Killing Time

This is a podcast about the greatest military battles and campaigns that changed the course of history for non-military listeners.

Commanders on Killing Time

Here we will portray and briefly describe the commanders
 of the armies of Killing Time

From left to right:  FM Paul von Hindenburg, Kaiser Wilhelm II and General Erich Ludendorff

In the Battle of Tannenberg, the first episode of our series, Hindenburg and Ludendorff arrive in East Prussia only days before the battle in August 1914.  Together, they stun the Russian Army at Tannenberg through deception and lightening fast movement of their army by trains in the lakes, forests and swamps of the wilderness, staving off defeat and routing an entire Russian field army much larger than their own.  

Prussian and later German FM Helmuth von Moltke

The most brilliant strategic and tactical military mastermind of the mid 19th century, von Moltke managed to defeat Denmark, Austria and France in a period of six years, resulting in the unification of Germany under Prussian domination by 1871.  The Battle of Koniggratz, the third episode in our series, was the crowning achievement of the Austro-Prussian war of 1866 that decided the fate of central Europe.  The continent and the world was amazed as the reputedly vastly superior Austrian Empire and its commander, Ludwig Benedek, were decisively humbled in the largest battle in Europe between the time of Napoleon and the First World War.

Major General George Gordon Meade

Appointed to lead the dispirited, recently defeated Army of the Potomac only four days before the onset of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, Gordon Meade was the right man at the right time for the showdown with Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.  A prickly personality to his colleagues and subordinates, he was known as "old snapping turtle", but he was a respected, professional who would not lose the battle through the kind of blunders and incompetence prior commanders had made since the war began.  In the largest and most epic battle ever fought on the North American Continent, Lee and the Confederate Army were repulsed by Meade's Army with terrible casualties on both sides, forcing Lee to retreat back into Virginia and a series of further defeats that ended at Appomattox in 1865.  

Arthur Wellsley, the Duke of Wellington

Considered one of the most brilliant defensive generals of the Napoleonic area, Wellington became Britain's most famous and successful general during the long Spanish campaign in which he never lost a battle against Napoleon's best generals, culminating in the Battle of Santa Vittoria.  When Napoleon escaped Elba, Wellington was Britain's representative in Vienna.  He was immediately recalled to Belgium to take command of the Anglo-Dutch-German forces there and found himself the object of Napoleon's campaign that culminated in the Battle of Waterloo, the fourth episode of our series.  His masterful conduct of the battle justly made him an immortal in the annals of the British Empire and world history, as Waterloo is the most famous battle of all time.

The Russian tsar and commander at Poltava, Peter the Great.  A devoted student of the Enlightenment after his 18 month tour of western Europe in 1698-99, Peter and his allies started the Great Northern War in 1700 with a three pronged attack that they thought would overwhelm Sweden.  To Peter's dismay, his army of over 30,000 was almost immediately crushed and humiliated by only 10,000 Swedes under the boy king, Charles XII at Narva in 1700.  Retreating deep into Russia, Peter and his advisors drastically overhauled the army and rebuilt it along modern European lines.  Even so, it was not until 1709 when Peter felt confident enough for another showdown with the Swedes.  The resulting annihilation of the Swedish army and successful conclusion of the war vaulted Russia into Great Power status in Europe where it has remained ever since.

Horatio Lord Nelson, First Viscount Nelson and Duke of Bronte and Vice Admiral of the White at the time of his death, was the victor of several increasingly important naval battles that culminated in the annihilation of the better part of the combined fleets of France and Spain off the Cape of Trafalgar on the 21st of October 1805.  His death at the age of 47 in this decisive battle which decided British naval supremacy in the world for another century and a half, was mourned throughout the British Empire and ensured him legendary and immortal status in the fame and affection of his country.  His tomb at St. Pauls and his statue high atop a columned pillar at Trafalgar Square in London attest to the impact he made upon his people and their history.  A brilliant and even radical tactician, he literally broke the rule book on naval engagements in his day to the utter confusion of his enemies and the amazement of his friends, resulting in several crushing results at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar in less than a decade.  A commander of great personal courage, he lost an eye and an arm in earlier engagements, before losing his life to a sharpshooter's bullet at Trafalgar.   

George Washington often commanded armies that were poorly equipped, badly outnumbered and in difficult circumstances, such as when his commanding officer, General Braddock, was killed in the Battle of Ft. Duquesne and he managed to carefully organize a retreat of his men to fight again another day.  Washington mastered the art of disinformation, deception, espionage and subterfuge while slowly building an American continental army that could stand up to the British if given a chance.  He understood in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War that he must above all maintain his army in the field and not allow its destruction by superior British military power when others thought his strategy almost cowardly.  He was an excellent judge of men and selected officers of outstanding ability and intellect.  His coordination of sea and land forces over huge distances and delays in communication that culminated in his trapping and annihilating approximately one third of the British army in North America at Yorktown was the culminating and most outstanding military victory of his long career.  Later, he presided over the Constitutional Convention and became the first president of the United States of America.