Posts Tagged ‘Robert E Lee

19
May
09

On This Day, May 19: Grant Heads South

May 19, 1864

Battle of Spotsylvania concludes

A dozen days of fighting around Spotsylvania ends with a Confederate attack against the Union forces. The epic campaign between the Army of the Potomac, under the effective direction of Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began at the beginning of May when Union forces crossed the Rapidan River. After a bloody two-day battle in the Wilderness forest, Grant moved his army further south toward Spotsylvania Court House. This move was a departure from the tactics of the previous three years in the eastern theater of the Civil War. Since 1861, the Army of the Potomac had been coming down to Virginia under different commanders only to be defeated by the Army of Northern Virginia, usually under Lee’s direction, and had always returned northward.

But Grant was different than the other Union generals. He knew that by this time Lee could not sustain constant combat. The numerical superiority of the Yankees would eventually wear Lee down. When Grant ordered his troops to move south, a surge of enthusiasm swept the Union veterans; they knew that in Grant they had an aggressive leader who would not allow the Confederates time to breathe. Nevertheless, the next stop proved to be more costly than the first.

After the battle in the Wilderness, Grant and Lee waged a footrace for the strategic crossroads at Spotsylvania. Lee won the race, and his men dug in. On May 8, Grant attacked Lee, initiating a battle that raged for 12 awful days. The climax came on May 12, when the two armies struggled for nearly 20 hours over an area that became known as the Bloody Angle.

The fighting continued sporadically for the next week as the Yankees tried to eject the Rebels from their breastworks. Finally, when the Confederates attacked on May 19, Grant prepared to pull out of Spotsylvania. Convinced he could never dislodge the Confederates from their positions, he elected to try to circumvent Lee’s army to the south. The Army of the Potomac moved, leaving behind 18,000 casualties at Spotsylvania to the Confederates’ 12,000. In less than three weeks Grant had lost 33,000 men, with some of the worst fighting yet to come.

“Battle of Spotsylvania concludes,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2036 [accessed May 19, 2009]

On This Day

1536 – Anne Boleyn, the second wife of England’s King Henry VIII, was beheaded after she was convicted of adultery.

1568 – After being defeated by the Protestants, Mary the Queen of Scots, fled to England where she was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth.

1796 – The first U.S. game law was approved. The measure called for penalties for hunting or destroying game within Indian territory.

1911 – The first American criminal conviction that was based on fingerprint evidence occurred in New York City.

1921 – The U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act, which established national quotas for immigrants.

1926 – Benito Mussolini announced that democracy was deceased. Rome became a fascist state.

1926 – In Damascus, Syria, French shells killed 600 people.

1958 – Canada and the U.S. formally established the North American Air Defense Command.

1967 – U.S. planes bombed Hanoi for the first time.

1992 – The 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution went into effect. The amendment prohibits Congress from giving itself midterm pay raises.

1999 – “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was released in the U.S. It set a new record for opening day sales at 28.5 million.

2005 – “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” brought in 50.0 million in its opening day.

May 19, 1967

Soviets ratify treaty banning nuclear weapons from outer space

One of the first major treaties designed to limit the spread of nuclear weapons goes into effect as the Soviet Union ratifies an agreement banning nuclear weapons from outer space. The United States, Great Britain, and several dozen other nations had already signed and/or ratified the treaty.

With the advent of the so-called “space race” between the United States and the Soviet Union, which had begun in 1957 when the Russians successfully launched the Sputnik satellite, some began to fear that outer space might be the next frontier for the expansion of nuclear weapons. To forestall that eventuality, an effort directed by the United Nations came to fruition in January 1967 when the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and dozens of other nations signed off on a treaty banning nuclear weapons from outer space. The agreement also banned nations from using the moon, other planets, or any other “celestial bodies” as military outposts or bases.

The agreement was yet another step toward limiting nuclear weapons. In 1959, dozens of nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, had agreed to ban nuclear weapons from Antarctica. In July 1963, the Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed, banning open-air and underwater nuclear tests. With the action taken in May 1967, outer space was also officially declared off-limits for nuclear weapons.

