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Combat of Hainau, 26 May 1813
The combat of Hainau (26 May 1813) was a rare Allied success during their retreat after the battle of Bautzen, and saw a Prussian cavalry force ambush an isolated French division east of Hainau (War of Liberation).
In the aftermath of their defeat at Bautzen (20-21 May 1813) the Russians and Prussians retreated east, through Görlitz and into Silesia. The Russian commanders wanted to pull back into Poland to reorganise, the Prussians to make a stand somewhere in Prussia. Tsar Alexander came up with a compromise - the Allies would retreat to Schweidnitz in Silesia (now Swidnica in Poland, south-west of Wroclaw, via Leignitz (Legnica).
On the morning of 26 May Napoleon's orders placed Marshal Ney, with V Corps and VII Corps, on the road to Hainau (modern Chojnow, 10 miles west of Legnice). General Maison's division of V Corps was in the lead, and it passed through Hainau at around 3pm. Maison had 4,000 infantry, but only 50 cavalry to act as scouts.
The Allies had three battalions of infantry and three regiments of Prussian light cavalry in the village. As the French advanced, these troops retreated. Maison pushed through Hainau to follow the retreating Prussians.
East of Hainau his route took him across a series of ridges. He was thus unable to see a force of Prussian cavalry (under Genreal Ziethen) that was waiting to attack. Maison halted his advance just beyond Michelsdorf, a village on the road between Hainau and Leignitz. As the French prepared to camp, the Prussians set fire to a mill to signal that the attack should begin. 3,000 cavalry hit the French infantry while they were out of formation, preparing to camp. They broke and fled back to Michelsdorf, where they found two battalions from another division. Puthod's division then arrived on the scene and the Prussians withdrew.
In this short combat Maison lost 1,000 dead, wounded and prisoners and lost five guns (Some French sources suggest 100 prisoners, two cannons and thre caisons). On the Prussian side Dolffs, the commander of Blücher's reserve cavalry, was killed, as was Colonel Buchloss.
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History of the 14th United States Cavalry Regiment
Whether mounted on horses or steads of steel, the 14th Cavalry Regiment has figured prominently in the expansion and the defense of our nation.
Since 1901, squadrons or elements of the Regiment have served seven combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, guarded Germany’s East-West border in the Fulda Gap for twenty-four years, fought in both Europe and the Pacific during WW II, aided U.S. Federal and local authorities in western states, patrolled the U.S.-Mexico border, and fought two multi-year campaigns in the Philippines.
It only just occurred to me that neither my good mate Grant, Matt nor I have any Spanish figures at all to speak of. So what? Well, we've been playing Napoloeonic Iberian Peninsular wargames for over 20 years and the nearest I can come is one unit of Portuguese Cacadores . not very near. I feel this is a problem.
I have no plans to begin supplementing my Peninsular army with Spanish figures any time soon, but will one day for their uniforms alone. But why is it that to date I have had no genuine leanings in this direction? How is it that my British army collection continues to exclude the locals across whose country they fought? I suspect the reason might be that focusing so closely on the armies of Wellesley (later Wellington) I have been groomed to dismiss just about everyone else. I too was hugely influenced by Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series of novels and then the TV adaptations. Through this retelling of the campaigns from 1810 to 1815, the Spanish soldiery is regularly dismissed as being useless.
What I am exploring is how accurate or justified the 'received' reputation of their armies' are in the English speaking histories (my primary sources) as it filters into public memory. Negative anecdotes are perpetuated by novelists, in drama and amongst wargamer 'histories' - Warlord Games describing them as little better than an 'armed mob.' In short, my reading over the decades has the Spanish military reputation being a very poor one. Is this what we all understand to be the case? In this, I am very welcoming of any input you might like to make and invite comments.
What strikes me initially (and I don't think this can be emphasized enough) is that the Spanish found themselves providing vast military support initially to the French and then the British, neither of whom were ever genuine friends of Spain or a natural ally. A cursory glance at the wider history of Spain and the Spanish Empire which preceded this period, see's them in an almost constant opposition to the interests of Britain or France. This consideration affects how they would operate alongside either allied army in the field and politically. Conversely, it affects the attitude and commentary of their 'allies' when we read reports on Spanish failures.
The people of Spain found themselves unwilling hosts to foreign armies as their homeland was turned into an ongoing theatre of war. Desperate soldiers of all flags were prone to looting and far worse - too often the locals were cruelly treated. They imposed themselves on a powerless population through billets, garrisons and consumed resources the agrarian economy could ill afford. We all know of the privations caused by the foraging policy of the French army on the march but consider also the British system of alleged purchase for supply.
