Military

Wayback Wednesday: The Battle of Plymouth 1864

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CSS Albemarle Image One
Image Credit: wikipedia.org
CSS Albemarle

From Wikipedia:

In a combined operation with the ironclad ram CSS Albemarle, Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke, attacked the Federal garrison at Plymouth, North Carolina, on April 17. On April 19, the ram appeared in the river, sinking the USS Southfield, damaging the USS Miami and driving off the other Union Navy ships (USS Ceres & USS Whitehead) supporting the Plymouth garrison. Confederate forces captured Fort Comfort, driving defenders into Fort Williams. On April 20, the garrison surrendered.

*************

Construction of the ironclad began in January 1863 and continued on during the next year. Word of the gunboat reached the Union naval officers stationed in the region, raising an alarm. They appealed to the War Department for an overland expedition to destroy the ship, to be christened Albemarle after the body of water into which the Roanoke emptied but, the Union Army never felt it could spare the troops needed to carry out such a mission. It was a decision that would prove to be very short-sighted.

In April 1864, the newly commissioned Confederate States Steamer Albemarle, under the command of Captain James W. Cooke, got underway down-river toward Plymouth, North Carolina. Its mission was to clear the river of all Union vessels so that General Robert F. Hoke‘s troops could storm the forts located there.

[…] two paddle steamers, USS Miami and USS Southfield, lashed together with spars and chains, approached from up-river, attempting to pass on either side of Albemarle in order to trap her between them.

USS Southfield Image Two
Image Credit: sonofthesouth.net
The sinking of the USS Southfield.

Captain Cooke turned heavily to starboard, getting outboard of [the] Southfield but, running dangerously close to the southern shore. Turning back sharply into the river, he rammed the Union side-wheeler, driving her under. Albemarle’s ram became trapped in Southfield’s hull from the force of the blow and her bow was pulled under as well. As [the] Southfield sank, she rolled over before settling on the riverbed. This action released the death grip that held the new Confederate ram.

Miami fired a shell into Albemarle at point-blank range while she was trapped by the wreck of Southfield but, the shell rebounded off Albemarle’s sloping iron armor and exploded on [the] Miami, killing her commanding officer, Captain Charles W. Flusser. Miami’s crew attempted to board Albemarle to capture her but, were soon driven back by heavy musket fire. [The] Miami then steered clear of the ironclad and escaped into Albemarle Sound.

With the river now clear of Union ships, and with the assistance of Albemarle’s rifled cannon, General Hoke attacked and took Plymouth and, the nearby forts.

CSS Albemarle Image Three
Image Credit: emergingcivilwar.com & Miller’s Photographic History
CSS Albemarle shortly after the battle.

From The History Channel:

Confederate forces attack Plymouth, North Carolina, in an attempt to recapture ports lost to the Union two years before. The four-day battle ended with the fall of Plymouth but, the Yankees kept the city bottled up with a flotilla on nearby Albemarle Sound.

In 1862, the Union captured Plymouth and several other points along the North Carolina coast. In doing so, they deprived the Confederacy of several ports for blockade-runners and the agricultural products from several fertile counties. In the spring of 1864, the Confederates mounted a campaign to reverse these defeats. General George Pickett led a division to the area and launched a failed attack on New Bern in February. Now, General Robert Hoke assumed command and moved his army against Plymouth, fifty miles north of New Bern. He planned an attack using the C.S.S. Albemarle, an ironclad that was still being built on the Roanoke River inland from Plymouth.

With 7,000 men, Hoke attacked the 2,800-man Union garrison at Plymouth on April 17. His troops began to capture some of the outer defenses but, he needed the Albemarle to bomb the city from the river. The ironclad moved from its makeshift shipyard on April 17 but, it was still under construction. With workers aboard, Captain James Cooke moved down the Roanoke. The Albemarle‘s rudder broke and the engine stalled, so it took two days to reach Plymouth. When it arrived, the Rebel ship took on two Yankee ships, sinking one and forcing the other to retreat. With the ironclad on the scene, Hoke’s men captured Plymouth on April 20.