“Soviets ratify treaty banning nuclear weapons from outer space,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2672 [accessed May 19, 2009]

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01
May
09

On This Day, May 1: Battle of Chancellorsville

May 1, 1863

Battle of Chancellorsville begins

On this day in 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville begins in Virginia. Earlier in the year, General Joseph Hooker led the Army of the Potomac into Virginia to confront Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Hooker had recently replaced Ambrose Burnside, who presided over the Army of the Potomac for one calamitous campaign the previous December: The Battle of Fredericksburg, in which the Yankees amassed over 14,000 casualties to the Rebels’ 5,000.

After spending the spring retooling and uplifting the sinking morale of his army, Hooker advanced toward the Confederate army, possessing perhaps the greatest advantage over Lee that any Union commander had during the war. His force numbered some 115,000 men, while Lee had just 60,000 present for service. Absent from the Confederate army were two divisions under General James Longstreet, which were performing detached service in southern Virginia.

Hooker had a strategically sound plan. He intended to avoid the Confederate trenches that protected a long stretch of the Rappahannock River around Fredericksburg. Placing two-thirds of his forces in front of Fredericksburg to feign a frontal assault and keep the Confederates occupied, he marched the rest of his army up the river, crossed the Rappahannock, and began to move behind Lee’s army. The well-executed plan placed the Army of Northern Virginia in grave danger.

But Lee’s tactical brilliance and gambler’s intuition saved him. He split his force, leaving 10,000 troops under Jubal Early to hold the Federals at bay in Fredericksburg, and then marched the rest of his army west to meet the bulk of Hooker’s force. Conflict erupted on May 1 when the two armies met in an open area beyond the Wilderness, the tangled forest just west of the tiny burgh of Chancellorsville. Surprisingly, Hooker ordered his forces to fall back into defensive positions after only limited combat, effectively giving the initiative to Lee. Despite the fact that his army far outnumbered Lee’s, and had the Confederates clamped between two substantial forces, Hooker went on the defensive. In the following days, Lee executed his most daring battle plan. He split his army again, sending Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson further west around the Union’s right flank. The crushing attack snapped the Union army and sent Hooker in retreat to Washington and, perhaps more than any other event during the war, cemented Lee’s invincibility in the eyes of both sides.

“Battle of Chancellorsville begins,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2001 [accessed May 1, 2009]

On This Day

1707 – England, Wales and Scotland were united to form Great Britain.

1877 – U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew all Federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.

1898 – The U.S. Navy under Dewey defeated the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay in the Philippines.

1931 – The Empire State Building in New York was dedicated and opened. It was 102 stories tall and was the tallest building in the world at the time.

1934 – The Philippine legislature accepted a U.S. proposal for independence.

1944 – The Messerschmitt Me 262, the first combat jet, made its first flight.

1945 – Martin Bormann, private secretary to Adolf Hitler, escaped from the Fuehrerbunker as the Red Army advanced on Berlin.

1945 – Admiral Karl Doenitz succeeded Hitler as leader of the Third Reich. This was one day after Hitler committed suicide.

1950 – Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry called Annie Allen.

1958 – James Van Allen reported that two radiation belts encircled Earth.

1970 – Students at Kent State University riot in downtown Kent, OH, in protest of the American invasion of Cambodia.

1992 – On the third day of the Los Angeles riots resulting from the Rodney King beating trial. King appeared in public to appeal for calm, he asked, “Can we all get along?”

May 1, 1960

American U-2 spy plane shot down

An American U-2 spy plane is shot down while conducting espionage over the Soviet Union. The incident derailed an important summit meeting between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that was scheduled for later that month.

