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Old 08-16-2018, 12:04 PM   #5371
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August 16, 1760
Battle of the Thousand Islands

After the fall of Quebec in the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham (see posting), British Commander-in-Chief Gen. Jeffrey Amherst prepared to launch a 3-pronged attack to take Montreal. Columns were to advance along the Saint Lawrence River from Quebec to the northeast, up the Richelieu River from Lake Champlain to the south, and from Oswego on Lake Ontario to the west. The latter force, which Amherst led personally, numbered some 10,000 men and 100 guns.

By August 1760, the French were building Ft. Lévis at Ile Royale (present-day Chimney Island NY) in the St. Lawrence River. Captain Pierre Pouchot was assigned its defense. Pouchot had been taken prisoner after the Siege of Ft. Niagara (see posting), but he was later released in a prisoner exchange. Chevalier de Lévis' original design for the fort called for stone walls, 200 guns and some 2500 troops. What Pouchot had was a small fort with wooden stockades, 5 cannon and 200 soldiers. Also under Pouchot's command were the corvettes l'Outaouaise and l'Iroquoise, crewed by 200 sailors and voyageurs. l'Iroquoise, under command of Commodore René Hypolite Pépin dit La Force, was armed with ten 12-pound cannon and swivel guns . l'Outaouaise, commanded by Captain Pierre Boucher de LaBroquerie carried ten 12-pounders, one 18-pound gun and swivel guns. Soon after his arrival at Île Royal, Pouchot ordered the abandonment of the nearby Ft. de La Présentation and the shipyard and stockades at Pointe au Baril to consolidate his resources at the more defendable Ft. Lévis. La Force had run his corvette l'Iroquoise aground at Pointe au Baril on August 1. Although raised, it was deemed too damaged to be put into action. It was beached again under the guns at Ft. Lévis.

Amherst's force set out from Oswego on August 10. Captain Joshua Loring, who commanded the British snows (a snow was a 2-masted square-rigger with a “snow” or trysail mast just behind the main mast) Onondaga and Mohawk, had been sent ahead as an advance guard. Onondaga had been launched at Ft. Niagara as Apollo in 1759. Commanded by Loring, it carried four 9-pounders, fourteen 6-pounders and a crew of 100 seamen and 25 soldiers. Mohawk, commanded by Lt. David Phipps, carried sixteen 6-pounders and a crew of 90 seamen and 30 soldiers.

On August 7, French lookouts sighted the 2 snows from their outpost at Ile aux Chevreuils, upstream from Ft. Lévis. The French withdrew in a row galley, pursued by Onondaga and Mohawk. The British vessels got lost in the maze of islands, and did not find their way back to the main channel for several days.

Amherst's force arrived at Pointe au Baril on August 16. Fearing the remaining French ship might attack his transports, Amherst ordered Colonel George Williamson to capture l'Outaouaise the following day. At dawn on August 17, Williamson set out in a gig, accompanied by 5 row galleys (1 armed with a howitzer, the others each armed with a single 12-pounder). The galleys took shelter fore and aft of l'Outaouaise, where they could not be hit by the ship's broadsides. The British galleys crippled l'Outaouaise, which drifted helplessly towards the British battery set up at Pointe au Baril. After 3 hours of fighting, l'Outaouaise had managed to fire 72 shots, damaging 2 of the British galleys, but LaBroquerie was finally forced to surrender to Williamson. LaBroquerie was wounded in the fighting; 15 members of his crew were killed or wounded.

The captured l'Outaouaise was repaired and renamed Williamson, to be put back into service against her former owners. On August 19, Amherst commenced the attack on Ft. Lévis. La Force and his crew had been ordered back from the beached l'Iroquoise to the fort to assist with its defense. Williamson was hit 48 times by the 5 French guns when it joined in with the British batteries firing on Ft. Lévis from surrounding islands. Mohawk and Onondaga finally arrived on the scene in the evening and Amherst called a ceasefire for the night. The attack resumed at dawn on August 20 with Williamson, Mohawk and Onondaga all firing on the fort with a combined 50 guns. As the attack progressed, the French guns sank Williamson and Onondaga. Mohawk ran aground under the French cannon, where it sat helpless as it was pounded until out of action. The British batteries on the surrounding islands continued to fire, switching to hot shot, used to start fires within the fort. The siege continued until August 24 when Pouchot ran out of ammunition for his guns and asked for terms.

The fighting cost the British 26 killed and 47 wounded (likely excluding militia) to the French losses of around 275 of the original 300 defenders killed or wounded. Pouchot was amongst the wounded. The British could hardly believe that such a small garrison had offered such spirited resistance.

After the battle, Amherst's force remained at Ft. Lévis for another 4 days before continuing toward Montreal. The British advance cost Amherst at least 84 men drowned in the rapids of the St. Lawrence (although Pouchot puts this number at 336). He went on to meet the forces from Quebec and Lake Champlain and completely surrounded Montreal. The British forces totaling 17,000 men began to converge on the town, burning villages along the way and prompting mass desertions from the Canadian militia. On September 8, Montreal was surrendered by New France's governor the Marquis de Vaudreuil to avoid further bloodshed.
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Old 08-16-2018, 12:04 PM   #5372
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310 BC
Babylonian War

The peace treaty of 311 BC did not inaugurate a true age of peace among Alexander’s successors. On the contrary. Every signatory had a secret agenda and used the warless years to build new armies and prepare for war. The period of uneasy peace lasted until 307 BC.

