November 15, 2019

Most important battles in US history

A post earlier this week got me thinking. I know-- steam, sparks, smoke, whirring. Anyway, it has been a long time since we did a Friday Five.

For those of you who haven't waded through the mud and nonsense that comprises this blog for the past decade and a half, the Friday Five was a list I proposed and then encouraged comments for contrary opinions. For example I might have opined on the five best western movies or five best bass players in rock and roll. The feature was not a resounding success, even when my readership was a couple of hundred every day (and often twice that). Just like wealth taxes, communism, universal health care, and Hillary for President, bad ideas sometimes just keep coming back into vogue.Thus, sans fanfare, we launch a Friday Five list today.

Your comments and rebuttal are encouraged.

Five most important battles in US history

1. Bunker/Breed's Hill
June 17, 1775. The first "real" battle of the Revolution. The victory left the British stunned and showed the other 12 colonies the rebellion had a chance. A loss here at Boston would have ended the war in the colonies.

2. Saratoga
September/October 1777. The two battles were resounding British defeats and demonstrated to the world that the Colonials could stand up in a set battle and defeat the British.  The victories at Saratoga were key to gaining Spanish and French support for the American war effort

3. Midway
June 4-7 1942. Stemmed Japanese advancement in the Pacific. Had the Japanese taken Midway, the US bases in Hawaii would have been endangered. Instead, at great cost, the US sunk 3 Japanese carriers and thwarted the landings. From this point forward, Japan was in defensive mode.

4. Vicksburg
May-July, 1863. The loss of Vicksburg gave Union control to the entire Mississippi River, cleaving the Confederacy in half.  Far more important strategically than the larger battle fought at the same time in Pennsylvania. This victory allowed the Western Army to pivot toward Eastern Tennessee and the Atlanta Campaigns.

5. Antietam 
September 17, 1862. Remains to date the single bloodiest day in American history. Antietam ended Lee's first attempt to bring the fighting North and relieve pressure in the Shenandoah Valley. The Union victory allowed Lincoln the opportunity to issue his Emancipation Proclaimation, in essence making the war about slavery instead of preserving the Union or State's Rights. This political move kept the European powers from providing direct aid to the Confederacy.

A different outcome in any of these battles would have directly changed US history and our nation today.

Rebuttal is encouraged.


Ed Bonderenka said...

I cannot argue with your choices or rationale.
I thought that Gettysburg was more a turning point than Antietam.
Is the day of set piece battles gone?

Practical Parsimony said...

I read this to my friend. He nodded and said, "Could be." That means he agreed. If I had asked what that meant, I would be listening to a long explanation as to why you were right or what he would have listed. Either way, I am too busy reading important blogs. He is very thoughtful and does agree with you.

Barb said...

Are we considering Normandy a campaign rather than a Battle?

Joe said...

Barb and Ed:

A comment on what I left off. I think tne Battle of the Bulge was equally pivotal to D-Day. A loss in either could have pushed the end of the war. Germany could have finally had the jet p,ane program adapted to fighters and bombers. Their nuke program would have continued, but they were behind the US in that aspect. Would we have dropped the first nuke on Berlin in August 1945 instead of Japan? Would delaying VE day changed US history?

Gettysburg. A close one. At tne time pundits believed Vicksburg, which happened at the same time as Gettysburg, was more important. Had Mead followed up the victory in Pennsylvania by pursuing Lee, then perhaps. I'm not sure that was feasible given what the two armies went through.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Gettysburg was more immediately important than Vicksburg because it prevented Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia from taking up a position north of Washington, DC, that could have forced the end of the war. In point of fact part of the intent of the roundabout march through Pennsylvania was to invade DC and even take Lincoln hostage, if possible, to effect that end. Remember they tried that again a year later, with Early's raid that was held up (if not stopped) by Lew Wallace at Monocacy, and frustrated by Grant's speedy transfer of troops up to Fort Stevens, which closed Early's door to Washington.

Certainly cutting the Confederacy in half with the victory at Vicksburg was important (if only because it brought Grant to command of the Army of the Potomac), although I'm really not sure how important it REALLY was to cut off the states west of the Mississippi. What taking control of the Mississippi really did was prevent its use to resupply Confederate forces in Mississippi and Alabama. The states to the west sort of died on the vine, and I'd argue they weren't all that important in the grand scheme of the war to begin with.

What destroyed the Confederacy in the end was Sherman's March and Grant's unrelenting pressure on Lee, finally running him out of Richmond and culminating in his boxing-in and surrender at Appomattox. It seems to me that the taking of the Mississippi, given the shape of the Southern railroads and other transport by that stage of the war, didn't really have a whole lot to do with either of those events. It didn't provide more troops, because Vicksburg and other places like Memphis still needed to be garrisoned.

But we could argue this all day, just like it's been argued for the last 160-odd years :)

Anonymous said...

I will concede everything you stated. In retrospect, I should have placed Vicksburg 5th, behind Antietam. The Emancipation Proclamation did far more to prevent a British entry into the war than it did to free the slaves. Remember, The EP only freed slaves in states in rebellion.

I can concede Gettysburg for Vicksburg. I could also argue for the Atlanta Campaign.


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