We maintain and continue this committee of correspondence in memory of our founder and mentor, Colonel W. Patrick Lang. The image to the right is Marcus, a character from William S. Burroughs’s “The Coming of the Purple Better One.” Colonel Lang would refer to Marcus sometimes in clever jest, sometimes in biting social commentary and sometimes simply because he liked Marcus. May everyone who corresponds here do so in a similar spirit.

Posted in Administration | 12 Comments

AVAILABLE now FROM iUniverse, Amazon and Barnes and Noble in hard cover, soft cover, and digital.

The Portable Pat Lang

Essential Writings on History, War, Religion and Strategy

From the Introduction:

“In the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Col. Lang created his own blog which to this day still serves as a committee of correspondence for a large network of former military and intelligence officers, diplomats, and scholars of international affairs.

Since its launch in 2005, the Turcopolier website has had over 40 million unique visits.

Since leaving the government, he has also authored five books, including a Civil War espionage trilogy, a memoir of his years in government service, and a primer on human intelligence.

This present volume—his sixth book—is an anthology of some of his most important writings. The content speaks for itself.  So have at it.”

Posted in My books | 4 Comments

Three Hulls: A Sailing Outrigger for Adventures Near and Far

I’ll let the multihull gurus fight over the question of whether this is a “trimaran” or an “outrigger.” I think of trimarans as boats that are optimized purely for sailing. An “outrigger sailing canoe,” on the other hand, is understood to have a wider variety of uses. A “variety of uses” is an understatement, perhaps. When handed the design brief last fall, I recall whistling and thinking: “Now THIS will be interesting.”

Billy and Sierra Swezey are among that marvelous cohort who have turned an ocean-cruising lifestyle into a full-time job. (Or is it the other way around?) It seems straightforward enough: Billy and Sierra entertain office-dwellers like myself with their compulsively watchable YouTube Channel, Tula’s Endless Summer, while they get to play in boats. 

It SOUNDS easy, sure, but these guys work looong days…and that’s before they start editing their video footage into watchable content. I fear that the popular YouTube channels have conditioned us always to expect nice video production. But count on 2 to 4 hours of editing per minute of video, and that’s if everything goes perfectly.

I digress. Billy and Sierra have leveraged their way up through several major cruising yacht restorations, and their next ride is going to be a medium-large cruising catamaran. Understanding better than most that we go to sea…to see new shorelines, the couple have calculated that carrying a capable coastal exploration vessel on the deck of the new catamaran will multiply the fun. 

Thus we get to that tricky design brief: An expedition machine that could store in a 12-foot by 4-foot rectangle on the mothership’s deck. Compared to the more usual monohull dinghy, Billy and Sierra perceived that once the mothership was swinging from two anchors in some snug harbor, they could go further, faster, and have more fun in a small multihull.

Multihulls always benefit from length, so early in the process it was resolved that if four feet of bow and stern could be unbolted, that would give us a 20-foot main hull, a length at which the performance gains become pronounced. The “amas” (the term of art for the “outriggers”) would be 12 feet long, enough for genuinely respectful upwind performance, if not fly-two-out-of-three-hulls-like-those-crazy-French-yachties performance.

Comment: Both the Everglades Challenge video and John Harris’ write up of the design have been up for months. I’m surprised I missed it until now. John and CLC have designed multihulls before in addition to their fleet of small boats. This is a pretty simple design reminiscent of larger Hawaiian outrigger canoes. The outriggers are carved from solid foam and encased in fiberglass and carbon fiber. I’ve never seen that in a CLC project before. I wonder how it will be done in the do-it-yourself kit. There is a short video covering design development that’s interesting along with some CLC boat building videos that should be good.

