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The Battle of Heligoland Bight

Eric W. Osborne

The battle of Heligoland Bight was the first major action between the British and German fleets during World War I. The British orchestrated the battle as a warning to the German high command that any attempt to operate their naval forces in the North Sea would be met by strong British resistance. Heligoland Island guarded the entrance to the main German naval anchorage at Kiel. Fought on August 28, 1914, the engagement was complicated by dense fog, the piecemeal engagement of German forces, and the unexpected appearance in the area of additional British ships, which were hard to distinguish from foe. Initial British damage was significant; however, fearing that the protracted battle would allow the bulk of the German fleet to join the battle, the British brought in their battle cruiser reinforcements and won the day, inflicting heavy losses on the Germans.

The battle was significant for its political and strategic ramifications for the two sides. The Germans became reluctant to engage large forces in an attempt to gain a decisive maritime victory. After this defeat, any plans for large-scale fleet operations had to be approved by the Kaiser, which hampered the German fleet's effectiveness. This left the North Sea to Great Britain for much of the war.

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The Battle of Lake Erie and Its Aftermath

A Reassessment

Few naval battles in American history have left a more enduring impression on America’s national consciousness than the Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813. Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry’s battle flag emblazoned with the message “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” now enshrined at the U.S. Naval Academy, has become a naval maxim. His succinct after-action report—“We have met the enemy and they are ours”—constitutes one of the more memorable battle summaries in American history.

This splendid collection celebrates the bicentennial of the American victory with a review of the battle and its consequences. The volume is divided into three sections.  The first deals with “Military Operations” in the upper Great Lakes, 1812–14, and provides an overview of the War of 1812 in the Old Northwest and western Upper Canada. The second, “Consequences,” assesses the long-term impact of this campaign upon the Native Americans and Euro-Americans who lived in the region and three individuals whose lives were changed by the American recovery of the upper lakes in 1813. The final section, “Memory,” examines two ways the United States keeps the legacy of its first squadron-to-squadron victory alive by maintaining the fragile battle flag that flew on Perry’s flagships and by sailing the replica of US Brig Niagara on the Great Lakes and the East Coast.

Collectively these essays allow the general reader, the military history enthusiast, and the professional historian to take a fresh look at this significant naval engagement and its impact on subsequent historical events. 

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The Battle of Leyte Gulf

The Last Fleet Action

H. P. Willmott

"The Battle of Leyte Gulf was an extremely unusual battle. It was unusual on five separate counts that are so obvious that they are usually missed. It was unusual in that it was a series of actions, not a single battle. It was unusual as a naval battle in that it was fought over five days; historically, naval battles have seldom spread themselves over more than one or two days. It was unusual in terms of its name. This battle involved a series of related actions subsequently grouped together under the name of just one of these engagements, but in fact none of the actions were fought inside Leyte Gulf.... More importantly, it was unusual in that it was a full-scale fleet action fought after the issue of victory and defeat at sea had been decided, and it was unusual in that it resulted in clear, overwhelming victory and defeat." -- from Chapter One

The Battle of Leyte Gulf -- October 22-28, 1944 -- was the greatest naval engagement in history. In fact the battle was four separate actions, none of which were fought in the Gulf itself, and the result was the destruction of Japanese naval power in the Pacific. This book is a detailed and comprehensive account of the fighting from both sides. It provides the context of the battle, most obviously in terms of Japanese calculations and the search for "a fitting place to die" and "the chance to bloom as flowers of death." Using Japanese material never previously noted in western accounts, H.P. Willmott provides new perspectives on the unfolding of the battle and very deliberately seeks to give readers a proper understanding of the importance of this battle for American naval operations in the following month. This careful interrogation of the accounts of "the last fleet action" is a significant contribution to military history.

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The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory

edited by Laura Lyons McLemore

The Battle of New Orleans proved a critical victory for the United States, a young nation defending its nascent borders, but over the past two hundred years, myths have obscured the facts about the conflict. In The Battle of New Orleans in History and Memory, distinguished experts in military, social, art, and music history sift the real from the remembered, illuminating the battle’s lasting significance across multiple disciplines. Laura Lyons McLemore sets the stage by reviewing the origins of the War of 1812, followed by essays that explore how history and memory intermingle. Donald R. Hickey examines leading myths found in the collective memory—some, embellishments originating with actual participants, and others invented out of whole cloth. Other essayists focus on specific figures: Mark R. Cheathem explores how Andrew Jackson’s sensational reputation derived from contemporary anecdotes and was perpetuated by respected historians, and Leslie Gregory Gruesbeck considers the role visual imagery played in popular perception and public memory of battle hero Jackson. Other contributors unpack the broad social and historical significance of the battle, from Gene Allen Smith’s analysis of black participation in the War of 1812 and the subsequent worsening of American racial relations, to Blake Dunnavent’s examination of leadership lessons from the war that can benefit the U.S. military today. Paul Gelpi makes the case that the Creole Battalion d’Orleans became protectors of American liberty in the course of defending New Orleans from the British. Examining the European context, Alexander Mikaberidze shows that America’s second conflict with Britain was more complex than many realize or remember. Joseph F. Stoltz III illustrates how commemorations of the battle, from memorials to schoolbooks, were employed over the years to promote various civic and social goals. Finally, Tracey E. W. Laird analyzes variations of the tune “The Battle of New Orleans,” revealing how it has come to epitomize the battle in the collective memory.

