Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Richmond and Petersburg (American Civil War) and Markus Wolf

We finish the year with a bumper update. The Overland Campaign against Richmond was U.S. Grant's first attempt to defeat Robert E. Lee. His attempts to outflank Lee's armies all failed, while a second campaign under General Butler was defeated at the battle of Drewry’s Bluff (16 May 1864). Grant was not discouraged, and instead switched his attention to Petersburg (Petersburg Campaign, 1864-5). A chance to capture the city easily was missed (Battle of Petersburg, 15-18 June 1864), and Grant settled into a regular siege. An attempt to break the deadlock by exploding a massive mine under the Confederate lines failed (battle of the Crater, 30 June-3 April 1864). The end came after Robert E. Lee launched his final attack of the war, at Fort Steadman (25 March 1865). Instead of forcing Grant to shorten his lines, allowing Lee to escape south, the battle weakened the Confederate line to the point where Grant's next attack, (Battle of Five Forks, 1 April 1865) broke the southern end of the Confederate line. The next day, Grant was finally able to break through the Confederate lines outside Richmond and Petersburg. Lee was forced to abandon the Confederate capital. His attempt to escape south ended in the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Finally, we add a biography of the late Markus Wolf, the notorious head of the East German Secret Police (the Stasi), and one of the most important figures during the Cold War. Wolf was famous for his ability to infiltrate agents into western societies (including amongst them one of my university lecturers, exposed only after the fall of East Germany). His death in 2006 was seen by many as the end of an era.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

North Anna River and Cold Harbor

Today we add the last two battles of Grant's overland campaign against Richmond. The Battle of North Anna River was the smallest scale battle of campaign. Once again Grant failed to get past Lee's left flank. Cold Harbor saw the final failure of Grant's first plan for 1864. The Union army had been drained by the intense fighting of the previous three battles and was unable to break through Lee's lines. After Cold Harbor, Grant turned south to Petersburg.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Battle of Spotsylvania

From the Wilderness, Grant attempted to outflank Lee by reaching a crossroads at Spotsylvania. Lee rushed troops to the danger point in time to stop Grant's move. The resulting battle saw Grant launch repeated attacks against the entrenched Confederate line. The 'Bloody Angle' saw some of the most vicious sustained close quarter combat of the entire war, but failed to produce a breakthrough.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Battle of the Wilderness

The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle during U.S. Grant's overland campaign against Richmond. It was also the first clash between Grant and Robert E. Lee. Tactically, the battle was a Confederate victory, but unlike earlier Union commanders in Virginia, Grant did not allow one defeat to distract him from his plans. The Wilderness was followed by the first of many attempts to slip past Lee's right wing. Lee would be under constant pressure until the end of the war.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Pavel I. Batov

Pavel I. Batov was a senior Red Army commander during the Second World War. Early in the war he commanded Soviet forces in the Crimea, before moving on to command the 65th Army, commanding that unit from Stalingrad to Berlin.

Monday, December 11, 2006

C.S.S. Alabama

The C.S.S. Alabama was the most successful Confederate commerce raider of the American Civil War. In a career that lasted for nearly two years, she sank or captured 66 Union ships, including the warship Hatteras.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ambrose Burnside and the Burnside expedition

Ambrose Burnside was one of the series of generals who had command of the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War, and possibly one of the least suited to hold that place. When commanding smaller scale operations, he proved himself to be one of the more able Union commanders of the civil war. His first major successes came on the coast of North Carolina. After an earlier expedition captured Hatteras, Burnside saw how vulnerable the Confederate coast was. In the spring of 1862 he led an expedition that won a series of battles at Roanoke Island, Elizabeth City, South Mills, New Berne and Fort Macon, closing most of the North Carolina coast to Confederate shipping.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Battle of Talana Hill (Second Anglo-Boer War)

The battle of Talana Hill was the first major battle during the Second Anglo-Boer War. It was a British victory, but one that had almost no impact on the course of the war, which began very badly for the British.