Many within the British Commissariat indulged in bribery, extortion and blatant personal profiteering. Yes, the British army paid for it's goods but at a price of no advantage to the locals who were compelled to 'sell' whether they could afford to or not. Better than the French to be sure - but by a margin only.
Most of us who have an abiding historical interest in the Peninsular War (1808-14) are aware of the deep cultural divide between the French and the Spanish and between the British and the Spanish. The transition of the British Isles toward Protestantism and the French revolutionary rejection of Catholicism set the traditional and deeply conservative Spanish far apart. Politically, the French had abandoned absolute monarchy and settled for a new monarchical rule with vestiges of the revolutionary meritocracy. The British governed themselves through a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system formed through a proto-democracy . albeit a rotten one with a hundred years of reform ahead of it. Compared this then to the subject Spanish peoples, ruled by an aristocracy with an almost inseparable union of church and state - we can see three worlds set apart.
The land mass of Spain is over twice that of Britain and is criss-crossed with mountain ranges, valleys and plains which lends itself to cultural regionalization. What we call the 'Spanish' language is essentially Catalonian and there are multiple other dialects. Considering that whilst other European countries to their north had divided themselves through the protestant reformation, the powers in Spain had for hundreds of years fought to expel the Muslim control and culture from Andalusia - entrenching a united Church and state whilst doing so. I think it fair to observe that there were many Spains to be found once central authority was lost.
Another event also might throw some perspective on deep seated animosities which existed between the British and Spanish soldiers themselves. I think many of us would be familiar with the events of Badajoz by British forces in 1812. To recap briefly, the siege was hotly contested at considerable cost in lives to the attacking British army who, after entering the city ran riot looting, raping and murdering the civilian population. I've read many academic and other defences of this act (principally English commentators) and I think many of us are aware of the ancient tenet concerning failure to capitulate past a certain point in a siege (the ram has touched the wall).
Those who are more comfortable excusing acts through the total war theory easily dismiss the atrocity but we should at least consider that the inhabitants were Spanish civilians - not French. They were not the enemy and had no control over their situation. Consider the prevailing attitude British soldiers must have had toward Spaniards in general. Consider then also the affect this had on Anglo-Spanish relations within the armies and on the field?
If I were Spanish at the time, I'd be wondering what sort of 'friend' this new British ally was . not a very friendly one. So, just how far would you go to risk life and limb fighting alongside these redcoats when fighting against the French? I'd be thinking about letting my allies and my enemy do most of the fighting and let them kill each other. Taking this perspective, failure to support an attack looks a lot less like cowardice or incompetence.
Whilst the Spanish had defeated the French in the field it's undeniable that they were more often outclassed by French skill at arms - but then so was everyone else for quite some time. The Prussians, the Russians and the Austrians were comprehensively defeated time and again but don't seem to suffer the same reputation as their Spanish counterparts. Why is this? Even the British army failed in Flanders and were driven out of Spain the first time at Corunna (1809). Everyone had a come-back and victory over the French in the end - including the Spanish. Is the lasting impression of Spanish arms simply becasue we have derogatory British first hand accounts in a language I understand? If so, why so?
Just prior to allying with the British, the Spanish had been fighting against them - the more traditional arrangement. Actions between the two protagonists hadn't been entirely uneven and British raids had been repulsed at Cadiz, Tenerife and Ferrol so they could certainly stand and put up a fight. Whilst the alliances had shifted, the British themselves were not overly fond of people they traditionally fought against. In British historical culture Francis Drake is lionized and the defeat of the Spanish Armadas had long been remembered and heralded. The average Englishman or Brit referred to Spanish as the 'Dons' or 'Dagos'. I don't know what Spanish soldiers called the British but it's bound to have been as equally insulting. But what of the wider Spanish effort against the French?
A glance at the list of battles fought by the Spanish in the Peninsular war shows Spanish victories against the French at both Battles of the Bruch (1808) where they captured a French eagle, the sieges of Gerona and Saragossa (1808), the first battle of Valencia (1808) combat at Mengibar (1808), the Battle of Bailen (1808), battle of Valmaseda (1808), Miajadas (1809), Monzon (1809), Alcaniz (1809), combat near Santiago (1809), battle of river Oitaben (1809), co-victors at Talavera (1809), Tamames (1809), Labispal (1810), combat of Pla (1811), co-victors at Barossa (1811), co-victors at Albuera (1811), Benadides (1811), 1st cobat at river Orbigo (1811), Valleys of Cergadne (1811), 1st combat of Bornos (1811), siege of Astorga (1812), co-victors at Salamanca (1812), Bilbao (1812), siege of Tafalla (1813), combat of Lerin (1813), co-victors at Vittoria (1813), combat of La Salud (1813), captured Saragossa (1813), co-victors of combat of Yanzi (1813), co-victors at San Marcial (1813), co-victors at Toulouse (1814) and the battle of Barcelona (1814). I may even have missed more.
