RTFU

10 Most Important Battles in American History and Why: Part I

By
Updated: April 9, 2014

 

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. Battle_of_New_Orleans

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 Battle_of_Palo_AltoMexican 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.

Comments

comments

39 Comments

  1. leftoftheboom

    April 9, 2014 at 6:52 am

    I see your three and raise you.

    1. The Alamo
    2. The Battle of San Jacinto
    3. Gettysburg
    5. D-Day
    6. Battle of the Bulge
    7. Iwo Jima
    8. Battle of Chosin Reservoir
    9. Battle of Khe Sanh
    10. Tet Offensive

    • Mr. Twisted

      April 9, 2014 at 7:58 am

      Well, I can tell you that at least a couple of those will be in the next couple installments. But I also have a couple surprises.

    • Dean T.

      April 9, 2014 at 9:38 am

      I was just about to post most of those, no need in recreating the wheel.

      Regards.

    • M. Bubba Blume

      April 9, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Not trying to be a dick here. Can someone please explain to me the importance of The Alamo?

      • leftoftheboom

        April 9, 2014 at 1:24 pm

        On the 8th day, God created Texas, and then he started bragging about it.

        Just kidding, sort of, from a historical military standpoint of the United States, the significance of the Alamo was not so much in the action itself but what it inspired. To me, the time was pivotal to the budding nation as we tried to shake off attempted control from Europe and then established ourselves as a power in our own right. The Alamo was fought in Texas but not completely by Texans and in its way, the Texas fight for Independence mirrored the way that the Revolution had been fought just a generation before.

        To me the military significance was how it brought about the idea that Americans, and there were quite a large number of “Easterners” on the field of battle, could and would take the fight to anyone that chose to challenge them in aid of their neighbors. Since Texas was a fighting to be separate, America came to help. It was a testament to the fact that we could and would stand and fight.

        That may not give it full significance to the total military history of America. But I will give you one guess where I am from.

    • Kevin

      April 10, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Little Big Horn?

  2. John

    April 9, 2014 at 7:07 am

    I like your list. I just wish you had expounded more on Mt. Whoredom. For instance, I would really like to know where this hill of prostitutes is located at. Are they still there? What do they charge?

    • Mr. Twisted

      April 9, 2014 at 8:00 am

      John, I’ll be completely honest and say that I think Mt. Whoredom deserves a separate piece entirely its own. It simply wouldn’t do any justice by only offering a few more sentences. I intend on making it the subject of a graduate thesis paper one day, as the questions you ask need answering. For freedom.

    • Lauren

      April 9, 2014 at 9:29 am

      I think the residents of Mt. Whoredom moved and is in what we now know as the entire State of New Jersey.

      • Kevin

        April 9, 2014 at 9:57 am

        Lauren you are wrong ma’am. The residents of Mt. Whoredom are now residing on Capitol Hill and the pimp is in the White House.

        • Rob

          April 9, 2014 at 10:46 am

          Well Kevin, I see you made your racial and political charged comments, in an attempt to create a joke at the Commander-in-Chief.

          • Lauren

            April 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

            So only black people can be pimps? That is a pretty racist thing of you to say.

    • Jay

      April 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

      John, MT. Whoredom hasn’t strayed too far these days. Beacon hill is home to not only the Massachusetts State House, but also to the whores, i mean politicians that work there. Not sure if you follow politics in Massachusets but I love the city of Boston, and can never live there again due to the nanny state.

      • John

        April 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

        Jay,
        I strolled around Boston once. It is a fabulously beautiful city and total candy for a history nerd like me. It is very sad that the birthplace of freedom is such a soviet state these days.

        • Jay

          April 10, 2014 at 11:52 am

          John,

          Beautiful city, and no better place for a history nerd(I am too). I always thought that after I did my thing in the military I’d move straight back. Everytime I go home to see family I think “I could really see myself moving back home”, and then I look at the politics. I can’t bring my gun collection back with me without registering every gun with the local police department? No thanks. I’ve got to register my pit bulls with the local animal control? Nope. Those are just the tip of the iceberg….as much as it pains me i just can’t do it, and I’ll be hitting my 20 in 2 years. Probably going to stay in NC.