The Rebel victory was limited by the fact that the Albemarle was still pinned in the Roanoke River.

Flashback Friday: The Battle of Fort Sumter 1861

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Fort Sumter Image One
Image Credit: sonofthesouth.net
Original Harper’s Weekly leaflet.
Confederate batteries firing on Fort Sumter.
The illustration above captures the first significant battle of the Civil War.

South Carolina Secedes From The Union On December 20, 1860

From Son of the South:

S. C. Major Anderson had long urged his government, but in vain, to strengthen the military works in Charleston Harbor. The burden of the few replies was: “Be prudent; be kind; do nothing to excite the South Carolinians. It will not do to send you reinforcements, for that might bring on hostilities.” At length he was satisfied that the people were about to attempt to seize Fort Sumter.

[..] he resolved to take position in Sumter before it should be too late. He was commander of all the defenses of the harbor, and, in the absence of orders to the contrary, he might occupy any one he chose.

Governor Pickens sent a message to Anderson demanding his immediate withdrawal from [the fort]. The demand was politely refused and, the Major was denounced in the State convention, in the legislature, in public and private assemblies, as a “traitor to the South,” […]. The Confederates in Charleston and Washington were filled with rage.

[Secretary of War] Floyd declared the “solemn pledges of the government” had been violated by Anderson and he demanded of the President [Buchanan] permission to withdraw the garrison from Charleston Harbor. The President refused; a disruption of the cabinet followed. Floyd fled; and Anderson received (Dec. 31) from Secretary of War [Joseph] Holt —a Kentuckian like himself— an assurance of his approval of what he had done.

Governor Pickens, nettled by Anderson’s refusal to give up Sumter, treated him as a public enemy within the domain of South Carolina. Armed South Carolinians had been sent to take possession of Fort Moultrie, where they found the works dismantled.

Fort Sumter Image Two
Image Credit: citadel.edu

From Wikipedia:

On February 7, […] seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America and established their temporary capital at Montgomery, Alabama. A February peace conference met in Washington, D.C. but, failed to resolve the crisis. The remaining eight slave states declined pleas to join the Confederacy.

The seceding states seized numerous Federal properties within their boundaries, including buildings, arsenals and fortifications. President James Buchanan protested but, took no military action in response. Buchanan was concerned that an overt action could cause the remaining slave states to leave the Union and, while he acknowledged there was no constitutional authority for a state to secede, he could find no constitutional authority for him to act to prevent it.

South Carolina authorities considered Anderson’s move to be a breach of faith. Governor [Francis W.] Pickens believed that President Buchanan had made implicit promises to him to keep Sumter unoccupied and suffered political embarrassment as a result of his trust in those promises. Buchanan, a former U.S. Secretary of State and diplomat, had used carefully crafted ambiguous language to Pickens, promising that he would not “immediately” occupy it. From Major Anderson’s standpoint, he was merely moving his existing garrison troops from one of the locations under his command to another.

Governor Pickens […] ordered that all remaining Federal positions except Fort Sumter were to be seized.

President Buchanan was surprised and dismayed at Anderson’s move to Sumter, unaware of the authorization Anderson had received. Nevertheless, he refused Pickens’s demand to evacuate Charleston harbor. Since the garrison’s supplies were limited, Buchanan authorized a relief expedition of supplies, small arms, and 200 soldiers. […] an unarmed civilian merchant ship, Star of the West [was sent], which might be perceived as less provocative to the Confederates. As Star of the West approached the harbor entrance on January 9, 1861, it was fired upon by a battery on Morris Island, […] staffed by cadets from The Citadel […].

In a letter delivered January 31, 1861, Governor Pickens demanded of President Buchanan that he surrender Fort Sumter because, “I regard that possession is not consistent with the dignity or safety of the State of South Carolina.”