Antigonus Monophthalmus used the truce to attack Seleucus, the satrap of Babylonia, who had not signed the treaty. Seleucus' arrival at Babylon can be dated between May 13 and June 1, 311 BC, bringing with him Macedonian veterans from Harran. He was soon recognized as the new ruler. Only the fortress remained occupied by a garrison loyal to Antigonus. This fell in August. The easy victory had been facilitated by the fact that Antigonus' satrap of Babylon, Peithon, had died a few months earlier in the Battle of Gaza. From the Babylonian Diadochi Chronicle, we learn that Seleucus used a strategem involving the waters of the Euphrates, but the details remain unclear.

Almost immediately, the satrap of Media, Antigonus' friend Nicanor, and the satrap of Aria, Euagoras, marched on Babylon with 10,000 infantry and 7000 cavalry, but Seleucus was waiting for them near the Tigris with 3000 infantry and 400 cavalry. Seleucus hid his men in the marshes and launched a surprise night attack sometime in November. When Euagoras was killed during the battle, his men went over to Seleucus, and Nicanor was forced to retreat. Seleucus immediately took Nicanor's capital Ecbatana and enlisted his soldiers in his own army. He now marched south, where he captured Susa and added Elam to his possessions. Soon, Media was added. In a half year's time, he had become a powerful ruler, and he accepted the title Nicator, “victor”.

News of the defeat must have reached Antigonus at about the time of his signing the Peace of the Dynasts (December 311 BC). He ordered his son Demetrius to restore order; he arrived in the early spring of 310 BC, while Seleucus was still in the east. The attackers began a siege of the 2 citadels of Babylon. When the first one was captured and looted, the main force left the city, leaving one Archelaus as satrap to take the second. Demetrius had orders to return, and Seleucus organized a guerilla war against Archelaus.

In August, Antigonus himself arrived in Babylon. There were street-fights, but Antigonus was unable to capture all buildings he wanted to take, and appears to have left the city in March 309 BC, although the struggle in the countryside lasted until after April 10, New Year's day. During the summer, Antigonus conducted punitive campaigns in the neighborhood, and Seleucus continued the guerilla war. The struggle must have had a devastating effect on city and countryside of Babylon. Commodity prices rose to incredible heights, as is recorded by the author of the Babylonian Diadochi Chronicle.

Finally, Seleucus and Antigonus met each other in a full-scale battle. According to the Greek author Polyaenus, Seleucus ordered his men to have breakfast during the night, and attacked before dawn. His enemies were hungry and unarmed, and Antigonus was forced to return to Syria (August 30 or 31). The two parties may have concluded a peace treaty, because Seleucus proceeded to conquer the eastern satrapies, and Antigonus was active in the west.

In the meantime, Ptolemy had added Cyprus to his territories, and moved to the Aegean Sea, where he gained a bridgehead on the island Cos (winter 309-08 BC). From there, he sailed to Delos, where he reorganized the Nesiotic League, which would support the ruler of Egypt. Antigonus was compelled to focus on the west. Seleucus now had a free hand to go east. He conquered Bactria and invaded India. His victories were duly commemorated with a coin issue. Restoration of Alexander's Empire was, after the Babylonian War, no longer possible.
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Old 08-16-2018, 12:47 PM   #5373
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I have been abroad and once again enjoying the museums and galleries at my ports of call.

In this case two worthwhile places to visit in Calgary with those interested in military technology and history. The Hangar Aviation Museum. Short perhaps on exhibits but plenty of information and a wonderful range of aircraft engines including a Merlin. The merchandise is pretty good. I myself bought a rather nice Operation Chastise T-shirt and there is a Lancaster flown by a Calgarian in the secondary hangar.

The other place is the Military Museums located near a Canadian Army barracks and deals with all branches of the Canadian military history including the Kings Own Calgary Regiment KOCR.

Great dioramas, exhibits and masses of information and when I was there an exhibition on trench warfare. My Polish fiancee was particularly interested in the Poles who emigrated to Canada post 1945.

Great store as well with some wonderful pins, T-shirts, books and you can get a wonderful print of the giant mural mosaic which dominates your view when you come into the museum. The emphasis is on remembrance and learning for the younger generations.

Lovely people there too and that goes for nigh on all the Canadians we met.

Some images all resized greatly. Unfortunately I still have to get the hang of this new bridge camera and should have stuck with my older DSLR.






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Old 08-17-2018, 03:44 PM   #5374
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August 17, 1865
Battle of Jatai

Following the declaration of war by Paraguayan president/dictator Francisco Solano Lopez on Argentina, the Paraguayans immediately attacked with 2 columns. The original plan was that the first column, commanded by Wenceslao Robles, would seize Corrientes while a second column of 12,000 men, commanded by Antonio de la Cruz Estigarribia, would then advance to the east of Corrientes and capture Brazilian possessions on the Uruguay River. The primary focus of this invasion plan was the Brazilian possessions, as this would prevent Brazilian expansion, a great concern of President Lopez. The other column would capture Corrientes, distracting Argentine forces and creating a lifeline between Paraguay and the Atlantic Ocean. This plan was later revised so that 2/3 of the assault force would attack Corrientes and later divert southeast and invade Uruguay. In response, a military alliance was signed on May 1 among Argentina, Uruguay and the Empire of Brazil.

