Today in Military History...

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    June 22nd ~ 1941Operation Barbarossa, the German attack on the Soviet Union, begins.

    Despite the massive preparations spread over many months and the numerous indications Stalin receives from many sources, the Soviet forces are taken almost completely by surprise and lose very heavily in the first encounters. The Germans have assembled almost 140 of their own divisions, including 17 Panzer and 13 motorized divisions. These forces are organized in three army groups: Army Group North (Field Marshal Leeb), Army Group Center (Field Marshal Bock) and Army Group South (Field Marshal Rundstedt). Altogether, the Germans deploy over 3,000,000 men, 7100 guns, 3300 tanks, 625,000 horses and 2770 aircraft.

    The Red Army has 230 divisions (170 of which are in the west, 134 facing the Germans). The Soviet forces are organized into Northwest Front (Kuznetsov), West Front (Pavlov), Southwest Front (Kirpono) and South Front (Tyulenev). They include 24,000 tanks and 8000 aircraft.

    On the first day of the attack almost everything goes the German way. The attack begins at 0300 hours with advances on the ground and simultaneous air strikes. The Luftwaffe begins its operations very early in order to be over the Soviet bases exactly at zero hour. By noon the Soviet Air Force has lost around 1200 planes. The land battle is equally successful. The panzer spearhead Army Group North advances 40 miles during the day and Army Group Center captures most of the Bug River bridges intact. Army Group South forces based in Hungary and Romania do not attack during the day.
     
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    June 23rd ~ 1862 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee meets with his corps commanders to plot an attack on General George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.

    Launched on June 26, the attack would break the stalemate of the Peninsular campaign and trigger the Seven Days’ Battles. McClellan had spent two months shipping his army down the Chesapeake to the James Peninsula for a run at the Confederate capital. Despite having a larger number of troops, McClellan moved slowly and timidly, and his advance stalled on June 1, less than 10 miles from Richmond. For the next three weeks, McClellan’s and Lee’s armies faced off, but little fighting occurred. Now Lee sought to seize the initiative. He summoned his generals for a council on June 23.

    Included in the meeting was General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, fresh off his highly successful Shenandoah Valley campaign. Jackson was traveling ahead of his army, which was still marching back from western Virginia. Lee announced to his commanders that the time had come to attack the Yankee invaders. Lee planned an assault on the Union right flank, which was separated from the rest of the Yankee army by the Chickahominy River. Plans were made for the Battle of Mechanicsville on June 26, and Jackson rode back to his troops. The stage was set for the Seven Days’ Battles.
     

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    June 24th ~ 1965Hanoi Radio announces that the Vietcong have shot POW and US Army Sergeant Harold G. Bennett.

    Harold Bennett and Charles Crafts were MACV advisors to an ARVN unit operating in Phuoc Tuy Province, South Vietnam. A native of Maine, Crafts had been in country about 1 month. On the afternoon of December 29, 1964, Bennett, Crafts and their ARVN unit made contact with Viet Cong guerrillas and the unit engaged in a firefight. During the firefight, both were taken prisoner. By early 1965, Crafts and Bennett joined other prisoners held by the Viet Cong. Those who returned supplied information on the fates of those who did not. In late spring, 1965, Bennett began to refuse food. This was not an uncommon occurrence among prisoners suffering dysentery, malnutrition, malaise, injury and other ills that were common among prisoners of war in the South. Normally, the other prisoners worked hard to prevent further illness by forcing food on the POW who refused food, provided the sick man was not isolated. Returned POWs report the death of several men from the cycle of illness-refusal to eat-depression-starvation.

    Bennett did not die of starvation, however. The Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF) announced on Radio Hanoi on June 24, 1965 that Bennett had been shot in retaliation for Viet Cong terrorist Tran Van Dong’s execution by South Vietnam. He was the first POW to be executed in retaliation. When the war ended in 1973, the Vietnamese listed Bennett as having died in captivity. They did not return his remains. He is one of nearly 2400 Americans still missing in Southeast Asia.
     
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    June 25th ~ 1876Determined to resist the efforts of the U.S. Army to force them onto reservations, Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse wipe out Lieutenant Colonel George Custer and much of his 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

    Sioux Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse had been successfully resisting American efforts to confine their people to reservations for more than a decade. Although both chiefs wanted nothing more than to be left alone to pursue their traditional ways, the growing tide of white settlers invading their lands inevitably led to violent confrontations. Increasingly, the Sioux and Cheyenne who did try to cooperate with the U.S. government discovered they were rewarded only with broken promises and marginal reservation lands.

    In 1875, after the U.S. Army blatantly ignored treaty provisions and invaded the sacred Black Hills, many formerly cooperative Sioux and Cheyenne abandoned their reservations to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in Montana. They would not return without a fight. Late in 1875, the U.S. Army ordered all the “hostile” Indians in Montana to return to their reservations or risk being attacked. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse ignored the order and sent messengers out to urge other Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Indians to unite with them to meet the white threat.

