14
Jun
09

On This Day, June 14: Lee Invades the North

June 14, 1863

Battle of Second Winchester

A small Union garrison in the Shenandoah Valley town of Winchester, Virginia, is easily defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia on the path of the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania.

In early June, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began an invasion of the North. Lee’s men pulled out of defenses along the Rappahannock River and swung north and west into the Shenandoah Valley. Using the Blue Ridge Mountains as a screen, the Confederates worked their way northward with little opposition. General Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac, was unsure of the Confederates’ intentions. He tracked Lee’s army from a distance, staying safely away to protect Washington, D.C.

During this time, Winchester was in Union hands. The city was literally at the crossroads of the war, so it changed hands continually. Robert Milroy, the commander of the Yankees in Winchester, was unaware that the vanguard of Lee’s army was heading his way. He had received some warnings from Washington, but an order to evacuate Winchester did not reach him because the Confederates had cut the telegraph lines. As late as June 11, Milroy bragged that he could hold the town against any Confederate force. His assertion was rendered ridiculous when Richard Ewell’s Rebel corps crashed down on his tiny garrison.

Ewell’s force quickly surrounded the Yankee’s. After a sharp battle, Ewell captured about 4,000 Federals, while Milroy and 2,700 soldiers escaped to safety. Ewell lost just 270 men but captured 300 wagons, hundreds of horses, and 23 artillery pieces. Milroy was relieved of his command and later arrested, although a court of inquiry found that he was not culpable in the disaster.

“Battle of Second Winchester,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2212 [accessed Jun 14, 2009]

On This Day

1775 – The Continental Army was founded by the Continental Congress for purposes of common defense. This event is considered to be the birth of the United States Army. On June 15, George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief.

1777 – The Continental Congress in Philadelphia adopted the “Stars and Stripes” as the national flag of the United States.

1834 – Cyrus Hall McCormick received a patent for his reaping machine.

1841 – The first Canadian parliament opened in Kingston.

1846 – A group of U.S. settlers in Sonoma proclaimed the Republic of California.

1917 – General John Pershing arrived in Paris during World War I.

1922 – Warren G. Harding became the first U.S. president to be heard on radio. The event was the dedication of the Francis Scott Key memorial at Fort McHenry.

1940 – German troops entered Paris. As Paris became occupied loud speakers announced the implementation of a curfew being imposed for 8 p.m.

1944 – Sixty U.S. B-29 Superfortress’ attacked an iron and steel works factory on Honshu Island. It was the first U.S. raid against mainland Japan.

1951 – “Univac I” was unveiled. It was a computer designed for the U.S. Census Bureau and billed as the world’s first commercial computer.

1954 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an order adding the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

1982 – Argentine forces surrendered to British troops on the Falkland Islands.

1996 – The FBI released that the White House had done bureau background reports on at least 408 people without justification.

June 14, 1954

First nationwide civil defense drill held

Over 12 million Americans “die” in a mock nuclear attack, as the United States goes through its first nationwide civil defense drill. Though American officials were satisfied with the results of the drill, the event stood as a stark reminder that the United States–and the world-was now living under a nuclear shadow.

The June 1954 civil defense drill was organized and evaluated by the Civil Defense Administration, and included operations in 54 cities in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Alaska, and Hawaii. Canada also participated in the exercise. The basic premise of the drill was that the United States was under massive nuclear assault from both aircraft and submarines, and that most major urban areas had been targeted. At 10 a.m., alarms were sounded in selected cities, at which time all citizens were supposed to get off the streets, seek shelter, and prepare for the onslaught. Each citizen was supposed to know where the closest fallout shelter was located; these included the basements of government buildings and schools, underground subway tunnels, and private shelters. Even President Dwight D. Eisenhower took part in the show, heading to an underground bunker in Washington, D.C. The entire drill lasted only about 10 minutes, at which time an all-clear signal was broadcast and life returned to normal. Civil Defense Administration officials estimated that New York City would suffer the most in such an attack, losing over 2 million people. Other cities, including Washington, D.C., would also endure massive loss of life. In all, it was estimated that over 12 million Americans would die in an attack.

Despite those rather mind-numbing figures, government officials pronounced themselves very pleased with the drill. Minor problems in communication occurred, and one woman in New York City managed to create a massive traffic jam by simply stopping her car in the middle of the road, leaping out, and running for cover. In most cities, however, the streets were deserted just moments after the alarms sounded and there were no signs of panic or criminal behavior. A more cautious assessment came from a retired military officer, who observed that the recent development of the hydrogen bomb by the Soviet Union had “outstripped the progress made in our civil defense strides to defend against it.”

“First nationwide civil defense drill held,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2698 [accessed Jun 14, 2009]

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2 Responses to “On This Day, June 14: Lee Invades the North”


  1. June 17, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    It scares me that anyone ever thought a nuclear war could be won or survived. I think the 12 million dead in the scenario was extremely underestimated.

    Steve

  2. 2 Randy Roberts
    June 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    The years was 1954 — the Soviet Union was still woefully behind in number of weapons and the ability to deliver them. However, by 1960 that had changed.


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