Posts Tagged ‘George McClellan

05
Apr
09

On This Day, April 5: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

April 5, 1951

Rosenbergs sentenced to death for spying

The climax of the most sensational spy trial in American history is reached when a federal judge sentences Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to death for their roles in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. Although the couple proclaimed their innocence, they died in the electric chair in June 1953.

The Rosenbergs were convicted of playing a central role in a spy ring that passed secret data concerning the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union during and immediately after World War II. Their part in the espionage came to light when British physicist Klaus Fuchs was arrested in Great Britain in early 1950. Under questioning, Fuchs admitted that he stole secret documents while he was working on the Manhattan Project-the top-secret U.S. program to build an atomic bomb during World War II. He implicated Harry Gold as a courier who delivered the documents to Soviet agents. Gold was arrested a short time later and informed on David Greenglass, who then pointed the finger at his sister and brother-in-law, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Julius was arrested in July and Ethel in August 1950. After a brief trial in March 1951, the Rosenbergs were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage. At their sentencing hearing in April, Federal Judge Irving R. Kaufman described their crime as “worse than murder” and charged, “By your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country.” He sentenced them to death.

The Rosenbergs and their attorneys continued to plead their innocence, arguing that they were “victims of political hysteria.” Humanitarian organizations in the United States and around the world pleaded for leniency, particularly since the Rosenbergs were the parents of two young children. The pleas for special consideration were ignored, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on June 19, 1953.

Rosenbergs sentenced to death for spying [Internet]. 2009. The History Channel website. Available from : http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2628 [Accessed 5 Apr 2009].

 

On This Day

1242 – Russian troops repelled an invasion attempt by the Teutonic Knights.

1792 – U.S. President George Washington cast the first presidential veto. The measure was for apportioning representatives among the states.

1887 – Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller the meaning of the word “water” as spelled out in the manual alphabet.

1919 – Eamon de Valera became president of Ireland.

1953 – Jomo Kenyatta was convicted and sentenced to 7 years in prison for orchestrating the Mau-Mau rebellion in Kenya.

1998 – The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan opened becoming the largest suspension bridge in the world. It links Shikoku and Honshu. The bridge cost about $3.8 billion.

 

April 5, 1862

Siege of Yorktown begins

Union forces under General George McClellan arrive at Yorktown, Virginia, and establish siege lines instead of directly attacking the Confederate defenders.

This was the opening of McClellan’s Peninsular campaign. He sailed his massive Army of the Potomac down Chesapeake Bay and landed on the James Peninsula southeast of the Confederate capital of Richmond. He reasoned that this would bring him closer to Richmond, and the Confederates would have a difficult time gathering their scattered forces to the peninsula. The first resistance came at Yorktown, the site of George Washington’s decisive victory over Lord Cornwallis to end the American Revolution 91 years earlier.

McClellan was discouraged by what he thought was a substantial force resting inside of strong and well-armed fortifications. The Confederates he saw were actually 11,000 troops under General John B. Magruder. Although vastly outnumbered, Magruder staged an elaborate ruse to fool McClellan. He ordered logs painted black, called “Quaker Guns,” placed in redoubts to give the appearance of numerous artillery pieces. Magruder marched his men back and forth to enhance the illusion. The performance worked, as McClellan was convinced that he could not make a frontal assault.

He opted to lay siege instead. Not until May 4 did Magruder’s troops finally abandon Yorktown, giving the Confederates valuable time to gather their troops near Richmond. The campaign climaxed in late June when McClellan was driven away from the gates of Richmond in the Seven Days’ battles.

Siege of Yorktown begins [Internet]. 2009. The History Channel website. Available from : http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2159 [Accessed 5 Apr 2009].

18
Sep
08

On This Day, 9-18-2008: Antietam

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Union artillery practicing during Boscobel Civil War reenactment.

September 18, 1862

McClellan lets Lee retreat from Antietam

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s army pulls away from Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, and heads back to Virginia. The day before, Lee’s force had engaged in the biggest one-day battle of the Civil War against the army of General George B. McClellan. The armies struggled to a standstill, but the magnitude of losses forced Lee to abandon his invasion of Maryland.

The significance of the battle was not Lee’s withdrawal, but McClellan’s lack of pursuit. When Lee settled into a defensive line above Antietam Creek on September 16, he had only about 43,000 troops. McClellan had around 50,000 in position on September 17, with many more on the way.

On September 18, the armies remained in their positions without fighting. By this point, Lee was highly vulnerable. His army had its back to the Potomac River, just a few miles away, and a quarter of his force had been lost in the previous day’s battle. And after more than two weeks of marching, his men were tired. McClellan, on the other hand, welcomed an additional 12,000 troops on September 18, with another 24,000 who had seen little or no action the day before, to join his original force. But, although he outnumbered Lee’s troops by almost three times, McClellan did not pursue Lee. In fact, despite constant urging from President Lincoln and Chief of Staff Henry Halleck, McClellan did not move toward Virginia for over a month. McClellan overestimated the size of Lee’s force, assuming that Lee had nearly 100,000 troops in his command, and insisted that the fall of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, on September 15 allowed an additional 40,000 Confederate troops—in his inflated estimation—to fight at Antietam.