The Everglades Challenge video is very well done and very long. You can skip through it to get the gist of it, but I recommend setting aside the time to watch the whole thing. It’s healthier use of your time than watching non-ending snuff films from Gaza and Ukraine. I note they have a constant problem with cockpit swamping. A lot of that can be alleviated with the use of spray skirts. I’m quite familiar with the very effective spray skirts used on sea kayaks. They work well in the roughest seas. Since this outrigger canoe won’t be doing any Eskimo roles, a much lighter skirt would be sufficient. I have one on my kayak made of coated nylon with velcro closures. It works well in waves and big boat wakes. My younger son finally got one for his kayak and now shares the joy of paddling without a wet bunghole.


Posted in Messing about in boats, TTG | Leave a comment

Russia’s Main Link to China ‘Paralyzed’ After Tunnel ‘Sabotage’

Russia’s main rail link to China has been left paralyzed after Ukraine’s Security Service blew up a tunnel in the Russian republic of Buryatia, it has been reported. The explosions in the Severomuysky Tunnel were masterminded by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), “paralyzing the only serious route of railway communication between the Russian Federation and China,” news outlet RBC-Ukraine reported on Thursday, citing sources with knowledge of the matter.

Ukraine’s SBU told Newsweek that officially, it can “neither confirm nor deny
involvement” in the incident, but added that “death is the only prospect we can offer to the occupiers” who have “brought war, loss of life and violence to our land.” “We will be able to talk about who is behind this or that case after our victory. Which will definitely come soon,” the SBU added.

The Severomuysky Tunnel is a railroad connection on the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) in northwestern Buryatia. The Soviet-built BAM is a crucial transit railway that cuts through Siberia and is used to deliver cargo shipments to Asia. It is one of the world’s longest railway networks, stretching around 4,300 kilometers, or almost 2,700 miles. Russian President Vladimir Putin has pushed to modernize the country’s railways, including the BAM, in order to handle the rapid increase in freight traffic from China to Europe, and to reduce transport times between ports in Russia’s Far East and the country’s western border.

An RBC-Ukraine source said that Russia used the route for military supplies.

Russian-language Telegram channel Baza, which is linked to Russia’s security services, said that a fuel tank caught fire while moving through the tunnel in Buryatia in the early hours of Thursday. “It was probably sabotage,” the channel reported Thursday, adding that there were no casualties. “What caused the fire is still unknown. Police and FSB officers are working on the spot. Also, police and special services officers are working on the train parking areas,” Baza reported. 

Ukrainian publication Ukrainska Pravda also reported that the tunnel was blown up by the SBU. “Four explosive devices went off during the movement of the freight train. Now the FSB is working on the spot, and railway workers are unsuccessfully trying to minimize the consequences of the SBU’s special operation,” a source told Ukrainska Pravda.

Comment: The first question is what is the truth. Since both Ukrainian and Russian sources agree that some accident happened in the tunnel, we can rely on that fact. Beyond that, who knows. This is a single track line through the mountain, but it is not the only Russian line across Siberia. I found a video on the tunnel’s construction. It appears to be Soviet-style solid so even multiple explosions and a subsequent fire on the train may do little damage. It will be a matter of a major clean up and minimal repairs.

I’m fairly confident this is the work of SBU or SBU led partisan sabotage. Since early in the war, things all across Russia have been catching fire and blowing up. I doubt it’s all due to industrial accidents. This concentration of UW activities across both the occupied territories and Russia is a product of Ukraine’s total national defense doctrine and, I’d like to think, many years of MTTs from 10th SFG(A). This was our reason for being ever since the group’s activation in 1952.


Posted in Russia, The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 52 Comments

Russian government proposes ban on grain exports 

MOSCOW, Nov 28 (Reuters) – Russia might impose a ban on grain exports if their stocks fall to 10 million tons, Izvestia daily reported on Tuesday, citing a government document. The government working group on non-tariff measures in foreign trade recommended the Agriculture Ministry monitor grain stocks on monthly basis, Izvestia cited the protocol of the working group’s meeting.

