Second combat of Bilbao, 27-29 August 1812
The second combat of Bilbao (27-29 August 1812) saw the French recapture the Basque capital only two weeks after it had been captured by a joint Anglo-Spanish force.
In the summer of 1812 a British naval squadron under Captain Home Popham operated along the north coast of Spain, attacking a series of isolated French posts. His most important success came at Santander (22 July-3 August 1812), where in cooperation with a series of Spanish forces, under the overall command of General Gabriel de Mendizabal, the commander of the Spanish Seventh Army, he forced the French to abandon the city. Santander soon became an important supply base, and was Wellington's main supply route during the Vitoria campaign.
Popham and Mendizabal then decided to attack Bilbao, the capital of Biscay province and the main city in the Basque country. Mendizabal led three battalions overland (including two under Juan Díaz Porlier), while Popham landed three Biscay battalions under Mariano Renovales a few miles further east, before attacking up the Bilbao River.
On 13 August the French abandoned Bilbao after their commander misjudged the strength of the Allied attack. He attempted to recapture the city on the following day, but was repulsed. This forced General Rouget, the French commander in Biscay, to call in all of his outlying garrisons, and inform Caffarelli that the province was lost unless something was done quickly.
Caffarelli responded by gathering a field army, and joining Rouget. Their combined force was only 7,000 strong, and the Spanish had received 3,000 reinforcements under Francisco de Longa, so French success was by no means assured. Caffarelli attacked on 27 August, and over the next three days slowly forced the Spanish out of the port. The Spanish force dispersed, with Porlier heading for Cantabria, Longa to the upper Ebro and Renovales further into the interior of Biscay. Renovales was caught at Dima, not far to the south, and suffered a further defeat, but the other forces escaped largely intact.
The French recapture of Bilbao took the momentum out of the Anglo-Spanish offensive in the north, but it had achieved its main aim of preventing Caffarelli from supporting Marmont in central Spain.
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Hemingway at War
Greg Clark didn’t believe the war stories told by the American kid who’d wandered into his cluttered Toronto office looking for work. The tall, beefy lad with a limp showed up at the Star Weekly in January 1920 and started telling tales about fighting with Italy’s famed Arditi commandos in World War I and suffering wounds from mortar explosions and machine-gun fire. The guy must have sensed the features editor’s incredulity, for one day he showed up with a small cardboard box. It contained two medals—the Croce di Guerra and Medaglia d’Argento al Valore Militare.
Clark lifted the silver medal, Italy’s second highest award for valor, from its box and read the recipient’s name etched along its edge: TENENTE ERNESTO HEMINGWAY.
The editor, himself a veteran of the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge, immediately offered young Ernest Hemingway a job. He would later learn, of course, after Hemingway became one of the world’s most famous authors, that his suspicions had been well founded. Hemingway had not fought with the Arditi in World War I. He had been a Red Cross ambulance driver, and when he was injured on July 8, 1918, he’d been handing out chocolate and cigarettes to the Italian troops. Yet despite serious wounds he had rescued a wounded soldier and been shot while carrying the man to safety.
Hemingway’s 1918 wounding typifies his experiences in war. He visited five battlefronts in his life: the Italian-Austrian front in 1918 the Greco-Turkish War in 1922 the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and 1938 the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1941 and the Allied march through France in 1944. And while anecdotes from each appear in his biography, there is a vagueness about many of them, usually brought on by Hemingway’s tall tales about his own exploits. The need to recite manufactured war stories even appeared in his fiction. “His town had heard too many atrocity stories to be thrilled by actualities,” Hemingway wrote in “Soldier’s Home,” a short story about a soldier named Krebs returning to the United States after the war. “Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie.”
Sometimes the inaccuracy stems from a tendency by Hemingway’s friends, acquaintances or witnesses to exaggerate his feats. These sundry lies and half-truths are pure poison for Hemingway biographers, because often as not the stories are so good the biographer doesn’t want to doublecheck the facts for fear of losing a real gem. And yet these vague stories are indeed illuminating, because quite often they represent pivotal events in his development as a man and as an artist. Along with bullfighting, hunting, drinking and love, war is one of the enduring motifs of Hemingway’s writing and his legendary life.
World War I was the most important war in Hemingway’s development. He had wanted to serve in the Marines or the fledgling Army Air Service but was turned away due to his nearsightedness (in fact, he never served in any of the armed forces). So he joined the American Red Cross ambulance corps in early 1918, when he was not yet 19 years old.
In early June Hemingway arrived in Milan, where he got his first glimpse of war’s carnage. He and fellow drivers helped recover the remains of workers killed in a munitions factory explosion. “We found and carried to an improvised mortuary a good number of these,” he wrote, “and, I must admit, frankly, the shock it was to find that these dead were women rather than men.”
Days later Hemingway was posted to an ambulance unit near Schio, east of Lake Garda, on the border with Austria-Hungary. As well as the practical aspects of the job, there was also a propaganda role—if Italian soldiers saw one American uniform, they might believe others were on their way.
Just after midnight on July 8, Hemingway was dispensing his treats when a round from a muzzle-loaded Austrian trench mortar (described as a five-gallon can filled with explosives and scrap metal) hit near him. “There was a flash, as a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red and on and on in a rushing wind,” recounts Lieutenant Frederic Henry, Hemingway’s semiautobiographical hero in A Farewell to Arms. “I tried to breathe but my breath would not come and I felt myself rush bodily out of myself.”
When Hemingway came to, he was buried in dirt. An Italian soldier who’d been between him and the explosion was killed instantly, while another lost both legs. Finding a third, badly wounded soldier nearby, Hemingway hoisted him on his shoulders and, though injured himself, started for an aid station. By some accounts, Austrian spotlights soon tracked the pair, and machine-gun fire caught Hemingway in the right foot and knee. He ran on despite his wounds, covering more than 200 yards to the nearest trench.
Contemporary medical accounts recorded 227 shrapnel wounds in Hemingway’s legs, though all but about 10 were superficial. While some have questioned the extent of his wounds, the fact remains he had been badly injured and shown remarkable courage. Moreover, this injury may have been the most important episode in his life as an artist. The heroes of his two great novels of the 1920s— Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises and Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms —were both injured in World War I, and his short story hero Nick Adams left the war shell-shocked. Philip Young, the most influential Hemingway critic of the 1960s, even put forth a “wound theory,” suggesting that the author’s life and art comprised repeated attempts to master the primal horror of his wounding at age 18. From this event, Young delineated the Hemingway “code”—the moral imperatives of courage, stoicism and honor by which all Hemingway heroes live.
The injury led directly to the second major event of the war for Hemingway: his love affair with Agnes von Kurowsky. Nine days after the explosion Hemingway was moved to the Ospedale Maggiore, a 16-room hospital in Milan, and promptly fell head over heels for the 26-year-old American nurse. They had a summer romance—unconsummated, she later insisted—that she ended after Hemingway returned to his hometown of Oak Park, Ill., in January 1919. Though their affair was rather brief in the grand scheme of things, its impact on the literary canon was immense Agnes became the model for Catherine Barkley, Frederic Henry’s lover in A Farewell to Arms.
World War I shaped Hemingway in many ways. His rapid rise to literary prominence rested in large part on his being a poster boy for the conflict’s multitude of physically and emotionally scarred young men— those Gertrude Stein called “a lost generation.” Most of his great works of the 1920s relied upon and amplified his experiences in the war, and a cornerstone of the Hemingway image was the popular belief he had been wounded in combat in Italy.
I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious and sacrifice and the expression in vain.…I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.
Hemingway’s first brief fling as a war correspondent came in September 1922 while he was living in Paris, when his editors at The Toronto Star assigned him to Constantinople to cover the Greco-Turkish War. Infuriating his new wife, Hadley Richardson, who already fretted about his World War I nightmares, Hemingway agreed to cover the conflict shortly after the conquering Turks set fire to the Greek and Armenian quarters in Smyrna.
While in Turkey, Hemingway saw neither combat nor the rumored 260,000 refugees fleeing Smyrna. Only after the armistice was signed on October 11 and Hemingway traveled to Greece did he witness the great migration of refugees from Thrace. He filed vivid accounts to the Star, recounting how he marched five miles in the rain with the Thracian peasantry, their possessions strapped to mules and oxcarts. “A husband spreads a blanket over a woman in labor in one of the carts to keep off the driving rain,” he wrote. “She is the only person making a sound. Her daughter looks at her in horror and begins to cry.”