    By the late spring of 1876, more than 10,000 Indians had gathered in a massive camp along a river in southern Montana called the Little Big Horn. “We must stand together or they will kill us separately,” Sitting Bull told them. “These soldiers have come shooting; they want war. All right, we’ll give it to them.” Meanwhile, three columns of U.S. soldiers were converging on the Little Big Horn. On June 17, the first column under the command of General George Crook was badly bloodied by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors led by Crazy Horse. Stunned by the size and ferocity of the Indian attack, Crook was forced to withdraw. Knowing nothing of Crook’s defeat, the two remaining columns commanded by General Alfred Terry and General John Gibbon continued toward the Little Big Horn.

    On June 22, Terry ordered the 7th Cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Custer to scout ahead for Indians. On the morning of this day in 1876, Custer’s scouts told him that a gigantic Indian village lay nearby in the valley of the Little Big Horn River. Custer dismissed the scouts’ claim that the village was extraordinarily large-certainly many thousands of Indians-as exaggerated. Indeed, his main fear was that the Indians would scatter before he could attack. Rather than wait for reinforcements, Custer decided to move forward immediately and stage an unusual mid-day attack. As the 7th Cavalry entered the valley, Custer divided the regiment of about 600 men into four battalions, keeping a force of 215 under his own command. In the vast Indian encampment (historians estimate there were as many as 11,000 Indians), word quickly spread of the approaching soldiers.

    Too old actually to engage in battle, Sitting Bull rallied his warriors while seeing to the protection of the women and children. The younger Crazy Horse prepared for battle and sped off with a large force of warriors to meet the invaders. As Custer’s divided regiment advanced, the soldiers suddenly found they were under attack by a rapidly growing number of Indians. Gradually, it dawned on Custer that his scouts had not exaggerated the size of the Indian force after all. He immediately dispatched urgent orders in an attempt to regroup his regiment. The other battalions, however, were facing equally massive attacks and were unable to come to his aid. Soon, Custer and his 215 men found themselves cut off and under attack by as many as 3,000 armed braves. Within an hour, they were wiped out to the last man. The remaining battalions of the 7th Cavalry were also badly beaten, but they managed to fight a holding action until the Indians withdrew the following day.

    The Battle of the Little Big Horn was the Indians’ greatest victory and the army’s worst defeat in the long and bloody Plains Indian War. The Indians were not allowed to revel in the victory for long, however. The massacre of Custer and his 7th Cavalry outraged many Americans and only confirmed the image of the bloodthirsty Indians in their minds, and the government became more determined to destroy or tame the hostile Indians. The army redoubled its efforts and drove home the war with a vengeful fury. Within five years, almost all of the Sioux and Cheyenne would be confined to reservations.

    Crazy Horse was killed in 1877 after leaving the reservation without permission.

    Sitting Bull was shot and killed three years later in 1890 by a Lakota policeman.
     
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    June 26th ~ 1876 – Following Lieutenant Colonel George Custer’s death the previous day in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Major Marcus Reno takes command of the surviving soldiers of the 7th Cavalry.

    A West Point graduate who fought for the North during the Civil War, Marcus Reno was an experienced soldier and officer. Yet, despite having been sent west in 1868 as a major in Custer’s 7th Cavalry, Reno had never actually fought any Indians prior to the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

    On June 25, 1876, Custer’s scouts reported they had located a gigantic village of Sioux and Cheyenne Indians encamped nearby along the banks of the Little Big Horn River in southern Montana. Believing that his scouts must have grossly overestimated the size of the village, Custer immediately prepared to attack. He divided the 600 soldiers of the 7th Cavalry into four battalions, placing Reno in command of one of them. Custer and Reno led their two battalions down a small creek (later called Reno Creek) toward the Little Big Horn River. A third battalion commanded by Captain Frederick Benteen scouted the hills to the west, while the fourth stayed in the rear to protect the army’s horses. About three or four miles from the Little Big Horn, Custer and Reno spotted a group of about 50 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Fearing that the village ahead was already fleeing, Custer ordered Reno and his battalion to give pursuit, promising “the whole outfit” would soon support him. Reno and his men quickly rode down the valley and crossed the Little Big Horn. As they charged toward the Indian village, they began to encounter growing numbers of warriors mounting a strong defense. Uncertain of what lay ahead, Reno called a halt and ordered his men to dismount and fight on foot. Within minutes, he was under attack by a massive force of Sioux and Cheyenne braves. With no sign of the support Custer had promised, Reno decided he had no choice but to retreat and try to regain a defensible position on the high bluffs across the river. Some witnesses later said Reno panicked at this point and at least temporarily gave conflicting and confused orders. In any event, the retreat quickly became chaotic, allowing the Indians to easily pick off about one third of Reno’s troops before they reached the bluffs. There, Benteen and his battalion soon joined them.

    Benteen had received a dispatch from Custer downstream ordering the troops to hasten forward, but there was considerable disagreement among the officers about what to do. Their battalions had been badly hurt, and they needed time to regroup. Finally, the officers led the troops downstream toward the sound of heavy gunfire, but the presence of many wounded slowed their advance. Unbeknownst to Reno and Benteen, by this point the Indians had already wiped out Custer’s battalion. The braves now rushed upstream to attack the advancing soldiers, forcing them to retreat to their entrenched positions on the bluffs. The soldiers held off the Indians for another three hours of heavy fighting. When darkness fell, the Indians withdrew.