The U-2 spy plane was the brainchild of the Central Intelligence Agency, and it was a sophisticated technological marvel. Traveling at altitudes of up to 70,000 feet, the aircraft was equipped with state-of-the-art photography equipment that could, the CIA boasted, take high-resolution pictures of headlines in Russian newspapers as it flew overhead. Flights over the Soviet Union began in mid-1956. The CIA assured President Eisenhower that the Soviets did not possess anti-aircraft weapons sophisticated enough to shoot down the high-altitude planes.

On May 1, 1960, a U-2 flight piloted by Francis Gary Powers disappeared while on a flight over Russia. The CIA reassured the president that, even if the plane had been shot down, it was equipped with self-destruct mechanisms that would render any wreckage unrecognizable and the pilot was instructed to kill himself in such a situation. Based on this information, the U.S. government issued a cover statement indicating that a weather plane had veered off course and supposedly crashed somewhere in the Soviet Union. With no small degree of pleasure, Khrushchev pulled off one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War by producing not only the mostly-intact wreckage of the U-2, but also the captured pilot-very much alive. A chagrined Eisenhower had to publicly admit that it was indeed a U.S. spy plane.

On May 16, a major summit between the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and France began in Paris. Issues to be discussed included the status of Berlin and nuclear arms control. As the meeting opened, Khrushchev launched into a tirade against the United States and Eisenhower and then stormed out of the summit. The meeting collapsed immediately and the summit was called off. Eisenhower considered the “stupid U-2 mess” one of the worst debacles of his presidency. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, was released in 1962 in exchange for a captured Soviet spy.

“American U-2 spy plane shot down,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2654 [accessed May 1, 2009]

09
Apr
09

On This Day, April 9: Robert E Lee Surrenders

April 9, 1865

Robert E. Lee surrenders

At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.

In retreating from the Union army’s Appomattox Campaign, the Army of Northern Virginia had stumbled through the Virginia countryside stripped of food and supplies. At one point, Union cavalry forces under General Philip Sheridan had actually outrun Lee’s army, blocking their retreat and taking 6,000 prisoners at Sayler’s Creek. Desertions were mounting daily, and by April 8 the Confederates were surrounded with no possibility of escape. On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.

Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.

Shushing a band that had begun to play in celebration, General Grant told his officers, “The war is over. The Rebels are our countrymen again.” Although scattered resistance continued for several weeks, for all practical purposes the Civil War had come to an end.

“Robert E. Lee surrenders,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4904 (accessed Apr 9, 2009).

 

On This Day

0193 – In the Balkans, the distinguished soldier Septimius Seversus was proclaimed emperor by the army in Illyricum.

0715 – Constantine ended his reign as Catholic Pope.

1241 – In the Battle of Liegnitz, Mongol armies defeated the Poles and the Germans.

1682 – Robert La Salle claimed the lower Mississippi River and all lands that touch it for France.

1833 – Peterborough, NH, opened the first municipally supported public library in the United States.

1867 – The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty with Russia that purchased the territory of Alaska by one vote.

1940 – Germany invaded Norway and Denmark.

1942 – In the Battle of Bataan, American and Filipino forces were overwhelmed by the Japanese Army.

1953 – TV Guide was published for the first time.

1965 – “TIME” magazine featured a cover with the entire “Peanuts” comic gang.

 1998 – The National Prisoner of War Museum opened in Andersonville, GA, at the site of an infamous Civil War camp.

April 9, 1918

Battle of the Lys begins

On this day in 1918, German troops launch “Operation Georgette” the second phase of their final, last-ditch spring offensive, against Allied positions in Armentieres, France, on the River Lys.

On March 21, 1918, the Germans under Erich Ludendorff, chief of the general staff, launched their first major offensive on the Western Front in more than a year, attacking the Allies in the Somme River region of France and training their huge guns on Paris. The Allies managed to halt Ludendorff’s exhausted armies by the end of March, however, thanks in part to a fresh influx of several thousand American soldiers. By the time Ludendorff shut down attacks on April 5, the Germans had gained nearly 40 miles of territory.