The vast majority of these victories by Regulars and Guerillas were not with the direct assistance or in the presence of the British. There was clearly a lot of fighting going on across the whole country. From a Spanish perspective, the single British army which probed in and out of Portugal for the first few years was not even the main event but the English speaking world focuses on it. It took time before efforts combined properly and centralized with Wellesley becoming Generalissimo. When they combined we then have events such as the taking of Astorga which saw strong Spanish regular forces undertake successful siege operations whist also detaching troops to reinforce the Anglo-Portuguese at Salamanca.
The victory at the battle of Bailen (1808) was in fact the first 'field' defeat of an French Napoleonic army. Not nearly all of the Spanish actions against the French involved the British whilst some operations complimented their allies in a grand tactical manner. The Spanish had more than their fair share of losses with significant consequences but I think we can safely say it was far from a one way affair.
So, why are our accounts so critical? I suspect it's down to prejudice born of the times. The accounts handed down to us are from literate witnesses from within a defining class structure. As an Australian born in the second half of the 20th century it's difficult to appreciate at times what a rigid class structure meant and how it directed behaviour. I think it's fair to say that a class structure tended to induce all too often a disdain amongst one group in a society for another - resentment being directed upwards and contempt downwards. The militaries doubled-down on this through their officer ranks and purchase systems.
Pride and honour with social and military status manifested itself in public behaviour and even duels (an extreme) and tended toward critical commentary through the correspondence of the literate elites. I don't mean to keep singling out Arthur Wellesley except his commentaries are so well known. I've written before about his dismissive attitude toward the Dutch in 1815 but he is also on record for deriding his own cavalry and he was contemptuous toward the artillery - the two arms of service of whom he was least familiar. No surprised that the future Duke of Wellington was from the infantry himself and remained critical of the 'other'. Criticism of others for men of the officer class seems very much the way of things. Whilst very critical himself, Wellesley labelled in turn his critics as 'croackers.' It was all the rage.
A real problem with letters and memoirs is that the author can write what they want, to whom they want with little regard for the truth. Neither types of correspondence are accountable and are as prone to exaggeration or twisting of the truth as a veteran telling tall tales in a pub for free drinks. So, when we have an account of a Spanish infantry unit fleeing a battle after their own first volley, we might pause to consider what the attitude of the author might have been in the first instance.
I suspect the demeanor of the rank and file of the allied armies might also have been quite different. The Spanish had larger forces spread across the whole of Spain engaging in multiple areas of operation. They drew from their own populace in defence of their own homeland and for them this was a war of liberation. To a larger degree, the Spanish armies were comprised of a good number of what we might call citizen soldiery - enlisted for the cause and for the duration of the conflict. Compare them then with the British.
The British regular army comprised volunteers and pressed men to some degree who were serving for the King's Shilling in foreign parts to prosecute the interests of King and empire. The 'scum of the earth' were kept in line at times with the lash and the occasional hanging. Life was hard and so too were the men in scarlet. It's hard not to imagine the average British soldier as a hard-bitten, cynic . suspicious, fatalistic and critical of everyone else who wasn't of his ranks. They must have been prepared for the worst and tended to think the worst of their Spanish allies who needed their help.
I think it safe to say that the war was from far from over just becasue Wellesley and the British arrived. The forces deployed into Spain by the French were vast. We all know the oft emphasized Spanish Guerilla war but it was more than that. Spain, or rather the Spanish never rolled over. The central polity fractured under French occupation and each piece continued to resist and so too did the Spanish regular armies. Sometimes they might diffuse after defeat or in the face of overwhelming odds only to reform elsewhere. Spain was big enough for Spanish armies to retreat deeper into it. The battles continued to rage across four years until, facing exhaustion on too many fronts, The French could no longer recover from losses in the field against Wellington. They were also losing against the Spanish who were fighting alongside him and elsewhere.
I feel that far too much credit has been taken from the Spanish at the time by personalities not prepared to share the glory. This myopia has been repeated down the generations and goes on to this day. At least this is my current appreciation . what's yours?