All day I have been passing them, dirty, tired, unshaven, wind-bitten soldiers hiking along the trails across the brown, rolling, barren Thracian countryside. No bands, no relief organizations, no leave areas, nothing but lice, dirty blankets, and mosquitoes at night. They are the last of the glory that was Greece. This is the end of their second siege of Troy.
It would be almost two decades before Hemingway experienced combat again, and once again the event was associated with a beautiful woman. His coverage of the Spanish Civil War will always be linked to the glamorous war correspondent Martha Gellhorn. Idealistic to a fault and already a published author, Gellhorn was searching for a cause when she met Hemingway in a Key West bar, and the erupting conflict in Spain soon became her obsession. Though Hemingway was then married to his devoted second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, Gellhorn soon became his obsession. In no time they agreed to visit the war zone together.
Before leaving, Hemingway signed a contract with the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA) to report on the conflict—his first real assignment as a war correspondent covering a prolonged conflict. Gellhorn agreed to send dispatches to Collier’s, then one of America’s most popular weekly magazines. He arrived in the spring of 1937, by which time the elected Republican government, backed by the Soviet Union, was besieged in and around Madrid by General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist army, allied with Italy and Germany, while battles flared in other parts of the country. Hemingway and Gellhorn reported only what they witnessed, largely because the war was too complicated to describe even in lengthy features. There were at least 40 factions—communists, fascists, anarchists, separatists, unions, youth groups, the Catholic Church—backing one side or the other, and the history of the conflict remains murky, as there were so many versions of each event.
Living in semisecret sin at Madrid’s Hotel Florida, Hemingway and Gellhorn reported on the fascist siege of the city and on fighting in Guadalajara and Brihuega. The shelling of Madrid and resulting widespread civilian casualties featured prominently in their writing. “They killed an old woman returning home from market, dropping her in a huddled black heap of clothing, with one leg, suddenly detached, whirling against the wall of an adjoining house,” Hemingway wrote in an article that ran on April 11. “They killed three people in another square, who lay like so many torn bundles of old clothing in the dust and rubble when the fragments of the ‘155’ had burst against the curbing.”
Though journalists largely viewed Gellhorn as Hemingway’s elegant girlfriend at this point, her articles in Collier’s soon displayed a gift for restrained and detailed accounts of the suffering war inflicts on common people. Theirs was a rare courtship, an affair intensified by the danger they faced daily, their shared convictions and their association with those celebrities (like writers Virginia Cowles and John Dos Passos) who also roomed at the Florida. And Hemingway, as always, was good company in the war zone—jovial, courageous, ready to share his always-filled hip flask with comrades. The grand hotel itself lay within range of Nationalist shells, charging a dollar a day for rooms up front but considerably more for those facing away from the bombardment.
For the next two years, Hemingway divided his time between Spain, where he recorded the destruction of the Second Spanish Republic, and the United States, where he watched his marriage to Pauline endure a similar fate. In all, he logged three tours of Spain during the war—March to May and September to December 1937, and April to May 1938. During his second sojourn, the Republicans lost Bilbao and the Basque areas and were divided by internal skirmishes. On his third and final journey, the Republicans were retreating to the Mediterranean near Barcelona, and once again Hemingway was reporting on the flight of refugees.
The front had stabilized by the time Hemingway and Gellhorn left Spain, but it was obvious the Republicans had lost. Yet the war brought about a flowering of work by Hemingway. In addition to his NANA articles, he wrote the play The Fifth Column and narrated Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens’ propaganda film The Spanish Earth, which they screened at the White House in July 1937. And in 1940 the Spanish conflict was the subject of his longest novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which critic and biographer Jeffrey Meyers calls “the greatest political novel in American literature.”
Keeping a heavy fire on the hilltop, Lieutenant Berrendo pushed a patrol up to one of the bomb craters from where they could throw grenades onto the crest. He was taking no chances of any one being alive and waiting for them in the mess that was up there and he threw four grenades into the confusion of dead horses, broken and split rocks, and torn yellow-stained explosive-stinking earth before he climbed out of the bomb crater and walked over to have a look.
—For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940
After marrying Hemingway in late 1940, Gellhorn, who had covered the growing crisis in Europe, wanted to cover the Second Sino-Japanese War. Hemingway reluctantly agreed. Their three-month journey was a disappointment: Gellhorn was sick and hated China, and they witnessed no battles, only a mock operation on the dormant front north of Canton. Hemingway was reporting for the New York daily PM, as well as providing intelligence to Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. The writer sent Morgenthau a six-page, single-spaced brief on the complicated situation in China, proving himself a deft gatherer and interpreter of political and military data.
His experience in China apparently gave Hemingway a taste for espionage, for when he returned to his home in Cuba, he organized a network of amateur spies who gathered information for the FBI on Axis sympathizers and operatives on the island. After this venture fizzled, Hemingway and his drinking buddies used his fishing boat Pilar to hunt for U-boats operating in the Caribbean, thinking they could surprise one and drop explosives down its conning-tower hatch.
Hemingway also applied to the new Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1944. But it turned him down, believing—correctly—he was “too much of an individualist to work under military supervision.”
From 1941 to 1944 Gellhorn covered the war in Europe for from London. Upon returning Collier’s to Cuba in March 1944, she pleaded with Hemingway to come to Europe. He finally agreed to cover the war, also for Collier’s. Hemingway received the magazine’s front-line accreditation, and as the military allotted only one per publication, he effectively ensured Gellhorn would not receive it (as a woman, she was unlikely to get it at the time anyway). He also arranged a flight to London for himself, leaving Gellhorn to cross the North Atlantic aboard a munitions ship.
By the time Gellhorn arrived in England in late May 1944, Hemingway was enraptured with Time/Life magazine correspondent Mary Welsh. The following months were marked by his disintegrating relationship with Gellhorn, his blossoming affair with Welsh, and his legendary contribution to the capture of France and Western Germany.
World War II had less impact on Hemingway’s art than his earlier conflicts, as he wrote about the war peripherally only in the mediocre novel Across the River and Into the Trees and in stories published posthumously. But his actions in 1944 greatly amplified the Hemingway mystique. In the presence of soldiers and male journalists (who dutifully recorded his exploits), he was a swashbuckling irregular—jolly, courageous, foolhardy. And while he later claimed to have beaten Free French General Philippe Leclerc into Paris and to have liberated the city’s famed Ritz Hotel, it is extremely difficult to pin down the facts, as Hemingway—and others— again greatly exaggerated his exploits.
We do know that Hemingway’s last war began on the morning of June 6, when he clambered from a troopship into a Higgins boat bound for Normandy’s Omaha Beach. Due to confusion on the beach, his craft had to bob off the French coast until the troops could be put ashore. Correspondents were not yet permitted ashore, so Hemingway returned to England aboard a transport and was outraged when he learned Gellhorn had stowed away on a hospital ship and snuck ashore before him.
Hemingway returned to France on July 18 and soon joined the Allied advance on Paris. He considered journalism a poor outlet for his talents and filed only six pieces to Collier’s from Europe. Hemingway could read maps, speak French and some German, and had an appreciation for tactics. He also possessed a forceful personality and was a natural leader. Hemingway kept in contact with both the OSS and French Resistance and was reportedly armed and shooting at the enemy. On July 30 he “liberated” a German motorcycle with sidecar. Hemingway and his jeep driver, Private Red Pelkey, also flushed six German soldiers from a farmhouse with hand grenades and took them prisoner. Two days later, near Saint-Pois, he spent an afternoon pinned in a ditch by machine-gun fire after a German shell upended his motorcycle. Though his role in the liberation of Paris was frequently distorted, he did arrive in the city on August 25, the day Leclerc’s Free French took the city, and Hemingway and his entourage did indeed dine at the Ritz that night.
He continued to travel with journalists (many of whom considered him a reckless braggart) and attached himself to the U.S. 22nd Infantry Regiment, whose commander, Col. Charles “Buck” Lanham, became a fast friend. Hemingway traveled with the regiment (returning to Paris occasionally to be with Mary Welsh) right through to the bloody fighting in Germany’s Hürtgen Forest in the winter of 1944–1945. At one point, the inspector general of the Third Army, prompted by complaints from other correspondents, investigated whether Hemingway’s actions in combat violated regulations governing civilian war correspondents. In response, he denied participating in combat.
Hemingway often displayed an almost insane disdain for danger. On one occasion, he and other guests were dining at Lanham’s command post in a farmhouse near the Siegfried Line when a shell crashed through a wall. The others dove into a potato cellar, then peeked out to find Hemingway still at the table, calmly eating his steak. When Lanham ordered him to take cover, the writer replied that a shell would be as likely to hit one place as another, so he would remain where he was. Lanham argued with him as another round came through the wall. The others stayed in the shelter, watching their colonel berate Hemingway as more shells hit.