  3. Kyle

    April 9, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Not sure if it has to be a formal military conflict but if not, the Battle of Athens Tennessee should be on this list.

    • Whitey

      April 10, 2014 at 9:55 am

      You beat me to it!

  4. Clint

    April 9, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Great list. Starting off at the start of all that is freedom! Battle of osan in korea is a must to include

  5. mike

    April 9, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Well as far as importance goes (since I see Normandy has been mentioned above as well as Gettysburg) You have to add Midway to the list.

    • leftoftheboom

      April 9, 2014 at 10:59 am

      I will submit for a flogging for failing to include Midway. You are absolutely right.

  6. Terry

    April 9, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Revolutionary war-One of the most important for the U.S. and so, the world, was Washington’s crossing of the Delaware river and defeating the Hessians and British at Trenton and Princeton. It was so important because 90 % of the troops under his command were about to end their enlistments. The Continental Army was due to go from over 4000 troops to about 300 on Jan 1. 1777. The Brits and Hessians had beaten them over and over during the summer and fall of 1776. (Although a lot of that can be laid at the feet of the Congress, that kept ordering Washington to defend indefensible positions) They were cold, unpaid and starving. The reason that the army left bloody tracks in the snow that Christmas Day was because a lot of them had eaten their boots. Washington’s victory unlocked three things that he desperately needed to continue fighting: food to feed the army, money to pay the troops and buy supplies and, most importantly, a tremendous boost in the morale of his troops. They proved to the world and themselves that they could take on some of the toughest soldiers in the world and beat them soundly. Without the victory at Trenton the army probably would have melted away and the revolution would likely have withered away also.

    • Michael

      April 10, 2014 at 8:23 am

      I missed your posting on this. I absolutely agree – and the more I’ve learned about those ten days, the more impressive their impact. I recently returned from visiting the crossing site in Washington Crossing, PA. Well worth the visit and speaking with the local experts. And if you happen drive a few miles to Yardley, PA, and end up at the Continental Tavern . . . well, I think they could liven up the discussion, too.

  7. Chris

    April 9, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Idea for another list. Famous Red light districts shut down by the U.S. Military. Storyville (New Orleans), Sporting District (San Antonio), Barbory Coast (San Francisco)

    • John

      April 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      VD Drive (Columbus, GA)

      • CIBANDEIBISALLYOUNEED

        April 9, 2014 at 9:12 pm

        I have a funny story about victory drive but it’s really not appropriate for the internet.
        nothing illegal just obscene.

    • Whitey

      April 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Hotel Street, Honolulu, if my great-uncle is to be believed.

  8. CIBANDEIBISALLYOUNEED

    April 9, 2014 at 10:46 am

    what about a modern battles list?
    2nd Battle of Fallujah would have been a nice mention.

    • leftoftheboom

      April 9, 2014 at 10:58 am

      Just my opinion but history needs more time to allow a better viewpoint on significance to the whole. Not that any battle in Iraq or Afghanistan is insignificant by any means but we simply don’t have the ability to apply historical significance.

      The Battle for 73 Easting in Desert Storm could be on the list but it was not a game changer. It was a validation of prowess and American military power but beyond that it did not have much effect in real terms since it while it was decisive on the tactical sense, it did not have much strategic import.

      But I was not in Fallujah and it sounds like you were so I would be interested in your take on it.

      • CIBANDEIBISALLYOUNEED

        April 9, 2014 at 2:00 pm

        Well, Fallujah I think was more of a symbolic victory. That battle they truly took our collars off and let us do our job the way we were meant to do it. Fallujah it’s self had become a nest of pure evil, tons of torture rooms, tons of weapons caches, EID/VBID factories, the whole city was booby trapped. Not to mention they had all the best foreign fighters in one spot that wanted to die in jihad. I never perceived the magnitude of what was going to happen, being that we’ve been fighting all over the Diyala province for 9 months already. I just thought of it as another day in Lovely Iraq. I was dead wrong, it was a long terrible battle and I only had one carton of cigarettes on me. After the battle the Marine General compared the battle to the battle of Hue city and gave all of us a Budweiser as thanks. If you want to know about our Units place in the battle, read “House to House” one our guys wrote it when he went home. They’re supposed to be in the process of making a movie from the book. Our unit was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the battle. If you want the sad details read the book or do research on Task Force 2-2 1st INF DIV. Also if you go to youtube, Type in TF 2-2 Fallujah, there’s some pics and video of some of the battle. Maybe in the history books they’ll simply forget Iraq, but in the veteran community Fallujah is somewhat legendary, at least to our generation. Even when I was younger I thought the guy’s in Blackhawk Down were pure Legends and in my heart they still are. Unfortunately the schools aren’t going to keep our stories alive.
        – Grunt OIF2 (Operation Phantom Fury) Veteran
        Task Force 2-2 1st Infantry Division

