01
Apr
09

On This Day, April 1: Battle of Five Forks

April 1, 1865

Battle of Five Forks

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s supply line into Petersburg, Virginia, is closed when Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant collapse the end of Lee’s lines around Petersburg. The Confederates suffer heavy casualties, and the battle triggered Lee’s retreat from Petersburg as the two armies began a race that would end a week later at Appomattox Court House.

For nearly a year, Grant had laid siege to Lee’s army in an elaborate network of trenches that ran from Petersburg to the Confederate capital at Richmond, 25 miles north. Lee’s hungry army slowly dwindled through the winter of 1864-65 as Grant’s army swelled with well-fed reinforcements. On March 25, Lee attacked part of the Union trenches at Fort Stedman in a desperate attempt to break the siege and split Grant’s force. When that attack failed, Grant began mobilizing his forces along the entire 40-mile front. Southwest of Petersburg, Grant sent General Philip Sheridan against Lee’s right flank.

Sheridan moved forward on March 31, but the tough Confederates halted his advance. Sheridan moved troops to cut the railroad that ran from the southwest into Petersburg, but the focus of the battle became Five Forks, a road intersection that provided the key to Lee’s supply line. Lee instructed his commander there, General George Pickett, to “Hold Five Forks at all hazards.” On April 1, Sheridan’s men slammed into Pickett’s troops. Pickett had his force poorly positioned, and he was taking a long lunch with his staff when the attack occurred. General Gouverneur K. Warren’s V Corps supported Sheridan, and the 27,000 Yankee troops soon crushed Pickett’s command of 10,000. The Union lost 1,000 casualties, but nearly 5,000 of Pickett’s men were killed, wounded, or captured. During the battle, Sheridan, with the approval of Grant, removed Warren from command despite Warren’s effective deployment of his troops. It appears that a long-simmering feud between the two was the cause, but Warren was not officially cleared of any wrongdoing by a court of inquiry until 1882.

The vital intersection was in Union hands, and Lee’s supply line was cut. Grant now attacked all along the Petersburg-Richmond front and Lee evacuated the cities. The two armies began a race west, but Lee could not outrun Grant. The Confederate leader surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9.

“Battle of Five Forks.” 2009. The History Channel website. 1 Apr 2009, 08:41 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2153.

On This Day

0527 – Justinianus became the emperor of Byzantium.

1621 – The Plymouth, MA, colonists created the first treaty with Native Americans.

1863 – The first wartime conscription law goes into effect in the U.S.

1873 – The British White Star steamship Atlantic sank off Nova Scotia killing 547.

1918 – England’s Royal Flying Corps was replaced by the Royal Air Force.

1928 – China’s Chiang Kai-shek began attacking communists.

1945 – U.S. forces invaded Okinawa during World War II. It was the last campaign of World War II.

1954 – The U.S. Air Force Academy was formed in Colorado.

1970 – U.S. President Nixon signed the bill, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, that banned cigarette advertisements to be effective on January 1, 1971.

1982 – The U.S. transferred the Canal Zone to Panama.

2001 – China began holding 24 crewmembers of a U.S. surveillance plane. The EP-3E U.S. Navy crew had made an emergency landing after an in-flight collision with a Chinese fighter jet. The Chinese pilot was missing and presumed dead. The U.S. crew was released on April 11, 2001.

April 1, 1924

Hitler sent to Landsberg jail

In Germany, Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler is sentenced to five years in prison for leading the Nazis’ unsuccessful “Beer Hall Putsch” in the German state of Bavaria.

In the early 1920s, the ranks of Hitler’s Nazi Party swelled with resentful Germans who sympathized with the party’s bitter hatred of Germany’s democratic government, leftist politics, and Jews. In November 1923, after the German government resumed the payment of war reparations to Britain and France, the Nazis launched the “Beer Hall Putsch”–their first attempt at seizing the German government by force. Hitler hoped that his nationalist revolution in Bavaria would spread to the dissatisfied German army, which in turn would bring down the government in Berlin. However, the uprising was immediately suppressed, and Hitler was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for high treason.

Sent to Landsberg jail, he spent his time dictating his autobiography, Mein Kampf, and working on his oratorical skills. After nine months in prison, political pressure from supporters of the Nazi Party forced his release. During the next few years, Hitler and the other leading Nazis reorganized their party as a fanatical mass movement that was able to gain a majority in the German parliament–the Reichstag–by legal means in 1932. In the same year, President Paul von Hindenburg defeated a presidential bid by Hitler, but in January 1933 he appointed Hitler chancellor, hoping that the powerful Nazi leader could be brought to heel as a member of the president’s cabinet.

However, Hindenburg underestimated Hitler’s political audacity, and one of the new chancellor’s first acts was to use the burning of the Reichstag building as a pretext for calling general elections. The police under Nazi Hermann Goering suppressed much of the party’s opposition before the election, and the Nazis won a bare majority. Shortly after, Hitler took on absolute power through the Enabling Acts. In 1934, Hindenburg died and the last remnants of Germany’s democratic government were dismantled, leaving Hitler the sole master of a nation intent on war and genocide.

“Hitler sent to Landsberg jail.” 2009. The History Channel website. 1 Apr 2009, 08:37 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4881.

On This Day in Wisconsin:  1970 – Milwaukee Brewers Founded
On this date the Milwaukee Brewers, Inc., an organization formed by Allan H. “Bud” Selig and Edmund Fitzgerald, acquired the Seattle Pilots franchise. The team was renamed the Milwaukee Brewers, a tribute to the city’s long association with brewing industry. {Source: Brewers’ History Page.]

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