The Ratzer Maps At The Brooklyn Historical Society

IMG_5425

Now in its final weeks at the Brooklyn Historical Society, the tiny second floor exhibition Unlocking Two Revolutionary War Maps: The Ratzer Maps at BHS showcases two incredibly important maps of the American War of Independence and the 1776 Battle of Long Island in particular. Alternately known as the Battle of New York and the now-popular Battle of Brooklyn, the Battle of Long Island was the first of the new nation after announcing its independence on July 4, 1776 and the largest of the entire war. For anyone with an interest in the American Revolution or 18th-century New York history, these maps unlock a close-up view of the ground fought over between the British Empire and the upstart Colonials nearly 240 years ago.

IMG_5426The “Percy Map” used during the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 (left) and the restored 1770 “Ratzer Map” (right) at the Brooklyn Historical Society

Drawn by British cartographer Bernard Ratzer in 1766-1767, the Ratzer Map is one of the seminal documents of early New York. The BHS copy of the full 1770 edition of the Ratzer Map is only one of four in known existence and showcases an early snapshot of Manhattan and nearby Brooklyn in their early days where farms and rural roads still dominated the landscape. The smaller map on display, showing only the lower portion of the Ratzer Map, was carried by British General Hugh Percy during the Battle of Long Island in August 1776. The Percy Map is now co-owned by the BHS and nearby Green-Wood Cemetery, the high ground for much of the battle, and was first put on public view in the summer on 2014 at the cemetery. The current exhibit of these maps at the BHS after a restoration of the full Ratzer map in 2011 is a wonder of 18th-century map making and 21st-century preservation.

schecterbfnyBarnet Schecter’s classic “The Battle For New York” from 2002

The exhibit features text from BHS President Deborah Schwartz and historian Barnet Schecter whose compellingly-detailed The Battle For New York: The City At the Heart Of The American Revolution has become the standard narrative of the battle. Additionally, the BHS has produced a free educational resource entitled Exploring Pre-Revolutionary New York: The Ratzer Map which digs into much of the historical detail found in the map including panoramic views of the shoreline and major landmarks of the era.

History can feel so large and abstract, buried in long ago events which are difficult to square with the present day. The Ratzer Maps at the BHS bring history remarkably into the present and allow a modern viewer to trace pivotal events along lines carefully set down on paper and battlefields more than two centuries ago.

Advertisements

Downloading: Mapping the World at the New York Public Library

britishcolonies

As a lifelong gamer, I’ve spent many, many hours staring at maps or drawing my own. Most board games provide maps of sorts that define movement and area control. For players of Dungeons & Dragons and the like, adventure maps create much of the framework for how campaigns and role-played stories evolve. Miniature wargames, from ancients and historicals to fantasy and sci-fi, utilize three-dimensional set-ups driven by maps and the relationship of various features on the tabletop.

Late last month, the New York Public Library announced the availability of some 20,000 high resolution downloadable maps. The collection is an enormous resource for hardcore historians and hobbyists alike. Well over half the online collection naturally focuses on New York City, New York State and the surrounding areas. Beyond the New York area, the cartography goldmine grants access to hundreds of years of maps from around the world which can be viewed singly or within the context of their original books, atlases or folios.

Digging into the archive, there’s a fair amount of material certain to be of interest for gamers. Maps of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas portray the development of civilizations and empires over the centuries. A fair amount of material is available on the American War of Independence, particularly in the areas around New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Aside from maps, there are also some engraved plates of native societies encountered by European colonists, renderings of forts and some naval views.

The entire online collection is searchable here, but here are a few highlights I’ve come across on my digital travels.