        • leftoftheboom

          April 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

          Thank you. I have to say your comment

          “I just thought of it as another day in Lovely Iraq. I was dead wrong, it was a long terrible battle and I only had one carton of cigarettes on me.”

          That needs to be in the history right along with “Nuts”.

          • CIBANDEIBISALLYOUNEED

            April 9, 2014 at 3:14 pm

            yeah I was pretty pissed when I ran out of cigarettes. I ran out 3 days into the fight. Cigarettes to a Grunt, is like spinach is for popeye. I was morbidly pissed and very delirious from sleep depravation. Not to mention all of the aircraft above us were dropping ordnance like it was candy (that’s good though) the A-10 was pretty intense though. The first time it did a sweep by us it scared the crap out of me. There is literally no training on earth that can prepare you for something on this level. I think the worst part was the battle was over 2 weeks non stop combat. I’m proud to have fought there but wouldn’t want to relive it. It wasn’t the scariest predicament I was in (in Iraq), but it is definitely on the top of my list. The good thing there was the amount of close air support we had along with many other factors.
            It was definitely a shining moment for the Infantry and all the other supporting forces.

  9. Erik

    April 9, 2014 at 10:55 am

    1. Battle of Shiloh, April 1862. The Confederacy lost their best commander, General Albert Sidney Johnson. If had not had died so early in the war more people would know him. Also the Union almost lost two of their best commanders in that battle, Grant and Sherman.

    2. Battle of Trenton. Washington seized the initiative, conducted a successful surprise attack and gained a huge psychological victory. Saved the revolutionary effort.

    3. Already mentioned, The Alamo. The importance of the Republic of Texas to US history is the key piece here.

    4. Battle of Manila Bay. We call it “power Projection” today, a requirement to be a global power. Yes, America can cross an ocean and kick your ass!

    5. Battle of Chancellorsville. The loss of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had to be felt in all of Lee’s remaining battles. Jackson knew how to beat the enemy. His loss had a strategic effect.

    6. Battle of Ia Drang Valley. US forces fought and defeated the regular forces of North Vietnam. It set the tactics both sides would use for the remainder of the war. Vietnam shaped the course of America’s military for the next 20 years.

    7. Desert Storm. Ok, this is kind of an entire war, but time wise, some battles in the past lasted this long. The importance of America’s reliance on the “technological edge” can not be underestimated. When we returned to fight Iraq a few years later, we did it with far fewer troops, relying on our overwhelming technical superiority. Unfortunately, lack of boots on the ground set us up for
    the 10 year insurgency that followed.

    8. Battle of Lexington and Concord, the “shot heard ’round the world.” Civil disobedience is one thing, but it doesn’t change “subjects” into “citizens.” However, when you take up arms against your own king and country, well…

    9. Pearl Harbor. We were going to get into WWII one way or another. However, by attacking before the declaration of war, Japan provided the US with a huge psychological advantage, and a burning desire for payback. Not likely we would have nuked Munich or Bremerhaven. WWII veterans today still have unkind things to say about the Japanese. And despite America’s unofficial “Germany first” policy on fighting the war, we unleashed a lot of whoop ass in the Pacific while fighting the Germans.

    10. Operation Cobra. After the initial victory on D-Day, Allied armies were hung up on the hedgerows in Western Europe. Operation Cobra allowed the Allies in the West to break free and give the Germans a taste of their own medicine, mobile warfare. Granted, the Germans were going to lose anyway at this point, but while the US, English and friends were hung up in France, the Soviets were grinding their way West. By speeding the end of the war, Cobra limited the amount of Europe the Soviets gained control of. The Cold War would have been very different with the Soviet Union controlling all of Germany.