The once remote Copper Harbor is now home to a cozy town, with an old military post. Fort Wilkins, situated on the north shore of Lake Fanny Hooe and a couple miles south of Lake Superior, has kept a watchful eye over…
On May 27, 1813, American forces led by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, Colonel Winfield Scott and Major General Henry Dearborn, launched an amphibious assault on Fort George, commanded by British Brigadier-General John Vincent. Launched from Fort Niagara on the opposite…
Fort Meigs and the War of 1812
“Our ranks scattered, our brave Colonel slain, and most of the other officers mortally wounded, seems sufficient to have unnerved the bravest hero, but even then many heroic deeds of personal valor were enacted and I still occasionally heard the loud, shrill game cock crowing of one brave spirit who seemed determined to die game and cheer his comrades to the last (1).” This is an excerpt from the address of Thomas Christian who was a volunteer in Colonel Dudley’s Regiment during the Kentucky militia’s attempt to lift the siege of Fort Meigs.
After the American losses in Detroit in August of 1812 and Frenchtown in January of 1813, the frontier in western Ohio was left exposed to attacks by the British and allied Native Americans lead by Tecumseh. To combat this threat, Major General William Henry Harrison ordered Fort Meigs to be constructed on a bluff overlooking the Maumee River in anticipation of an inevitable attack by the enemy (4).
Initially, Harrison’s intention for the fort was as a potential staging point for a future invasion into Canada that never saw any immediate fruition. Construction began on February 2, 1813 and was completed by late April of that same year. At the time, Fort Meigs was one of the largest forts in the United States, covering 10 acres of land and consisting of 8 blockhouses connected by wooden palisades as walls (6). The fort was originally built as a winter quarters for General Harrison during the early part of the War of 1812. However, the fort was eventually expanded as Harrison intended it to be a supply point for the American forces in the Old Northwest region. Ultimately, Harrison saw the need to expand the fort into a walled defense. The location of Fort Meigs was in a position of tactical advantage as it was constructed on a bluff commanding the view north up the Maumee River. The location of the fort was such that it would be difficult for an enemy approaching from the north to pass it without having to engage in a conflict. Fort Meigs was named in honor of Return J. Meigs, Jr. who was the Governor of Ohio at the time. Return J. Meigs, Jr. played a significant role in supporting General William Harrison along the Old Northwest frontier by providing supplies and militia men. The fort was completed just in time to hinder the advance of 2,000 British regulars and Canadian militia lead by British Brigadier General Henry Proctor, aided by Chief Tecumseh and 1,000 native American warriors (7).
Siege of Fort Meigs
In late March of 1813, General Harrison left Fort Meigs to bring forward some of his reserve troops to reinforce the Fort which he new would play a significant role in the defense of thousands of square miles of territory (3). At the same time Harrison dispatched Captain William Oliver with an order to the Kentucky troops to hastily come and reinforce the fort.
When the ice in Lake Erie broke up, General Proctor moved up the left bank of the Maumee river with all his available forces in order to lay siege to Fort Meigs. According to reports, Proctors force at his initial movement was made up of 500 regulars and Canadian militia and around 1,500 Indians (3). Proctor was accompanied by a train of artillery and two gunboats. The main British camp was setup at Fort Miami further up the river from Fort Meigs.
Learning of Proctor’s arrival, the garrison began building large traverses across the fort, removing the tents and preparing for the siege. The British established three gun batteries and one mortar battery on April 27 th on the opposite shore of Fort Meigs.
Proctor began the siege of Fort Meigs on May 1, 1813 by initiating cannon fire into the fort from gun emplacements on the north bank of the river opposite the fort and one emplacement on the south side of the river. Meanwhile, the native American forces loosely formed to the south of the fort and harassed the American troops with irregular small arms fire (2). Despite persistent fire from the British, the fort absorbed the majority of the cannonballs with its earthen walls Harrison ordered built up inside the outer perimeter.
A.M. Lorraine told an interesting story saying that “One of our militia men took his station on the embankment and gratuitously forewarned us of every shot. In this he became so skillful that he could, in almost every case, predict the destination of the ball (3).”
Meanwhile 1,200 Kentucky militia led by Brigadier General Green Clay were heading north to reinforce the fort against the British (5). When General Harrison heard of the reinforcements he dispatched a messenger to Clay on May 2 to detail a plan to drive off the enemy.