Following the successful capture of Corrientes, Argentine Gen. Wenceslao Paunero launched a daring attack on May 25 that recaptured the city. However, being heavily outnumbered, he chose to evacuate the city and its civilians 2 days later and head to the southwest of the province. Only after having evacuated Corrientes did Paunero learn that the Paraguayans were making progress on the Uruguay River. Argentine President Bartolomé Mitre put Gen. Justo José Urquiza, governor of the province of Entre Ríos, in charge of facing the Paraguayan column. Urquiza called on Paunero, who had retreated to Esquina. These forces were joined by a battalion of volunteers from Corrientes, led by Col. Desiderio Sosa, who had participated in the battle at Corrientes.

Meanwhile, the naval Battle of Riachuelo took place (see posting), during which the Brazilian fleet destroyed the Paraguayan river squadron near Corrientes. This loss prevented the Paraguayan column on the Parana River from providing support to the forces on the Uruguay River.

On May 5, after invading the province of Corrientes, Gen. Estigarribia sent Col. Pedro Duarte with a small advance column to control the bank of the Uruguay River. Duarte took the city of Santo Tome; Estigarribia followed and joined him there 4 days latter. The army then crossed the Uruguay River and entered the Brazilian province of Rio Grande do Sul. Estigarribia advanced unopposed to the south, taking on São Borja and Itaqui. After the Paraguayans captured and sacked the towns, Estigarribia crossed the Uruguay River; Duarte’s column of 2500-3000 proceeded along the right bank, the 2 columns keeping in touch by means of 20 canoes.

On August 6, the Brazilian town of Uruguayana fell to the Paraguayans. Gen. David Canabarro was charged with its defense and had begun fortifying the site, but, despite having 8000 men, retreated on the 4th, leaving behind 2 cannon; he was later court-martialed. Only Col. Payba, with a brigade of 2000 men, harried the main Paraguayan advance, while 4th Brigade attacked and defeated a column of Paraguayan cavalry at Botui on June 26.

Urquiza ordered Paunero to join him in Concordia, but the latter delayed complying. On June 4 the troops of Urquiza, who refused to fight the Paraguayans on the grounds of being considered allies against Brazil (which Argentina had frayed relations with), were disbanded. Uruguayan President Gen. Venancio Flores, fresh from his triumph in a civil war, marched to join Urquiza with 2750 men. In addition, Brazilian forces, commanded by Lt. Col. Joaquim Rodrigues Coelho Nelly, totaling 1200 men, were on the way. They met on July 13. Paunero's 3600 men began a march through swamps and rivers, swiftly crossing the southern province of Entre Rios to join Flores. In addition, 1400 Correntina cavalry joined their forces. Finally, Col. Simeon Paiva, with 1200 men, arrived, bringing Allied strength to nearly 12,000.

Estigarribia had a chance to destroy all his enemies piecemeal, but missed it. He also disobeyed orders from Lopez, who ordered him to continue on his way to Alegrete: On August 5 he went to Uruguayana and ordered his troops to reorganize and gather supplies. Canabarro’s troops, too few to attack Estigarribia’s 5000 men, were limited to camp near the city without being attacked.

Given the news that all enemy forces were in pursuit, Duarte sought help from his superior, Gen. Estigarribia, who sent a contemptuous reply that stung Duarte into giving battle on his own, despite being outnumbered. He took positions on the banks of Jatai stream. There was a brief encounter on the afternoon of August 16, and at dusk the 2 armies were facing each other from a half-mile off.

Both the Jatai and the Uruguay River had recently flooded, leaving much of the battlefield underwater. Most of the Paraguayan infantry was entrenched among trees and ditches in the area of the nearby village estates and protected by mud that covered the frontal approach, but the stream behind them made it impossible to retreat in case of a defeat, which was considered very likely by Duarte. Duarte's forces consisted of 1980 infantry and 1020 cavalry, with no artillery. The Allies had a total of 5550 infantry, 5000 cavalry and 32 pieces of artillery. 6500 of the Allied troops were Argentine, 2440 Uruguayan and 1450 Brazilian.

The battle began at 10:00 a.m., with an early attack on the Paraguayan positions by the Palleja Infantry Division. Duarte seized the opportunity and countered with almost all his cavalry, causing hundreds of casualties and forcing the attackers to retreat. Faced with an increasingly bad situation, the Segovia cavalry division attacked the Paraguayan cavalry. For 2 hours the battle was fought exclusively by cavalry.