If the monitoring shows stocks decrease to a “critically low level” of 10 million tons the ministry should propose the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Economy introduce a temporary ban on grains export. The Agriculture Ministry confirmed to Izvestia such scheme had been proposed by the government sub-committee, however it pointed out Russia has ample grain reserves given large stocks from last year and big harvest in 2023. The ministry did not respond to Reuters request to comment on the article. (Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Comment: Well I’ll be damned. I did not expect this. I guess things aren’t all peaches and cream in Mother Russia as the tankies suggest. This means the recent grain harvest did not go as planned or even as well as it’s gone the last few years. Could have been the weather. Could have been fuel shortages for the agricultural sector. Could be the farmers are all off to war. It may be a shortage of rail transportation, again due to wartime requirements. Or it could be the old standby of corruption and mismanagement.

Just last August, Putin was boasting that Russia could supply the world with all the grains it needed. He threatened to make Ukrainian grain shipments totally unnecessary. Back in April 2022, Dmitry Medvedev boasted, “Our food is our silent weapon. Silent — but formidable.” The cutting back of Russian grain exports will only help Ukraine’s grain exports and Ukraine’s economy. Sounds like a D’oh moment in the Kremlin.

It’s not as bad as it looks though. I doubt Russians will have to do without their bread. Russia has reserves. This proposed export ban only applies to durum wheat and does not apply to humanitarian shipments or shipments to Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Belarus. Maybe Putin is just taking prudent precautions given that his war will drag on well into 2024 at least.


Posted in Russia, The economy, TTG | 58 Comments

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”

The Power of Siberia gas pipeline route. Photo: Gazprom

China has refused to invest in Power of Siberia 2 gas pipeline and demanded more gas discounts, The South China Morning Post writes. China is unwilling to invest in the new pipeline, offering Russia to pay the multibillion-dollar construction bill in full and demanding discounts on Russian gas, The South China Morning Post reported, citing a source familiar with the situation in Moscow.

Next year, the discount for China will increase to 46%, according to the government’s drafts: gas from the Power of Siberia will cost $271.6 per thousand cubic meters, and for Turkey and Europe – $481.7. But that’s not enough for China. It “can demand deep discounts,” the source says. “In terms of construction, [Beijing] wants to make sure that they have no risks and no costs. Russia is the side that foots the entire bill,” says the source.

Whether Gazprom will find money for the new megaproject remains unclear. After cutting off gas to European countries, the company made a trillion-ruble net loss for the year and faced cash gaps that it had to spend two-thirds of its cash reserves to cover. Of the 2 trillion ruble “cash pile” that Gazprom had before the war, about 700 billion (~$5.56 billion) remained by July 2023.

Even so, Putin hardly has a choice. The Russian president is “under enormous pressure” because if the pipe is not built, Russia will have nowhere to dump “a huge volume” of gas, says the SCMP source. After losing the European market, where more than 150 billion cubic meters of gas a year went at its peak before the war, Gazprom has been forced to cut production by a quarter – a record in its history.

Comment: This is Anton Gerashchenko’s summation of the SCMP article. Clearly he’s seeing it through the eyes of a Ukrainian, but the ideas in both articles are the same. Xi sees opportunity and he’s taking advantage of it. It’s Putin who Xi has draped over the barrel. I sincerely believe that Xi is not thrilled with the Russia-Ukraine war. It’s putting a real kink in his BRI plans, but why not get what he can out of a poor situation. All that talk about friendship without limits is just that… talk. China is selling a lot of drones to Russians, but they’re selling even more to Ukrainians. It’s North Korea and Iran that the Kremlin has to turn to for weapons and ammunition, not China. And China is not totally reliant on Russian gas. She is diversifying her supply sources with Australia, Qatar and Central Asia in addition to Russia. 

I don’t think China will invade Russia’s far east, but if conditions don’t vastly improve for Russia, she may have to bargain off some far eastern territory in exchange for China’s economic assistance. 

Note: The title of this piece is a quote from Sun Tzu. Colonel Lang never thought much of him, but I always liked him since my days in ROTC. 


Posted in China, Energy, Russia, TTG | 4 Comments

Open Thread – 27 November 2023

I have places to go, people to see and things to do. Thus the open thread.