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president. He was almost immediately confronted with the surprise information that Major Anderson was reporting that only six weeks of rations remained at Fort Sumter. A crisis similar to the one at Fort Sumter had emerged at Pensacola, Florida, where Confederates threatened another U.S. fortification — Fort Pickens. Lincoln and his new cabinet struggled with the decisions of whether to reinforce the forts, and how. They were also concerned about whether to take actions that might start open hostilities and which side would be perceived as the aggressor as a result. Similar discussions and concerns were occurring in the Confederacy.

After the formation of the Confederate States of America in early February, there was some debate among the secessionists whether the capture of the fort was rightly a matter for South Carolina or for the newly declared national government in Montgomery, Alabama. South Carolina Governor Pickens was among the states’ rights advocates who thought that all property in Charleston Harbor had reverted to South Carolina upon that state’s secession as an independent commonwealth.

The South sent delegations to Washington, D.C. and, offered to pay for the Federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with the Confederate agents because he did not consider the Confederacy a legitimate nation and making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government.

On April 6, Lincoln notified Governor Pickens that “an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only and, that, if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms or ammunition will be made without further notice, [except] in case of an attack on the fort.”

Lincoln’s notification had been made to the Governor of South Carolina, not the new Confederate Government, which Lincoln did not recognize. Pickens consulted with [P. G. T.] Beauregard, the local Confederate commander. Soon, President Davis ordered Beauregard to repeat the demand for Sumter’s surrender and, if it did not, to reduce the fort before the relief expedition arrived.

Beauregard dispatched aides […] to Fort Sumter on April 11 to issue the ultimatum. Anderson refused, although he reportedly commented, “I shall await the first shot and, if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days.”

At 1 a.m. on April 12, the aides brought Anderson a message from Beauregard: “If you will state the time which you will evacuate Fort Sumter, and agree in the meantime that you will not use your guns against us unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you.”

Maj. Anderson replied that he would evacuate Sumter by noon, April 15, unless he received new orders from his government or additional supplies.

Aide Col. Chesnut considered this reply to be too conditional and [replied] to Anderson: Sir, by authority of Brigadier General Beauregard, commanding the Provisional Forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.”

Anderson escorted the officers back to their boat, shook hands with each one, and said “If we never meet in this world again, God grant that we may meet in the next.”

Fort Sumter Image Three
Image Credit: smithsonianmag.com

At 4:30am EST on April 12, 1861, Lt. Henry S. Farley, acting upon the command of Capt. George S. James, fired a single 10-inch mortar round from Fort Johnson.

Although the Union garrison returned fire, they were significantly outgunned and, after 34 hours, Major Anderson agreed to evacuate. There were no deaths on either side as a direct result of this engagement, although a gun explosion during the surrender ceremonies on April 14 caused two Union deaths.

From Son of the South:

The fort had been evacuated, not surrendered. Anderson bore away the flag of Sumter, which was used as his winding-sheet, and was buried with him.

More reading on The Bombardment of Fort Sumter from Harper’s Weekly, April 27, 1861.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day

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National Vietnam War Veterans Day Image One

I’ve posted for Veterans Day on November 11 and POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday in September. Today is the national acknowledgement of the final pull-out of US troops in South Vietnam, ending our direct involvement.

From National Day Calendar:

[…] Veterans of this time period are gaining the respect that was not so freely given upon their return. Involving five U.S. presidents, crossing nearly two decades and 500,000 U.S.military personnel, it left an indelible mark on the American psyche. Returning Veterans did not always receive respectful welcomes upon their arrive on American soil. There were 58,000 killed, never to return. National Vietnam War Veterans Day recognizes the military service of these men and women who answered the call to service their country when she needed them. They didn’t make the decisions to go to war.

U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., introduced legislation in 2017 to honor Vietnam Veterans with a day on the anniversary of the withdrawal of military units from South Vietnam. President Donald Trump signed the Vietnam War Veterans Day Act on March 28, 2017, calling for U.S. flags to be flown on March 29 for those who served.