    The following day, June 26, Reno took formal command of the remnants of the 7th Cavalry, and he succeeded in fighting a holding action until the Indians decided to withdraw around noon. On June 27, fresh troops under General Terry arrived, and the soldiers began the grisly task of identifying and burying the dead. In the postmortem of the disastrous battle, some refused to believe that the magnificent Custer could have been responsible and they blamed Reno.

    At Reno’s request, in early 1879 the army staged a formal inquiry into the battle. After more than 26 days of testimony, a panel of three officers exonerated Reno. They ruled that he had fought desperately and bravely to keep his own battalion from being wiped out during the battle, and he could not be blamed for failing to go to Custer’s aid. Some civilian critics labeled the ruling a whitewash, and Reno never managed fully to redeem himself in their eyes.
     
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    June 27 ~ 1864 – Union General William T. Sherman launches a major attack on Confederate General Joseph Johnston’s army at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in Georgia.

    Beginning in early May, Sherman began a slow advance down the 100-mile corridor from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Atlanta, refraining from making any large-scale assaults. The campaign was marked by many smaller battles and constant skirmishes but no decisive encounters. Johnston was losing ground, but he was also buying time for the Confederates. With Sherman frustrated in Georgia, and Ulysses S. Grant unable to knock out Robert E. Lee’s army in Virginia, the Union war effort was stalled, casualty rates were high, and the re-election of Abraham Lincoln appeared unlikely.

    In the days leading up to the assault at Kennesaw Mountain, Sherman tried to flank Johnston. Since one of Johnston’s generals, John Bell Hood, attacked at Kolb’s Farm and lost 1,500 precious Confederate soldiers, Sherman believed that Johnston’s line was stretched thin and that an assault would break the Rebels. So he changed his tactics and planned a move against the center of the Confederate lines around Kennesaw Mountain. He feigned attacks on both of Johnston’s flanks, then hurled 8,000 men at the Confederate center. It was a disaster. Entrenched Southerners bombarded the Yankees, who were attacking uphill. Three thousand Union troops fell, compared to just 500 Confederates.

    The battle was only a marginal Confederate victory. Sherman remained in place for four more days, but one of the decoy attacks on the Confederate flanks did, in fact, place the Union troops in a position to cut into Johnston’s rear. On July 2, Johnston had to vacate his Kennesaw Mountain lines and retreat toward Atlanta. Sherman followed, and the slow campaign lurched on into the Georgia summer.
     
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    June 28th ~ 1863 – General Meade replaced General Hooker three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. General George Gordon Meade said “Well, I’ve been tried and condemned without a hearing, and I suppose I shall have to go to execution,” in response to his appointment as head of the Union Army of the Potomac during the Civil War. Within a week his army won the Battle of Gettysburg, assuring Meade of a record of success superior to all of his predecessors.

    June 28th ~ 1863 – As the advance of General Robert E. Lee’s armies into Maryland (culminating in the Battle of Gettysburg) threatened Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis, the U.S. Navy Department ordered Rear Admiral S.P. Lee to send ships immediately for the defense of the Capital and other cities. This was a move reminiscent of the opening days of the war when naval protection was vital to the holding of the area surrounding the seat of government.
     
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    June 29th ~ 1835Determined to win independence for the Mexican State of Texas, William Travis raises a volunteer army of 25 soldiers and prepares to liberate the city of Anahuac.

    Born in South Carolina and raised in Alabama, William Travis moved to Mexican-controlled Texas in 1831 at the age of 22. He established a legal practice in Anahuac, a small frontier town about 40 miles east of Houston. From the start, Travis disliked Mexicans personally and resented Mexican rule of Texas politically. In 1832, he clashed with local Mexican officials and was jailed for a month. When he was released, the growing Texan independence movement hailed him as a hero, strengthening his resolve to break away from Mexico by whatever means necessary.

    Early in 1835, the Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna overthrew the republican government and proclaimed himself dictator. Rightly fearing that some Texans would rebel as a result, Santa Anna quickly moved to reinforce Mexican control and dispatched troops to Anahuac, among other areas. Accustomed to enjoying a large degree of autonomy, some Texans resented the presence of Santa Anna’s troops, and they turned to Travis for leadership.

    On this day in 1835, Travis raised a company of 25 volunteer soldiers. The next day, the small army easily captured Captain Antonio Tenorio, the leader of Santa Anna’s forces in Anahuac, and forced the troops to surrender. More radical Texans again proclaimed Travis a hero, but others condemned him for trying to foment war and maintained that Santa Anna could still be dealt with short of revolution.

    By the fall of 1835, however, conflict had become inevitable, and Texans prepared to fight a war of independence. As soon as the rebels had formed an army, Travis was made a lieutenant colonel in command of the regular troops at San Antonio.

