Friday, October 31, 2014

October 1914

In October 1914, the extension of the Western Front northward from the River Aisne ends when both armies, failing in their attempts to outflank each other, reach the Belgian North Sea coast, where the Belgians succeed in stopping a final German attempt to turn the Allied flank.  The siege of Antwerp ends with the surrender of the city to the German Army.  The British successfully defend the area around Ypres, an important crossroads between the German Army and the channel ports of Calais and Dunkirk.  As the armies dig in, they create a network of trenches that stretches over 475 miles from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps.  The German East Asia Squadron continues its journey across the Pacific, and the light cruiser S.M.S. Emden, detached from the squadron in August, wreaks havoc in the Indian Ocean.  Japanese and British Army troops capture Tsingtao.  Turkey enters the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary.  A British dreadnought strikes a mine and sinks off the coast of Ireland and a British cruiser is torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in the Straits of Dover.  The senior officer in the Royal Navy resigns his post and is replaced by one of his predecessors. 


The Defense of Antwerp; Belgian Soldiers on the Ramparts

The Belgian Army defending Antwerp was reinforced on October 3 by the arrival of the Royal Marine Brigade, accompanied by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill.  Additional.units of the Royal Naval Division arrived on October 6.  Churchill returned to London after the Cabinet rejected his proposal that he remain in Antwerp and take command of the city's defense.  The German Army moved up heavy artillery, including the 17-inch siege guns that had been used at Liege, and the city surrendered on October 9.  Some of the British and Belgian defenders withdrew to the coast; others escaped to neutral Holland, where they were interned.  The Belgian government, which had moved from Brussels to Antwerp to escape the initial invasion, moved on October 5 to Ostend and from there on October 13 across the border to Havre, France.

The Flooded Yser Plain

As the Allied and German Armies made successive attempts to outflank each other, the western front stretched northward from the Aisne to the North Sea coast.  The Belgian Army stopped the Germans at the Yser River in a battle that raged from October 12 to 20.  By opening the Yser dikes, the Belgians flooded the low-lying area from Dixmude to the sea, frustrating the final German attempt to turn the Allies' flank.  The Germans then attacked to the south, targeting the Belgian town of Ypres, an important crossroads between the German Army and the French coastal towns of Dunkirk and Calais.  At month's end, the British Army was still in possession of Ypres.

German Bombers and the Gare du Nord

On October 11 two German aeroplanes flew over Paris and dropped bombs, killing three civilians and injuring fourteen and causing minor damage to the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  Railway stations appeared to be the principal targets.  The bombs that caused the most damage fell in the Rue Lafayette, near the Gare du Nord, and in the vicinity of the St. Antoine Hospital near the Gare Lyon.  Another narrowly missed the Gare St. Lazare.  One of the aircraft dropped a pennant with the German language inscription "We have taken Antwerp. Your turn will soon come."

Gavrilo Princip (seated third from left) and Co-conspirators on Trial

The trial of Gavrilo Princip and twenty-three others for treason in the assassination plot against Archduke Franz Ferdinand began in Sarajevo on October 14.  Princip testified that he intended to kill the archduke and Oskar Potiorek, the governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina who was also in the car, but that the killing of the duchess was an accident.  He said his goal was to achieve by terror the independence and unification of all Serbs.  The trial ended on October 26 with a verdict of guilty.

H.M.S. Audacious

The British super-dreadnought H.M.S. Audacious struck a mine and sank off the coast of Ireland on October 24.  The liner Olympic, sister ship of the ill-fated Titanic, was in the vicinity en route from New York to Liverpool, and rescued the crew after making several unsuccessful attempts to take the battleship in tow.  The large number of rescued survivors, and of passengers aboard the Olympic, guaranteed the failure of the government's attempt to keep the sinking secret. One of the Olympic's passengers was Charles M. Schwab, the chairman of Bethlehem Steel, who was traveling to Great Britain to discuss construction contracts for the Royal Navy.  A week after the Audacious sinking, a German submarine torpedoed and sank the British cruiser H.M.S. Hermes in the Straits of Dover as it was returning from Dunkirk.