  10. Michael

    April 10, 2014 at 7:57 am

    It was mentioned once, by Erik, but without a doubt one of the ten (near – at? – the top) is Washington’s Crossing of the Delaware and the ten days campaign in Trenton and Princeton.

  11. JoeC

    April 10, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Not really a battle, but Operation Rolling Thunder. At the beginning of Vietnam it was believed that air power had progressed to the point that boots on the ground would not be needed to win any future conflict. Rolling Thunder proved otherwise.

  12. Frank

    April 15, 2014 at 8:40 am

    While the victors are still around, how about making a fuss of the “Cold Warriors” who won the dirty little wars to defeat Communism. I’m thinking of the men who save Latin and South America from the likes of the Sandinistas, Col STEEL, Barry SADLER etc
    It will upset the hippies.

  13. L.A. Davis

    April 15, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    1. Boston Massacre – where the first American life taken in the name of soon to free republic was that of a Black man, Crispus Attucks.
    2. San Juan Hill and El Caney – where the African-American soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry and 25th Infantry distinguished themselves during the Spanish-American War.
    3. The Battle of the Bulge – African-American soldiers of the 761st Tank Battalion fought for 183 days to include the German strong hold in the town of Tillet. Every other American unit assigned to take the town had beaten. Tanks, artillery, and infantry inside the Ardenns Forest had tried to take Tillet and all had failed. After a week of steady fighting, the same SS troops that had held Patton up at Normandy, the 761st took Tillet and drove the Germans out in full retreat.
    4. The Battle of Tangyang Pass- where the African-American soldiers of the first, last and only all Black 2nd Ranger Company’s engaged in their first combat action in Korea.

    The reason I posted these here could be obvious, but I’ll spell it out so as not have the rationale misconstrued. I posted these here to underscore and give notice to many people here that African-American have played a vital and consistent role in the defense and military actions of the United States of America. I posted this here as a testament to the undying courage of the many men, and some women of African-American descent giving their live for this country at times when inthe main they were not even consider fit for full citizenship. I posted this here to bring highlight that courage and patriotism are not the sole province of….(you fill in the blank).

    I’m a veteran, an American, and of African descent…and proud of them all.

    • leftoftheboom

      April 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      You forgot the Red Tails and the Red Ball Express. And the Black Calvary Troopers in the 1870’s and 1880’s who fought in the Indian Wars.

      The list was and is not about race, but about Battles. There is only one color implicit in these lists, Red, blood of the fallen. The rest of the colors implied are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guard.

      Be as proud of your heritage as you want to be but don’t tell me I had race in mind when I made a list.

      The only one worried about race seems to be you.

      • CIBANDEIBISALLYOUNEED

        April 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        Well my race is ‘Merican, I speak ‘Merican, I eat ‘Merican food. I just don’t like other cuntries. Too bad being an American first above all else has gone out of style. politically correct = dumbass p*ssies
        race card = ignorant
        Can’t we just be Americans again, please, pretty please? At least in the Infantry world we could give 2 sh*ts about your race, we were just brothers.

  14. Bryan Hunter

    April 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Would just like to add the Battle of Valcour Island October 11, 1776. Although it was engineered and fought by Arnold, it managed to accomplish it’s mission. If you’re familiar with the poem “For Want of a Nail” and how seemingly small things can turn the tide, you’ll see the significance of this forgotten skirmish.

    If you care more detail on this, go to: http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/navalbattles16001800/p/American-Revolution-Battle-Of-Valcour-Island.htm

    Author Kennedy Hickman gives the most concise summary of the battle I’ve ever seen.

    “Though a tactical defeat, the Battle of Valcour Island was a critical strategic victory for Arnold as it prevented an invasion from the north in 1776. The delay caused by the naval race and battle gave the Americans an additional year to stabilize the northern front and prepare for the campaign that would culminate with the decisive victory at the Battles of Saratoga.”

    NY is known as the Empire State because control of her waterways was seen as THE key to controlling New England. Denying the Brits the run of the lake at a critical point in the campaign season denied them the “Empire” as well.

    Submitted for your consideration…

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