Following Harrisons plan, Clay sent 850 of his men on May 5 lead by Colonel William Dudley to land on the north side of the river to disable the British gun batteries (4). Dudley achieved complete surprise on the British and overwhelmed the enemy batteries. The Kentucky militia used their weapon ramrods to spike the guns but only managed to temporarily disable them as they were soon distracted. At this point one of Dudley’s columns commanded by captain Leslie Combs came under attack by a Native American force (5). Instead of withdrawing back across the river to Fort Meigs as intended in Harrison’s plan, Dudley ordered Combs reinforced. This quickly turned to calamity as the militia were drawn into the woods by the withdrawing Native Americans who massed and turned on the disoriented Kentuckians. Thomas Christian relates that “alas! That aid to the enemy was death for us. They formed an ambush, and securely hid from view, had every advantage. Our futile attempts to dislodge them gave that portion of the enemy upon the opposite side of the river ample time to cross over to the rear, completely hemming us in upon every side (1).” Reinforced by the British, the Native Americans destroyed Dudley’s control over his men and the disoriented militias’ withdrawal to the gun positions was quickly turned into a chaotic retreat (4). Combs comments that “The best disciplined troops in the world are sometimes panic struck – then can it be surprising that militia, under these circumstances, and who had seen scarce thirty days service, should become so (2)?” As the Militia retreated back to the gun positions, they were easily overwhelmed by the British and were either killed or forced to surrender. After the ensuing fighting, Dudley was killed and only 150 of his 850 men managed to escape to the safety of Fort Meigs.
Meanwhile however, on the lower part of the river a group of American soldiers was sent out from Fort Meigs to destroy the lower gun emplacements (7). They were successful in their mission and returned to the fort safely.
After Dudley’s defeat, the remaining forces of the Kentucky militia were forced to march off to Fort Maumee a mile and a half down the river near the British encampment (2). Along the way the militia were robbed of their clothing and belongings while the Indians brutalized the exhausted American soldiers. Proctor, along with his guard and other British officers rode up and down the line and looked on and did nothing to stop the beating and scalping that commenced. Captain Leslie Combs relates in his report that “He who did not instantaneously give up his clothes, frequently payed his life for it.” (2) When the prisoners were brought to Fort Maumee, they were kept in harsh conditions and many of them were killed and brutalized by the Native American warriors. In his description of the events that transpired at Fort Maumee, Leslie Combs states that it was not until Chief Tecumseh arrived and chastised Proctor for being too weak to stop the atrocities imposed on the prisoners that the killing stopped (2). Eventually however, later on in the siege, the prisoners were released at the mouth of the Huron River with little food or clothing to keep them from freezing (1). Many of them wandering through the wilderness in hopes of returning south to their homes and safety.
General Proctor continued the bombardment of the fort but soon found himself in a static siege against a strong American force that was not likely to end quickly. With the pressure from his militia to return home and many of the Native American forces dwindling due to lack of interest in an extended siege, Proctor broke of the siege on May 9, 1813.
After Proctor raised the first siege, General Harrison made quick work of repairing the damage to the fort caused by enemy guns (3). On Harrison’s recommendation the plan for his campaign in the region changed. Vessels were being constructed in Erie and Cleveland, and until they were ready Harrison decided to act on the defensive (3).
On July 21, Proctor returned to Fort Meigs with an even larger force aided by Tecumseh. This time the British infantry positioned themselves in the ravine below the fort while the cavalry remained hidden in the adjacent woods (3). The Native American forces were stationed in the forest about a mile southeast from the fort. Under the cover of darkness, the forces conducted a sham battle by firing their weapons and acting as if they were engaged in an attempt to deceive the Americans stationed in Fort Meigs. Proctor’s hope was that was that the Americans would be drawn out thinking their reinforcements were under attack and could thus be flanked by the British cavalry. “It was a cunning stratagem, and, had it not been met with equal cunning, the result of the war in the Northwest would probably have been different (3).” After this failed ruse to draw the Americans out of garrison into an ambush, Proctor abandoned his second siege and withdrew his forces elsewhere (7). After Proctor’s second failure to capture Fort Meigs, Tecumseh had lost all faith in his British allies. Because of this Tecumseh did not work closely with the British for most of the remainder of the War of 1812 which helped turn the tide in the favor of the United States (4).
Fort Meigs Significance
Fort Meigs marked a significant turning point in the War of 1812 for the Americans. The battles at Fort Meigs and others along the Maumee river ultimately countered the British threat of invasion into Ohio and the rest of the Northwestern frontier (4). If it were not for Fort Meigs during the War of 1812, Ohio might have become part of modern day Canada. By defeating Proctor at Fort Meigs Harrison was able to turn the tide of the war and go on the offensive ultimately defeating Proctor and the British at the battle of Thames in Canada. Fort Meigs carries a significant amount of history not only for Ohio but for the rest of the United States. The brave men who fought and died defending Fort Meigs might not have been able to know the results of their actions. However, their bravery helped to win the War of 1812 and defend the nations territory and freedom from the British.