Under pressure, Duarte ordered a withdrawal, which finally enabled the allied infantry to get into action, and although the allied numerical superiority was overwhelming, the Paraguayans fought with tenacity. When the battle was almost lost, Duarte tried a desperate cavalry charge, and in the fight his horse was killed. Paunero demanded that Duarte surrender, which he finally agreed to do. A final Paraguayan force of infantry under Lt. Zorrilla crossed the Jatai and was attacked by a cavalry unit from the rear. A few hundred Paraguayan soldiers swam the Uruguay River, while the rest were killed or taken prisoner. In total they suffered 1500 dead and 1600 prisoners, including 300 wounded. Among the prisoners were several dozen soldiers from the defeated Uruguayan Blanco Party, who had taken refuge in Paraguay who tried to return to power with Paraguayan aid. They were executed as traitors. Allied losses were 83 dead and 257 wounded.

On September 18, after having assured the representatives of the Brazilian Emperor that he would not surrender and would rather be buried under the rubble of Uruguayana, Gen. Estigarribia surrendered with little resistance. Soon afterwards, the Paraguayan forces occupying the abandoned city of Corrientes retreated to the north, and soon returned to Paraguay. Almost all of the following campaigns were fought in Paraguayan territory until the country's complete defeat in 1870.
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Old 08-18-2018, 11:54 AM   #5375
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August 18, 1944
Battles of Toulon and Marseille

After the successful execution of the Normandy landings, attention shifted to the south. Most ports in the north were unusable, or too heavily fortified, which made seizure and control of the French ports at Marseille and Toulon increasingly attractive. The French leaders pressed for an invasion in southern France, too. Finally, after many delays, Operation Dragoon was authorized by the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff.

Toulon was not a good target for an amphibious assault, it was well defended from a seaborne assault, so it would have to be taken from the land. The land approaches were also well defended. A 2000-foot high hill provided excellent artillery and observation positions. Ridges nearby were protected by pillboxes. In 1941-2, as a token of goodwill to the Germans, the Vichy government had strengthened the defenses. These were strengthened further by the Germans who took equipment off the scuttled French fleet, installing two 340mm turrets and 75 medium-sized guns along the coast.

On August 15, US 7th Army, under Gen. Alexander Patch, landed in the Riviera to kick off Operation Dragoon. The Americans were followed ashore by French 1st Army, under Gen. Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. Both armies were under the control of 6th Army Group (Gen. Jacob Devers). While the Americans pushed north, de Lattre was ordered to take Toulon and Marseille. Gen. Johannes Bessler commanded 242nd Infantry Division in Toulon. 244th Division garrisoned Marseille. Both ports had been declared “fortress cities” by Hitler, to be defended to the last.

De Lattre’s pre-invasion planning called for successive attacks first on Toulon and then Marseille, but the accelerated landings and speed of the American advance allowed him to envision almost concurrent actions against both ports. Rapid penetration along Route N-7 and the apparent chaos in the German command would allow the French to assault both ports from the north, while US 3rd Division protected their northern flank.

On August 18, de Lattre sent the 1st DMI (Division de Marche d’Infanterie) with armor support along the coast to attack Toulon directly from the east and the 9th DIC (Division d’Infanterie Coloniale) to attack from the northeast. At the same time, he ordered the 3rd DIA (Division d’Infanterie Algérienne) to swing around the north of the city to cut off the Germans and prevent the possibility of reinforcement from Marseille. 3rd DIA divided into 3 tactical groups. One attacked south into the high ground surrounding Toulon. The 2nd completed the encirclement of Toulon by driving south toward the coast, and the 3rd group sent probes west toward Marseille. By August 21, the French forces completely surrounded the city after a hard 2-day fight for Hyeres, breached Toulon’s outer defenses, and held key hilltop forts. Between August 21 and 23, the French slowly squeezed the enemy back into the inner city in a series of almost continuous street battles. The German defenses lost cohesiveness as isolated groups began to surrender, and the last organized resistance ended on August 26. The formal German surrender occurred at 0600 on the 28th. In the week of combat for Toulon, 2700 French troops were killed or wounded. The German defenders suffered thousands dead and 17,000 taken prisoner. The French claimed their first major victory in the liberation of France and were about to achieve their second.

While the French squeezed the German defenders back into Toulon, 3rd DIA began its attack on Marseille, striking from the northeastern and northern approaches on August 22 and coming within 5-8 miles of the city’s center. They were aided by a rising by the FFI (French resistance), which virtually pinned the German garrison in place. Early on the morning of August 23, the French and Algerian infantry attacked into the heart of Marseille battling from street to street and house to house. The attack gained momentum as newly arriving French units no longer fighting for Toulon provided needed reinforcement. By the evening of August 27, the German commander, Gen. Schaefer, agreed to terms of surrender, which became effective on August 28, the same day as the surrender of Toulon. In the battle for Marseille, the French suffered over 1800 casualties and took roughly 11,000 prisoners.