Ludendorff’s focus now switched to the Flanders region of northern France, aiming to push the British troops back against their ports along the English Channel, forcing them into a corner. Thus on April 9, after a four-and-a-half hour long bombardment of British forces in Armentieres, 14 German divisions attacked along a 10-mile front to begin the Battle of the Lys. As at the Somme, the ferocious German advance quickly drove the British back, punching a hole 3.5 miles wide through the British line. They also made quick and bloody work of a Portuguese division taking part in the battle, sending four divisions against the single Portuguese unit and taking some 6,000 prisoners. To make matters worse, the Germans unleashed 2,000 tons of poisonous gas–including mustard and phosgene gas–against the British at the Lys, incapacitating 8,000 (of whom many were blinded) and killing 30.

Despite the initial success of Operation Georgette, the British defensive positions in Armentieres were better prepared and more tenacious than those at the Somme, and the Germans managed to advance only 12 kilometers by the time Ludendorff closed down the operation on April 29. By this time, morale on both sides of the line was at a low point, due to heavy losses, but neither was ready to give in. The Germans looked to the next stage of their offensive, against the French at the Aisne River, as the Allies readied their defenses, each side believing that the outcome of the First World War hung in the balance.

“Battle of the Lys begins,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=428 (accessed Apr 9, 2009).

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.]

13
Dec
08

On This Day, 12-13-2008: Nanking

December 13, 1937

The Rape of Nanking

During the Sino-Japanese War, Nanking, the capital of China, falls to Japanese forces, and the Chinese government flees to Hankow, further inland along the Yangtze River.

To break the spirit of Chinese resistance, Japanese General Matsui Iwane ordered that the city of Nanking be destroyed. Much of the city was burned, and Japanese troops launched a campaign of atrocities against civilians. In what became known as the “Rape of Nanking,” the Japanese butchered an estimated 150,000 male “war prisoners,” massacred an additional 50,000 male civilians, and raped at least 20,000 women and girls of all ages, many of whom were mutilated or killed in the process.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Matsui was found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and executed.

“The Rape of Nanking.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Dec 2008, 05:12 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=5599.

1577 – Five ships under the command of Sir Francis Drake left Plymouth, England, to embark on Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe. The journey took almost three years.

1636 – The United States National Guard was created when militia regiments were organized by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1862 – In America, an estimated 11,000 Northern soldiers were killed or wounded when Union forces were defeated by Confederates under General Robert E. Lee, at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

1944 – During World War II, the U.S. cruiser Nashville was badly damaged in a Japanese kamikaze suicide attack. 138 people were killed in the attack.

1981 – Authorities in Poland imposed martial law in an attempt to crackdown on the Solidarity labor movement. Martial law ended formally in 1983.

1998 – Puerto Rican voters rejected U.S. statehood in a non-binding referendum.

2000 – U.S. Vice President Al Gore conceded the 2000 Presidential election to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The Florida electoral votes were won by only 537 votes, which decided the election. The election had been contested up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which said that the Florida recount (supported by the Florida Supreme Court) was unconstitutional.

December 13, 1942

Goebbels complains of Italians’ treatment of Jews

On this day, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels records in his journal his contempt for the Italians’ treatment of Jews in Italian-occupied territories. “The Italians are extremely lax in their treatment of Jews. They protect Italian Jews both in Tunis and in occupied France and won’t permit their being drafted for work or compelled to wear the Star of David.”

Joseph Goebbels had made the persecution, and ultimately the extermination, of Jews a personal priority from the earliest days of the war, often recording in his diary such statements as: “They are no longer people but beasts.” “Their destruction will go hand in hand with the destruction of our enemies.” “[T]he Jews … are now being evacuated eastward. The procedure is pretty barbaric and is not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews.” It was on his recommendation that all Jews in occupied Paris be forced to wear a yellow star on the left side of their coats or jackets in order to identify and humiliate them.

His vituperative anti-Semitism, which included blaming the war itself on the Jews in a screed published in the German magazine Das Reich, could not be contained within the boundaries of Germany. He expected the same of his allies. But, truth be told, in the earliest days of fascism, Mussolini had denied any truth to the idea of a “pure” race and had counted Jews among his close colleagues-and was even a Zionist!