Map of Fort Meigs Siege Photo From: history.ancestry.com
2. Dudley, William (1867). “Col. WM. Dudley’s Defeat Opposite Fort Meigs.” New York Public Library.
3. Averill, James P. (1886). “Fort Meigs.” University of Alberta.
4. Hatfield, Egon (2013). “War of 1812 bicentennial: Fort Meigs.” RDECOM History Office.
6. Hurley, Michael, and Jason McNaught (2013). “The siege of Fort Meigs: a bloody campaign Ohio.” Esprit de Corps p. 32+.
Letcher took office on January 1, 1860. Just a few weeks earlier, the radical abolitionist John Brown had been hanged in Charles Town after his failed raid, in October, on Harpers Ferry . The state was in an uproar, with talk of secession and many politicians’ wanting to increase Virginia’s military stores and the size of its armed forces. Letcher deflected these cries by noting that there was still time to amend the U.S. Constitution in order to preserve slavery and calm sectional tensions. Nevertheless, Letcher also began quietly preparing for war. He granted weapons contracts to Joseph Reid Anderson and the Tredegar ironworks in Richmond (then called Joseph R. Anderson and Company). His view of the prospects of compromise darkened: “There must be a speedy and radical change in Northern sentiment,” he wrote, “or we cannot remain a united people.”
Still, Letcher steered a middle course, supporting the Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in the presidential election of 1860 and expressing hope that after the election “a spirit of conciliation and compromise will restore union and harmony in [the Democratic] party.” During the Virginia Convention of 1861 that convened on February 13 to consider secession, Letcher continued to resist overtures from radicals until U.S. president Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers to suppress the rebellion. “You have chosen to inaugurate civil war,” he wrote to the U.S. secretary of war in response to a call for troops from Virginia, “and having done so we will meet you.”
When Virginians ratified the convention’s vote to secede from the Union in May 1861, Letcher became responsible for organizing Virginia’s military and government. He seized control of various military resources within the state (the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, for instance), provided for troop recruitment and training as well as for the protection of transportation routes, and worked to secure the dangerously Unionist northwestern part of the state, while at the same time finding some way to fund it all. He began securing commissions for competent militia leaders, such as Robert E. Lee , whom Letcher successfully recruited as major general of land and sea forces, and Thomas J. Jackson , whom Letcher knew from Lexington, where Jackson had been a professor at the Virginia Military Institute .
For the duration of the war, Letcher attempted to balance the interests of the state against those of the Confederacy. That the war was largely fought in Virginia, where the Confederate capital also was located, placed an immense strain on the state’s resources, particularly in terms of foodstuffs and salt. Inflation spiraled out of control, a condition exacerbated by the Confederate policy of impressments. On the
one hand, Letcher represented his constituents’ discontent—especially over infringements of civil and property rights—to the Confederate government on the other, he employed a firm hand to quell dissent. During the Richmond Bread Riot , on April 2, 1863, an angry mob of women congregated in Capitol Square to protest the price of foodstuffs (and after not being permitted to see the governor), sacked area shops. Although accounts vary, one version of events claims Letcher called out the Home Guard and threatened to have the women shot unless they dispersed.
Letcher ran for a seat in the Confederate Congress in 1863, but lost to John B. Baldwin , a result attributed primarily to backlash against Letcher’s support of impressments and failure adequately to address inflation. Letcher left the governor’s mansion on January 1, 1864, turning the Virginia government over to William “Extra Billy” Smith.
Europe 276: Probus vs Florian
Tacitus was succeeded by his half-brother Florian, who was almost immediately challenged by the general Probus. Although Probus was only recognized in a few eastern provinces, and had a much smaller army, he quickly outmaneuvered and deposed Florian to become the sole emperor in September 276.
The Agri Decumates was lost to the Romans in c.262, regained by Aurelian and Probus in 275–8, and lost again sometime between 290 and 310. The losses here seem not so much due to any rise in power of the local Alemanni tribe, but Roman internal division. When rival Roman factions controlled Gaul and Raetia, as was the case in 262–274 and 306, the limes of the Agri Decumates were no longer defensible and had to be abandoned.