I do notice that Kim Jong Un is feeling his oats lately. He’s joined the “space race” with his polar orbit satellite and started remanning his DMZ guard posts. I wonder what uncle Vovo promised him for his old stocks of artillery shells and artillery pieces. That had to be an embarrassing ask.

BTW, that’s a Rasberry Pi above set up as an Open Thread Border Router.


Posted in Open Thread | 52 Comments

The New Drone Wars – Three Years Later

FPV racing drones fitted with RPG warheads used by Ukraine’s Omega M2 unit

Back in early 1981, I did a few “odd jobs” between graduating from the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and starting the SF Officers Course. One of these jobs was as an ARTEP evaluator for a mech infantry company on Fort Benning. While I had plenty of book learning about tank-mech infantry teams, I was much more comfortable following a dismounted night attack through a cold January swamp. There was no Moon and a stiff, steady breeze so I felt we were making a stealthy approach. Although the attack was well executed, I learned something disconcerting during the after action review. Our night approach through the swamp was monitored by a high flying AC-130 gunship from 1st SOW. The gunship caught the heat signature of each approaching soldier as they silently slid through that moonless swamp. The lesson I took was that the idea of remaining undetected in uninhabited forests and mountains was a myth. Combine that with the Fort Benning aphorism, “If you can be seen, you can be killed” and I quickly became enamored with the concept of urban guerrilla warfare once I reached 10th Group. We would survive behind the Iron Curtain only by hiding among those we were to liberate from oppression.

So what does this stroll down memory lane have to do with the new drone wars? A lot, actually. It’s the same principle. Armies can be seen and killed from above by a wide range of drones in 2020 just as we could be seen and killed by the AC-130 back in 1980. The difference lies in the proliferation of these drones and the fact that they are less expensive than manned aircraft. They also don’t expose pilots or operators to death or capture. 

First there were our Predators and Reapers hunting down jihadis and the occasional wedding party. We have well over 500 of these heavy drones. We have even more smaller drones down to man packed, hand launched tactical varieties. But we are not alone anymore. China is producing them like gangbusters. Turkey has emerged as a major leader in the development and employment of drones. One of these, the Bayratkar TB2, has had success in Syria, Libya and Azerbaijan. Erdogan has also deployed the TB2 against the PKK within Turkey and northern Iraq. 

The T2B is a medium altitude tactical drone. It has a range of more than 150 km and can fly at a maximum altitude of 22,500 feet. It has a maximum speed of 120 knots, a cruise speed of 70 knots and endurance of more than 24 hours. The TB2 is powered with a 100 horsepower Rotax civil engine, an engine common to ultralight and homebuilt aircraft. The unit cost of the aircraft itself is less than 100 thousand dollars. Its electro-optical reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting system is now produced by Aselan in Turkey at a cost of 400 thousand dollars per unit. Although it does use GPS, it is not satellite controlled. Ground stations control the TB2 by line-of-sight radio signal. The munitions, also produced in Turkey by Roketsan, are laser-guided, precision, long range and light weight. They include thermobaric and tandem warheads effective against reactive armor. Overall, the TB2 is an impressive piece of kit. 

As I mentioned, the PKK were the first to feel the wrath of the TB2. Those fighters hiding in the hills and mountains of eastern Turkey and northern Iraq have been getting clobbered since the droness were employed against them. I’m sure they learned the same lesson I learned forty years ago in that Fort Benning swamp. The difference is that my lesson was academic, the PKK’s lesson was catastrophically lethal. Erdogan also used the TB2 and other drones against the YPG/SDF over the last few years.

The first time the TB2 gained notoriety in the West was when they were used as part of Turkey’s Spring 2020 counterattack against the very successful R+5 Idlib Dawn offensive. A large number of TB2s, along with a smaller number of the larger, satellite-controlled Anka medium drones were deployed from 1 to 5 March. At a loss of six drones, Turkey claimed it destroyed over a hundred SAA armored vehicles, dozens of artillery systems and hundreds of SAA troops. Take that claim with a grain of salt, but Russia and the SAA agreed to a ceasefire immediately after that.