But with Italy’s failing fortunes militarily, Mussolini needed to stress the Italians’ “superiority” in some sense, and so began to mimic many of the racial and anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazis. Nevertheless, Mussolini never had the stomach-or the conviction-for the extremes of Goebbels, Goering, and Hitler. And certainly the majority of the Italian people never subscribed to the growing anti-Semitic rhetoric of the regime. In fact, the Italians refused to deport Jews from Italy-or from Italian-occupied Croatia or France-to Auschwitz.

The majority of Italians’ courage to reject the worst of fascist ideology–its anti-Semitism–remains one bright spot in Italy’s otherwise appalling World War II record.

“Goebbels complains of Italians’ treatment of Jews.” 2008. The History Channel website. 13 Dec 2008, 05:11 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6642.

On This Day in Wisconsin: December 13

1864 – Emil Seidel Born
On this date Emil Seidel was born in Ashland, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Wisconsin when he was a child. As a young man he lived in Germany where he trained as a woodcarver. While in Germany, Seidel became a socialist and when he returned to the United States he joined the Socialist Party of America. He settled in Milwaukee and in 1904 Seidel and eight other socialists were elected as city aldermen. In 1910, the Socialist Party in Milwaukee selected Seidel as their candidate for mayor. With the support of Victor Berger’s newspaper, the Milwaukee Leader, and the city’s large German-born population, Seidel became the first socialist mayor of a major city in the United States. One of Seidel’s achievements was to introduce the country’s first worker’s compensation program in 1911. Other initiatives included adult and worker education classes and free medical and dental examinations for school children. Emil Seidel also served as a city alderman from 1916 to 1920 and again from 1932 to 1936. He died on 24th June, 1947. [Source: University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Archives]

18
Sep
08

On This Day, 9-18-2008: Antietam

IMG_1485

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.

IMG_1497

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.

 

IMG_1318

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.

13
Aug
08

On This Day, 8-13-2008: The Battle of Britain

The Battle of Britain begins

On this day in 1940, German aircraft begin the bombing of southern England, and the Battle of Britain, which will last until October 31, begins.

The Germans called it “the Day of the Eagle,” the first day of the Luftwaffe’s campaign to destroy the RAF, the British Royal Air Force, and knock out British radar stations, in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, the amphibious invasion of Britain. Almost 1,500 German aircraft took off the first day of the air raid, and 45 were shot down. Britain lost 13 fighters in the air and another 47 on the ground. But most important for the future, the Luftwaffe managed to take out only one radar station, on the Isle of Wight, and damage five others. This was considered more trouble than it was worth by Herman Goering, commander of the Luftwaffe, who decided to forgo further targeting of British radar stations because “not one of those attacked so far has been put out of operation.”

Historians agree that this was a monumental mistake on the part of the Germans. Had Goering and the Luftwaffe persisted in attacking British radar, the RAF would not have been able to get the information necessary to successfully intercept incoming German bombers. “Here, early in the battle, we get a glimpse of fuddled thinking at the highest level in the German camp,” comments historian Peter Fleming. Even the Blitz, the intensive and successive bombing of London that would begin in the last days of the Battle of Britain, could not compensate for such thinking. There would be no Operation Sea Lion. There would be no invasion of Britain. The RAF would not be defeated.

“The Battle of Britain begins.” 2008. The History Channel website. 12 Aug 2008, 11:59 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6550.

 

On This Day

1792 – French revolutionaries took the entire French royal family and imprisoned them.

1846 – The American Flag was raised for the first time in Los Angeles, CA.

1907 – The first taxicab started on the streets of New York City.

1932 – Adolf Hitler refused to take the post of vice-chancellor of Germany. He said he was going to hold out “for all or nothing.”

1942 – Walt Disney’s “Bambi” opened at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, NY.

1960 – “Echo I,” a balloon satellite, allowed the first two-way telephone conversation by satellite to take place.