Jun–Sep 276 Principate of Florian▲
After the death of Tacitus, the army in Asia Minor chose his half-brother Florian to succeed him as emperor in June 276. Florian seems to have been quickly recognized by the Roman Senate, but was unable to achieve much—and most likely never returned to Rome—before Aurelian’s general Probus revolted in Syria. After just over two months’ rule, Florian was either killed by his own troops or forced to commit suicide by opening his veins. in wikipedia
Jun 276 Probus’ Revolt▲
When the eastern legions learned of the death of Tacitus and his succession by Florian in June 276, they proclaimed Marcus Aurelius Probus—their general and a veteran of Aurelian’s restoration wars—as emperor. Probus quickly gained recognition in Syria, Phoenice, Palestina, and Egypt, but lacked both the troop numbers and wider support of his rival Florian. in wikipedia
Aug–Sep 276 Probus–Florian War▲
When Florian heard of Probus’ claim, he abandoned his pursuit of the Heruli—allowing these invaders to escape across the Black Sea—and headed south to Tarsus with his army. Outnumbered by his rival, Probus avoided direct combat until Florian’s troops—who were mostly European and therefore unaccustomed to the climate of Cilicia—began suffering from the summer heat and disease. Probus then attacked and easily defeating his weakened enemy outside Tarsus, deposing Florian. in wikipedia
When the smoke settled, Perry had captured the entire British squadron and secured American control of Lake Erie. Writing to Harrison, Perry reported, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." American casualties in the battle were 27 dead and 96 wounded. British losses numbered 41 dead, 93 wounded, and 306 captured. Following the victory, Perry ferried Harrison's Army of the Northwest to Detroit where it began its advance into Canada. This campaign culminated in the American victory at the Battle of the Thames on Oct. 5, 1813. To this day, no conclusive explanation has been given as to why Elliot delayed in entering the battle. This action led to a life-long dispute between Perry and his subordinate.
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Creek War, (1813–14), war that resulted in U.S. victory over Creek Indians, who were British allies during the War of 1812, resulting in vast cession of their lands in Alabama and Georgia. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who expected British help in recovering hunting grounds lost to settlers, travelled to the south to warn of dangers to native cultures posed by whites. Factions arose among the Creeks, and a group known as the Red Sticks preyed upon white settlements and fought with those Creeks who opposed them. On August 30, 1813, when the Red Sticks swept down upon 553 surprised frontiersmen at a crude fortification at Lake Tensaw, north of Mobile, the resulting Ft. Mims Massacre stirred the Southern states into a vigorous response. The main army of 5,000 militiamen was led by Gen. Andrew Jackson, who succeeded in wiping out two Indian villages that fall: Tallasahatchee and Talladega.
The following spring hundreds of Creeks gathered at what seemed an impenetrable village fortress on a peninsula on the Tallapoosa River, awaiting the Americans’ attack. On March 27, 1814, at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Tohopeka, Ala.), Jackson’s superior numbers (3,000 to 1,000) and armaments (including cannon) demolished the Creek defenses, slaughtering more than 800 warriors and imprisoning 500 women and children. The power of the Indians of the Old Southwest was broken.
At the Treaty of Ft. Jackson (August 9) the Creeks were required to cede 23,000,000 acres of land, comprising more than half of Alabama and part of southern Georgia. Much of that territory belonged to Indians who had earlier been Jackson’s allies.
Building on a 200-Year Legacy
Today’s U.S. Navy was born (or perhaps reborn) in the War of 1812. Though the Fleet was founded during the first year of the American Revolution, by 1812 it was still a small coastal navy with a limited ability to project power, protect ports, or control the sea. Those shortfalls hurt the United States in the War of 1812 and showed Americans very clearly the importance of a capable navy to protect the nation’s security and economic prosperity. At the same time, the characteristics that eventually carried the small U.S. Fleet to victories against the British—tactical proficiency, forward operations, and warfighting readiness—became hallmarks of our Navy that endure to this day.
The U.S. Navy was not ready for the War of 1812 because America’s early leaders were not convinced the country even needed an ocean-going force. Presidents George Washington and John Adams initially planned to build up the Fleet to protect the nation’s growing economy. But Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison later slowed naval construction because they were wary of either increasing the national debt or raising taxes. In the lead-up to war, many in the Madison administration, recognizing the disparity against the British, argued that the Fleet would best be kept in port to focus on harbor defense.