New York

newamsterdam

New Amsterdam

navy yard

Brooklyn Navy Yard

American War of Independence

battleLI

Battle of Long Island

saratoga

Saratoga

Forts

westpoint2

West Point

fortalbany

Fort Albany

Naval History

dutchportships

Dutch and Portugese Ships

british1671

Ships in the British West Indies

Europe

ancientgreece

Ancient Greece

romanempire

Roman Empire

prussia1860

Prussia

 

Downloading: Wargame Blogging With 35 Million Images

Embed from Getty Images

I’ve written previously about my longtime career in the photo and film licensing industry, starting out in the mid-1990s as a historic photo researcher. One of my former employers, Getty Images, made a surprise announcement this week that it was making available for free some 35 million images for non-commercial use in social media and blogging. The press release stated Getty Images’ acknowledgement of the widespread use of images without proper licensing, and the new system will allow for data-gathering and one would think some form of monetization long-term.

Using the new functionality is easy with a quick image search and copy/paste of the embed code into a website like Facebook or blog platform like WordPress. Images are importantly displayed with the proper photographer and collection attribution. The Getty Images logo is also prominently shown along with buttons to share the image via Twitter or Tumblr. Clicking on the image itself returns the user to the Getty Images website for full caption information. Because the image is never actually uploaded to the blog’s hosting site, there’s an additional cost savings in storage space. It’s all fast, neat and, again — free.

For wargame bloggers, there’s an enormous amount of iconic and more obscure photographs, maps, posters and illustrations available. The black and white and color historical offering is deep. Contemporary photos of equipment, re-enactments, memorials and sites relevant to military history should also be useful for reference for wargame bloggers like myself. Not every image Getty Images represents is available for free through the embed code, and users should be careful not to grab an image requiring a license fee.

Check out the below for just a glimpse of the breadth and depth in the Getty Images offering which may very well be popping up on some of your favorite blogs very soon.

Ancient & Medieval Warfare

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

American War of Independence

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Seven Years War

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Napoleonic Wars

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

American Civil War

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

African Colonial Wars

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

World War I

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

World War II

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Cuban Revolution

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

War Concepts

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

Warfare In The Age Of Reason: Battle of Kolin 1757

drillmanual18th-century European military drill manual

Now that I’ve had my interest sparked in the Seven Years War (SYW) period, I’ve been doing some homework. For background, a lot of people point to the outstanding Wiki-style Kronoskaf SYW Project website for more than 2200 articles and 5500 pictures relating to the period. I’ve found the maps collection to be particularly compelling since I have a huge interest in how landscapes shape warfare in all periods.

I’ve also laid out a small initial investment on the very popular Warfare In The Age Of Reason rulebook written by Tod Kershner and Dale Wood, published by Emperor’s Press and available at On Military Matters. I also found a Facebook page dedicated to the rules which I plan on using for visual inspiration and gaming information in the coming months. At some point, tracking down a copy of the out-of-print Uniforms of the Seven Years War 1756-63 by John Mollo and Malcolm McGregor sounds like thing to do if I want a collection of handy plates on my bookshelf.

Fortunately there are a few players at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY who already have pretty sizable collections of SYW 15mm miniatures from a represenative cross-section of period armies. Some guys at the club also have figures from the period in 28mm, and one of the newer members is talking about running a campaign-style SYW game next year. Even with models at the ready for gaming at our club, I’m already eyeballing the 18th-century 15mm figures available from Old Glory Miniatures and Essex Miniatures as one of my projects for 2014.

Kolin1757

Battle of Kolin, June 18, 1757

This past weekend, my son and I got together with some club members in Brooklyn for another SYW game, this time the Battle of Kolin June 18th, 1757. The battle came a couple months prior to our previously-played scenario of Moys from September 1757, and proved to be the first defeat experienced by King Frederick II of Prussia.

Admired by contemporaries and scholars today as one of the greatest military leaders in history, Frederick The Great and his Prussian forces were viewed at the dawn of the SYW period as the greatest standing army in Europe. Aligned with Great Britain and surrounded by Austrian-aligned adversaries on the continent, Frederick’s tactical innovations led his often outnumbered forces to numerous victories.