It’s a great story, but it highlights a darker side of Hemingway’s behavior. Throughout his time with the 22nd Infantry, Hemingway wrote Welsh letters saying he’d once again cheated the “old whore, Death.” Biographer Michael Reynolds concluded that Hemingway—his third marriage a failure and his head still ringing from a concussion sustained in a traffic accident just after his arrival in London—“simply no longer cared if he lived or died.”
The fierce combat in the Hürtgen only intensified Hemingway’s inner gloom. The 22nd Infantry sustained more than 2,800 casualties in the battle, and the writer was almost among them. Lanham later reported seeing Hemingway armed with a rifle and shooting as the regiment advanced near the infamous “Valley of Death.”
On Dec. 3, 1944, Hemingway, Pelkey and Time/Life correspondent Bill Walton were riding down an exposed road when Hemingway ordered Pelkey to stop the jeep. They heard a faint hum, then Hemingway yelled, “Oh, God, jump!” The trio landed in the dirt just as a diving German fighter strafed their vehicle. Hemingway had recognized the engine noise from the Spanish Civil War.
We had reached the cross roads before noon and had shot a French civilian by mistake. He had run across the field on our right beyond the farmhouse when he saw the first jeep come up. Claude had ordered him to halt and when he had kept on running across the field Red shot him. It was the first man he had killed that day and he was very pleased.
—“Black Ass at the Cross Roads”
Ernest Hemingway did not see combat again after late 1944. He once mentioned to Mary, who became his fourth wife, that he might “attend” the Korean War, but nothing ever came of it. The “old whore, Death” never caught up with Hemingway in a war zone, but that’s not to say he escaped war unscathed. He suffered nightmares and insomnia for decades after his wounding in Italy, symptoms representative of what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder.
But while Hemingway suffered from his exposure to war, it inarguably enriched both his life and the body of global literature. Few writers have employed war as a motif so successfully. “After his wounding in World War I, Hemingway viewed armed combat as the most central experience of his century,” Reynolds wrote. “Here a man could see his species stripped down to a primal level here he could test his own emotional resources.” Hemingway’s own emotional resources were vast, but in the end, they were not infinite.
For further reading, Peter Moreira recommends: Hemingway: A Biography, by Jeffrey Meyers, and Hemingway: The Final Years, by Michael S. Reynolds.
Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Military History. To subscribe, click here.
War of 1812 Facts
Sir Amédée Forestier, The Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814, 1914, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sulgrave Institution of the U.S. and Great Britain. Signing of Treaty of Ghent
The War of 1812 is one of the least studied wars in American history. Sometimes referred to as the “Second War of Independence,” the War of 1812 was the first large scale test of the American republic on the world stage. With the British Navy impressing American sailors, and the British government aiding Native American tribes in their attacks on American citizens on the frontier, Congress, for the first time in our nation’s history, declared war on a foreign nation: Great Britain. The War of 1812 brought the United States onto the world's stage and was followed by a half-decade now called the "Era of Good Feelings."
This page offers answers to frequently asked questions about this formative and dramatic conflict.
When did the War of 1812 begin?
The War of 1812 began on June 18th, 1812 with the Unites States formally declaring war on the United Kingdom. The war lasted from June 1812-February 1815, a span of two years and eight months.
When did the War of 1812 end?
Peace negotiations began in late 1814, but slow communication across the Atlantic (and indeed across the United States) prolonged the war and also led to numerous tactical errors for both sides. The Treaty of Ghent was signed by British and United States delegates on December 24th, 1814, to be enacted when each side formally ratified the treaty. The British were able to ratify the treaty on December 27th, but it took several weeks for the treaty to reach the United States. It was ratified by the US Senate on February 17th, 1815. The war lasted a total of two years and eight months.
What were the causes of the War of 1812?
The War of 1812 was part of a larger, global conflict. The empires of England and France spent 1789-1815 locked in an almost constant war for global superiority. That war stretched from Europe to North Africa and to Asia and, when the Americans declared war on England, the war engulfed North America as well.
The United States had a variety of grievances against Britain. Many felt that the British had not yet come to respect the United States as a legitimate country. The British were impressing, or American sailors at sea as well as blocking American trade with France—both of these were also spillover policies from the British prosecution of the war with France. The British were also unsubtly supporting Native American groups who were in conflict with American settlers along the frontier.
Impressment was a practice wherein a nation would take men into military or naval forces by compulsion, without giving notice. Often referred to as the "press gang", impressment was used by several nations in the 19th century. The term is most commonly associated with the United Kingdom as it was a common practice for the Royal Navy to use impressment during wartime. Impressment was a grievance cited as a cause of the American Revolution but is most commonly associated with the War of 1812. The practice ceased in the Royal Navy after 1814.
Where was the War of 1812 fought?
The War of 1812 was fought in the United States, Canada, and on the high seas. Engagements were fought in the Old Southwest (Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi), the Old Northwest (embracing Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin) Canada, Coastal Maine and the Chesapeake.
Many battles were engaged in rivers, lakes, and the oceans. The British enforced a blockade of American ports, particularly in the South, along the Atlantic seaboard. Naval engagements flared, especially around the Chesapeake Bay, as this blockade was challenged. Additionally, since the war had a distinct commercial character, pirate-style raids were carried out against trade ships throughout the Atlantic. Lake Erie and Lake Ontario played major roles in the War of 1812. Sitting amidst the main theater of operations in the North, they shaped the movements of the contending armies. Large ships were built and put on the Lakes, where they engaged in full-scale battles for supremacy in order to move troops and bombard rival towns.
Who was the American President during the War of 1812?
James Madison, “the Father of the Constitution,” was the president throughout the war. When the nation was first founded, Madison was closely allied with Thomas Jefferson in seeking a decentralized agrarian democracy. As time wore on, however, the man changed. Throughout the War of 1812, he struggled to motivate northeastern states to contribute men and money to the war effort. By the time the war was over, Madison was a proponent of centralized power and a strong manufacturing economy.
Who were some of the important military figures of the War of 1812?
Many of the important military figures of the War of 1812 had started their careers either during the Revolutionary War or during the ongoing wars between Britain and France, particularly the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
Important American figures included Oliver Hazard Perry, the "Hero of Lake Erie", Jacob Brown who successfully defended Fort Erie despite a seven-week siege, and was later promoted to Commander General of the U.S. Army, and Winfield Scott was a brave fighter who also implemented a training system that greatly improved the battlefield performance of the American army. He would later conceive of the “Anaconda Plan” that shaped Northern strategy in the Civil War. In addition, two famous future Presidents made their mark during the war William Henry Harrison who responsible for the military destruction of Tecumseh’s Confederacy of Native American tribes, and Andrew Jackson, who defeated the Creek Indians in Alabama and won a dramatic victory against the British at New Orleans.
Important British figures included Isaac Brock, a popular imperial administrator in Canada who became a hero posthumously for his heroic but fatal defense of Queenston Heights, Robert Ross who led the veteran expeditionary force that burned Washington, D.C. and was killed outside of Baltimore at the Battle of North Point, and Edward Pakenham, a respected Napoleonic War veteran who led the British column that attacked the Gulf Coast, killed at the Battle of New Orleans.
Important Canadian figures included Gordon Drummond, a Canadian-born officer in the British Army who important role in the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and the subsequent siege of Fort Erie, Robert Livingston a military courier who had helped lift the siege of Fort Mackinac by smuggling in fresh supplies using camouflaged boats, and Richard Pierpont, a former slave who won freedom by fighting for the British in the Revolutionary War who organized “The Coloured Corps,” made up primarily of slaves who had escaped to Canada, which fought at the Battles of Queenston Heights and Fort George.
What role did Native Americans play in the War of 1812?
Shawnee War Chief Tecumseh
Native Americans played a major role in the War of 1812. Tribes were aligned with both sides of the conflict, although predominately tribes allied themselves with the British against the United States. The tribes fought along the frontier and along the Gulf Coast tribal wars occurred alongside battles of the War of 1812. Famous Native Americans included Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader who organized a confederation of Native American tribes, known as Tecumseh’s Confederacy, to resist ongoing encroachment on their lands by European settlers. Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames and his Confederacy fell apart. Black Hawk was a Sauk chief who fought against American frontiersmen. After the War of 1812, Black Hawk organized a new confederacy, leading to the Black Hawk War of 1832.
What roles did African-Americans play in the War of 1812?
