Operation Dynamo, or the Evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France at Dunkirk, begins.
The BEF had been sent to France after years of appeasement, when Hitler had invaded Poland in September of 1939.
On May 10th Germany invaded France, which, although considered the largest army in Europe, promptly folded like an old lawn chair.
The British, French and Belgian troops retreated to Dunkirk, where they faced certain defeat at the hands of the superior Nazi war machine.
The idea now was the evacuation across the English Channel, but the first day’s effort only saw the evacuation of 9,000 or so men. A call for assistance went out, and every Royal Navy vessel that could sail, every civilian yacht, fishing vessel and others that could sail for Dunkirk, did so. Mind you, they faced the said incredible power the Navy has.
In the end, 9 days later, more than 338,000 soldiers had been rescued; the best and brightest of the British armed forces that would be needed in the years to come.
Ashishishe, son of Strong Bear and and Strikes by the Side of the Water, husband to Bird Woman and later Takes a Shield, is laid to rest at the National Cemetery of the Bighorn Battlefield in Montana, alongside the members of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry who had died there on June 25, 1876.
He was known by his US Army contemporaries as Curly.
Curly was a Crow Indian serving the US Army as a scout with the 7th Cavalry leading up to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Just before the battle began, as was customary, Custer released his Native American scouts. Curly rode off with the others, stopping on a hill about a mile away. He watched the battle through field glasses.
When it became obvious that the 7th would be defeated, Curly rode for two days until he met an Army supply boat at the confluence of the Big and Little Big Horn rivers, and made his report.
Curly told of how the 7th fought for hours, until they had expended all of their ammunition; by Curly’s estimation taking approximately 600 Sioux warriors with them.
Hailed as a hero for being the “lone survivor” reporters attempted to glorify his actions used poetic license to say that he was actually in the battle and escaped by pretending to be one of the Sioux allies.
Curly’s original and later accounts were that he “did nothing wonderful.” Some reporters “quoted” Curly as saying that he had been in the battle, which angered some of the Sioux that were. But in many accounts Curly repeated that he was not, and that he “did nothing wonderful.”
He served in the Crow Police and was given a military pension only three years before his death from pneumonia.
I find his story interesting as an example of why we must attempt to view history in the context of the times in which our ancestors lived.
Is Curly a traitor to his people because he served the US Army against other Indians? I found while researching this that at that time of the battle, the Sioux and the Crow were dire enemies, so the Crow allied with the US Army.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Did he “desert” the 7th Cavalry? No. It was customary not to keep the Indian scouts in the midst of battle; his leaving was expected of him.
Happy Birthday to one of my favorite sources! On this date the Library of Congress was established. Congress allocated $5,000 for the initial purchase of books from London. The Library was charged with providing source material for Congress and for the American people. President John Adams signed off on the creating legislation. His successor, Thomas Jefferson, supported the Library also. Adams and Jefferson, once friends, became estranged after Jefferson defeated Adams for the Presidency.
But they both remained true to the Library of Congress. After the British invaded DC and burned the Library in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold his own vast library to the government to seed the recreation of the Library. In the late 19th century the charge of the Library was expanded to not only books, but photos and items of importance. The LOC now has over 135 million items for the Congress and the public to utilize…all books, pamphlets, maps, prints, photographs, and pieces of music registered for copyright have two copied registered in the library. Today, the Library is utilizing the latest technology to place as many of those items as possible online…so that it will truly be a source for all Americans.
By the way…those fast friends, Adams and Jefferson, who helped create America together in 1776, then became enemies, never speaking to each other in person after that fateful election? They exchanged somewhat conciliatory letters in their old age….but the old rivalry never expired. On July 4, 1826, the Nation’s 50th birthday, Adams died. His last words reportedly were, “Thomas Jefferson lives…”. But it was not so. Jefferson died a few hours before Adams on the same date.
The Texas City Disaster, the worst industrial disaster in US History.
A French ship, the SS Grandcamp, loaded with 2300 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the port city of Texas City, across from Galveston, in the channel leading to Houston, explodes, devastating the city.
All but one of the town’s fire department were killed, and several other fires were ignited on other ships and in the oil town in the following days. Most of the city was destroyed, and at least 581 people were killed.
This post will be a little longer; I usually cover only one day in history, but April 12 just seemed to find importance over and over in the American Civil War.
Today in History, April 12, 1861:
South Carolina batteries fire on the Union held Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor. This began the American Civil War, although it will depend upon who you ask which side started the conflict. Most historians will say that Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard’s order for the bombardment began the war. Some in the South still refer to the war as the “War of Northern Aggression”, and consider that the fact the Union refused to leave the fort in what they considered sovereign South Carolina territory as the trigger.
When President Lincoln took office, closed his inaugural address, ” In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail YOU. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”
“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not BE enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
In 2019 we visited Ft. Sumter, and I was honored to be able to assist in lowering the colors at the end of the day. It was a very moving experience for me.
Today in History, April 12, 1864:
“The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.”
–Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest describing the attack (massacre) at Ft. Pillow, 40 miles north of Memphis, Tennessee.
Forrest was a very successful Cavalry commander, making raids behind enemy lines that kept the Union army on it’s heels. During one of those raids he decided to attack Fort Pillow, wanting to collect it’s livestock and supplies for his army. There are no indications that he knew more than the fort was protected by a force of about 600, which he felt he could defeat.
Ft. Pillow was defended by an approximately equal amount of white and “colored” Union soldiers. During the attack, they initially refused to surrender, because Confederates had threatened to kill any black Union soldiers, or return them to slavery, rather than take them prisoner. There is no documentation that the acts at Ft. Pillow were policy rather than blood lust…but in the end, at least 80% of the “colored” troops were hunted down, shot, bayoneted, burned alive; murdered by Forrest’s troops.
The rebels did not attempt to maintain the fort, leaving it the same day. This is certainly a sad day in American history. For anyone finding excuses, Forrest was, after the war, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
President Lincoln and his cabinet discussed how to respond…some wanting to treat Confederate prisoners with the same “tolerance”. In the end, the act did not have the effect Forrest desired…”Colored” regiments led the way into Richmond on it’s surrender, and were present at Appomattox.
TODAY IN HISTORY, APRIL 12, 1865:
The Union Army accepts the arms and colors of the Army of Northern Virginia, four years to the day after Confederates fired on Ft. Sumter.
“It was now the morning of the 12th of April. I had been ordered to have my lines formed for the ceremony at sunrise. It was a chill gray morning….We formed to face the last line of battle, and receive the last remnant of the arms and colors of that great army which ours had been created to confront…We were remnants also….
We could not look into those braved, bronzed faces, and those battered flags we had met on so many fields where glorious manhood lent a glory to the earth that bore it, and think of personal hate and mean revenge. Whoever had misled these men, we had not. We had led them back home….
Forgive us, therefore, if from stern and steadfast faces, eyes dimmed with tears gazed at each other across that pile of storied relics so dearly laid down, and brothers’ hands were glad to reach across that rushing tide of memories which divided us, yet made us forever one.” –Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine, hero of Little Round Top, at Appomattox.