    On February 23, 1836, Travis joined forces with Jim Bowie’s army of volunteers to occupy an old Spanish mission known as the Alamo. The following day, Santa Anna and about 4,000 of his men laid siege to the Alamo. With less than 200 soldiers, Travis and Bowie were able to hold off the Mexicans for 13 days.

    On March 6, Santa Anna’s soldiers stormed the Alamo and killed nearly every Texan defender, including Travis. In the months that followed, “Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry as the Texans successfully drove the Mexican forces from their borders.

    By April, Texas had won its independence. Travis, who first hastened the war of independence and then became a martyr to the cause, became an enduring symbol of Texan courage and defiance.
     
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    June 30th ~ 1934In Germany, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler orders a bloody purge of his own political party, assassinating hundreds of Nazis whom he believed had the potential to become political enemies in the future.

    The leadership of the Nazi Storm Troopers (SA), whose four million members had helped bring Hitler to power in the early 1930s, was especially targeted. Hitler feared that some of his followers had taken his early “National Socialism” propaganda too seriously and thus might compromise his plan to suppress workers’ rights in exchange for German industry making the country war-ready.

    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.
     
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    July 1st ~ 1863The largest military conflict in North American history begins this day when Union and Confederate forces collide at Gettysburg.

    The epic battle lasted three days and resulted in a retreat to Virginia by Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Two months prior to Gettysburg, Lee had dealt a stunning defeat to the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville. He then made plans for a Northern invasion in order to relieve pressure on war-weary Virginia and to seize the initiative from the Yankees. His army, numbering about 80,000, began moving on June 3. The Army of the Potomac, commanded by Joseph Hooker and numbering just under 100,000, began moving shortly thereafter, staying between Lee and Washington, D.C.

    But on June 28, frustrated by the Lincoln administration’s restrictions on his autonomy as commander, Hooker resigned and was replaced by George G. Meade. Meade took command of the Army of the Potomac as Lee’s army moved into Pennsylvania.

    On the morning of July 1, advance units of the forces came into contact with one another just outside of Gettysburg. The sound of battle attracted other units, and by noon the conflict was raging. During the first hours of battle, Union General John Reynolds was killed, and the Yankees found that they were outnumbered. The battle lines ran around the northwestern rim of Gettysburg. The Confederates applied pressure all along the Union front, and they slowly drove the Yankees through the town.

    By evening, the Federal troops rallied on high ground on the southeastern edge of Gettysburg. As more troops arrived, Meade’s army formed a three-mile long, fishhook-shaped line running from Culp’s Hill on the right flank, along Cemetery Hill and Cemetery Ridge, to the base of Little Round Top.

    The Confederates held Gettysburg, and stretched along a six-mile arc around the Union position. For the next two days, Lee would batter each end of the Union position, and on July 3, he would launch Pickett’s charge against the Union center.
     
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    July 2nd ~ 1863General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia attacks General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac at both Culp’s Hill and Little Round Top, but fails to move the Yankees from their positions.

    On the north end of the line, or the Union’s right flank, Confederates from General Richard Ewell’s corps struggled up Culp’s Hill, which was steep and heavily wooded, before being turned back by heavy Union fire. But the most significant action was on the south end of the Union line.

    General James Longstreet’s corps launched an attack against the Yankees, but only after a delay that allowed additional Union troops to arrive and position themselves along Cemetery Ridge. Many people later blamed Longstreet for the Confederates’ eventual defeat. Still, the Confederates had a chance to destroy the Union left flank when General Daniel Sickles moved his corps, against Meade’s orders, from their position on the ridge to open ground around the Peach Orchard. This move separated Sickles’ force from the rest of the Union army, and Longstreet attacked.

    Although the Confederates were able to take the Peach Orchard, they were repulsed by Yankee opposition at Little Round Top. Some of the fiercest fighting took place on this day, and both armies suffered heavy casualties. Lee’s army regrouped that evening and planned for one last assault against the Union center on July 3. That attack, Pickett’s charge, would represent the high tide of Confederate fortunes.
     
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    July 3rd ~ 1863 – Troops under Confederate General George Pickett begin a massive attack against the center of the Union lines at Gettysburg on the climactic third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, the largest engagement of the war.

    General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia encountered George Meade’s Army of the Potomac in Pennsylvania and battered the Yankees for two days. The day before Pickett’s charge, the Confederates had hammered each flank of the Union line but could not break through. Now, on July 3, Lee decided to attack the Union center, stationed on Cemetery Ridge, after making another unsuccessful attempt on the Union right flank at Culp’s Hill in the morning.

    The majority of the force consisted of Pickett’s division, but there were other units represented among the 15,000 attackers. After a long Confederate artillery bombardment, the Rebel force moved through the open field and up the slight rise of Cemetery Ridge. But by the time they reached the Union line, the attack had been broken into many small units, and they were unable to penetrate the Yankee center. The failed attack effectively ended the battle of Gettysburg.

    On July 4, Lee began to withdraw his forces to Virginia. The casualties for both armies were staggering. Lee lost 28,000 of his 75,000 soldiers, and Union losses stood at over 22,000. It was the last time Lee threatened Northern territory.
     