African Americans were not officially allowed to join the U.S. Army during the War of 1812, although they served extensively in the U.S. Navy. Approximately one-quarter of the U.S. sailors at the Battle of Lake Erie were African American. Roughly 350 men of the “Battalion of Free Men of Color” fought at the Battle of New Orleans.
A company of mostly escaped slaves served with the British in Canada, participating in the Battle of Queenston Heights and the Siege of Fort Erie.
During the Royal Navy’s blockade of the Atlantic seaboard, roughly 4,000 slaves escaped onto British ships, where they were welcomed and freed. Many of them joined the British military, participating in the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of Washington, D.C.
How many people fought in the War of 1812?
Only 7,000 men served in the United States military when the war broke out. By the end of the war, more than 35,000 American regulars and 458,000 militia—though many of these were only mustered in for local defense—were serving on land and sea.
The global British regular military was comprised of 243,885 soldiers in 1812. By war’s end, more than 58,000 regulars, 4,000 militia, and 10,000 Native Americans would join the battle for North America.
How many people died in the War of 1812?
Roughly 15,000 Americans died as a result of the War of 1812. Roughly 8,600 British and Canadian soldiers died from battle or disease. The losses among Native American tribes are not known.
What were the major battles of the War of 1812?
The War of 1812 was shaped by battles on land and sea.
The capture of Detroit (August 16, 1812) – Only weeks after the war began, American General William Hull surrendered Detroit, along with a sizable army, without resistance to a smaller British force.
The capture of the HMS Java, HMS Guerriere, and HMS Macedonian (August-December 1812) – The new US frigates Constitution and United States started the war with a bang, performing well in a series of Atlantic engagements that boosted American morale after a disappointing beginning on land.
The Battle of Queenston Heights (October 13, 1812) – In a dramatic battle, British and Canadian troops turned back an American incursion into Canada. British General Isaac Brock was killed.
The Battle of York (April 27, 1813) – American forces burned York, the capital of Upper Canada, after winning a hard-fought land battle.
The Battle of Lake Erie (September 10, 1813) – Oliver Hazard Perry won fame for his heroic deeds in this victory, which secured Lake Erie for the rest of the war and paved the way for the liberation of Detroit.
The Battle of the Thames, Ontario (October 5, 1813) – William Henry Harrison crushed a combined force of British and Native Americans in this battle, killing the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and thus removing the most dangerous threat to American settlers in the northwest.
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend (March 27, 1814) – Andrew Jackson defeated the Red Stick Creeks and then forced the tribe to cede their claim to 23 million acres of what is now Alabama and Georgia.
The Battle of Bladensburg (August 24, 1814) – British regulars routed Maryland militia in this battle, opening the road to Washington, D.C., which they burned.
The Battle of Plattsburgh (September 11, 1814) – The British launched a poorly coordinated joint operation against the shipyard at Plattsburgh, but were decisively repulsed in one of the war’s largest naval engagements.
The Battle of North Point and the Defense of Fort McHenry (September 12-13, 1814) – After burning Washington, D.C., British forces advanced on Baltimore. Stubborn resistance at North Point and Fort McHenry saved the city, compelled the British to suspend their campaign, and inspired the American national anthem.
The Battles of Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams (June 6-24, 1813) – Another invasion of Canada was repulsed in these battles.
The Battle of Lundy’s Lane (July 25, 1814) – In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, one marked by extensive hand-to-hand fighting, the Americans were forced out of Canada for good.
The Battle of New Orleans (January 8, 1815) – Andrew Jackson inflicted over 2,000 casualties on attacking British troops while suffering 333 in the entire campaign. The battle became a touchstone of American pride, despite it occurring after the war had technically ended.
What kinds of weapons were used in the War of 1812?
The most widely used weapon in the War of 1812 was the smoothbore musket, which was carried by most of the infantrymen in the field. These had an effective battlefield range of 50-100 yards, necessitating close assaults and bayonet tactics be employed. There were also some units equipped with rifles, which were used primarily as light or specialized infantry.
Cannons were smoothbore as well, though they could shoot roughly 400 yards accurately. They were used with deadly, decisive effect on the battlefield.
Cavalrymen generally carried pistols and sabers and were used to outmaneuver or charge enemy formations.
How advanced was medicine during the War of 1812?
Disease was the primary cause of death during the War of 1812, not battlefield wounds. When men were wounded, they had little to look forward to in the hospital. Although sanitation was recognized as being medically important, advancements such as anesthesia and ambulatory care were still decades away. A British surgeon (who, along with one assistant, would generally be responsible for 1,000 men) remembered this:
“There is hardly on the face of the earth a less enviable situation than that of an Army Surgeon after a battle-worn out and fatigued in body and mind, surrounded by suffering, pain, and misery, much of which he knows it is not in his power to heal…. I never underwent such fatigue as I did the first week at Butler's Barracks. The weather was intensely hot, the flies in myriads, and lighting on the wounds, deposited their eggs, so that maggots were bred in a few hours.” – Tiger Dunlop, 89th Regiment of Foot
The average British and American soldier during the War of 1812.
Were there any significant technological advancements during the War of 1812?
The War of 1812 was fought in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, in which a variety of technological advancements came together to forever change the way humans lived and worked.
Steamships and steam-powered railroad engines came into profitable use for the first time during the war years. While they had little effect on the North American conflict, these steam machines would become the technological standard in the decades to come.
Machines made with interchangeable parts became more common during the War of 1812, although the practice was not yet applied to military manufacturing. For the common soldier, the most significant advancement may well have been improved food storage through airtight packaging.
What were the political effects of the War of 1812?
Internationally, the war helped codify a fair standing between the United States, Britain, and Canada. This led to an era of mutually beneficial trade and diplomatic partnership.
Domestically, the war exacerbated tensions between northern industrialists and southern planters. Industrialists were reluctant to go to war with Britain, which was then the worldwide model of the Industrial Revolution. Southerners, on the other hand, were quick to remember the French assistance that had helped win the southern campaigns of the American Revolution as well as the ideological similarities between the two revolutionary nations. The American public generally viewed the outcome of the war favorably, causing the anti-war Federalist Party to fade from national prominence.
What were the economic effects of the War of 1812?
In the early years of the 19th century, the United States was a rapidly expanding commercial power. Many historians cite this growth as a key factor in Britain’s desire to contain American expansion. The war helped to secure America’s unfettered access to the sea, which played a large role in a post-war economic boom.
The prosecution of the war cost the United States government 105 million dollars, which equates to roughly 1.5 billion dollars in 2014. The strain of raising this money drove legislators to charter the Second National Bank, taking another step towards centralization.
The peace terms that ended the war were those of status quo ante bellum, “the state of things as they were before the war.” So, while the War of 1812 was legally a tie—a wash—in terms of territorial acquisitions, historians now look at its long term effects to judge who won.
The Americans declared war (for the first time in their nation’s history) to stop British impressment, reopen the trade lanes with France, remove British support from Native American tribes, and to secure their territorial honor and integrity in the face of their old rulers. All four of these goals were achieved by the time peace broke out, although some British measures were scheduled to be repealed before the war had even begun. By establishing a respected footing with Britain and Canada, the United States also experienced a commercial boom in the years after the war. The overall result of the war was probably positive for the nation as a whole.
The British gained little to nothing from the war, save for an honorable friendship with the United States. Valuable resources were diverted from the battlefields of Europe for the War of 1812, which brought no land or treasure to the crown. The British also lost their Native American lodgment against United States expansion, further unleashing the growth of a major global trade competitor. However, the British did ultimately defeat France in their long war while avoiding a fiasco in North America, which is a considerable victory in the context of the global conflict they waged.
Many Native American tribes fought against the United States in the Northwest, united as a Confederacy led by a Shawnee man named Tecumseh. Many of these tribes had allied with the British during the Revolutionary War as well. The Creek tribe in the Southwest battled settlers and soldiers throughout the War of 1812, eventually allying with a column of British regulars. In reaching peace through status quo antebellum, however, the Native Americans all lost their main request of a recognized nation in North America. British support also evaporated in the years after the war, further quickening the loss of Native lands.
Painting of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, 1814. Sir Amédée Forestier, The Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814, 1914, oil on canvas,
What are some of the best sources of information on the War of 1812?
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is a treasure trove of information and artifacts, including the original Star-Spangled Banner.
There are many book sources for information on the War of 1812 including:
Are any War of 1812 battlefields preserved?
Many battlefields from the War of 1812 are preserved in part or in full, but many are not. The United States federal government compiled a study in 2007 that identified development threats to many battlefields and described more than half as already being "destroyed or fragmented."
