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Soldiering with Descartes
Nov 06, '20

Presented here is the photographic evidence for the re-incarnation of Rene Descartes the famous French philosopher scientist and young friend of William Baillie and Sir James Lumsden back at Breda in the 1618. whilst under siege we had many interesting conversations around the camp fire which left an indelible impression on Robert and my collective memory.

We met at the Crop Circle Conference Devizes 2010. Rene following his previous life pattern to the letter decided to fulfil his spiritual and intellectual yearnings by taking a sideways step from a promising conventional career in the city for the open mindedness and debate of the crop circle world.

In an instant he had made the same decision that Rene as was had made for he swapped a career in Law for the wanderings of a musketeer in the Dutch Army of the 1620s. He then went on to be the celebrated thinker scientist philosopher we all know and love so well.

Rene 2012 matches that intellect IQ point for IQ point. He not only talks the talk but more importantly walks the walk. Now a celebrated and respected member of the croppie fraternity he combines his passions seamlessly moving between the worlds of finance and intellectual endeavour.

We met in 2010 at precisely the age Rene was when we first met in Holland at the Siege of Breda. Just as with sliding doors we all have our exquisitely timed entrances onto and off of the stage of life as the immortal bard so succinctly penned. I am proud to know him as my friend and his favourite film as a child - The Three Musketeers of course! He is quite simply 'our' d'Artagnan!

Our Rene

In accordance with his ambition to become a professional military officer, in 1618 Descartes joined, as a mercenary, the Protestant Dutch States Army in Breda under the command of Maurice of Nassau, and undertook a formal study of military engineering, as established by Simon Stevin. Descartes, therefore, received much encouragement in Breda to advance his knowledge of mathematics. In this way, he became acquainted with Isaac Beeckman, the principal of a Dordrecht school, for whom he wrote the Compendium of Music (written 1618, published 1650). Together they worked on free fall, catenary, conic section, and fluid statics. Both believed that it was necessary to create a method that thoroughly linked mathematics and physics.

While in the service of the Catholic Duke Maximilian of Bavaria since 1619, Descartes was present at the Battle of the White Mountain near Prague, in November 1620.


According to Adrien Baillet, on the night of 10–11 November 1619 (St. Martin's Day), while stationed in Neuburg an der Donau, Descartes shut himself in a room with an "oven" (probably a cocklestove) to escape the cold. While within, he had three dreams and believed that a divine spirit revealed to him a new philosophy. However, it is likely that what Descartes considered to be his second dream was actually an episode of exploding head syndrome. Upon exiting, he had formulated analytical geometry and the idea of applying the mathematical method to philosophy. He concluded from these visions that the pursuit of science would prove to be, for him, the pursuit of true wisdom and a central part of his life's work. Descartes also saw very clearly that all truths were linked with one another, so that finding a fundamental truth and proceeding with logic would open the way to all science. Descartes discovered this basic truth quite soon: his famous "I think, therefore I am."

(Adrien Baillet was connected to William Baillie through common family ancestors.)é_Descartes

White Mountain

The Bohemian war therefore soon degenerated into a proxy war between Spain and the Republic. Even after the Battle of White Mountain of November 1620, which ended disastrously for the Protestant army (one-eighth of which was in the Dutch pay), the Dutch continued to support Frederick militarily, both in Bohemia and in the Palatinate. Maurice also provided diplomatic support, pressing both the Protestant German princes and James I to come to Frederick's aid. When James sent 4,000 English troops in September 1620, those were armed and transported by the Dutch, and their advance covered by a Dutch cavalry column.

The Battle

King Frederick and his military commander, Prince Christian of Anhalt forces. (Top)

For clarity and.....

Field Marshal Tilly, a Roman Catholic Spanish-Flemish forces. (Bottom)

In 1620, now fully established as emperor, Ferdinand II set out to conquer Bohemia and make an example of the rebels. King Frederick and his military commander, Prince Christian of Anhalt, had organized a Protestant army of 30,000 men; Ferdinand countered with a force of 25,000, many of them seasoned soldiers, under the capable leadership of Field Marshal Tilly, a Roman Catholic Spanish-Flemish nobleman. Tilly's army enjoyed the advantage of including two successful military leaders - Tilly himself and the future General Wallenstein. Tilly's force was made up of two distinct groups: Imperial troops commanded by Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, Count of Bucquoy, and soldiers of the German Catholic League, directly under Tilly. All of the armies of the day employed numerous mercenaries, including, by some definitions, Tilly himself. Serving with the Catholic League as an official observer was the future "father of modern philosophy", René Descartes. (And William Baillie.)

After conquering most of western Bohemia, the Imperial army made for Prague, the Bohemian capital, then in rebel hands. The Bohemians attempted to block them by setting up defensive positions, which the Imperial army simply bypassed. Force-marching his men, Christian of Anhalt managed to get ahead of the Imperial army just before Prague. He thus gained an advantageous position on the "White Mountain", actually a low plateau, but had little time to set up defensive works. Enthusiasm for joining battle was low on both sides. After the reverses of the previous several weeks, Christian of Anhalt's army had been reduced to about 15,000 men, with little prospect of victory; the mercenaries on both sides had not been paid in months; and with winter approaching, cold, wet, weather made for less than ideal combat conditions.

On 8 November a small Imperial force was sent to probe the Protestant flank. To their surprise, the Bohemians retreated at their advance. Tilly quickly sent in reinforcements, and the Bohemian flank began to crumble. Anhalt tried to relieve the situation by sending forward infantry and cavalry led by his son Christian II. The cavalry charged into the Imperial infantry, causing significant casualties, but Tilly countered with his own cavalry, forcing the Bohemian horsemen to retire. The Bohemian infantry, who were only now approaching the Imperial army, saw the cavalry retreating, at which they fired one volley at extreme range before retreating themselves. A small group of Imperial cavalry began circling the Protestant forces, driving them to the middle of the battlefield. With the Bohemian army already demoralized, company after company began retreating, most without having actually entered the battle. Tilly and his Imperial cavalrymen advanced with 2,000 Bavarian hussars, steadily pushing Protestant forces back to the Star Palace (just west of Prague), where the rebels tried without success to establish a line of defense.

The Bohemian army was no match for the Emperor Ferdinand's troops. The actual battle lasted only an hour and left the Bohemian army in tatters. Some 4,000 Protestants were killed or captured, while Imperial losses amounted to only about 700.

Dr Ian C Baillie

Halloween Samhain Samhuinn 2012

Updated November 2020


Nov 06, '20
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