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    July 4th ~ 1863 – The Confederacy is torn in two when General John C. Pemberton surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg.

    The Vicksburg campaign was one of the most successful campaigns of the war. Although Grant’s first attempt to take the city failed in the winter of 1862-63, he renewed his efforts in the spring. Admiral David Porter had run his flotilla past the Vicksburg defenses in early May as Grant marched his army down the west bank of the river opposite Vicksburg, crossed back to Mississippi, and drove toward Jackson. After defeating a Confederate force near Jackson, Grant turned back to Vicksburg.
    On May 16, he defeated a force under John C. Pemberton at Champion Hill. Pemberton retreated back to Vicksburg, and Grant sealed the city by the end of May. In three weeks, Grant’s men marched 180 miles, won five battles, and took 6,000 prisoners. Grant made some attacks after bottling Vicksburg, but found the Confederates well entrenched. Preparing for a long siege, his army constructed 15 miles of trenches and enclosed Pemberton’s force of 29,000 men inside the perimeter. It was only a matter of time before Grant, with 70,000 troops, captured Vicksburg. Attempts to rescue Pemberton and his force failed from both the east and west, and conditions for both military personnel and civilians deteriorated rapidly. Many residents moved to tunnels dug from the hillsides to escape the constant bombardments.
    Pemberton surrendered on July 4, and President Lincoln wrote that the Mississippi River “again goes unvexed to the sea.”

    The town of Vicksburg would not celebrate the Fourth of July for 81 years.

    1863 – General Lee’s army limped toward Virginia after defeat at Gettysburg. 28,063 of 75,000 confederate soldiers were lost. General Meade’s army suffered 23,049 soldiers killed, wounded and missing.

    1863 – Paul Joseph Revere, US grandson of Paul Revere, Union brig-gen, died from wounds at Gettysburg.

    1863 – Failed Confederate assault on Helena, Arkansas, left 640 casualties.
     
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    July 5th ~ 1950 – Near Sojong, South Korea, Private Kenneth Shadrick, a 19-year-old infantryman from Skin Fork, West Virginia, becomes the first American reported killed in the Korean War.

    Shadrick, a member of a bazooka squad, had just fired the weapon at a Soviet-made tank when he looked up to check his aim and was cut down by enemy machine-gun fire. Near the end of World War II, the “Big Three” Allied powers–the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain–agreed to divide Korea into two separate occupation zones and temporarily govern the nation. The country was split along the 38th parallel, with Soviet forces occupying the northern zone and Americans stationed in the south. By 1949, separate Korean governments had been established, and both the United States and the USSR withdrew the majority of their troops from the Korean Peninsula.

    The 38th parallel was heavily fortified on both sides, but the South Koreans were unprepared for the hordes of North Korean troops and Soviet-made tanks that suddenly rolled across the border on June 25, 1950. Two days later, President Harry Truman announced that the United States would intervene in the Korean conflict to stem the spread of communism, and on June 28 the United Nations approved the use of force against communist North Korea. In the opening months of the war, the U.S.-led U.N. forces rapidly advanced against the North Koreans, but in October, Chinese communist troops entered the fray, throwing the Allies into a hasty retreat.

    By May 1951, the communists were pushed back to the 38th parallel, where the battle line remained for the rest of the war. In 1953, an armistice was signed, ending the war and reestablishing the 1945 division of Korea that still exists today. Approximately 150,000 troops from South Korea, the United States, and participating U.N. nations were killed in the Korean War, and as many as one million South Korean civilians perished. An estimated 800,000 communist soldiers were killed, and more than 200,000 North Korean civilians died.

    The original figure of American troops lost–54,246 killed–became controversial when the Pentagon acknowledged in 2000 that all U.S. troops killed around the world during the period of the Korean War were incorporated into that number. For example, any American soldier killed in a car accident anywhere in the world from June 1950 to July 1953 was considered a casualty of the Korean War. If these deaths are subtracted from the 54,246 total, leaving just the Americans who died (from whatever cause) in the Korean theater of operations, the total U.S. dead in the Korean War numbers 36,516.
     
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    July 6th ~

    1699 – Pirate Captain William Kidd was captured in Boston...exactly two years later in 1701, he was hanged.

    1747 – John Paul Jones, naval hero of the American Revolution, was born near Kirkcudbright, Scotland. As a US naval commander he invaded England during the American War of Independence.

    1776 – The US Declaration of Independence was announced on the front page of “PA Evening Gazette.”

    1777 – British forces under Gen. Burgoyne captured Fort Ticonderoga from the Americans...

    Lieutenant General John Burgoyne’s 8,000-man army occupied high ground above the fort, and nearly surrounded the defenses. These movements precipitated the occupying Continental Army, an under-strength force of 3,000 under the command of General Arthur St. Clair, to withdraw from Ticonderoga and the surrounding defenses. Some gunfire was exchanged, and there were some casualties, but there was no formal siege and no pitched battle. Burgoyne’s army occupied Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence, the extensive fortifications on the Vermont side of the lake, without opposition on 6 July. Advance units pursued the retreating Americans. The uncontested surrender of Ticonderoga caused an uproar in the American public and in its military circles, as Ticonderoga was widely believed to be virtually impregnable, and a vital point of defense.
     