National Vietnam War Veterans Day Image Two
Photo Credit: history.com

From The History Channel:

[…] in January 1973, representatives of the United States, North and South Vietnam and, the Vietcong signed a peace agreement in Paris, ending the direct U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War. Its key provisions included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the release of prisoners of war and, the reunification of North and South Vietnam through peaceful means. The South Vietnamese government was to remain in place until new elections were held and North Vietnamese forces in the South were not to advance further nor be reinforced.

Two months after the signing of the Vietnam peace agreement, the last U.S. combat troops [left] South Vietnam as Hanoi [freed] the remaining American prisoners of war held in North Vietnam. In Saigon, some 7,000 U.S. Department of Defense civilian employees remained behind to aid South Vietnam in conducting what looked to be a fierce and ongoing war with communist North Vietnam. […] before the last American troops departed on March 29, the communists violated the cease-fire and, by early 1974, full-scale war had resumed. At the end of 1974, South Vietnamese authorities reported that 80,000 of their soldiers and civilians had been killed in fighting during the year […].

On April 30, 1975, the last few Americans still in South Vietnam were airlifted out of the country as Saigon fell to communist forces.

Addendum
I live with a Vietnam Seabee Veteran. He was in-country at Camp Haskins, Red Beach, Da Nang harbor during Khe Sanh, Tet and the Battle of Hue. Thankfully, he was not directly affected but, he was nearly blown out of a guard tower when the USMC Da Nang Air Base was attacked in January 1968. He keeps a wad of shrapnel and an empty grenade in the office as a reminder of what nearly got him. He’s told me stories of returning home and being flipped off by civilians. He was never spit on, like some stories I’ve heard but, he certainly wasn’t welcomed back. ~Vic

Throwback Thursday: The Battle of New Bern 1862

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Battle of New Bern Image One
Image Credit: civil-war-journeys.org

The battle began at 0730 on March 14th, and raged for nearly six hours.

~New Bern Historical Society

Battle of New Bern Image Two
Photo Credit: timetoast.com

From Wikipedia:

The Battle of New Bern (also known as the Battle of New Berne) was fought on 14 March 1862, near the city of New Bern, North Carolina, as part of the Burnside Expedition of the American Civil War. The US Army’s Coast Division, led by Brigadier General Ambrose Burnside and accompanied by armed vessels from the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, were opposed by an undermanned and badly trained Confederate force of North Carolina soldiers and militia led by Brigadier General Lawrence O’B. Branch. Although the defenders fought behind breastworks that had been set up before the battle, their line had a weak spot in its center that was exploited by the attacking Federal soldiers. When the center of the line was penetrated, many of the militia broke, forcing a general retreat of the entire Confederate force. General Branch was unable to regain control of his troops until they had retreated to Kinston, more than 30 miles (about 50 km) away. New Bern came under Federal control, and remained so for the rest of the war.

From American Battlefield Trust:

Hatteras Island, on the outer shore of North Carolina, fell to Union forces in August, 1861. Roanoke Island, just to the north, was captured on February 8, 1862. Elizabeth City on the mainland followed days later. With the freedom to navigate unmolested through Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, Brig. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s command looked for other strategic targets of opportunity. The city of New Bern was a significant target, as the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad that connected the coast with the interior passed through there. On March 11, 1862, Burnside’s force embarked from Roanoke Island to rendezvous with Union gunboats at Hatteras Inlet for a joint expedition against New Bern. On March 13th, the fleet sailed up the Neuse River and disembarked infantry south of the Confederate defenses, about 4,000 men behind breastworks at Fort Thompson. The defenders, a mix of North Carolina infantry, cavalry and artillery, were commanded by Brig. Gen. Lawrence Branch. On March 14th, the brigades of Brig. Gens. John G. Foster, Jesse Reno, and John G. Parke attacked along the railroad and after four [sic] hours of fighting, drove the Confederates out of their fortifications. The Federals captured several nearby gun positions and occupied a base that they would hold to the end of the war, in spite of several Confederate attempts to recapture it.