Turkish drones also played a significant role, along with the imported Syrian jihadis, in stopping Haftar’s LNA from taking Tripoli in early 2020. Until that time Haftar was using Chinese made Wing Loong drones to great effect. The GNA compensated for the shorter range of the newly arrived T2Bs by establishing radio relay sites to extend their operational range. The TB2s used a Turkish EW suite to jam the Russian made Pantsir-1 units and took them out systematically. They then played havoc among Haftar’s forces deployed in the flatness of northern Libya. Haftar and the Wagner Group were forced to withdraw from the outskirts of Tripoli.

The newest deployment of the TB2 is in the current Armenian-Azerbijani war. The Azeri and Armenian forces are generally similar in equipment, manpower and training. However, the Azeri’s employment of TB2 drones has been devastating to the Armenian armor and artillery in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azeris are advancing with the help of those TB2 drones. There is a constant stream of drone kill porn on the internet. This time it is Armenian targets being snuffed rather than footage of Predators snuffing jihadis.

The proliferation of attack drones, especially Turkish drones, is changing ground warfare. In Syria, Russia rushed additional air defense capabilities to SAA front line units to blunt the threat of Turkish drones. Movement, dispersion and concealment methods required modification. A hull down position for an AFV is nothing to a drone. After the March 2020 drone attacks in Idlib, the Russians sent wreckage of those Turkish drones back to Moscow to develop an effective countermeasure. They have now rushed the KRET Krasukha electronic jamming system to their base in Armenia where the system reportedly caused nine drones to loose connection with their control stations and crash. The Krashukha also blocks GPS signals to prevent drones from automatically returning to base. The TB2 doesn’t appear to have that feature, but many drones do. In my opinion, this is the most promising countermeasure to the widespread use of drones. The Russian military, due to their massive investment in radio-electronic combat (REC) is in the best position to pursue this countermeasure. We could someday soon see serious deployment of REC at the company and battalion level. Sure we can change our TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) to reduce our vulnerabilities to the threat of constant areal surveillance and attack, but that would be debilitating to normal operations. We best get to stepping in developing and widely deploying an effective EW capability. China is right up there with Turkey and the US in the development of drone warfare.

Comment: I wrote this essay a little over three years ago. Both my essay and especially the ensuing discussion foresaw a few of the remarkable advancements in drone warfare. But none of us foresaw how Ukraine would become the lead nation in the development of drone and counter-drone warfare. Of course back then we all saw Putin’s Russia as far too clever and prudent to foolishly invade Ukraine so clumsily. The TB2 Bayraktar had a heyday early in the war in Ukraine until Russian air defense and EW capabilities caught up. The Bayraktars have recently made a reappearance on the Kherson front. The Ukrainians have established an effective EW, air defense and counter-air defense bubble over the front lines which allows the Bayraktars to loiter over the battlefield at a sufficient altitude to surveil Russian troop movements and spot for attack drones and artillery strikes.

Beyond this example, the real advancement has been in the application of small commercial drones for reconnaissance and attack on an ever increasing scale. They have become indispensable in directing conventional and precision artillery fire. FPV attack drones are even supplanting artillery and ATGM fires. The development of better EW and counter-EW technologies has shaped these advancements. FPV attack drones, resistant to jamming, are striking further and further behind the front lines often with other drones serving as communication relay sites. 

As I said in the original essay, we best get to stepping in developing and widely deploying not just an effective EW capability, but an effective counter-EW capability, a robust and responsive R&D capability and a production capability which can produce these technologies quickly, in large amounts and cheaply. That’s surely not our current MIC. Both Ukraine and Russia are making great strides in addressing these needs. Ukraine, at least, is also making great strides in developing and implementing a supporting force development plan. Dedicated units have been created and manned with a dedicated training infrastructure. A supporting doctrine is also rapidly being developed  and implemented throughout the force. We must do the same.

