10 Most Important Battles in American History and Why: Part I
By RU Twisted
War is bad, mmmkay? But whether we support certain wars or not (or are opposed to all of them), they have shaped our country into what it is today, for better or worse.
Within the bigger scope of war, specific battles have defined certain conflicts. I intend to take a humorous and fast-paced look at which of these battles rank among the most influential to our country today. And, while doing so, I hope to infuriate everyone by not including the one they thought should have been on the list.
The Battle of Bunker Hill: Starting a long tradition of naming battles after the wrong place, the battle of not-Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed’s Hill (not to be confused with Beacon Hill, which was near a hill with a lot of prostitutes known on maps as “Mount Whoredom”—no lie). Approximately two months after the fight at Lexington and Concord, British troops held up in Boston didn’t think that the Colonists had the stones to meet them in pitched battle. So they were just sloshing pints of ale back, awaiting some orders, when the Colonists started fortifying Breed’s Hill (because they passed Bunker Hill in the dark), directly in front of the Brits.
The British, led by a commander who had his own servant carrying wine next to him, responded by torching Charlestown and lobbing cannon balls at the Colonists who were still frantically fortifying their position. The Colonists waited with amazing patience for the British to walk right to them, at which point they unleashed a volley of fire that focused a great deal on the officers (nice work, fellas), creating a great deal of chaos.
After retreating and regrouping, the British soldiers eventually took the hill, but only after losing over 1,000 men. The Colonists retreated, but mostly because they ran out of ammo (you can never have too much of that stuff), and the General in charge of the British forces even lost his bottle of wine. So while it was a victory for the English, obviously it came with a huge price.
Why it’s important: First and foremost, until the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Brits really didn’t take the Colonists seriously. At all. The view they had of the Colonial military capability was analogous to the “rebel scum” comment made in Star Wars by the commanders in the Empire. This battle forever changed that opinion.
Secondly, like many other strange events in history, the loser of the battle was actually the victor in a bigger sense. The heavy losses incurred by the British and the aftermath benefited the Colonists far more than their own loss hurt them. And, like many other events in American history, a great deal of confusion about who did what, when, and where still exists today. So, like a lot of other things in this country, we don’t know where we’re going but we fight like hell once we’re there.
The Battle of New Orleans: The War of 1812 had drawn to a close with a peace treaty being signed in Ghent, Belgium on December 24, 1814. Due to a wickedly slow internet connection, however, word of this treaty did not reach the British who attempted to seize New Orleans in hopes of separating Louisiana from the rest of the United States.
The endeavor was an absolute failure for the British and a resounding victory for General Andrew Jackson and his forces, who gained tremendous public appeal for their efforts. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Americans overwhelmed the invading force and sent them packing.
Why it’s important: A great number of Americans see the history of this country as winning the Revolutionary War and then moving on to greatness with no stops in between. The truth is that by the time of the War of 1812, there wasn’t a lot of confidence that this whole USA thing was going to work out. The war itself changed that, but the Battle of New Orleans put a giant rubber stamp on it and cemented the country as a real thing that wasn’t just an idea on a piece of paper.
Consider also that the intent of taking Louisiana by the British wasn’t just Louisiana as we know it today—had they succeeded, essentially everything west of the Mississippi would be watching Premier League Soccer right now. As it was, however, they got beat so bad that it was the last time the US and Great Britain ever fought (they made up over a gazillion pints of ale and promised only to make fun of each other’s accents from that point forward).
The Battle of Palo Alto: Say what? Yeah, it’s not exactly one that has had a library worth of books written on it, but the significance is large, nonetheless. President Polk believed that the whole continent should belong to the United States, including this place called Texas. Mexico, however, was convinced it belonged to them and was willing to fight for it. The Mexican Army retreats at Palo Alto and General Taylor, commander of the US forces, declares victory.
Why it’s important: Though a relatively small battle, the events at Palo Alto kicked off the Mexican-American War, which ultimately led to Texas being adopted as a state and a massive westward expansion into other territories that were previously kinda-sorta-maybe under Mexico’s control. The Mexican government was in shambles already and the war took advantage of that and, along with it, some mighty juicy pieces of land that happened to include some super sweet breaks off of Huntington Beach.
That whole Manifest Destiny thing is kind of controversial as a concept today, but agree with it or not, it shaped what we’ve got, and a great deal of that is due to the Mexican-American War—a war that kicked off with the battle of Palo Alto.
Any time a list of “best” or “most important” is made, everyone has a reason why that list is incomplete, stupid, or just plain wrong. So tell us your thoughts and how everything written above is ignorant and how we should just go get jobs selling tacos, and tune in next week for part two.