That day de Lattre sent a letter to Charles de Gaulle, “On D+13, after seven days of operations, there no longer remains in the Army B sector a German who is not dead or captive.” De Lattre was satisfied, but the port facilities suffered heavily as a result of German demolition efforts. There were 75 ships blocking the channels, the port was heavily mined, and the Germans sabotaged 257 cranes. Allied engineers set to work immediately, and their effort allowed the first Liberty ship to unload alongside a quay in Marseille just 3 weeks after the battle ended. Both ports would handle a large proportion of Allied supply in the months ahead. The main body of French troops continued north and west to join the campaign toward Germany.
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Old 08-18-2018, 11:54 AM   #5376
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334
Constantine’s Sarmatian War

Originating in the central parts of the Eurasian Steppe, the Sarmatians started migrating westward around the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, coming to dominate the closely-related Scythians by 200 BC. At their greatest reported extent, around 1st century AD, these tribes ranged from the Vistula River to the mouth of the Danube and eastward to the Volga, bordering the shores of the Black and Caspian seas as well as the Caucasus to the south. In the 1st century BC, they became allied with the Dacians. In the 1st century AD the Sarmatians began encroaching upon the Roman Empire in alliance with Germanic tribes.

There were 4 main groups. One occupied the Crimea in the 4th century BC, dominating the Greek colonies there and establishing the Bosporan Kingdom, which fell to the Goths in 375. The Alans split; one group migrated south to the Caucasus to become the Ossetians, while another joined the westward migration into Europe as far as Brittany (where Alain is still a popular name). The Iazyges, Rhoxolani, and Siracae were the main groups that settled in eastern Europe. Their armies were built around heavy lancers, backed by small numbers of horse archers. They fought against Constantine in 317-19 and 322, raiding across the Danube, but without success.

The Sarmatians remained dominant until the Gothic ascendancy in the Black Sea area. In the 320s, the Visigoths attacked Sarmatian tribes north of the Danube in Dacia. Roman Emperor Constantine I called his son Constantine II east from Gallia to run a campaign north of the Danube. The campaign began in 328 and in the winter of 331-32, in very cold weather, the Romans were victorious, reportedly killing 100,000 Goths and capturing Ariaricus the son of the Goth king.

In their efforts to halt the Gothic expansion and replace it with their own on the north of Lower Danube (present-day Romania), the Sarmatians armed the Limigantes. These were a slave caste under the Argaragantes tribe of Sarmatians. After the Roman victory, however, the Limigantes revolted, pushing the Argaragantes beyond the Roman border. Constantine, on whom the Sarmatians had called for help, launched a new military campaign into the plain south of the Tisza to restore order among the warring factions. He defeated the Limigantes, and moved the Sarmatian population back in. Constantine received the victory title of Sarmaticus Maximus. In 336, he seems to have reoccupied Dacia, abandoned by Rome in the 270s, but this did not last long.

This defeat effectively broke Sarmatian power. In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Huns expanded and conquered both the Sarmatians and the Germanic tribes living between the Black Sea and the borders of the Roman Empire. From bases in modern-day Hungary, the Huns ruled the entire former Sarmatian territory. Their various constituents flourished under Hunnish rule, fought for the Huns against a combination of Roman and Germanic troops, and went their own ways after the death of Attila. The Sarmatians were eventually decisively assimilated and absorbed by the Slavs in the early Medieval Age.
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Old 08-19-2018, 11:45 AM   #5377
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August 19, 1847
Battle of Contreras

In March 1847, Winfield Scott’s American army landed at Veracruz and captured the port (see posting). Anxious to leave the coastal lowlands before the onset of Yellow Fever season, Scott marched into the hills on April 2 toward Mexico City with 8500 healthy troops, while Santa Anna set up a defensive position in a canyon around the main road about 50 miles northwest of Veracruz, near the hamlet of Cerro Gordo. Santa Anna had entrenched with 12,000 troops, and artillery, but was defeated on April 18 at the Battle of Cerro Gordo (see posting)..

Scott then pushed on to Puebla, the second largest city in Mexico. Because of the citizens' hostility to Santa Anna, the city capitulated without resistance on May 1. During the following months, Scott gathered supplies and reinforcements at Puebla and sent back units whose enlistments had expired. He also made strong efforts to keep his troops disciplined and treat the Mexican people under occupation justly, so as to prevent a popular rising against his army. In the meantime, Santa Anna strengthened the defenses of his capital.

The Americans had established garrisons along the line of communications back to Veracruz, but the route was under constant harassment by guerrillas. Scott decided to order all those garrisons to abandon their stations and join him. At one stroke his bolstered the numbers of his field army but also cut himself off from the coast. Leaving only a garrison at Puebla to protect the sick and injured recovering there, he advanced on Mexico City on August 7 with his remaining force. It was a bold and audacious move that left European observers dumbfounded. The Duke of Wellington declared, “Scott is lost! He has been carried away by his successes! He can’t take the city [Mexico City] and he can’t fall back on his base.”

Santa Anna had about 30,000 men, including 7000 from Gabriel Valencia's Army of the North, which was located near Contreras. He expected Scott to take the direct route to Mexico City via the National Road and placed his strongest defenses here. But the Americans were aware that there was another road that snaked south through a narrow isthmus between Lake Chalco and Lake Xochmilco, which then turned west to San Augustin. At that location, it joined the Acapulco Road, which led north to Mexico City. When he learned this from the engineers, Scott needed no persuasion. The Acapulco Road would be Scott’s new axis for his advance. It took Santa Anna 2-3 days to become fully convinced that Scott had stolen a march on him. Adaptable as always, he shifted his forces to new defensive positions to counter Scott’s moves. The Mexican leader spread his men in a line about 5 miles wide, with natural obstacles providing further defense.