But Russia is not far behind Ukraine in advancing the field of drone warfare. Today she launched a 75 drone raid on Kyiv. No missiles. No bombers. Just drones. We must also be prepared to face the same.


Posted in The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 29 Comments

Ex-spy Pollard: Israel should have imprisoned some hostage families “to silence them”

Former Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard has said Israel should have silenced families of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, and even imprisoned some of them, in order to avoid public pressure to reach a deal with the terror group. Channel 14 airs a clip of Pollard making the remarks, saying the remarks came during an online call this week with Rabbi David Bar-Hayim of the Shilo Institute. “When we declared war, the first thing that the government should have done was to declare a state of national emergency and told all of the hostage families, ‘You will keep your mouths shut, or we will shut them for you. You will not interfere in the management of this war. You will not be used by the international community or by our own leftists, who managed the Shalit deal, as a weapon against us,’” he says.

He was referring to a 2011 deal, opposed at the time and since by many on the right, in which Israel released over 1,000 Palestinian terror convicts in exchange for a single kidnapped IDF soldier. “And if that means imprisoning, to silence certain members of hostages’ families, then so be it. We’re in a state of war,” adds Pollard, who served decades in US prison for espionage before being released during former US president Barack Obama’s tenure and later being allowed to move to Israel by then-president Donald Trump.

Pollard lambastes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for approving a new hostage deal this week, saying he will also not vote again for the far-right Religious Zionism party, which voted for the agreement. “I was dead-set against turning all these posters out, the kidnapped, with all these pictures of these poor people that were kidnapped,” Pollard adds. “Why? Because each one of them was a poison dart at our ability to wage total war against our enemies.” He advocates for Israel to go on with the war without any deal, even at the cost of killing many Israeli hostages.

Comment: What this odious creature had to say was apparently well covered in both Israeli and English language media. I doubt it was because Pollard is seen as someone who needs to be listened to. I think it’s because what he had to say is shocking and disgusting and stories like this sell newspapers. What is more shocking and disgusting is that he’s not alone in this thinking. This mindset is shared by the hard right in Israel, the faction that was and remains key to Netanyahu’s continued rule. The line between this kind of thinking and that of the Hamas jihadis is very thin indeed.


Posted in Israel, TTG | 30 Comments

“La Grande Fete de Merci Donnant” Buchwald – reposted 2023

“They landed at a place called Plymouth (once a famous voiture Americaine ) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur de Mai ) in 1620. But while the Pelerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pelerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux-Rouges helped the Pelerins was when they taught them to grow corn (mais). The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their Pelerins.

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pelerins’ crops were so good that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more mais was raised by the Pelerins than Pelerins were killed by Peaux-Rouges.

Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration and “Kilometres Deboutish” (Miles Standish)”


This secret (esoteric) history of the first Thanksgiving was discovered many years ago by Art Buchwald (a leader of the Brooklyn branch of the “Illuminati”) whilst he was doing research in the catacombs located beneath the “Crazy Horse” saloon and “salle des danseuses” in Paris (France) (as opposed to Paris, Virginia). The document had lain there moldering amid the cast off “caches sexes” and empty cheese crates for centuries (maybe).

Buchwald successfully penetrated the exoteric “surface”of the text itself to reveal its true meaning. This technique of discerning the inner truth of history had been acquired by Maitre Buchwald while studying at the feet of a great scholar of such matters in Peoria, Illinois (or somewhere out there in the middle of the country) perhaps during his internship at the University of Chicago?

Here, he shares his wisdom with us.

(PS)  There is a legend that Buchwald found a note from Brigadier General Sir Harry Flashman VC left with the detritus to the effect that Sir Harry had discovered these materials and had gathered them in the basement for some future use.  Presumably Flashman never returned for them, but this story may be apocryphal.