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    July 3rd~ Battle of Gettysburg~ Historical Footnote:

    One of the most dramatic components of the Battle of Gettysburg, the large clash of Union and Confederate cavalry units on the third and final day, has often been overshadowed by Pickett’s Charge and the defense of Little Round Top. Yet the fight between thousands of horsemen led by two charismatic leaders, Confederate J.E.B. Stuart and George Armstrong Custer of the Union, may have played a decisive role in the battle.


    The movement by more than 5,000 Confederate cavalry troopers in the hours preceding Pickett’s Charge has always seemed puzzling. What was Robert E. Lee hoping to achieve by sending a large force of horse soldiers to an area three miles away, to the northeast of Gettysburg ?

    It was always assumed that Stuart’s cavalry movements that day were intended to either harass the federal flank or strike and sever Union supply lines.

    Yet it’s possible Lee intended to have Stuart’s rebel cavalry strike the rear of the Union positions in a devastating surprise blow. A carefully timed cavalry attack, hitting the Union rear at the same time Pickett’s Charge poured thousands of infantrymen into the Union front line, could have turned the tide of the battle and even changed the outcome of the Civil War.

    Whatever Lee’s strategic goal was, it failed. Stuart’s attempt to reach the rear of the Union defensive positions failed when he met ferocious resistance from outnumbered Union cavalrymen led by Custer, who was gaining a reputation for being fearless under fire.

    The frantic fight was filled with surging cavalry charges across farm fields. And it might have been remembered as one of the greatest engagements of the entire war had not Pickett’s Charge been occurring on the same afternoon, barely three miles away.

    The Confederate Cavalry in Pennsylvania

    When Robert E. Lee made his plans to invade the North in the summer of 1863, he sent the cavalry commanded by General J.E.B. Stuart to travel through the center of the state of Maryland. And when the Union Army of the Potomac began moving northward from their own positions in Virginia to counter Lee, they inadvertently separated Stuart from the rest of Lee’s forces.

    So as Lee and the infantry entered Pennsylvania, Lee had no idea where his cavalry was located. Stuart and his men were off raiding various towns in Pennsylvania, causing considerable panic and disruption. But those adventures were not helping Lee at all.


    Lee, of course, was frustrated, forced to move in enemy territory without his cavalry to serve as his eyes. And when the Union and Confederate forces eventually ran into each other near Gettysburg on the morning of July 1, 1863, it was because Union cavalry scouts encountered Confederate infantry.

    The Confederate cavalry was still separated from the rest of Lee’s army for the first and second days of the battle. And when Stuart finally reported to Lee late on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the Confederate commander was supposedly very angry.

    George Armstrong Custer at Gettysburg

    On the Union side, the cavalry had just been reorganized prior to Lee moving the war into Pennsylvania. The commander of the cavalry, recognizing potential in George Armstrong Custer, promoted him from captain to brigadier general. Custer was put in command of several cavalry regiments from Michigan.

    Custer was being rewarded for proving himself in battle. At the battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, less than a month before Gettysburg, Custer had led cavalry charges. His commanding general cited him for bravery.


    Arriving in Pennsylvania, Custer was eager to prove he had deserved his promotion.

    Stuart’s Cavalry on the Third Day

    On the morning of July 3, 1863, General Stuart led more than 5,000 mounted men out of the town of Gettysburg, heading northeast along the York Road. From Union positions on hilltops near the town, the movement was noticed. The maneuvering would have been impossible to hide, as that many horses would raise a large cloud of dust.

    The Confederate cavalry seemed to be covering the left flank of the army, but they went farther out than would be necessary, and then turned to the right, to head southward. The intent seemed to be to hit the Union rear areas, but as they came over a ridge they spotted Union cavalry units just south of them, ready to block their way.

    If Stuart was planning to strike the Union rear, that would depend on speed and surprise. And at that point he had lost both. Though the federal cavalry force facing him was outnumbered, they were well positioned to block any movement toward the rear positions of the Union Army.


    Cavalry Battle on the Rummel Farm


    A farm belonging to a local family named Rummel suddenly became the site of a cavalry skirmish as Union cavalrymen, off their horses and fighting dismounted, began to exchange fire with Confederate counterparts. And then the Union commander on the scene, General David Gregg, ordered Custer to attack on horseback.

    Placing himself at the head of a Michigan cavalry regiment, Custer raised his saber and screamed, “Come on, you wolverines!” And he charged.
    What had been a standoff and then a skirmish quickly escalated into one of the biggest cavalry battles of the entire war. Custer’s men charged, were beaten back, and charged again. The scene turned into a gigantic melee of men shooting at close quarters with pistols and slashing with sabers.

    In the end, Custer and the federal cavalry had held off Stuart’s advance. By nightfall Stuart’s men were still positioned on the ridge from which they had first spotted the Union cavalry. And after dark Stuart withdrew his men and returned to the west side of Gettysburg to report to Lee.