The shortest way to Mexico City was via the Acapulco Road, through the San Antonio hacienda. The Americans would soon occupy San Augustin, about 5 miles farther south. Santa Anna lost no time in building strong fortifications at San Antonio, which once again blocked the path to the capital. The position itself was strong and could not be immediately outflanked. To the west was the Pedregal, a large lava bed of razor-sharp rocks, and to the east the ground was impenetrable marshland. Scott’s situation was becoming desperate. The American horses needed fodder, and rations were short and growing musty. His army had only about 10,000 effectives, confronting a Mexican army of 20,000 fighting on their own soil. But if the Americans could find a way near or through the Pedregal’s southern edge, they could circle around the lava and get behind the San Antonio fortifications.

Captain Robert E. Lee did an extensive reconnaissance, and on August 18 he reported that he had found a mule track across the southwestern tip of the 15-mile-wide lava bed, which might be widened or otherwise improved, at least enough so it would be passable for infantry and artillery. Hearing this, Scott quickly formulated new plans. Lee would take some 500 men to act as sappers and improve the approach as best they could. In the meantime, David Twiggs’ division would take the lead, at the same time protecting the road builders. If Twiggs got into trouble, which Scott felt was unlikely, Gideon Pillow’s division would come up, and Pillow would take command of the entire force. Twiggs was not happy over this arrangement, but Scott felt the point was not worth debating since the commander in chief would soon join them.

Mexican politics were sordid in this era, as scheming generals jockeyed for power and their own selfish interests while the fate of the nation hung in the balance. Gen. Valencia, while technically subordinate to Santa Anna, was an ambition-driven man who hoped to replace his chief. Against orders, he moved his Army of the North 5 miles beyond Santa Anna’s original defense lines to a position between the Indian villages of Padierna and Contreras. Santa Anna immediately ordered Valencia to back to San Angel, his original position. Valencia gave lip service, but did not budge a foot. Finally, Santa Anna gave up in disgust. He would “leave Valencia to act on his own responsibility.” Of course, what Valencia really wanted was a chance to defeat the Americans single-handedly and emerge as Mexico’s new hero.

The road builders moved out on the morning of August 19. Hacking a path through the landscape of jumbled volcanic boulders proved difficult, backbreaking, and dirty. They made good progress until they reached a point overlooking Padierna in front, San Geronimo to the right, and Contreras to the left. At this point Twiggs’ men came under heavy fire from 22 Mexican guns. Though the Americans did not know it, this was an element of Valencia’s command, now firmly ensconced in the Contreras area. Twiggs immediately ordered 2 batteries up to reply to this cannonade. It was an order more easily said than done, but finally the guns were place. At first Valencia could not believe the Americans had crossed the Pedregal. “No, no, you’re dreaming, hombre!” he said to the messenger who brought him the news. As the artillery duel increased in fury, Valencia seemed to be obsessed with its progress to the exclusion of all other fronts. Pillow ordered Riley’s brigade to occupy San Geronimo, to get behind Valencia and cut him off from his lifeline, the San Angel Road. Other units joined Riley until there were about 3500 Americans in and around San Geronimo.

The Americans at San Geronimo were in grave danger. A large body of Mexican troops could be seen at San Angel, just about a half-mile up the road. There were some 7000, commanded by Santa Anna himself. If Santa Anna showed any initiative, he could crush the American troops, his hammer striking them against Valencia’s anvil. Seeing the problem, Brig. Gen. Persifor Smith joined the forces at San Geronimo, arriving just about an hour before sunset. Though he kept a wary defensive eye on Santa Anna, Smith planned an early morning attack on Valencia. But Smith felt it was imperative that Scott know about it. Not only was night falling, but thick gathering clouds announced the coming of a thunderstorm. Ironically, this torrential downpour worked in the Americans’ favor, since Mexican pickets had left their positions because of the bad weather. In the meantime, Santa Anna did virtually nothing to help or reinforce Valencia. This was due either to lethargy or a desire to see his rival crushed.

When the Americans attacked at dawn, they caught Valencia’s men completely by surprise. Wet and cold, they were disheartened by Santa Anna’s failure to reinforce them. When the Americans attacked, the majority broke and ran. Valencia had been in an ebullient mood, mistaking the earlier artillery duel as a great Mexican triumph. It was said that Valencia spent the previous night celebrating his “victory” by getting roaring drunk. The fight on August 20 lasted only 17 minutes. The Americans had taken 60 casualties. The Mexicans lost about 700 dead, 1220 wounded, and 843 captured. 22 guns and 4 generals were taken.

With the rout of Valencia, Santa Anna ordered Maj. Gens. Nicolas Bravo at San Antonio and Antonio Gaona at Mexicalzingo both to fall back to Churubusco, where the next battle would occur.
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:58 AM   #5378
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August 20, 1847
Battle of Churubusco

Santa Anna now hoped that the Americans would be stopped at Churubusco with its fortified convent, earthworks, and 7 cannons. The Churubusco River fronted the Mexican position, and a bridgehead fort guarded the approaches on the south side of the stream. The fortified Convent of San Mateo was to the southwest, about 500 yards away from the Churubusco Bridge. Two regiments were placed along the river while the convent included the Bravo Battalions of the Mexico City National Guard and the San Patricio Battalion (formed from Irish-American deserters), plus Santa Anna formed a reserve along the highway to the north. The garrison numbered about 3800 men. Santa Anna gave strict orders that the bridgehead and convent were to be held at all costs.