Prince Louis of Battenberg

The British losses at sea, as well as the passive nature of the Navy's distant blockade strategy, has contributed to public dissatisfaction with the Navy's performance and led to increased agitation for a change at the top of the Admiralty.  Particularly vulnerable was the First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, who, although a British citizen with a brilliant career in the Royal Navy, was a member of a German family with a German title.  In the heat of war with Germany, this background exposed him to innuendo that his loyalty was suspect.  Under pressure, he resigned on October 28.  The next day, Fleet Admiral John ("Jacky") Fisher, who served as First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910, was brought back to the Admiralty as his replacement.

Admiral Souchon

The German cruisers Goeben and Breslau escaped to Constantinople last month and joined the Turkish Navy.  Their German crews donned Turkish uniforms and their commander, Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, was made commander-in-chief of the Ottoman Navy.  There has been little doubt since then that the Ottoman Empire would join the war on the side of the Central Powers.  On October 29, Goeben and Breslau attacked Russian Black Sea ports, including Sevastopol and Odessa.  The next day the Allies demanded that Turkey disavow the attacks, deactivate and dismantle the ships, and send their crews back to Germany.  Because it is highly unlikely that the Ottoman government will accede to that demand, war between Turkey and the Allies appears inevitable.

S.M.S. Dresden on a Visit to the United States in 1909

In the Pacific, the German East Asia Squadron continued its voyage toward the west coast of South America.  It left the Marquesas Islands on October 2 and reached Easter Island on October 12, where it was joined by the light cruiser S.M.S. Dresden.  Dresden is the sister ship of S.M.S. Emden, which Admiral Spee detached from the East Asia Squadron in August for a commerce raiding mission in the Indian Ocean.  Dresden carried Victoriano Huerta to Jamaica after he resigned the Mexican presidency in July, and found herself on the wrong side of the Atlantic when war broke out.  Pursued by British armored cruisers, she rounded Cape Horn into the Pacific, where she was ordered to rendezvous with the East Asia Squadron at Easter Island.  The squadron, augmented by the addition of Dresden, departed Easter Island on October 18 and continued eastward, arriving at Mas Afuera in the San Fernandez Islands on October 26.

British and Japanese Troops at Tsingtao

In the western Pacific, Japanese naval forces attacked German possessions, occupying the islands of Yap in the Carolines and Jaluit in the Marshalls on October 7.  Tsingtao, the principal city in the German leased territories on the coast of China, fell to the Japanese on October 31.  In the Indian Ocean, Emden continued to elude the Royal Navy.  On October 28 she entered Penang harbor in the Strait of Malacca and sank a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer.

King Carol of Roumania

King Carol of Roumania became the country's ruler in 1866, and declared its independence in 1878 after the Ottoman Empire's defeat in the Russo-Turkish War.  He was proclaimed king in 1881, and saw his country through two Balkan wars in recent years.  Despite his personal preference for the Central Powers, his country has so far remained neutral in the World War.  He died on October 10, and was succeeded by his nephew Ferdinand.

The President on the Links

Cotton is by far the most important export product of the American South.  It is also an essential ingredient in the manufacture of explosives.  Although it was included on the free list in the 1909 Declaration of London, the Declaration was never ratified by Great Britain and after the war began the British government declared cotton to be contraband subject to confiscation when discovered aboard vessels bound for Germany, or for neutral ports where the consignee was believed to be an agent of the German government.  The result has been the loss of a substantial portion of the overseas market for Southern cotton planters.  As the Sixty-third Congress was rushing to complete its business and adjourn in advance of the November elections, Southern Democrats in the Senate mounted a filibuster, refusing to consent to adjournment without passage of an amendment to a War Tax bill requested by the president that would provide for government purchase of surplus cotton.  On Friday, October 23, the War Tax passed the Senate without the amendment and Congressmen began boarding trains to return home.  President Wilson was rushed from the golf course to the President's Room in the Capitol, where he signed the bill in his golf attire and without the benefit of his reading glasses.  The next day, the filibusterers agreed to adjournment with the promise to place the cotton issue at the top of the agenda in the lame duck session beginning in December.  Then, without a quorum but fortunately without objection, the first regular session of the Sixty-third Congress was gaveled to an end.  On Monday, October 26, the British government sent a formal note to the United States stating that cotton carried in ships other than those flying the flag of Germany or Austria-Hungary would be treated as non-contraband and allowed to proceed to its destination.