    Significance of the Cavalry Battle at Gettysburg

    The cavalry engagement at Gettysburg has often been overlooked. In newspaper reports at the time the massive carnage elsewhere during the battle overshadowed the cavalry fight. And in modern times few tourists even visit the site, called East Cavalry Field, though it is a part of the official battlefield administered by the National Park Service.

    Yet the cavalry clash was significant. It is apparent that Stuart’s cavalry could have provided, at the very least, a considerable diversion that might have confused the Union commanders. And one theory of the battle holds that Stuart could have unleashed a major surprise attack in the middle of the rear of the Union line.

    The road network in the immediate area may have made such an attack possible. And had Stuart and his men managed to race up those roads, and meet up with the Confederate infantry brigades marching forward in Pickett’s Charge, the Union Army could have been cut in two and perhaps defeated.

    Robert E. Lee never explained Stuart’s actions that day. And Stuart, who was killed later in the war, also never wrote any explanation of what he was doing three miles from Gettysburg that day.
     
  17. SHOOTER13

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    July 7th ~

    1863 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee, in Hagerstown, Maryland, reported his defeat at Gettysburg to President Jefferson Davis.

    1863 – The 1st military draft was called by the US. It allowed exemptions for $300.

    1863 – Orders barring Jews from serving under US Grant were revoked.

    1863 – Lt. Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson leaves Santa Fe with his troops, beginning his campaign against the Indians of New Mexico and Arizona. A famed mountain man before the Civil War, Carson was responsible for waging a destructive war against the Navajo that resulted in their removal from the Four Corners area to southeastern New Mexico. Carson was perhaps the most famous trapper and guide in the West. He traveled with the expeditions of John C. Fremont in the 1840s, leading Fremont through the Great Basin. Fremont’s flattering portrayal of Carson made the mountain man a hero when the reports were published and widely read in the east. Later, Carson guided Stephen Watts Kearney to New Mexico during the Mexican-American War.

    In the 1850s he became the Indian agent for New Mexico, a position he left in 1861 to accept a commission as lieutenant colonel in the 1st New Mexico Volunteers. Although Carson’s unit saw action in the New Mexico battles of 1862, he was most famous for his campaign against the Indians. Despite his reputation for being sympathetic and accommodating to tribes such as the Mescaleros, Kiowas, and Navajo, Carson waged a brutal campaign against the Navajo in 1863. When bands of Navajo refused to accept confinement on reservations, Carson terrorized the Navajo lands–burning crops, destroying villages, and slaughtering livestock. Carson rounded up some 8,000 Navajo and marched them across New Mexico for imprisonment on the Bosque Redondo, over 300 miles from their homes, where they remained for the duration of the war.

    1865 – The trap doors of the scaffold in the yard of Washington’s Old Penitentiary were sprung, and Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, David Herold and George Atzerodt dropped to their deaths. The four had been convicted of “treasonable conspiracy” in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and had learned that they were to be hanged only a day before their execution. Shortly after 1 p.m. the prisoners were led onto the scaffold and prepared for execution. The props supporting the platform were knocked away at about 2 p.m. Assassin John Wilkes Booth had been killed on April 26, 12 days after Lincoln’s assassination. Other convicted conspirators–Edman Spangler, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlin–were imprisoned. Surratt was the first woman to be executed in the United States.
     
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    1776
    In Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell rings out from the tower of the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall), summoning citizens to the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, by Colonel John Nixon.

    On July 4, the historic document was adopted by delegates to the Continental Congress meeting in the State House. However, the Liberty Bell, which bore the apt biblical quotation, “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof,” was not rung until the Declaration of Independence returned from the printer on July 8. In 1751, to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of Pennsylvania’s original constitution, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly ordered the 2,000-pound copper and tin bell constructed. After being cracked during a test, and then recast twice, the bell was hung from the State House steeple in June 1753. Rung to call the Pennsylvania Assembly together and to summon people for special announcements and events, it was also rung on important occasions, such as when King George III ascended to the throne in 1761 and to call the people together to discuss Parliament’s controversial Stamp Act of 1765. With the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, the bell was rung to announce the battles of Lexington and Concord. Its most famous tolling was on July 8, 1776, when it summoned Philadelphia citizens for the first reading of the Declaration of Independence. As the British advanced toward Philadelphia in the fall of 1777, the bell was removed from the city and hidden in Allentown to save it from being melted down by the British and used for cannons. After the British defeat in 1781, the bell was returned to Philadelphia, which was the nation’s capital from 1790 to 1800. In addition to marking important events, the bell tolled annually to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on February 22, and Independence Day on July 4.

    In 1839, the name “Liberty Bell” was first coined in a poem in an abolitionist pamphlet. The question of when the Liberty Bell acquired its famous fracture has been the subject of a good deal of historical dispute. In the most commonly accepted account, the bell suffered a major break while tolling for the funeral of the chief justice of the United States, John Marshall, in 1835, and in 1846 the crack expanded to its present size while in use to mark Washington’s birthday. After that date, it was regarded as unsuitable for ringing, but it was still ceremoniously tapped on occasion to commemorate important events.