The usually cautious Scott dispensed with reconnaissance and ordered a full-scale attack on both the bridgehead and convent. Learning that there were 2 other bridges, Scott sent Brig. Gens. James Shields and Franklin Pierce (the future president) north to cross one of them and go on to the town of Portales. This would put Shields and Pierce behind the Mexican defenders at Churubusco. Scott underestimated the strength of the Churubusco positions. The better course would have been to send the bulk of his army with Shields and Pierce; all of the formidable fortifications would have been neutralized in one stroke.

Scott committed virtually all his forces to the Churubusco advance. William Worth and Pillow would attack the Churubusco Bridge and the bridgehead fort, while Twiggs would advance on the convent. Shields and Pierce were already committed to the northern flank march.

The Mexicans fought well in the initial stages, but as time went on they were hampered by a lack of ammunition. When an ammunition wagon belatedly arrived, the cartridges were of the wrong type for the majority of the weapons, rendering them useless. Nevertheless, the Mexican soldiers at the bridgehead repulsed several American assaults. The Americans took heavy casualties but pressed on. Elements of Col. Newman Clark’s brigade, which included the 5th and 8th US Infantry, took the bridgehead fort by the bayonet.

The Americans had endured a punishing fire as they approached the bridgehead, and once inside the fort the hand-to-hand fighting was intense. The Mexicans withdrew into the walls of the convent, intent on a last stand. The San Patricios were the heart and soul of the defense at this stage, refusing to even consider the possibility of surrender (as they knew they would be executed as deserters if captured). After a battle that lasted 2 1/2 hours, Mexican ammunition was running out, and several of their cannons were out of action. But when a Mexican officer tried to raise the white flag, Captain Patrick Dalton of the San Patricio Battalion tore it down. Taking his cue from the Irishman, Mexican Gen. Anaya ordered his men to continue the resistance, even if they had to fight with their bare hands. Twice more Mexicans tried to raise the white flag, but according to some stories, the San Patricios shot dead anyone who attempted to capitulate. Lt. Col. Francisco Penunuri of the Independencia Battalion tried a desperate bayonet charge against the Americans, but he was killed and the attack was unsuccessful.

Captain Edmund Alexander of the 3rd US Infantry was the first over the convent rampart, and soon others followed. There was bloody fighting in the ancient rooms and corridors. Captain James Smith raised his white handkerchief; this was done not to surrender but to tactfully ask that the Mexicans at Churubusco capitulate, and this time the offer was accepted. 35 men of the San Patricio Battalion were killed and 85 taken prisoner, including a wounded Captain John Riley, their commander.

Not all Mexicans surrendered; some managed to escape, including fewer than 100 men of the San Patricio Battalion. The American forces assaulting Churubusco had lost 133 men killed and 865 wounded, and were not in a forgiving mood when they finally met the captive San Patricios. It was said they “vented their vocabulary of Saxon expletives” on the captives. Anaya was still defiant after surrendering. When the Americans asked where his ammunition was, he said, “If I still had ammunition, you would not be here.” Mexican losses totaled 263 killed, 460 wounded and 1831 captured. Scott halted the pursuit of the retreating remnants of the Mexican army, which were falling back toward Mexico City, claiming that he whished "to leave something to this republic."

Because Riley had deserted before the US declared war against Mexico, he was not sentenced to execution following his conviction at the court martial held in Mexico City in late 1847. He testified to deserting because of discrimination against and mistreatment of Irish Catholics in the Army, and anti-Catholicism which he had encountered in the United States. While escaping the mass hanging of about 50 other captured members of the, he was branded on his cheek with the letter "D" for deserter.

The twin Battles of Contreras and Churubusco, which really were two phases of the same battle fought on August 20, constituted a Mexican disaster. In a single day, Santa Anna had lost 4000 killed or wounded and an additional 3000 captured. Among the prisoner haul were 8 generals, 2 of whom were former presidents of Mexico.

Santa Anna returned to Mexico City “possessed of a black despair from the unfortunate events of the war.” Any other Mexican leader would have been discredited and more than likely swept from power; indeed, Santa Anna had already experienced a checkered career of ups and downs. But there was no one else available with his charisma and ability to rebound from disaster. The peg-legged dictator remained in power, recovered his optimism, and suggested a truce.