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The Battle of Peach Tree Creek

Hood's First Effort to Save Atlanta

Earl J. Hess

On July 20, 1864, the Civil War struggle for Atlanta reached a pivotal moment. As William T. Sherman's Union forces came ever nearer the city, the defending Confederate Army of Tennessee replaced its commanding general, removing Joseph E. Johnston and elevating John Bell Hood. This decision stunned and demoralized Confederate troops just when Hood was compelled to take the offensive against the approaching Federals. Attacking northward from Atlanta's defenses, Hood's men struck George H. Thomas's Army of the Cumberland just after it crossed Peach Tree Creek on July 20. Initially taken by surprise, the Federals fought back with spirit and nullified all the advantages the Confederates first enjoyed. As a result, the Federals achieved a remarkable defensive victory.

Offering new and definitive interpretations of the battle's place within the Atlanta campaign, Earl J. Hess describes how several Confederate regiments and brigades made a pretense of advancing but then stopped partway to the objective and took cover for the rest of the afternoon on July 20. Hess shows that morale played an unusually important role in determining the outcome at Peach Tree Creek--a soured mood among the Confederates and overwhelming confidence among the Federals spelled disaster for one side and victory for the other.

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Battle of Surigao Strait

Anthony P. Tully

Surigao Strait in the Philippine Islands was the scene of a major battleship duel during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Because the battle was fought at night and had few survivors on the Japanese side, the events of that naval engagement have been passed down in garbled accounts. Anthony P. Tully pulls together all of the existing documentary material, including newly discovered accounts and a careful analysis of U.S. Navy action reports, to create a new and more detailed description of the action. In several respects, Tully's narrative differs radically from the received versions and represents an important historical corrective. Also included in the book are a number of previously unpublished photographs and charts that bring a fresh perspective to the battle.

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The Battle of the Otranto Straits

Controlling the Gateway to the Adriatic in World War I

Paul G. Halpern

Called by some a "Mediterranean Jutland," the Battle of the Otranto Straits involved warships from Austria, Germany, Italy, Britain, and France. Although fought by light units with no dreadnoughts involved, Otranto was a battle in three dimensions -- engaging surface vessels, aircraft, and subsurface weapons (both submarines and mines). An attempt to halt the movement of submarines into the Adriatic using British drifters armed with nets and mines led to a raid by Austrian light cruisers. The Austrians inflicted heavy damage on the drifters, but Allied naval forces based at Brindisi cut off their withdrawal. The daylight hours saw a running battle, with the Austrians at considerable risk. Heavier Austrian units put out from Cattaro in support, and at the climactic moment the Allied light forces had to turn away, permitting the Austrians to escape. In the end, the Austrians had inflicted more damage than they suffered themselves. The Otranto action shows the difficulties of waging coalition warfare in which diplomatic and national jealousies override military efficiency.

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The Battle over Peleliu

Islander, Japanese, and American Memories of War

The expansionist Japanese empire annexed the inhabited archipelago of Palau in 1914. The airbase built on Peleliu Island became a target for attack by the United States in World War II. The Battle over Peleliu offers an ethnographic study of how Palau and Peleliu were transformed by warring great powers and further explores how their conflict is remembered differently by the three peoples who shared that experience.
 
Author Stephen C. Murray uses oral histories from Peleliu’s elders to reconstruct the island’s prewar way of life, offering a fascinating explanation of the role of land and place in island culture. To Palauans, history is conceived geographically, not chronologically. Land and landmarks are both the substance of history and the mnemonic triggers that recall the past. Murray then offers a detailed account of the 1944 US invasion against entrenched Japanese forces on Peleliu, a seventy-four-day campaign that razed villages, farms, ancestral cemeteries, beaches, and forests, and with them, many of the key nodes of memory and identity.
 
Murray also explores how Islanders’ memories of the battle as shattering their way of life differ radically from the ways Japanese and Americans remember the engagement in their histories, memoirs, fiction, monuments, and tours of Peleliu. Determination to retrieve the remains of 11,000 Japanese soldiers from the caves of Peleliu has driven high-profile civic groups from across the Japanese political spectrum to the island. Contemporary Japan continues to debate pacifist, right-wing apologist, and other interpretations of its aggression in Asia and the Pacific. These disputes are exported to Peleliu, and subtly frame how Japanese commemoration portrays the battle in stone and ritual. Americans, victors in the battle, return to the archipelago in far fewer numbers. For them, the conflict remains controversial but is most often submerged into the narrative of “the good war.”
 
The Battle over Peleliu is a study of public memory, and the ways three peoples swept up in conflict struggle to create a common understanding of the tragedy they share.

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The Battle Rages Higher

The Union's Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry

Kirk C. Jenkins

" The Battle Rages Higher tells, for the first time, the story of the Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry, a hard-fighting Union regiment raised largely from Louisville and the Knob Creek valley where Abraham Lincoln lived as a child. Although recruited in a slave state where Lincoln received only 0.9 percent of the 1860 presidential vote, the men of the Fifteenth Kentucky fought and died for the Union for over three years, participating in all the battles of the Atlanta campaign, as well as the battles of Perryville, Stones River and Chickamauga. Using primary research, including soldiers’ letters and diaries, hundreds of contemporary newspaper reports, official army records, and postwar memoirs, Kirk C. Jenkins vividly brings the Fifteenth Kentucky Infantry to life. The book also includes an extensive biographical roster summarizing the service record of each soldier in the thousand-member unit. Kirk C. Jenkins, a descendant of the Fifteenth Kentucky's Captain Smith Bayne, is a partner in a Chicago law firm. Click here for Kirk Jenkins' website and more information about the 15th Kentucky Infantry.

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Battle Studies

A new English translation of Ardant du Picq’s classic Battle Studies, introduced by a new biographical essay. Battle Studies is one of handful of books which address the experience of combat directly.

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