Comment: Another blast from the past and a dose of Colonel Lang’s lighter side. Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Posted in History, Humor, TTG, Whatever | 4 Comments

Thanksgiving in the Field – 1863 from “Death Piled Hard” reposted 2023

One of my pre-occupations is the cycle of novels that I wrote concerned with what I think I learned in life.  It is set in the American Civil War and called “Strike the Tent.”  Why?  If I knew why perhaps I could have set it in some other time and place.  I have been writing at this for a long time. In one of the books, there is the story of a French professional soldier (John Balthazar), an officer with much service in Africa, who is sent to America to “observe” Lee’s army for his government. Once here, he becomes ever more involved until he ends by being asked to form a provisional battalion of infantry from men nobody else knows what to do with. Line crossers, men from broken units, disciplinary problems, etc. He sets out to do that. In this passage we see his battalion going into Winter Quarters in November, 1863 south of Culpeper. Virginia. They have just made a long withdrawal to the south, away from the disastrous field of Rapahannock Station. Pat Lang


“Throughout the army, soldiers started to construct their winter quarters. They had lived so long in the forest that they could build solid little houses of sticks and mud if they had a couple of weeks in which to work.  Small towns arose in the woods.  They filled up the forests that sloped away to the northwest from the foot of Pony Mountain. Smoke drifted in the wind, eddying and streaming, bringing an acrid bite of wood taste in the air. Oak and hickory, maple and poplar, the smoke brought the smell of their little communities so like those their ancestors had made in the beginning of their new life in America.  The men thought of Thanksgiving; some reached out beyond that to remember Christmas.  Balthazar watched his troops build their winter town. He had never seen soldiers do such a thing. In Europe, soldiers on campaign lived under canvas or in requisitioned houses. He thought their skill a marvelous thing, and told them so.

On the 26th they had Thanksgiving.  Smoot and Harris explained the nature of this feast to Balthazar, telling him of the memory of God’s providence to the colonists at Jamestown.  He heard them out, and sent hunting parties into the woodland.

Jubal Early came to dinner. He sat on a saw horse in the barn where they ate, a tin plate of venison and wild turkey in one hand, a tea cup of whiskey beside him.

The troops sat in the hay eating happily.

Balthazar had taken charge of the cooking, supervising the half dozen Black cooks that Harris recruited in Hays’ brigade.  The day the cooking started, Harris was pleased to have several men volunteer to help. Among them was Smith, the “D” Company commander. After watching his creation of an admirable kettle of turkey soup, Balthazar was sure that Smith, like Harris, was professionally trained.

Early complimented them on the stuffing, and said he had never had anything quite like it.  He accepted a second helping.  He had a chaplain with him, a French Jesuit who worked in the military hospitals in Lynchburg.

The priest and Balthazar chatted in their own language during dinner. The men listened to this with interest, turning from one to the other, examining their commander, seeking assurance of something they could not name.

After dinner, the priest offered his thoughts on the meaning of such a remembrance in wartime and the injustice of the war being waged against them by the North.

The soldiers listened politely.

When the chaplain finished his talk, Early stood up and announced that General Ewell was gone on sick leave for his old wound, and that he would be in command of Second Corps until Ewell came back. He said that they would be attached for now to corps headquarters.

You could see from the soldiers’ faces that they were not sure if that was good or bad.

The priest offered to say Mass if there were Catholics present. A number raised their hands and he moved off to a corner of the barn with them.  Balthazar asked Early if he wished to attend the service. After a moment’s thought, the general shrugged and said he could not see any reason not to do so. “After all,” he said, “the Pope has taken note of us.”  After Mass, the Jesuit asked if Balthazar wished him to hear his confession.  The answer was no.

A courier came at four o’clock the next morning with the news that Meade was across the Rapidan, and marching southeast through the Wilderness.

Balthazar had found among his men a soldier who had been a bugler in a regular U.S. cavalry regiment. “Reveille” sounded sweet and compelling in the darkness of the camp.”