Scott could have taken Mexico City at this time, but he halted operations and agreed to the truce. This was done for political, not military reasons. It was hoped that if their capital was not taken, the Mexicans, honor intact, would be more willing to enter negotiations. Santa Anna, as wily and duplicitous as ever, used the truce to strengthen his defenses and rebuild his army. Scott resumed the offensive in early September when it was plain Santa Anna had no intentions of making a serious peace.
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Old 08-21-2018, 11:51 AM   #5379
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August 21, 1914
Battle of Charleroi

France's pre-war strategy document, Plan XVII, called for French 5th Army to join 3rd and 4th Armies in an invasion of Germany through the Ardennes. This however assumed that Germany would not attempt an invasion of Belgium further north. Whilst Charles Lanrezac, 5th Army commander, believed this a distinct possibility, particularly as he observed a massive build-up of German forces, Joseph Joffre, the French Commander-in-Chief, refused to consider the possibility. Joffre did however allow Lanrezac to extend his lines northwest to the Sambre on August 12, but at the same time Lanrezac lost some of his troops, transferred to the Ardennes offensive; they were replaced by a corps from the 2nd Army in Lorraine. On August 15, after lobbying from Lanrezac, Joffre directed 5th Army north into the angle formed by the Sambre and Meuse Rivers.

Hoping to gain the initiative, Joffre ordered 3rd and 4th Armies to attack through the Ardennes against Arlon and Neufchateau. Advancing on August 21, they encountered the German 4th and 5th Armies and were badly defeated. As the situation along the front developed, Field Marshal Sir John French's British Expeditionary Force (BEF) disembarked and began assembling at Le Cateau. Communicating with the British commander, Joffre requested that French to cooperate with Lanrezac on the left. Responding to Joffre's order to move north, Lanrezac positioned 5th Army south of the Sambre extending from the Belgian fortress city of Namur to just past the mid-size industrial town of Charleroi in the west. His I Corps, led by Louis Franchet d'Esperey, extended the right south behind the Meuse. To his left, the cavalry corps of Jean-Francois André Sordet linked 5th Army to the BEF.

On August 18, Lanrezac received additional instructions from Joffre directing him to attack north or east depending upon the enemy's location. Seeking to locate Karl von Bülow's 2nd Army, Lanrezac's cavalry moved north of the Sambre but were unable to penetrate the German cavalry screen. Early on August 21, Joffre, increasingly aware of the size of German forces in Belgium, directed Lanrezac to attack when "opportune" and arranged for the BEF to provide support. In authorizing an attack across the river, Joffre expected the German forces to comprise no more than 18 divisions, against which would be ranged Lanrezac's 15, with reinforcements from the BEF adding another 3. Lanrezac, however, believed the German strength to be much higher, nearer in fact to the real figure of 38 divisions. Consequently, on August 21, he asked for a postponement of the attack, preferring to wait for the arrival of the British.

Lanrezac adopted a defensive position behind the Sambre but failed to establish heavily-defended bridgeheads north the river. Additionally, due to poor intelligence regarding the bridges, several were left completely undefended. Attacked later in the day by the lead elements of Bülow's army, the French were pushed back over the river. Though ultimately held, the Germans were able to establish positions on the south bank, successfully defending 2 bridgeheads against repeated French counterattacks. Thousands of Belgians fled from Charleroi and nearby villages.

Bülow assessed the situation and requested that Klemens von Haussen's 3d Army, operating to the east, join in the attack on Lanrezac with the goal of executing a pincer. Haussen agreed to strike west the next day. On the morning of August 22, Lanrezac's corps commanders, on their own initiative, launched attacks north in an effort to throw the Germans back over the Sambre. These proved unsuccessful as 9 French divisions were unable to dislodge 3 German divisions. The failure of these attacks cost Lanrezac high ground in the area while a gap between his army and 4th Army began to open on his right.

Responding, Bülow renewed his drive south with 3 corps without waiting for Haussen to arrive. The center of the French lines, at Charleroi, suffered heavy losses and retreated, whereas the French corps west of Charleroi held its position, as did Franchet d'Esperey's corps in the east. On the 23rd, Bülow managed to cross the Meuse but he chose not to threaten 5th Army's rear in the south, instead ordering a full frontal attack against the French right. Recognizing the dire threat, Franchet counter-marched his men towards their old positions. Engaging Hausen's troops, I Corps checked their advance but could not push them back across the river. He did, however, secure the line of retreat.

Lanrezac, having difficulty communicating with Franchet, expected the lines of retreat to be closed at any moment. Whilst aware that Haussen’s German 3rd Army had established a bridgehead across the Meuse to his south, he did not know that Charles Mangin's brigade had successfully held them back and was on the verge of a successful counterattack. Once news of the Belgian pull-out from Namur reached him, along with the retreat of French 4th Army from the Ardennes, Lanrezac ordered a general withdrawal. Sordet's cavalry, which had reached a state of exhaustion, needed to be withdrawn. This opened a 10-mile gap between Lanrezac's left and the British.

Further west, French's BEF had fought the Battle of Mons. French had ordered his men to begin falling back. This exposed Lanrezac's army to greater pressure on both flanks. Seeing little alternative, he began making plans to withdraw south. These were quickly approved by Joffre. In the fighting around Charleroi, the Germans sustained around 11,000 casualties while the French incurred approximately 30,000.

Lanrezac's decision to withdraw probably saved the French Army from destruction By retreating the French were able to hold northern France, but the French public at large - and Joffre - saw Lanrezac's action as simply lacking “offensive spirit”. Given that Joffre had permitted the withdrawal his subsequent condemnation of Lanrezac - he blamed him for the failure of Plan XVII - looks opportunistic.
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