1961 – Berlin was divided by a barbed wire fence to halt the flight of refugees. Two days later work on the Berlin Wall began.

1994 – It was reported that aspirin not only helps reduce the risk of heart disease, but also helps prevent colon cancer.

 

Aztec capital falls to CortÉs

After a three-month siege, Spanish forces under HernÁn CortÉs capture TenochtitlÁn, the capital of the Aztec empire. CortÉs’ men leveled the city and captured Cuauhtemoc, the Aztec emperor.

TenochtitlÁn was founded in 1325 A.D. by a wandering tribe of hunters and gatherers on islands in Lake Texcoco, near the present site of Mexico City. In only one century, this civilization grew into the Aztec empire, largely because of its advanced system of agriculture. The empire came to dominate central Mexico and by the ascendance of Montezuma II in 1502 had reached its greatest extent, extending as far south as perhaps modern-day Nicaragua. At the time, the empire was held together primarily by Aztec military strength, and Montezuma II set about establishing a bureaucracy, creating provinces that would pay tribute to the imperial capital of TenochtitlÁn. The conquered peoples resented the Aztec demands for tribute and victims for the religious sacrifices, but the Aztec military kept rebellion at bay.

“Aztec capital falls to CortÉs.” 2008. The History Channel website. 12 Aug 2008, 11:51 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=5257.

Patriots ambush Loyalists as French set sail

On this day in 1781, Patriot forces led by Colonel William Harden and Brigadier General Francis Marion, known as the “Swamp Fox,” lure British commander Major Thomas Fraser and his 450 soldiers into an ambush at Parker’s Ferry, 30 miles northwest of Charleston, South Carolina. Meanwhile, 3,000 soldiers set sail with the French fleet on their way to aid the Patriot cause.

Fraser’s command consisted of 450 Loyalists who had begun an uprising in the region. Marion, who earned his nickname for his ability to “outfox” his opponents in the swamps of the South Carolina backcountry, sent his fastest riders ahead to tempt Fraser into a waiting Patriot trap. The maneuver succeeded. Fraser ordered his men to charge, and three successive volleys of musket fire by the Patriots mowed down the ranks of the Loyalist cavalry. Only a shortage of ammunition among the Patriots saved the Loyalists, who lost half their force in the skirmish. Fraser himself was hit three times in the course of the engagement, but managed to continue in command of his men.

“Patriots ambush Loyalists as French set sail.” 2008. The History Channel website. 12 Aug 2008, 11:53 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=50693.

Deep Bottom Run campaign begins

Sensing a weakness in the Confederate defenses around Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, Union General Ulysses S. Grant seeks to break the siege of Petersburg by concentrating his force against one section of the Rebel trenches. However, Grant miscalculated, and the week-long operation that began on August 13 failed to penetrate the Confederate defenses.

Grant was operating on the information that General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, was sending part of his force to the Shenandoah Valley to support General Jubal Early, who had spent the summer fending off Union forces and threatening Washington, D.C. Without realizing that this information was false, Grant believed that a section of the Confederate trenches around Deep Bottom Run, between Richmond and Petersburg, was now lightly defended.

Grant shipped parts of three corps north across the James River on August 13. Led by General Winfield Scott Hancock, the plan called for a series of attacks along the Confederate fortifications. Beginning on August 14, the Yankees tried for six days to find a weakness. Although a Union force broke through at Fussell’s Mill, a lack of reinforcements left the Federals vulnerable to a Confederate attack, and the Rebels quickly restored the broken line.

The campaign cost 3,000 Union casualties and about 1,500 for the Confederates. The Southern defensive network, stretching over 20 miles, remained intact, but the failed operation prevented Lee from shipping troops to Early in the Shenandoah; Early would soon face defeat at the hands of a larger Union force commanded by General Philip Sheridan.

“Deep Bottom Run campaign begins.” 2008. The History Channel website. 12 Aug 2008, 11:55 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2282.

 

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
Winston Churchill

Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.
Winston Churchill




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