Saturday May 25, 2013
May 26, 1865 - Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith (right) surrenders the last major Confederate field army at Galveston, TX. An 1845 graduate of West Point, Smith saw extensive service during the Mexican-American War and served under both Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor and Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott. A native of Florida, he left the US Army in April 1861 and joined Confederate forces on the eve of the Civil War. Made a brigadier general in June, he was badly wounded at First Bull Run. Recovering, Smith took command of the Department of East Tennessee. In this role, he supported Gen. Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky. Given command of the Trans-Mississippi Department in March 1863, Smith oversaw all Confederate territory west of the Mississippi River. Effectively cut off after the falls of Vicksburg and Port Hudson later that year, he defeated Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks' Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864. After a failed invasion of Missouri that fall, Smith was limited to raiding and guerilla activity. The last major Confederate force to remain in the field, he surrendered to Maj. Gen. Edward Canby on May 26, 1865. After the war, Smith largely focused on education and served as both an administrator and professor until his death in 1893.
Confederate Army Commanders:
Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress
Thursday May 23, 2013
Commissioned in 1895, USS Indiana (BB-1) (right) was the US Navy's first modern battleship. The lead ship of its class, Indiana saw service with the North Atlantic Squadron and was at Key West when the Spanish-American War began. Part of RAdm. William T. Sampson's squadron, it took part in the bombardment of San Juan, PR in May 1898 before playing a role in the Battle of Santiago de Cuba in early July. Following the war, Indiana was quickly eclipsed by newer and more powerful battleships. Largely serving in a reserve role, the battleship was re-commissioned in 1917 and used as a gunnery training vessel during World War I. Three years later, Indiana was sunk during aerial bombardment tests in the Chesapeake Bay.
Photograph Courtesy of the US Naval History & Heritage Command
Tuesday May 21, 2013
May 22, 1863 - Union forces under Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks begins the siege of Port Hudson (right). Advancing in support of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Vicksburg Campaign, Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks was tasked with capturing Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson, LA. Investing the town on May 22, 1863, he launched a massive assault against its defenses five days later. This was repulsed with heavy losses and Banks began siege operations. Eager to break the deadlock, he again attacked the town on June 14 with similar results. Settling into a siege, his army slowly starved Maj. Gen. Franklin Gardner's garrison. Upon learning of Vicksburg's fall, Gardner, seeing that nothing could be gained by continuing, surrendered on July 9. The two victories opened the entire length of the Mississippi to Union traffic and split the Confederacy in two.
Photograph Courtesy of the National Archives & Records Administration
Sunday May 19, 2013
May 19, 1643 - French troops defeat the Spanish at the Battle of Rocroi. In early 1643, a 27,000-man Spanish-Imperial army crossed the French border from Flanders. Moving through the Ardennes, the Spanish troops, led by Francisco de Melo, laid siege to the town of Rocroi. Advancing to meet this invasion were 23,000 men led by the Duc d'Enghien (the future Prince of Conde). On May 18, 1643, d'Enghien deployed his troops on a ridge south of Rocroi with his infantry in the center and cavalry on the flanks. Moving to meet this threat, de Melo formed his men in a similar fashion. The following morning, d'Enghien advanced. As the armies met, the Spanish infantry began to get the better of the French. A similar situation developed on the French left where de Melo's German cavalry blocked a French thrust. Counterattacking, the Germans were stopped by the French infantry reserve. On the right, d'Enghien's cavalry, supported by musketeers, was able to rout its Spanish counterparts. Turning, they next attacked the flank and rear of the Spanish infantry. As the fighting raged, the Spanish army was reduced to the core of their infantry. Though fighting valiantly they were forced to surrender. The Battle of Rocroi was the first major defeat for the Spanish in nearly a century.