Battle of New Bern Image Three
Image Credit: wikipedia.org

From The New Bern Historical Society

On March 13th 1862, 11,000 Union troops led by General Ambrose Burnside, along with 13 heavily-armed gunboats led by Commodore Stephen Rowan, landed at Slocum’s Creek, now part of the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. Their objective was [the] capture of the town of New Bern because of its strategic position and the fact that the Atlantic and North Carolina railroad was also located here. Union strategists hoped to use New Bern as a stepping off point to cutting off the main Confederate north-south railroad supply line at Goldsboro.

Awaiting the Union forces were about 4,500 inexperienced and ill-equipped Confederate troops commanded by General Laurence [sic] O’Bryan Branch, a politician with virtually no military experience. Branch positioned his infantry regiments, one cavalry regiment, local militia and three gun batteries to defend a line extending from Fort Thompson on the Neuse River and running approximately one mile west to the Weatherby Road at the eastern edge of Brice’s Creek. Extending Branch’s right wing to the railroad tracks was the 26th North Carolina Regiment commanded by Colonel Zebulon Vance, later governor of North Carolina.

Despite support from Commodore Rowan’s gunboats, this attack stalled. However, a regiment of General Parke’s brigade flanked the position of a militia battalion in the vicinity of Wood’s brickyard adjoining the railroad. Parke’s infantry drove these poorly armed, fresh militiamen from their position leaving the right flank of the 35th North Carolina Regiment exposed. The Confederate line was broken between the 26th and the 35th regiments, and the Union forces pushed through forcing the retreat of the Confederate troops.

The Battle of New Bern was the baptism of fire for the 26th North Carolina. Later, in July 1863, the 26th lost 588 of 800 men at the Battle of Gettysburg, sustaining the largest numerical losses of any unit, North or South, during the entire course of the war.

Estimated casualties for the battle: 1080 total. The fierce battle in the swamps and along the railroad five miles south of New Bern, proved to be a major victory for the Union and led to the ensuing occupation of New Bern for the remainder of the Civil War. Although Union forces never seized and held the rail line at Goldsboro, their presence in New Bern required the Confederacy to divert troops to the railroad’s defense that might have been used in the critical battles in Virginia. For General Ambrose Burnside, the New Bern victory was a factor in his subsequently being given command of the Army of the Potomac and leadership in the Union disaster at Fredericksburg.

One-hundred and fifty-seven years ago, today… ~Vic

Wayback Wednesday: Operation Northwoods 1962

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Operation Northwoods Image One
Image Credit: peimag.com

Fifty-seven years ago, today, a document…a memorandum was typed up. It was a proposal from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lyman Lemnitzer, submitted to President Kennedy via Defense Secretary McNamara.

Operation Northwoods Image Two
Image Credit: wikipedia.org
(Difficult to read on a phone)

From Wikipedia:

The proposals called for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or other U.S. government operatives, to commit acts of terrorism against American civilians and military targets, blaming them on the Cuban government and, using it to justify a war against Cuba. The plans detailed in the document included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship and orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities. The proposals were rejected by [The President].

The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board finally released the document to the public on November 18, 1997. The proposed operation came on the heals of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion and Operation Mongoose.

♦ The entire Archived Document.
ABC News Article
Additional Reading
 

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, here, with this data. Aaron & Melissa Dykes have done a terrific video investigation on this:

Throwback Thursday: Waco Siege 1993

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Branch Davidian Compound Image One
Photo Credit: wacotrib.com
Rod Aydelotte with the Waco Tribune-Herald
Branch Davidian Compound during 1993 siege.
Sheet says: “God help us. We want the press.”

