Thursday, January 17, 2008

Today In History: Wake Island, Cowpens

Today in history, in 1899, the United States took possession of Wake Island, surely one of the most Godforsaken pieces of real-estate on the planet, but crucially important as a naval seaplane base before the era of transcontinental aircraft.
Intrinsically valueless today, Wake should still be worth more than it's weight in gold to Americans because in December 1941, Wake was the site of a hopeless but heroic stand by cut off and outnumbered US sailors, Marines and airfield construction workers against the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Americans lost that battle, all winding up dead or in prisoner of war cages, but took down a whole lot of Japanese sailors and naval infantry, first. I keep meaning to do a post on the Battle of Wake Island -- I promise I'll get to it someday.
Today, in 1946, the United Nations Security Council held its first meeting, at Church House (headquarters of the Church of England) in London. Unfortunately, there were subsequent meetings. It is quite enough that we pay for the United Nations, actually having to pay attention to it is just too much.
Today in 1781, during the American Revolution, U.S. Brigadier-General Dan Morgan and a grab-bag of Continental Army regulars and southern militia defeated Lieutenant-Colonel Banastre "Bloody Ban" Tarleton, elements of his British Legion (loyalist Americans) and some other British units at the Battle of Cowpens. Incidentally, the British Legion -- mostly Americans under another flag -- were very fine troops, and consequently very much hated by the pro-independence rebels.
Cowpens is another battle that deserves its own post: Tarleton's rashness in fighting that battle at all cost the British dearly. The American victory at Cowpens, along with the destruction of Major Patrick Ferguson's loyalists at Kings Mountain, thoroughly decimated Lord Cornwallis's light troops, depressed the Tories, stirred-up the local rebels and deranged British efforts to pacify the Carolinas (which, prior to Cowpens, had a decent chance of succeeding, given British prudence). The defeat drove Cornwallis to rashness of his own -- causing him to run his own army into the ground trying to destroy the American army in the south; culminating in Cornwallis's mad decision to invade Virginia. Yorktown was the ultimate result.

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