How USS Constitution Became ‘Old Ironsides’
Around 2 p.m. on the afternoon of August 19, 1812, a lookout aboard USS Constitution spied a sail against the cloudy southern horizon. The newsflash brought the frigate’s commanding officer, Captain Isaac Hull, and his charges 𠇏locking up like pigeons from a net bed,” according to one crewman.
It was HMS Guerriere again. The same frigate that Hull had skillfully eluded a month earlier near New York by taking evasive actions that included dumping 10 tons of drinking water overboard. The same warship that had been notorious for stopping American merchant vessels at sea and impressing their sailors, a practice that partly led to the declaration of war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812.
Now, two months later, Constitution and Guerriere, a French ship that had been captured by the Royal Navy in 1806, closed in on each other 400 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. Constitution was the larger frigate, boasting a larger crew, a thicker hull and six more guns. What’s more, it had an unblemished combat record since being launched in 1797. Even if the commander of Guerriere, Captain James Dacres, knew he was outgunned and outmanned, he was still eager for a fight, telling others on board that if he became the first British captain to capture an American vessel, he would made for life.” The Royal Navy, after all, had a sterling record in ship-to-ship combat against more formidable opponents than the Americans.
Isaac Hull, captain of USS Constitution. (U.S. Naval Historical Center)
Considering it unjust to compel Americans to fire on their countrymen, Dacres granted the 10 impressed sailors aboard Guerriere permission to stay below deck during the battle. Then, around 5 p.m., he ordered the crew to hoist two English ensigns and a Union Jack. In turn, Hull ordered four American ensigns, including the Stars and Stripes, raised on Constitution.
Guerriere opened fire but missed wildly. Constitution launched occasional shots, but Hull, to the unease of his crew, ordered them to hold most of their fire until they engaged the enemy in extremely close action. Around 6 p.m., the two ships drew alongside about 25 yards apart. Constitution rocked Guerriere with a full broadside. Hull, eager to get a better view of the action, split his dress breeches as he leapt atop an arms chest.
To the amazement of Dacres and his crew, the 18-pound iron cannonballs launched by Guerriere bounced harmlessly off the American frigate’s 24-inch triple-layered hull, which was made of white oak and live oak sheathed in copper forged by Paul Revere. One British sailor supposedly yelled out, “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!” Thus, Constitution was christened “Old Ironsides.”
After 15 minutes of intense bombardment, the mizzenmast fell over the starboard side of the staggered Guerriere and impaired its ability to maneuver. Within minutes, Guerriere’s bowsprit became entangled with Constitution’s mizzen rigging, and the two interlocked ships rotated clockwise. As both ships prepared boarding parties, sharpshooters in the mast tops rained down musket fire on their enemies. Dacres was wounded in the back, and on the deck of Constitution a musket ball fatally felled Lieutenant William Bush, who became the first U.S. Marine Corps officer to die in combat.
During the mayhem, the ships tore free of each other. Fifteen minutes after Guerriere’s mizzenmast fell, its foremast snapped like a matchstick and carried the mainmast with it. The mighty British warship was now a crippled hulk with 30 holes smashed in its side and body parts strewn on its blood-splattered deck. Constitution sported pockmarks on its sails, but Old Glory still flapped in the wind, and its mighty hull, of course, remained intact.
As the Guerriere crew threw the dead overboard, Dacres ordered a shot to be fired from the leeward side in surrender. Hull, unclear of the sign in the growing darkness, dispatched a lieutenant over to the enemy ship. 𠇌ommodore Hull’s compliments and wishes to know if you have struck your flag,” said the lieutenant. Dacres responded with dry British wit, “Well, I don’t know. Our mizzenmast is gone, our mainmast is gone𠅊nd upon the whole, you may say we have struck our flag.”
Through the night, prisoners were removed by boat. Surgeons amputated arms and legs. Seven Americans had been killed and seven wounded. On the British side, 13 were dead and 62 wounded. By daylight, it was clear that Guerriere, with four feet of water in the hold, could not be salvaged as a prize to bring back to America. That afternoon, the Americans lit the hulk on fire, and a huge explosion showered the Atlantic with Guerriere’s tattered remains.
The battle wasn’t critical to the outcome of the war, but it was an important statement of American naval power and a boost to Yankee morale. Even without Guerriere, Constitution arrived triumphantly in Boston on August 30. Crowds thronged rooftops and wharves and exclaimed hearty cheers. The frigate had left Boston 28 days earlier as USS Constitution. It had returned as “Old Ironsides,” an American icon.
An eighteenth-century model of Cádiz
Model – Room of the Model of Cádiz, Museum of the Cortes of Cádiz
The first floor houses one of the museum’s most valuable items: a 1:250 scale model of the city of Cádiz made in the late eighteenth century. It was built in 1777 by several craftsmen under the leadership of the military engineer Alfonso Jiménez and commissioned by Charles III of Spain. Fine woods (mahogany, cedar and ebony) and precious materials such as silver and ivory were used. Its large size is quite striking, and the many small details along the buildings provide a glimpse into Cádiz’s history and urban planning of that era.
The museum also contains archaeological pieces, pre-Colombian ceramics, drawings, prints and an interesting seventeenth-century figurehead representing Our Lady of the Rosary.
The second floor of the Museum of the Cádiz Parliament features a walkway that offers visitors a bird’s-eye view of the scale model in all its splendour. The third floor is home to maps, plans, clothing from that era, weapons, shields and countless documents of great historical value.
World War 2 Timeline
September 18, 1931
Japan invades Manchuria.
October 2, 1935&ndashMay 1936
Italy invades, conquers, and annexes Ethiopia.
October 25&ndashNovember 1, 1936
Germany and Italy sign a treaty of cooperation on October 25 on November 1, the Rome-Berlin Axis is announced.
November 25, 1936
Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan sign the Anti-Comintern Pact, directed against the Soviet Union and the international Communist movement.
July 7, 1937
Japan invades China, initiating World War II in the Pacific.
March 11&ndash13, 1938
Germany incorporates Austria in the Anschluss.
September 30, 1938
Hitler, Chamberlain, Daladier of France and Mussolini of Italy met in Munich and agreed that Hitler should have the Sudetanland of Czechoslovakia. The Czechs were not represented at the meeting and realising that no country would come to their aid were forced to surrender the Sudetenland to Germany. Hitler assured those at the meeting that this was the extent of his ambitions for expansion. Chamberlain returned to England with a piece of paper signed by Hitler, proclaiming &lsquopeace in our time.
Under German pressure, the Slovaks declare their independence and form a Slovak Republic. Despite the assurances given by Hitler in the Treaty of Munich, he took control of a portion of Czechoslovakia.
March 31, 1939
Britain and France rearm and reassure Poland.
April 7&ndash15, 1939
Fascist Italy invades and conquers Albania
August 23, 1939
Hitler and Stalin signed a non-aggression pact which included secret clauses for the division of Poland.
September 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland. Although there had been problems in the previous years, the invasion of Poland is what started World War 2. Britain and France declare war on Germany 2 days later.
September 17, 1939
The Soviet Union invades Poland from the east.
September 27&ndash29, 1939
Warsaw surrenders on September 27. The Polish government flees into exile via Romania. Germany and the Soviet Union divide Poland between them. Thus honoring the agreement between the two.
November 30, 1939&ndashMarch 12, 1940
The Soviet Union invades Finland, initiating the so-called Winter War. The Finns sue for an armistice and have to cede the northern shores of Lake Lagoda and the small Finnish coastline on the Arctic Sea to the Soviet Union.
April 9, 1940&ndashJune 9, 1940
Hitler invaded and occupied Denmark and Norway to safeguard supply routes of Swedish ore and also to establish a Norwegian base from which to break the British naval blockade on Germany. Denmark surrenders on day of attack while Norway holds out until June 9.
May 10, 1940&ndashJune 22, 1940
Hitler launched his blitzkrieg against Holland and Belgium. Rotterdam was bombed almost to extinction. Both countries were occupied.
May 13, 1940
Neville Chamberlain resigned after pressure from Labour members for a more active prosecution of the war and Winston Churchill became the new head of the wartime coalition government. Chamberlain gave Churchill his unreserved support. Ernest Bevin was made minister of labour and recruited workers for the factories and stepped up coal production. Lord Beaverbrook, minister of Aircraft Production increased production of fighter aircraft.
June 10, 1940
Italy enters the war. Italy invades southern France on June 21.