    On June 6, 1944, when Allied forces invaded France, the sound of the bell’s dulled ring was broadcast by radio across the United States. In 1976, the Liberty Bell was moved to a new pavilion about 100 yards from Independence Hall in preparation for America’s bicentennial celebrations.
     
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    July 9th ~

    1941– Crackerjack British cryptologists break the secret code used by the German army to direct ground-to-air operations on the Eastern front.
    British experts had already broken many of the Enigma codes for the Western front. Enigma was the Germans’ most sophisticated coding machine, necessary to secretly transmitting information. The Enigma machine, invented in 1919 by Hugo Koch, a Dutchman, looked like a typewriter and was originally employed for business purposes. The Germany army adapted the machine for wartime use and considered its encoding system unbreakable. They were wrong. The Brits had broken their first Enigma code as early as the German invasion of Poland and had intercepted virtually every message sent through the occupation of Holland and France. Britain nicknamed the intercepted messages Ultra.

    Now, with the German invasion of Russia, the Allies needed to be able to intercept coded messages transmitted on this second, Eastern, front. The first breakthrough occurred on July 9, regarding German ground-air operations, but various keys would continue to be broken by the Brits over the next year, each conveying information of higher secrecy and priority than the next. (For example, a series of decoded messages nicknamed “Weasel” proved extremely important in anticipating German anti-aircraft and antitank strategies against the Allies.) These decoded messages were regularly passed to the Soviet High Command regarding German troop movements and planned offensives, and back to London regarding the mass murder of Russian prisoners and Jewish concentration camp victims.

    1942 – CGC McLane and the Coast Guard-manned patrol craft USS YP-251 reportedly sank the Japanese submarine RO-32 off Sitka, Alaska. However, the Navy Department did not officially credit either with the sinking. The RO-32 was actually stricken from the Japanese Navy rolls in April, 1942 as obsolete and Japanese records indicated that no Japanese submarine was lost or damaged in Alaskan waters on that date.

    1943 – Operation Husky: The invasion of Sicily begins. The landing force is concentrated around Malta. There are 1200 transports and 2000 landing craft which will land elements of 8 divisions. In the evening, there are airborne landings by the US 82nd Airborne Division and British units which cause disruption in the Axis defenses, although they do not manage to seize their objectives. The Italian 6th Army (General Guzzoni) is responsible for the defense of Sicily. There are a total of about 240,000 troops (a quarter of which are Germans).
     
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    July 10th ~

    1898 – The First Marine Battalion, commanded by LtCol Robert W. Huntington, landed on the eastern side of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    The next day, Lt Herbert L. Draper hoisted the American flag on a flag pole at Camp Mc Calla where it flew during the next eleven days. Lt Col Huntington later sent the flag with an accompanying letter to Colonel Commandant Charles Heywood noting that “when bullets were flying, …the sight of the flag upon the midnight sky has thrilled our hearts.”

    1940 – The Germans begin the first in a long series of bombing raids against Great Britain, as the Battle of Britain, which will last three and a half months, begins.

    After the occupation of France by Germany, Britain knew it was only a matter of time before the Axis power turned its sights across the Channel. And on July 10, 120 German bombers and fighters struck a British shipping convoy in that very Channel, while 70 more bombers attacked dockyard installations in South Wales. Although Britain had far fewer fighters than the Germans-600 to 1,300-it had a few advantages, such as an effective radar system, which made the prospects of a German sneak attack unlikely.

    Britain also produced superior quality aircraft. Its Spitfires could turn tighter than Germany’s ME109s, enabling it to better elude pursuers; and its Hurricanes could carry 40mm cannon, and would shoot down, with its American Browning machine guns, over 1,500 Luftwaffe aircraft. The German single-engine fighters had a limited flight radius, and its bombers lacked the bomb-load capacity necessary to unleash permanent devastation on their targets. Britain also had the advantage of unified focus, while German infighting caused missteps in timing; they also suffered from poor intelligence. But in the opening days of battle, Britain was in immediate need of two things: a collective stiff upper lip–and aluminum. A plea was made by the government to turn in all available aluminum to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. “We will turn your pots and pans into Spitfires and Hurricanes,” the ministry declared. And they did !!

    1943 – Operation Husky: The Allied landings begin in Sicily. Patton’s 7th Army lands in the Gulf of Gela between Licata and Scoglitti.

    Assault elements of the 180th and 157th Infantry regiments, both part of the 45th Infantry Division (AZ, CO, OK) storm ashore as part of the invasion of Sicily. They meet little resistance and quickly move to secure the British right flank as it moves north to take Messina, the island’s closest point to the Italian mainland. This operation marked the first time any Allied force attacked an Axis power on its home ground. The Italians soon overthrow their dictator, Benito Mussolini and asked the Allies for peace. However, the Germans quickly moved large numbers of troops into the country and fought the Allies all the way back to the Alps, not surrendering until the end of the war on May 8, 1945.

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