At Kolin in the present day Czech Republic, Frederick led some 34,000 Prussians in a march hoping to destroy the Austrian army seeking to reinforce the besieged city of Prague. Unfortunately for Frederick, he chose to confront the superior force of 44,000 Austrians on their home turf defending from the rolling hills near Kolin. On the hot summery day in June, Frederick’s aggressive gamble would result in his undoing.

 IMG_2605Starting hilltop positions of the Austrians with the oak wood to their right and the Prussian lines before them

IMG_2591The central Austrian defenses with heavy guns at the front, cavalry in reserve and skirmishers in the town beyond

Our battle started historically with the Austrian infantry aligned across the defending hills, three heavy gun batteries at the center and cavalry to either end of the line. The Prussian advance began with a cavalry push on their left around a small town held by Austrian allied skirmishers. Frederick, near the center of the line, began a slow and cautious march to the hill objectives toward the center.

IMG_2597Prussian cavalry charge into the Austrian right

IMG_2596Austrians advanced on the skirmishers in the village

On the Prussian left, a cavalry charge was met with a counter charge from the Austrian-aligned Hussars. Nearby, Austrian line infantry advanced in the hopes of driving skirmishers out of the nearby town. If the initial Austrian press worked, the entire Prussian right flank would fold.

IMG_2602As disordered Hussars retreat, Austrian heavy cavalry ride to answer the Prussian charge

IMG_2593Austrian heavy cavalry gallop to defend their right

As the Hussars folded under the attack and retreated in disorder, Austrian heavy cavalry charged back toward the advancing Prussians. With the Prussian charge repulsed with losses on both sides, the Austrian cavalry now looked to turn the Prussian left flank with more heavy cavalry rushing from the rear.

IMG_2592Gun batteries at the Austrian center

IMG_2604Prussians advance on the Austrian center and receive cannon fire

IMG_2600Prussian lines continue the advance as cavalry reserves in the distance rush to buoy their softening left flank

At the center of the table, the Austrian lines held their ground and pulled into the nearby woods to defend against the coming Prussian advance. As Prussian infantry advanced several lines deep, they were met with several turns of cannon fire yet continued their press forward with Fredrick attached at the rear. If you listened carefully, I think you could hear Fredrick’s famed shout of “do you want to live forever?” echoing from the tabletop as he urged his Prussians onward.

IMG_2603The Austrian battery takes casualties from the advancing Prussians

IMG_2601The Austrian battery is overrun in a Prussian charge

Eventually, the  overwhelming force of the Prussian lines closed on the Austrian batteries at the front of the line. One battery was destroyed and a second fled the field following a charged assault. With Austrian infantry now staring down from on the hill, the Prussians marched uphill to their objective and closed within charge distance.

IMG_2598Prussians press the attack into the woods and up the hill

IMG_2599The wood becomes a locked melee as firing erupts all along both lines and into the distance on the Austrian left

A charge and counter charge locked lines in melee in the woods at the Austrian right as Prussians pressed their advance now all along the line. On the center hill, an Austrian line wheeled down the hill to envelope the Prussian lines in fire both to the front and at their flank. The one remaining Austrian battery continued to pummel the Prussian lines scrambling for the center hill. On the far hill on the Austrian left, lines finally made a move on the Prussians.

With the cavalry charges at a stalemate on the Austrian right and the Prussian lines split into two losing combats at the hills, the Prussians failed a morale test under heavy losses and ceded the field to the Austrian army. Once again, Frederick’s gambit at Kolin had resulted in defeat.

fredIIkolin‘ Frederick the Great After the Battle of Kolin’ by Julius Schrader (1859)

After two games in the Seven Years War period in as many weeks, I’m hooked on the era. The games begin cautiously with slowly-deployed movements but quickly erupt into vicious volleys of fire, swift charges and hand-to-hand combats. Even with thoughtful strategic planning at the outset, the battles quickly evolve into chaotic back-and-forth tactical blood baths. The constant morale checks as the battlefield shifts and fire is taken becomes as much a path to outcome as men falling on the field. And, as with the original battle at Kolin, the Austrians defenders proved to be too much a match again for the Prussian invaders this past weekend.