Small Fleet, Large Impact
As a result, the American Navy that sailed into the War of 1812 consisted of just 20-odd ships—with seven of those undergoing or in need of repair. Despite its size, however, that small Fleet made a big difference. Before Britain completed its blockade of America’s coast, most U.S. frigates and other warships were able to get to sea and remain under way throughout the war to challenge the Royal Navy. Those ships and their crews won a series of individual engagements in the Atlantic and on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, surprising many observers in both countries and boosting morale in the United States.
Once it was able to mobilize in North America, the larger and more experienced Royal Navy blockaded U.S. merchants and some warships in port and eventually supported an invasion of Washington, D.C. The impact of the British offensive was significant. Insurance rates soared and imports dropped, dramatically raising the price of finished goods from Europe needed in America’s homes and factories. Meanwhile, commodity exports fell by more than 80 percent, denying American businesses and the government badly needed revenue. 1 Britain eventually lifted the blockade and negotiated for peace because of the financial drain of the war, the persistent challenge from American warships that evaded the blockade, and a continued threat from France. But the cost of the blockade to the U.S. economy and the Navy’s limited effectiveness in ending it forged a consensus after the war that America needed a strong Navy to assure the nation’s security and prosperity. 2
A Young Navy’s Enduring Traits
The young American Fleet was able to defeat the preeminent Royal Navy in individual battles because it evidenced traits that continue to be essential today. First, U.S. commanders were bold and innovative, having developed a strong culture of command and independence through the Quasi-War with France and conflict with the Barbary pirates. In the earliest example, Commodore John Rodgers put to sea within hours of learning of the outbreak of war to go in search of British convoys, stretching the limits of his orders and quickly showing the Royal Navy that America was willing to fight. Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough, after twice being knocked unconscious in the Battle of Lake Champlain, was able to maneuver his flagship, the Saratoga, around to bring a fresh broadside to bear and ultimately win a decisive victory. And, in one of the first examples of transoceanic U.S. power projection, Captain David Porter took the frigate Essex around Cape Horn in 1813 and successfully disrupted British whaling and trade.
Second, U.S. Navy crews were confident and proficient. American sailors drilled daily at their guns, and were able to shoot more accurately and more rapidly than the British. Through multiple engagements, the Americans demonstrated superior gunnery skills and seamanship, such as when the Constitution evaded a more powerful force because her crew towed and winched the ship away when winds had calmed. Events like those during the War of 1812 reinforced John Paul Jones’ earlier conclusion that “men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship.”
Third, U.S. ships were well built and resilient, surprising the British with their agility and firepower. American 44-gun frigates were bigger, had thicker hulls, carried larger crews, and were outfitted with more guns than the standard frigates of the day. They made such an impression on the British that the Royal Navy began to question their classification. “Though they may be called Frigates,” read a secret order from the Admiralty to all station commanders, they “are of a size, Complem[e]nt and weight of Metal much beyond that Class, and more resembling Line of Battle Ships.” 3 The Constitution, in fact, was given the nickname “Old Ironsides” by her crew after witnessing enemy shot bounce off the oak timbers that made up her hull.
Looking to the Past for the Future
Our Navy’s experience in the War of 1812 provides lessons we should apply today. Two hundred years ago our burgeoning industrial base built a Fleet with a focus on warfighting capability, ensuring that our frigates would deliver overwhelming fires while withstanding attacks. Our commanders, in turn, kept their crews’ attention on combat in the lead-up to conflict. Today we must continue applying that tenet of warfighting first—delivering durable, effective capabilities to the Fleet so it can overcome present-day threats.
The War of 1812 showed the vulnerability of our economy to disruptions in overseas trade. Today, globally interconnected supply and production chains make it even more imperative that we operate forward to protect the freedom of navigation at strategic maritime crossroads where shipping lanes and our security interests intersect. Those locations—such as the Gibraltar, Malacca, and Hormuz straits—will only grow in importance as production chains become more global and dependent on reliable trade routes.
America’s second war with Great Britain also made clear that confident and well-trained sailors provide a warfighting edge no amount of technology can duplicate. In 1812 American naval victories helped persuade Britain to negotiate peace. Today our forces must be ready to fight every day to promptly counter aggression or dissuade aggressors from their objectives.
Warfighting First. Operate Forward. Be Ready. Those are the key lessons from the U.S. Navy’s first sustained trial by fire. Those three tenets are the foundation of my Sailing Directions and keep us linked to our rich heritage.
1. Ian W. Toll, Six Frigates (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2006) p. 429.
3. First Secretary of the Admiralty to station commanders-in-chief, 10 July 1813, in William S. Dudley and Michael J. Crawford, eds., The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, 3 vols. to date (Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1985–) 2:183.