This Day in U.S. Military History 23 June 1862

This Day in U.S. Military History 23 June 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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This Day in U.S. Military History 22 June 1972

This Day in U.S. Military History 22 June 1972 

South Vietnam’s 21st Division, decimated by repeated attempts to relieve An Loc, is replaced by the 25th Division. At the same time, U.S. helicopters flew 18th Division troops to positions south of An Loc to replace badly battered 9th Division troops that had also been trying to get to the city. The 21st Division and attached units had been trying to reach the besieged city since April 9, when the group had been moved from its normal station in the Mekong Delta and ordered to attack up Highway 13 from Lai Khe to open the route to An Loc. The South Vietnamese forces had been locked in a desperate battle with a North Vietnamese division blocking the highway since the very beginning of the siege. As the 21st Division tried to open the road, the defenders inside An Loc fought off repeated attacks by two North Vietnamese divisions that had surrounded the city early in April. This was the southernmost thrust of the North Vietnamese invasion that had begun on March 30; the other main objectives were Quang Tri in the north and Kontum in the Central Highlands. The arrival of the fresh South Vietnamese soldiers would eventually result in the lifting of the siege at An Loc. The 18th Division troops successfully attacked the North Vietnamese forces surrounding the city and most of the communist troops within An Loc had been eliminated by the end of the month. The 25th Division was less successful and the North Vietnamese forces continued to block Route 13 south of the city.

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This Day in U.S. Military History 18 June

This Day in U.S. Military History 18 June 1812

The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law–and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the “War Hawks” had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States. In the months after President Madison proclaimed the state of war to be in effect, American forces launched a three-point invasion of Canada, all of which were decisively unsuccessful. In 1814, with Napoleon Bonaparte’s French Empire collapsing, the British were able to allocate more military resources to the American war, and Washington, D.C., fell to the British in August. In Washington, British troops burned the White House, the Capitol, and other buildings in retaliation for the earlier burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. soldiers. In September, the tide of the war turned when Thomas Macdonough’s American naval force won a decisive victory at the Battle of Plattsburg Bay on Lake Champlain. The invading British army was forced to retreat back into Canada. The American victory on Lake Champlain led to the conclusion of U.S.-British peace negotiations in Belgium, and on December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, formally ending the War of 1812. By the terms of the agreement, all conquered territory was to be returned, and a commission would be established to settle the boundary of the United States and Canada. British forces assailing the Gulf Coast were not informed of the treaty in time, and on January 8, 1815, the U.S. forces under Andrew Jackson achieved the greatest American victory of the war at the Battle of New Orleans. The American public heard of Jackson’s victory and the Treaty of Ghent at approximately the same time, fostering a greater sentiment of self-confidence and shared identity throughout the young republic.

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