle. On her underside was etched the family motto, ‘Where have I fallen? What have I done?’ This little veteran was approximately 165 years old at the time of her death. She was the last survivor of the Crimean War.


Replica Colt Model 1851 Dragoon single action revolver presented to the Russian Czar and Ottoman Emperor.

In the 1854 Samuel Colt center picture) ordered the production of two heavily decorated Colt Model 1851 Dragoon single action revolvers, which were decorated by master engraver Alvin A. White.  Each revolver featured a portrait of George Washington on the cylinder and the Marquis de Lafeyette on the frame.  Each were heavily decorated with gold inlays and intricate scroll work engraving.  One was presented to Sultan Abdulmecid I, Emperor of the Ottoman Empire (left picture) and Czar Alexander II, Emperor of Russia.  Both leaders were adversaries during the Crimean War, and the purpose of the gifts were to celebrate the end of the war.

The revolver gifted to Abdulmecid II is currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Athene (real name Bachir Boumaaza) is a pro gamer who lives with 25 of his followers. Together, they make philosophical videos and perform vaguely defined “experiments” into human consciousness. We spoke to Athene, as well as his friend and right-hand man Dries Leysen, to find out how deep this particular rabbit hole goes.

Athene was one of the first people to tap into the gaming video phenomenon, getting his start in the YouTube dark ages of 2007. His first video, where he played World Of Warcraft like an eccentric but talented maniac, racked up over four million views. He eventually accumulated just shy of 720,000 subscribers, over 450 million views, and a six-figure income. It isn’t the most subtle content in the world. But it’s enough to earn him pages on Wikipedia, KnowYourMeme, and EncyclopediaDramatica (the big three!), get a League Of Legends item named after him, book a TEDx talk, net some gaming news headlines about his feats, and garner him a profile by the noted gaming journalists at Bloomberg

What’s the next step when you’ve become hugely successful in the world of gaming? You guessed it – an abrupt switch to lengthy, serious philosophical lectures!

In 2011, after a few years of gaming and goofs, Athene released a 50-minute documentary about the nature of consciousness called Athene’s Theory of Everything. It was like if Nicki Minaj abruptly started hosting podcasts about the Crimean War. And everybody loved her for it.

How A YouTuber’s Cult Following Became An Actual Cult

types of historical fiction i’d like to see
  • dumas: a french (romantic) musical
    • additionally: the french romantic musical in general 
    • additionally: gay george sand movie
  • exploration of the russian revolution that, rather than limiting the perspective to an aristocratic one and focusing just on the Last Royal Family™, interweaves several perspectives at once, showing the full extent of how shitty romanov rule was 
    • kind of like gloria whelan’s angel on the square but with more peasants
  • something that’s kind of like assassins except it’s called scientists and it’s about a whole bunch of cool lady scientists from entirely different eras
  • the ida b wells movie
  • gay victorians, an ongoing series about fictional gay victorians
  • gay victorians, an ongoing series about real gay victorians
  • every lesbian period drama scenario ever
  • non-linear, multi-generational exploration of how the nature of war changed from the start to the end of the nineteenth century, focused on entirely different, unrelated people who are all somehow tied together thru that common thread 
  • the mary shelley movie
  • shakespeare in love 2: shakespeare in love with a man
  • going back to war in the 19th century: #Sort Out Your Crimean War Nurse Priorities, or the mary seacole movie / documentary / literally anything
  • a movie about two medieval nuns in love, featuring lots of stained glass windows, gothic architecture, and catholic imagery, and yet somehow a happy ending
    • caveat: no weird male-gazey forbidden nun sex scenes allowed
  • a show about, like, early modern playwrights or medieval nuns or the russian romantics or something, except it’s comedic in its tone while still taking the subject seriously
  • documentary series that takes famous/important literary works and places them in their historical context
  • i already said lesbian period dramas but some kind of glorious theater rom-com featuring waistcoats and questionable love poetry and comic misunderstandings and happy endings and all sorts of gay shenanigans
  • something about the figures of transgressive soviet art/music/literature 
  • in case anyone’s forgotten: lesbian period dramas
Foul Weather Food

Ireland in the Spring. Rain. Wind. Frost. More rain. Cold. More wind. Bored with rain? Have some sleet.

So we rummaged about in the kitchen to see what was lurking, and assembled the necessaries for Boston Baked Beans, using the recipe from Jocasta Innes’s “Pauper’s Cookbook”, which I inherited from Mum.

We made a few adaptations based on what wasn’t lurking, like using cubed smoked back bacon instead of salt pork; the result was a different flavour and mouthfeel, very pleasant, but the way well-marbled pork turns to savoury chunks of near-butter is better. It didn’t stop the level in the pot being noticeably reduced before D thought to say, “take a photo”…

That salt-glazed beanpot is another inheritance from Mum, who got it from her Mum, who got it from her Mum…

Except for D’s genuine late-medieval Venetian trade bead (1480-1500) on the braid of her replica netsuke rat, and a book about the Crimean war written while it was still going on (1855), this is the oldest thing in the house, about 150 years if I’ve got the figures right.

And it still works perfectly.


British Pattern 1853 Cavalry Trooper’s Sword, 10th Royal Hussars

Steel swept bar hilt with regimental stamping “10 RH 348” (10th Royal Hussars), two piece leather grips. Sword knot tied to the hilt. Plain single edged slightly curved blade with fuller to the back section. Various acceptance stamps and markings. Blade measures 88cms in length. No scabbard. These swords first saw service during the Crimean War, the 10th Royal Hussars were engaged during the Crimean War at the Siege of Sebastopol and the Battle of Eupatoria.

Ivan Aivazovsky (1817-1900)
“The Battle of Sinop” (1853)
Oil on canvas

The Battle of Sinop was a naval battle that occured on November 30, 1853, at Sinop, a sea port in northern Anatolia. A squadron of Imperial Russian warships struck and destroyed a squadron of Ottoman ships anchored in the harbor. The battle was part of the Crimean War, and a contributory factor in bringing France and Great Britain into the conflict. This was also the last major battle between fleets of sailing ships. The battle is commemorated in Russia as a Day of Military Honour.