Pat Lang


Comment: Colonel Lang first posted this in 2012, I believe. At that time I commented as follows:

The Thanksgiving meal is a special occasion in the Army as all us old soldiers know. It is a time when us officers donned our dress whites (at least in the 25th Infantry Division) and spent time with the troops in the mess hall.
Stafford was the winter quarters of the Union Army that Lee bloodied at Fredericksburg in 1862. There were more Union troops in Stafford that winter than there are Stafford residents today. The small soldier towns that so amazed Balthazar also sprang up in Stafford although the inhabitants wore blue rather than butternut and grey. These soldier towns are depicted in our White Oak Civil War Museum and our new Civil War Park.

A lot has changed since 2012. Most importantly we lost Colonel Lang. We did not develop a friendship until comparatively recently. We never crossed paths professionally although we trod many the same paths in our lives and careers. I miss our conversations and I miss him. Thankfully, we have his writings, his wisdom and his blog to remind us of him.

Our Civil War Park is still going strong. It’s not anything spectacular, not the Gettysburg battlefield, but it’s well done and chronicles an important period in local history. I still enjoy the occasional visit. We no longer have our White Oak Civil War Museum with the death of D.P. Newton, the founder and curator of this wonderful little museum a little over four years ago. The man was a tireless relic hunter and Civil War historian. I’m sure he and Colonel Lang would have hit it off very well. Thankfully, most of his collection is now in a dedicated museum under the care of Jon Hickox, himself a lifelong relic hunter, the president and owner of The Winery at Bull Run in Centreville. A lot of the documents and maps in D.P. Newton’s collection are now in the Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond.

As a final note, I always referred to Colonel Lang as Colonel Lang on this blog. When we talked, it was Pat. That’s a military tradition just like donning my dress whites and serving Thanksgiving dinner to the troops in the mess hall all those years ago.


Posted in My books, WBS | 2 Comments

Israel accepts clause of Hamas’s Sinwar: No UAV intel gathering for hostages

Hamas photo of an Israeli drone that crashed in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has agreed to a condition laid out by Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar to halt Israeli UAVs in the Gaza airspace for six hours on each day of the ceasefire in exchange for the release of some of the hostages under Hamas’s captivity, according to a Tuesday report by Walla.

The condition’s implementation was addressed by an Israeli official who cited statements made by the IDF and Shin Bet, stating that they have intelligence-gathering capabilities even during the ceasefire days. “We will not be blind and we’ll know what’s happening on the ground,” the official said.

The deal for the hostages’ release that will be submitted to the government for approval includes the release of 50 Israeli children and women during a four-day ceasefire and includes the possibility of it being extended if Hamas locates additional women and children, with ten freed for each additional day of the ceasefire. 

It is estimated that the total of those freed may reach 70-80 women and children if Hamas does locate the hostages, as they claimed they do not know some of their locations.

“Hamas, as far as we are concerned, needs to bring the people back, including from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other elements,” said the official, also saying that Hamas should also release additional hostages with foreign citizenship, but not as part of the outline for the release of Israeli women and children.

The deal to release the hostages has the support of the IDF, Shin Bet, and the Mossad, and includes the release of about 140 security prisoners from Israeli prisons. According to the official, Israel insisted that prisoners convicted of murder not be included in the list of those released. The outline also states that during the days of the ceasefire, Israel will allow more fuel to be brought into the Gaza Strip – however, the official made it clear that this is a relief that will only last during the ceasefire.

The deal to release the hostages was opposed by the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit.

Comment: I can understand the ceasefire and the hostage exchange, but the demand for ceasing Israeli drone operations for six hours a day puzzles me. Are the reconnaissance drones that effective against Hamas operations? I do believe IDF and ShinBet claims that they have plenty of intelligence gathering capabilities so did they pull something over on Hamas or do the drones offer a unique and effective capability that can’t be duplicated?

I also find it telling that the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit opposed the ceasefire and hostage exchange. To paraphrase Golda Mier, they hate the Arabs more than they love their children.


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