In McClellan’s defense, it should be noted that his soldiers were extremely fatigued after the Battle of Antietam, which was the bloodiest day of the war. It would be difficult to rally them for another attack; but certainly not impossible. Instead, Lee was allowed to escape with his command intact. A chance to destroy the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was lost, and the war lasted another two and a half years.

“McClellan lets Lee retreat from Antietam.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Sep 2008, 11:36 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2322.

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Muskets stacked in Civil War tradition during the Boscobel Civil War reenactment.

On This Day September 18

1789 – Alexander Hamilton negotiated and secured the first loan for the United States. The Temporary Loan of 1789 was repaid on June 8, 1790 at the sum of $191,608.81.

1793 – U.S. President George Washington laid the actual cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol.

1850 – The Fugitive Slave Act was declared by the U.S. Congress. The act allowed slave owners to claim slaves that had escaped into other states.

 

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Union soldiers tent from the Boscobel reenactment.

September 17, 1862

Antietam: The Bloodiest Day in American History

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Union General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac fight to a standstill along a Maryland creek on the bloodiest day in American history. Although the battle was a tactical draw, it forced Lee to end his invasion of the North and retreat back to Virginia.

After Lee’s decisive victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862, the Confederate general had steered his army north into Maryland. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis believed that another Rebel victory might bring recognition and aid from Great Britain and France. Lee also sought to relieve pressure on Virginia by carrying the conflict to the North. His ragtag army was in dire need of supplies, which Lee hoped to obtain from Maryland farms that were untouched by the war.

Lee split his army as he moved into Maryland. One corps marched to capture Harpers Ferry, Virginia, while the other two searched for provisions. Although a copy of Lee’s orders ended up in the hands of McClellan, the Union general failed to act quickly, allowing Lee time to gather his army along Antietam Creek at Sharpsburg, Maryland. McClellan arrived on September 16 and prepared to attack.

The Battle of Antietam actually consisted of three battles. Beginning at dawn on September 17, Union General Joseph Hooker’s men stormed Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops around the Dunker Church, the West Woods, and David Miller’s cornfield. The Federals made repeated attacks, but furious Rebel counterattacks kept the Yankees in check. By early afternoon, the fighting moved south to the middle of the battlefield. Union troops under General Edwin Sumner inflicted appalling casualties on the Confederates along a sunken road that became known as “Bloody Lane” before the Southerners retreated. McClellan refused to apply reserves to exploit the opening in the Confederate center because he believed Lee’s force to be much larger than it actually was. In the late afternoon, Union General Ambrose Burnside attacked General James Longstreet’s troops across a stone bridge that came to bear Burnside’s name. The Yankees crossed the creek, but a Confederate counterattack brought any further advance to a halt.

The fighting ended by early evening, and the two armies remained in place throughout the following day. After dark on September 18, Lee began pulling his troops out of their defenses for a retreat to Virginia. The losses for the one-day battle were staggering. McClellan lost a total of 12,401 men, including 2,108 dead, 9,540 wounded, and 753 missing. Lee lost 10, 406, including 1,546 dead, 7,752 wounded, and 1,108 missing.

Although the Union army drove Lee’s force back to Virginia, the battle was a lost opportunity for the Yankees. McClellan had an overwhelming numerical advantage, but he did not know it. Another attack on September 18 may well have scattered the Confederates and cut off Lee’s line of retreat.

“Antietam: The Bloodiest Day in American History.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Sep 2008, 11:39 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2321.

03
Aug
08

Boscobel Civil War Reenactment: Battle of Malvern Hill

Wisconsin sent roughly 90,000 soldiers to fight in the American Civil War — the costliest war in American History.  Over 600,000 soldiers died in that war.  My fascination with the American Civil War has been lifelong and this past weekend I witnessed a reenactment of a Civil War battle in Boscobel, Wisconsin.  The reenactment of the Battle of Malvern Hill took about an hour.  Before the battle we toured the camp and talked with the soldiers, officers, and doctors who put on a well choreographed show.

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I’m working on identifying the types of artillery used, but these are functioning replicas of Civil War cannons.

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These Civil War enthusiasts have setup their camp using gear authentic to the era.

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The tents for these camps covered the grounds at Boscobel’s Kronshage Park.

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You never know who will step off the pages of history.  Maybe even Robert E Lee himself,

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and the Army of Northern Virginia.

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At the Battle of Malvern Hill, well positioned Union Artillery covered McClellan’s withdrawal during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. 

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McClellan had been hoodwinked into thinking he was being attacked by a much larger force and the truth was he greatly outnumbered the Confederate forces in the area.  One good solid push may have gained a Union victory, but McClellan lost his nerve and withdrew.

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Tomorrow there will be scenes from the reenactment.




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