Roosevelt on the Campaign Trail

Because the regular session that began last December followed immediately upon the expiration of the special session that had begun the previous April, this Congress was in continuous session for 567 days. Apart from its length, it was unusually productive.  Tariff reform, adoption of a federal income tax and the creation of the Federal Reserve System are among its accomplishments.  In the last month of the session, Congress enacted and sent to the President two additional measures that may have lasting consequences for the national economy.  One outlaws unfair trade practices and establishes a Federal Trade Commission to oversee corporate behavior.  The other, the Clayton Act, named for the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who sponsored the bill, augments the Sherman Act by specifying prohibited anti-competitive activities such as interlocking directorates, price discrimination and anti-competitive corporate mergers, and provides protections for organized labor.  Advocacy of these measures by a Democratic president and their enactment by a Democratic Congress has caused many progressives to abandon their support of the Progressive Party in favor of the Democrats.  Former President Roosevelt, however, is not one of them.  He spent most of the month campaigning for Progressive Party candidates.

Charles D. Hilles

In the 1890's many Southern states enacted laws that effectively restricted the franchise to white men, who in those states vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party.  When efforts to prevent such disenfranchisement by federal legislation failed, Republican votes in the states of the former Confederacy became practically nonexistent.  None of those states has voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1870's, and none has sent a Republican to Congress since the turn of the century.  In 1912, in an attempt to court Southern votes, Roosevelt barred Negro delegates from the Progressive Party convention, but to his disappointment the Southern states remained firmly Democratic. Often represented in Republican national conventions by "black and tan" delegations, the South has exercised influence far out of proportion to its slight (if any) contribution to the party's electoral success.  On October 25, Charles D. Hilles, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, announced the approval of a revised plan of representation designed to bring the voting power of Southern states in national conventions more in line with their proportion of the nationwide vote cast for Republican candidates.  The new apportionment will result in Southern states and territories losing a total of 87 delegates.  Ironically, by reducing Southern states' representation in Republican Party conventions, the reform will weaken the power of Negroes, whom the party has traditionally sought to protect, by lessening their influence in the only forum in which they have any significant political power (there has never, for example, been a Negro delegate at a Democratic Party national convention).

In other American political news, it was learned this month that, after he was elected on a Democratic platform that advocated amending the Constitution to limit the president to a single six-year term, and after the Senate had adopted a joint resolution submitting such an amendment to the states for ratification, President Wilson quietly told the House Judiciary Committee that he was opposed to it.  The proposal then died in the House, and the president remains free to seek a second term in 1916.

Fenway Park during the third game, won by the Braves 5-4 in twelve innings

On October 13 at Fenway Park in Boston, the Boston Braves defeated Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics in the fourth game of the World Series by a score of three to one, completing the first four-game sweep of the series in history.  The Braves were in last place in the National League on July 4, but won seventy of their last eighty-nine games to win the pennant by ten and a half games before moving on to sweep the series against the heavily favored Athletics.

Kansas City Opens Its New Union Station

As railroads have expanded across the continent and made remarkable gains in speed and comfort, improvements in station design to facilitate the movement of trains and passengers in and out of metropolitan areas have kept pace.  The last few years have seen the opening of several magnificent buildings designed for that purpose.  Washington, D.C.'s Union Station opened in 1907.  In New York, Pennsylvania Station began operation in 1910 and the new Grand Central Terminal was opened in 1913. This month Kansas City, Missouri added itself to the list, dedicating its new Union Station on October 30.

October 1914 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:
American Review of Reviews, November and December 1914
New York Times, October 1914

Books and Articles:
A. Scott Berg, Wilson
Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality
Vincent J. Esposito, ed., The West Point Atlas of War: World War I
David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History
Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917
Max Hastings, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War
August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography
Holger H. Herwig, The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle that Changed the World
Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House
John Keegan, The First World War
Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917
Margaret MacMillan, The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914
Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Sean McMeekin, July 1914: Countdown to War
Michael S. Neiberg, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I 
Kenneth Rose, King George V
J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram