This week in American military history:
May 10, 1775: British-held Fort Ticonderoga falls to American Colonels Ethan Allen — leader of the famous Vermont guerrilla force, the “Green Mountain Boys” — and Benedict Arnold (four years before Arnold turns).
According to tradition, Allen demands the surrender of the British garrison under Capt. William Delaplace. In response, British Lieutenant Jocelyn Feltham shouts back, “On whose authority?” to which Allen replies, “in the name of Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.”
Meanwhile, the Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia. Within days, the Congress will formally place the colonies in a “state of defense” and by mid-June name George Washington commander-in-chief of the new Continental Army.
May 10, 1797: The frigate, USS United States — the first of four so-named American Navy vessels and the first commissioned warship for the new U.S. Navy — is launched.
United States will be seized by Confederate forces in 1861 and rechristened CSS United States.
May 10, 1863: In the wake of the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville (Virginia), Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson — his left arm shattered and subsequently amputated following a friendly fire shooting during a night leaders-recon mission — dies of pneumonia.
Prior to Jackson’s death, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is said to have remarked, “He has lost his left arm, but I have lost my right arm.”
May 10, 1960: The submarine, USS Triton (the third of three so-named American Navy vessels), returns to port following the first-ever completely submerged circumnavigation of the Earth.
Skippered by Capt. Edward L. Beach Jr. — a Navy Cross recipient and best-selling author of “Run Silent, Run Deep” — Triton has followed a trek closely paralleling that of the first-ever global circumnavigation led by Portugese Capt. Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century. Magellan, however, was killed during his expedition.
May. 10, 1969: The 10-day Battle of Hamburger Hill (officially Hill 937 or Ap Bia Mountain) opens, pitting U.S. forces (primarily elements of the Army’s famed 101st Airborne Division) and their South Vietnamese allies against well-entrenched Communist forces.
Bitter fighting ensues: the Americans will ultimately become kings of the hill, but will abandon the position with weeks of taking it.
According to the late U.S. Army Col. Harry G. Summers, Jr.: “Losses were high, [but] Hamburger Hill was not the bloodiest fight of the war … but they [the losses] set off a firestorm of protest back home. The American people were growing more weary of the war. A February 1969 poll revealed that only 39 percent still supported the war, while 52 percent believed sending troops to fight in Vietnam had been a mistake. Politicians were quick to seek advantage in those numbers.”
May. 11, 1846: In an address before Congress, Pres. James K. Polk announces: Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil.”
War with Mexico — already being waged — is formally declared within two days.
May 11, 1864: A day beyond the one-year anniversary of Stonewall Jackson’s death, Gen. Lee suffers another irreplaceable loss when Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart is mortally wounded during a cavalry action at Yellow Tavern, Virginia.
May 12, 1780: Charleston, S.C. falls to British forces. But British operations in the Southern colonies will quickly prove to be the undoing of the king’s men in North America.
May 15, 1862: U.S. Marine Cpl. John F. Mackie participates in an action against Confederate forces at Drewry’s Bluff, Va., for which he will become the first Marine in history to receive the Medal of Honor. According to his citation, “As enemy shellfire raked the deck of his ship, Corporal Mackie fearlessly maintained his musket fire against the rifle pits on shore, and when ordered to fill vacancies at guns caused by men wounded and killed in action, manned the weapon with skill and courage.”
May 15, 1963: Astronaut, fighter pilot, and U.S. Air Force Maj. Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper Jr., piloting "Faith 7," becomes the first American to spend an entire day in space, and the first man to sleep in space.
A former U.S. Marine private who ultimately was commissioned an Army second lieutenant, Cooper will retire an Air Force colonel.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: “This Week in American Military History,” appears every week as a feature of HUMAN EVENTS.
Let’s increase awareness of American military tradition and honor America’s greatest heroes by supporting the Medal of Honor Society’s 2010 Convention to be held in Charleston, S.C., Sept. 29 — Oct. 3, 2010 (for more information, click here).