Twenty-six years ago, today, at 9:45 am CST, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) attempted to serve a search warrant for illegal weapons, and possible methamphetamine manufacture (brings in military assistance due to the War on Drugs), to the Branch Davidians religious group at the Mount Carmel Center in Axtell, Texas. The raid did not go well. The ATF was unable to get into the compound after a two-hour battle that claimed the lives of four ATF agents and five Branch Davidians. Sixteen more agents were wounded. A ceasefire was called until another branch member attempted to re-enter the compound six hours later and was gunned down.

The ATF made contact with David Koresh (Vernon Wayne Howell) inside and, the FBI moved in and took over the operation. Early on, 25 FBI negotiators nearly had Koresh agreeing to the Davidians leaving peacefully in exchange for a recorded message of his being released via radio. After the recording was aired, Koresh changed his mind and, stated that ‘God’ had told him to stay and wait. Despite the reversal, nineteen children were released and, interviewed regarding alleged physical and sexual abuse. Koresh gave phone interviews to the local media until the FBI cut all communication.

Branch Davidian Image Two
Photo Credit: Getty Images
rollingstone.com & wennermedia.com

The stand-off lasted 51 days, culminating in a deadly fire on April 19. Seventy-six Branch Davidian members died. Autopsies revealed some died due to collapsed concrete walls, others by gun shots (either self-inflicted or consensual execution) and, there was one stabbing. Autopsy photographs of some children seemed to indicate cyanide poisoning.

The raid was criticized extensively. A slew of controversies emerged. There was no meth lab and no evidence of child abuse. Despite the Danforth Report, the whitewash of bureaucratic misconduct fueled resentment. The Oklahoma City Bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the Waco fire.

Trial
Civil Suits
British Citizen Survivors

Nothing remains of the buildings, today, other than concrete foundation components, as the entire site was bulldozed two weeks after the end of the siege. Only a small chapel, built years after the siege, stands on the site.

Tune Tuesday: January 29, 1944

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Glen Gray & Casa Loma Orchestra Image One
Image Credit: hotmusiccharts.com

Seventy-five years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was My Heart Tells Me (Should I Believe My Heart?) by Glen Gray, his Casa Loma Orchestra and singer Eugenie Baird. Written by Harry Warren (Lullaby of Broadway, Jeepers Creepers & That’s Amore) with lyrics by Mack Gordon (Chattanooga Choo-Choo), this was the theme for the 1943 musical film Sweet Rosie O’Grady. Betty Grable sang the song in the movie.

Glen Gray & his Orchestral version was number one for five weeks from January 29 to February 26, boosted by the popularity of the musical. As a popular standard for the 1940s, other well-known artists with their own versions include Etta Jones (1961), Frank Sinatra (1945), Nat King Cole (1958) and Tony Bennett (1955). Glenn Miller & his orchestra had a go in 1944, broadcasting to German soldiers. From Dance in the City (Page 191):

“One of the paradoxes of the Nazi terror was that SS officers themselves demonstrated a fondness for swing (Vogel, 1962).

Mike Zwerin (1985), in his exploration of jazz under the Nazis, described a Luftwaffe pilot who switched on the BBC hoping to catch a few bars of Glenn Miller before bombing the antenna from which these forbidden sounds were being broadcast. Allied propagandists recognised the potential for exploiting the contradictory allure that jazz possessed with Nazi society.

The sound barrier of 1944 was marked on the one hand by the music of the Nazi marches and on the other by the big band swing of Glenn Miller. The Allies attempted to exploit the popularity of swing inside Germany. On October 30, 1944, Miller’s swing tunes were aimed at German soldiers through the American Broadcast Station in Europe (ABSIE) in an effort to persuade them to lay down their arms.

Major Miller addressed German soldiers in their own language with the assistance of Ilse Weinberger, a German compere and translator. Ilse introduced Glenn Miller as the ‘magician of swing’ and, through a strange act of cultural alchemy, tunes like Long Ago and Far Away and My Heart Tells Me were rendered in German by vocalist Johnny Desmond.”