June 28, 1940
The Soviet Union forces Romania to cede the eastern province of Bessarabia and the northern half of Bukovina to the Soviet Ukraine.
June 14, 1940&ndashAugust 6, 1940
The Soviet Union occupies the Baltic States on June 14&ndash18, engineering Communist coup d&rsquoétats in each of them on July 14&ndash15, and then annexing them as Soviet Republics on August 3&ndash6.
July 10, 1940&ndashOctober 31, 1940
The air war known as the Battle of Britain ends in defeat for Nazi Germany.
August 30, 1940
Second Vienna Award: Germany and Italy arbitrate a decision on the division of the disputed province of Transylvania between Romania and Hungary. The loss of northern Transylvania forces Romanian King Carol to abdicate in favor of his son, Michael, and brings to power a dictatorship under General Ion Antonescu.
September 13, 1940
The Italians invade British-controlled Egypt from Italian-controlled Libya.
September 27, 1940
Germany, Italy, and Japan sign the Tripartite Pact.
Italy invades Greece from Albania on October 28.
Slovakia (November 23), Hungary (November 20), and Romania (November 22) join the Axis.
The Germans send the Afrika Korps to North Africa to reinforce the faltering Italians.
March 1, 1941
Bulgaria joins the Axis.
April 6, 1941&ndashJune 1941
Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria invade and dismember Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia surrenders on April 17. Germany and Bulgaria invade Greece in support of the Italians. Resistance in Greece ceases in early June 1941.
April 10, 1941
The leaders of the terrorist Ustasa movement proclaim the so-called Independent State of Croatia. Recognized immediately by Germany and Italy, the new state includes the province of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatia joins the Axis powers formally on June 15, 1941.
June 22, 1941&ndashNovember 1941
Nazi Germany and its Axis partners (except Bulgaria) invade the Soviet Union. Finland, seeking redress for the territorial losses in the armistice concluding the Winter War, joins the Axis just before the invasion. The Germans quickly overrun the Baltic States and, joined by the Finns, lay siege to Leningrad (St. Petersburg) by September. In the center, the Germans capture Smolensk in early August and drive on Moscow by October. In the south, German and Romanian troops capture Kiev (Kyiv) in September and capture Rostov on the Don River in November.
December 6, 1941
A Soviet counteroffensive drives the Germans from the Moscow suburbs in chaotic retreat.
December 7, 1941
Japan bombs Pearl Harbor.
December 8, 1941
The United States declares war on Japan, entering World War II. Japanese troops land in the Philippines, French Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), and British Singapore. By April 1942, the Philippines, Indochina, and Singapore are under Japanese occupation.
December 11&ndash13, 1941
Nazi Germany and its Axis partners declare war on the United States.
May 30, 1942&ndashMay 1945
The British bomb Köln (Cologne), bringing the war home to Germany for the first time. Over the next three years Anglo-American bombing reduces urban Germany to rubble.
British and US navies halt the Japanese naval advance in the central Pacific at Midway.
June 28, 1942&ndashSeptember 1942
Germany and her Axis partners launch a new offensive in the Soviet Union. German troops fight their way into Stalingrad (Volgograd) on the Volga River by mid-September and penetrate deep into the Caucasus after securing the Crimean Peninsula.
US troops halt the Japanese island-hopping advance towards Australia at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
October 23&ndash24, 1942
British troops defeat the Germans and Italians at El Alamein in Egypt, sending the Axis forces in chaotic retreat across Libya to the eastern border of Tunisia.
November 8, 1942
US and British troops land at several points on the beaches of Algeria and Morocco in French North Africa. The failure of the Vichy French troops to defend against the invasion enables the Allies to move swiftly to the western border of Tunisia, and triggers the German occupation of southern France on November 11.
November 23, 1942&ndashFebruary 2, 1943
Soviet troops counterattack, breaking through the Hungarian and Romanian lines northwest and southwest of Stalingrad and trapping the German Sixth Army in the city. Forbidden by Hitler to retreat or try to break out of the Soviet ring, the survivors of the Sixth Army surrender on January 30 and February 2, 1943.
May 13, 1943
Axis forces in Tunisia surrender to the Allies, ending the North African campaign.
July 5, 1943
The Germans launch a massive tank offensive near Kursk in the Soviet Union. The Soviets blunt the attack within a week and begin an offensive initiative of their own.
July 10, 1943
US and British troops land on Sicily. By mid-August, the Allies control Sicily.
July 25, 1943
The Fascist Grand Council deposes Benito Mussolini, enabling Italian marshall Pietro Badoglio to form a new government.
September 8, 1943
The Badoglio government surrenders unconditionally to the Allies. The Germans immediately seize control of Rome and northern Italy, establishing a puppet Fascist regime under Mussolini, who is freed from imprisonment by German commandos on September 12.
September 9, 1943
Allied troops land on the beaches of Salerno near Naples.
November 6, 1943
Soviet troops liberate Kiev.
January 22, 1944
Allied troops land successfully near Anzio, just south of Rome.
March 19, 1944
Fearing Hungary&rsquos intention to desert the Axis partnership, the Germans occupy Hungary and compel the regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy, to appoint a pro-German minister president.
June 4, 1944
Allied troops liberate Rome. Within six weeks, Anglo-American bombers could hit targets in eastern Germany for the first time.
June 6, 1944
British and US troops successfully land on the Normandy beaches of France, opening a &ldquoSecond Front&rdquo against the Germans.
June 22, 1944
The Soviets launch a massive offensive in eastern Byelorussia (Belarus), destroying the German Army Group Center and driving westward to the Vistula River across from Warsaw in central Poland by August 1.
July 25, 1944
Anglo-American forces break out of the Normandy beachhead and race eastward towards Paris.
August 1, 1944&ndashOctober 5, 1944
The non-communist underground Home Army rises up against the Germans in an effort to liberate Warsaw before the arrival of Soviet troops. The Soviet advance halts on the east bank of the Vistula. On October 5, the Germans accept the surrender of the remnants of the Home Army forces fighting in Warsaw.
August 15, 1944
Allied forces land in southern France near Nice and advance rapidly towards the Rhine River to the northeast.
August 20&ndash25, 1944
Allied troops reach Paris. On August 25, Free French forces, supported by Allied troops, enter the French capital. By September, the Allies reach the German border by December, virtually all of France, most of Belgium, and part of the southern Netherlands are liberated.
August 23, 1944
The appearance of Soviet troops on the Prut River induces the Romanian opposition to overthrow the Antonescu regime. The new government concludes an armistice and immediately switches sides in the war. The Romanian turnaround compels Bulgaria to surrender on September 8, and the Germans to evacuate Greece, Albania, and southern Yugoslavia in October.
August 29, 1944&ndashOctober 28, 1944
Under the leadership of the Slovak National Council, consisting of both Communists and non-Communists, underground Slovak resistance units rise against the Germans and the indigenous fascist Slovak regime. In late October, the Germans capture Banská Bystrica, the headquarters of the uprising, and put an end to organized resistance.
September 12, 1944
Finland concludes an armistice with the Soviet Union, leaving the Axis partnership.
October 15, 1944
The Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross movement carries out a coup d&rsquoétat with German support to prevent the Hungarian government from pursuing negotiations for surrender to the Soviets.
October 20, 1944
US troops land in the Philippines.
December 16, 1944
The Germans launch a final offensive in the west, known as the Battle of the Bulge, in an attempt to re-conquer Belgium and split the Allied forces along the German border. By January 1, 1945, the Germans are in retreat.
January 12, 1945
The Soviets launch a new offensive, liberating Warsaw and Krakow in January, capturing Budapest after a two-month siege on February 13, driving the Germans and their Hungarian collaborators out of Hungary in early April, forcing the surrender of Slovakia with the capture of Bratislava on April 4, and capturing Vienna on April 13.
Feb 19 &ndash Mar 26, 1945
The Battle of Iwo Jima was a major battle in which the United States Marine Corps landed on and eventually captured the island of Iwo Jima from the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II
March 7, 1945
US troops cross the Rhine River at Remagen.
April 1, 1945 &ndash June 22, 1945
The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg, was a major battle of the Pacific War fought on the island of Okinawa by United States Marine and Army forces against the Imperial Japanese Army.
April 12, 1945
Franklin Delanor Roosevelt dies and Harry Truman is sworn in as President of the United States. The country mourns the loss of their beloved leader.
April 16, 1945
The Soviets launch their final offensive, encircling Berlin.
Partisan units, led by Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Tito, capture Zagreb and topple the Ustasa regime. The top Ustasa leaders flee to Italy and Austria.
April 30, 1945
Hitler commits suicide.
May 7, 1945
Germany surrenders to the western Allies.
May 9, 1945
Germany surrenders to the Soviets.
Allied troops conquer Okinawa, the last island stop before the Japanese islands.
10 June, 1945 &ndash 15 August, 1945
The Battle of North Borneo took place during the Second World War between Allied and Japanese forces. Part of the wider Borneo campaign of the Pacific War, it was fought between 10 June and 15 August 1945 in North Borneo.
August 6, 1945
The United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
August 8, 1945
The Soviet Union declares war on Japan and invades Manchuria.
August 9, 1945
The United States drops an atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
September 2, 1945
Having agreed in principle to unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945, Japan formally surrenders, ending World War II.
Ulysses S. Grant’s assault on Robert E. Lee’s armies at Petersburg failed to capture the Confederacy’s vital supply center and resulted in the longest siege in American warfare.
How it ended
Although the Confederates held off the Federals in the Battle of Petersburg, Grant implemented a siege of the city that lasted for 292 days and ultimately cost the South the war.
General Ulysses S. Grant’s inability to capture Richmond or destroy the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Overland Campaign (May 4–June 12, 1864) caused him to cast his glance toward the critical southern city of Petersburg. His strategic goals shifted from the defeat of Robert E. Lee's army in the field to eliminating the supply and communication routes to the Confederate capital at Richmond.
The city of Petersburg, 24 miles south of Richmond, was the junction point of five railroads that supplied the entire upper James River region. Capturing this important transportation hub would isolate the Confederate capital and force Gen. Robert E. Lee to either evacuate Richmond or fight the numerically superior Grant on open ground.
From June 15–18, 1864, Confederate general Beauregard and his troops, though outnumbered by the Federals, saved Petersburg from Union capture. The late appearance of Lee’s men ended the Federals’ hopes of taking the city by storm and ensured a lengthy siege. For the next nine months, Grant focused on severing Petersburg’s many wagon and rail connections to the south and west. He eventually attacked and crippled Lee’s forces, forcing the South to surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
After the crushing Union defeat at Cold Harbor, Grant uses stealth and deception to shift his army south of the James River. His troops begin crossing the river both on transports and a brilliantly engineered 2,200-foot-long pontoon bridge at Windmill Point on June 14. By the morning of June 15, Grant is ready to launch his attack.
Standing in his way is the Dimmock Line, a series of 55 artillery batteries and connected infantry earthworks that form a 10-mile arc around the city. However, with Lee still defending Richmond, a scratch force of only 2,200 soldiers under Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard stand guard in Petersburg’s eastern defenses—from Battery 1 on the Appomattox River to Battery 16 nearly three miles to the south.
June 15. Union general William F. "Baldy" Smith cautiously leads his Eighteenth Corps westward from City Point. Smith delays his assault until 7:00 p.m., expecting the momentary arrival of Gen. Winfield S. Hancock’s Second Corps. Once under way, the Union attack proves anti-climactic. Federal troops gain the rear of Battery 5, throwing the defenders from the Twenty-sixth Virginia and a single battery of artillery into a panic. Batteries 3 through 8 also fall. Batteries 6 through 11 are captured by U.S. Colored Troops, commanded by Brig. Gen. Edward Hinks. Colonel Joseph Kiddoo, commanding the Twenty-second U.S. Colored Troops, later notes in his report that the “officers and men behaved in such a manner as to give me great satisfaction and the fullest confidence in the fighting qualities of colored troops.” After dark, Smith, joined at last by Hancock, decides to postpone further offensive action until dawn.
June 16. The Union Second Corps capture another section of the Confederate line. The Confederates lose Batteries 12 through 14.
June 17. The Union Ninth Corps gains more ground, but the fight is poorly coordinated. That night, Beauregard digs a new line of defense closer to Petersburg that meets up with the Dimmock Line at Battery 25, and Lee rushes reinforcements from other elements of the Army of Northern Virginia.
June 18. The Union Second, Ninth, and Fifth Corps attack but are repulsed with heavy casualties. The 850 men of the First Maine Heavy Artillery advance across a cornfield and straight into Confederate fire. Supporting units fail to protect their flanks. Within ten minutes, 632 men lay dead or wounded on the field. It is the largest regimental loss of the entire Civil War. With Confederate works now heavily manned, the opportunity to capture Petersburg without a siege is lost.
After four days of fighting with no success, Grant begins siege operations. Grant’s strategy is to surround Petersburg and cut off Lee’s supply route to the South. As he attacks Petersburg, other Union troops simultaneously attack around Richmond, which strains the Confederacy to the breaking point. During the 10 months of the siege, both armies endure skirmishing, mortar and artillery fire, poor rations, and intense boredom. By February 1865, Lee has only 45,000 soldiers to oppose Grant’s 110,000. Grant continues to order attacks and cut off rail lines. On April 2, Union forces launch an all-out assault that cripples Lee’s army. That evening, Grant evacuates Petersburg. Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House a week later.
Captain Charles Dimmock of the Confederate Corps of Engineers designed the impressive ten-mile trench line that stretched around Petersburg in a "U" shape and was anchored on the southern bank of the Appomattox River. The fortifications held 55 artillery batteries and the walls reached as high as 40 feet in some areas.
Work on the defense line began in the summer of 1862. Under the orders of Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill, Dimmock used soldiers and enslaved laborers to execute the plan. Some 264 enslaved people from Virginia's Eastern Shore and more than 1,000 from North Carolina dug the fortifications. But progress on the defenses was continually hampered by a shortage in manpower. By December 1862, Dimmock asked the Petersburg Common Council for "200 negroes" to perform more labor. The slaves were "to report each morning upon the work … at eight o'clock [and] to be dismissed and permitted to return home at 4 p.m.," which he saw as a means to preserve the slaves' health from "nefarious discomfort and exposure of camp life."
Labor on the Dimmock Line continued through the rest of 1863. Captain Dimmock wrote that by late in July 1863, the Dimmock Line was "not entirely completed, but sufficiently so for all defensive purposes." Due to movements by Union troops late in the spring of 1864, work stopped on the Dimmock Line. Though incomplete, the fortifications were an initial obstacle to Union troops as they descended on Petersburg in June 1864. But once the city was under siege by the Federals, the trenches of the Dimmock Line proved to be as much of a prison as a protection for the exhausted and hungry Confederate troops trapped there throughout the winter.
African Americans served as soldiers and laborers for both the Union and Confederate armies in the battle and siege at Petersburg. Petersburg was considered to have the largest number of free Blacks of any Southern city at that time. About half of the city’s the population was Black of which nearly 35 percent were free. Before the battle and siege of Petersburg, both freedmen and slaves were employed in various war functions, including working for the numerous railroad companies that supplied the South.
Once the siege began in June 1864, African Americans continued working for the Confederacy. In September of that year, Confederate general Robert E. Lee asked for an additional 2,000 Blacks to be added to his labor force. In March 1865, as white manpower in the army dwindled, the desperate Confederacy called for 40,000 slaves to become an armed force. A notice in the April 1, 1865, Petersburg Daily Express read, "To the slave is offered freedom and undisturbed residences at their old homes in the Confederacy after the war. Not freedom of sufferance, but honorable and self won by the gallantry and devotion which grateful countrymen will never cease to remember and reward." However, the war ended soon after this offer was made.
Public Building West of the White House May 1801 - August 1814
Approximately three days after James Madison entered upon his duties as Secretary of State, succeeding John Marshall on May 2, 1801, the Department of State began to move from one of the Six Buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue to a newly constructed building west of the White House. The move was completed about the middle of June. Some boxes containing models belonging to the Patent Office had already been moved to the still unfinished new building about the last week in December 1800. 1
This building was known in its day as "the New Building," "the War Office," and "the public building west of the President's house." 2 Located where the center wing and west-center entrance of the Old Executive Office Building are now, it was the second of two structures intended to house the executive offices of the government, the other being the already described 3 Treasury Department Building on the east side of the White House.
On July 23, 1799, while the Treasury Department Building was still under construction, the Commissioners for the District of Columbia had sought proposals for the erection of a second executive office building, to be located on the west side of the White House. This building was to be like the Treasury Department Building—"of similar Dimensions & form in every respect"—except that "the Foundation will be laid ten feet deeper from the Surface of the Ground." 4 It was "sunk to the eaves in a hollow prepared for it, so that it might be on a level with the Treasury," 5 and from this fact it was commonly said to have been "built in a hole in the ground." 6
On August 6, 1799, the Commissioners entered into a contract for the construction of this building with Leonard Harbaugh, the builder of the Treasury Department Building. The price was $39,511, exactly the same amount as for the Treasury Department Building. Construction was to begin within six weeks and was to be finished by November 1, 1800. 7 The building was not completed, however, until about April 30, 1801. 8
The available records indicate that the size and the style and details of construction of this building were in all respects similar to those of the Treasury Department Building. It was a plain two-story structure of brick on a freestone foundation, with a basement and a dormer-windowed attic. About 149 feet in length, east and west, and 57 ½ feet in breadth, it stood with its west end near the east side of Seventeenth Street just above F Street. On each floor a corridor ran the length of the building, with rooms on each side. 9 There were fourteen rooms on the first floor, fourteen on the second floor, and eight in the attic. Twenty-four of the rooms were 17 by 20 feet, eight were of nearly the same dimensions, and four were fireproof rooms of 10 by 12 feet. 10 The roof was of shingle the window sills were of stone there were numerous fireplaces the rooms and corridors were plastered and whitewashed and the windows were fitted with venetian blinds. 11 A well supplied water for the building. 12 Bookshelves from the Six Buildings were set up in the attic of the new building, as well as 675 feet of new shelving. A set of bookcases in six parts was purchased for the Secretary's room, and at least three of the four iron grates that the Department had installed in the house among the Six Buildings were set up in the new building. 13
A contemporary British diplomat seemed unimpressed with the Department's new home. He wrote that in this building "the Secretary of State received Foreign Ministers in a very indifferent little room into which they were ushered by his clerk." 14 For a time the new building housed not only the Department of State, in-[Page 30][Image: Included in this highly imaginative view of the British invasion of Washington, August 24-25, 1814, is the Public Building West of the White House (marked I).] cluding the Patent Office, but also the War Department, the Navy Department, the General Post Office, the City Post Office, and offices of both the Superintendent and the Surveyor of the city of Washington. By March 1810 the Department of State occupied one small fireproof room on the first floor, four rooms on the second floor (including one room, occupied by the Patent Office, which had been created by partitioning off part of the corridor), and four rooms in the attic. Apparently the small fireproof rooms and the attic rooms were used only for the storage of books and records. 15
Later in 1810 the City Post Office and the offices of the Superintendent and the Surveyor were removed from the new building to other quarters. In 1812 the General Post Office and the Patent Office moved into the Blodget Hotel Building, subsequently known as the "General and City Post Office Building."
The Blodget Hotel Building was a three-story brick structure located on the northeast corner of Eighth and E Streets Northwest, fronting on E Street. It was erected in 1793-1795 by Samuel Blodget, a speculator in Washington real estate, but it had remained unfinished and unoccupied until its purchase by the government under authority of an act of Congress, approved April 28, 1810. 16 The following description of the building was published in 1816:
"The Patent Office, constructed according to the plan of J. Hoban, esquire, (who gained the prize for that of the President's house,) consists of three stories, and is a hundred and twenty feet long, and sixty feet wide. It is ornamented with a pediment, and six Ionic pilasters. From the eminence on [Page 31] which it stands, the richly-wooded hills rise on every side, and form a scenery of unequalled beauty." 17
The Departments of State, War and Navy remained in the building west of the White House until August 1814. It was in this building that Robert Smith succeeded Madison as Secretary of State on March 6, 1809 (Madison had succeeded Jefferson as President on March 4, 1809), and was in turn succeeded by James Monroe on April 6, 1811 . The Department of State remained virtually unchanged during this period. In a report made on January 1, 1807, Secretary Madison listed the personnel of the Department, gave a brief description of their duties, and listed their salaries. The Secretary's salary was still $5,000 and the total for the other eight employees was $7,812. 19
While the Department of State was in this building, the United States declared war with England on June 18, 1812 . During the War of 1812, British forces invaded Washington on August 24, 1814 . That night and the following morning they burned the Capitol, the White House, and the two executive office buildings, including that occupied by the Department of State, and destroyed other property both public and private.
Five days earlier, President Madison had suggested that Secretary of State Monroe leave Washington to investigate the British advance. Sighting the enemy the following day, Monroe at once sent orders directing the officers of the Department of State to save the records. (At that time the records of the Department included, besides those of its own activities since 1789, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the records of the Continental Congress, the original laws and treaties of the United States, and other valuable papers.)
The clerks of the Department immediately placed the records in linen bags and loaded them into carts. They were taken first to a vacant gristmill on the Virginia side of the Potomac two miles above Georgetown, and then, because that location seemed unsafe, to Leesburg, Va., where they were kept for "some weeks." 20 (The records and models of the Patent Office, which were then in the Blodget Hotel Building, were spared by the invaders.)
In response to a resolution of the House of Representatives of October 24, 1814, requesting information regarding the destruction of official books and papers of the respective Departments in the British invasion of August 1814, the Secretary of State ad interim reported on November 14 as follows:
". when it became apparent from the movements of the enemy, after his debarkation at Benedict, [Maryland,] that his destination was the seat of Government, every exertion was made, and every means employed, for the removal of the books and papers of this office, to a place of safety and, notwithstanding the extreme difficulty in obtaining the means of conveyance, it is believed that every paper and manuscript book of the office, of any importance, including those of the old Government, and all in relation to accounts, were placed in a state of security. it was not found practicable however, to preserve, in like manner, the volumes of laws reserved by Congress for future disposition many of the books belonging to the library of the Department, as well as some letters [Page 32]on file of minor importance from individuals on business mostly disposed of, which were unavoidably left, and shared the fate, it is presumed, of the building in which they were deposited." 21 Because of the quick action of Secretary Monroe and his colleagues, many important historical documents had been saved. One historian stated that these men "deserve public gratitude for. indelible shame. would have followed if. [the British] had carried away with them, as trophies of their exploit, the original of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States." 22 The home of the Department of State, however, did not fare as well. All that remained of this building were the stone foundations and the brick outer walls. A report by George Hadfield dated October 13, 1814, on "the present state of the Public Buildings," includes the following paragraph regarding the two executive office buildings:
"The Public Offices, These two Buildings in consequence of their having been executed entirely of brick, in the upper structure of the outward walls, have sustained, without material injury, the violence of excessive heat The apparent and actual damage can be easily corrected by the facility with which bricks can be removed, and replaced in a Building here also an advantage presents itself from calamity, by affording the opportunity of erecting these Buildings in the interior, of solid material, and thereby render them fireproof, an object often wished in their former state, for the certain preservation of the Public Documents from accidental fire[.]" 23
Enjoy tea and learn a new craft inspired by the skills of yesteryear.
Blacksmithing 101 Workshop
Strike while the iron's hot.
Yesteryear's Essentials: Fads and Fashions of the Federal Era Clothing Conference
Join us for a weekend of Federal Fashion!
Fort Meigs After Dark Lantern Tour
May 14,2021  • July 16, 2021  • August 27, 2021
September 24, 2021  • October 8, 2021
Tour the fort by lantern light!
Hearthside Cooking Class
Experience life in an 1812 kitchen.
Drums at the Rapids: Miniature War Gaming Conference
Fight epic battles on a small scale.
First Siege 1813
See Memorial Day Weekend for Schedule May 29 - May 31.
See history come to life at this War of 1812 reenactment.
Memorial Day Weekend
Join us in honoring our nation's fallen heroes.
Muster on the Maumee
See the evolution of the common soldier.
Independence Day 1813
See the celebrations of July 4, 1813 recreated.
Revolutionary War Drill Weekend
Discover the American Revolution!
Life in Early Ohio
Discover historic skills & trades.
Take part in a long-lost trade.
Garrison Ghost Walk
October 22, 23, 29, & 30, 2021
Discover the spookier side of this historic place.
The World at War - Miniature War Gaming Day
Rewrite history, in miniature.
Holiday Open House
A band of musick [sic] this evening drew the attention of the fort. It was composed of a drum, two flutes, two cornets and a lyre.
Simonton's Co., Ohio Militia
June 6, 1813
Historical Interpreters, dressed in period attire, are available to answer questions, offer weapon demonstrations, and discuss the history of Fort Meigs and its role within the War of 1812.
* Weather permitting. Offered to the general public when not conducting tours.
Fort Meigs Military History Roundtable
Meets the third Thursday of most months at 7:30 p.m. in the Fort Meigs Visitor Center
Join the Fort Meigs Military History Roundtable as guest speakers discuss various aspects military history. Lectures are free and open to the public.
See some of our past events in the photo galleries.
Sign up to participate in an event by visiting our event registration page.