Siege of Capua, October -2 November 1860

Siege of Capua, October -2 November 1860


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Siege of Capua, October -2 November 1860

The siege of Capua (October-2 November 1860) was the first major contribution that the Piedmontese regular army made to the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, after Garibaldi and his army had conquered Sicily, occupied Naples and defeated the last major Bourbon counterattack on the Volturno, 1 October 1860 (Second War of Italian Independence).

The war against the Kingdom of Naples began as a private adventure led by Garibaldi, although with hidden support from Piedmont. Garibaldi landed on Sicily at the head of his Thousand in May 1860 and quickly captured Palermo (27 May 1860). The Royalists retreated to the eastern end of the island, but after suffering a defeat at Milazzo (20 July 1860) they were unable to prevent Garibaldi and his now much larger army from crossing to the mainland. There was very little opposition in the first few weeks after he landed, and on 7 September 1860 Naples fell without a struggle.

Francis II of Naples still had a powerful army and he attempted to make a stand on the Volturno River. The morale of his army recovered to the point where they were capable of launching a counterattack, but this ended in failure (battle of the Volturno, 1 October 1860).

Despite this defeat Francis II still held the strong fortresses of Gaeta and Capua. Garibaldi didn't have any siege artillery, and both places could have resisted for quite some time if it hadn't been for the intervention of Piedmont. The Piedmontese had managed to convince Napoleon III of France, a key protector of the Papacy, that the only way to prevent either a revolution or a Garibaldian invasion of the Papal States was for Piedmont to intervene. Although the Papal army attempted to resist, it was defeated at Castelfidardo (18 September 1860). Some of the survivors of that battle took refuge in Ancona, but that place fell on 29 September.

Victor Emmanuel and the Piedmontese army now moved south, crossing into Neapolitian territory on 15 October. Six days later the people of the Kingdom of Naples voted overwhelming in favour of union with Piedmont. In the meantime Victor Emmanuel and Garibaldi met and shook hands. Garibaldi prepared to return to private life, while his army was slowly replaced by the Piedmontese army.

At first the two armies shared in the blockade of Capua, but by the end of October the Piedmontese army had taken full control and work was well underway on a regular siege. Gun batteries were built, and the bombardment began on 1 November. The defenders of the city returned fire, but they didn't have the support of the inhabitants. On the night of 1-2 November the garrison came under pressure to surrender and prevent any more suffering in the city. On the morning of 2 November the garrison of 10,000 men surrendered to their Piedmontese opponents. Francis II's kingdom was now reduced to Gaeta and Messina. Both of these fortresses held on into 1861, but Gaeta finally surrendered on 13 February and Messina on 12 March.


British Legion (1860)

The British Legion was a voluntary military corps composed of Englishmen and Scots, who in 1860 made their mind up to join Garibaldi during the Expedition of the thousand and fight for the unification of Italy together with the Italian Garibaldini as part of their Southern Army against the Bourbon Army of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Officially they were "Garibaldi Excursionists" to avoid any problems of diplomatic appearance and were recruited by major Styles, who appears in the engraving wearing his uniform and medal of the Crimean War. [1]

The departure of "The British Legion" was financed by the "Garibaldi Special Fund Committee", one of the British organizations supporting the unification of Italy. [2]


How Did The Siege of Vicksburg Start?

Vicksburg was one of the Union Army’s most successful campaigns of the American Civil War. The Vicksburg campaign was also one of the longest. Although General Ulysses S. Grant’s first attempt to take the city failed in the winter of 1862-63, he renewed his efforts in the spring. Admiral David Porter (1813-91) had run his flotilla past the Vicksburg defenses in early May as Grant marched his army down the west bank of the river opposite Vicksburg, crossed back to Mississippi and drove toward Jackson. After defeating a Confederate force near Jackson, Grant turned back to Vicksburg. On May 16, he defeated a force under General John C. Pemberton (1814-81) at Champion Hill. Pemberton retreated back to Vicksburg, and Grant sealed the city by the end of May. In three weeks, Grant’s men marched 180 miles, won five battles and captured some 6,000 prisoners.

Terrain and Confederate fortifications around Vicksburg. Indicated are the locations of Union forces under Sherman, McPherson, McClernand, and Carr. 

Did you know? After the residents of Vicksburg dug over 500 caves in the hills around the city and began living in them, Union soldiers started to refer to the town as "Prairie Dog Village."


History of Campania Italy Geography

Campania, regione,southern Italy, on the Tyrrhenian Seabetween the Garigliano (Lower Liri) River (north) and the Gulf of Policastro (south). The region comprises the provinces of Avellino, Benevento, Caserta, Napoli, and Salerno. Campania is mountainous and hilly, the Neapolitan Apennines in the extreme east giving way to the slightly lower uplands of the Matese and Picentini mountains, with the Cilento mountain area extending to the coast in the south. The coastal lowlands north of Naples (the Volturno River basin and the Terra di Lavoro) and south of Salerno (the plain of the lower Sele River) are separated from each other by the volcanic regions around the Bay of Naples—the Campi Flegrei and Mount Vesuvius—and by the Lattari Mountains, which stretch inland from the Sorrento peninsula. The only rivers of any size are the Volturno and the Sele with their tributaries. Among the intermontane basins, Benevento is the most important.

Ancient Campania, although its boundaries were extended several times, was smaller than the present region, remaining limited to the area between the Volturno (ancient Volturnus) and the Sorrento peninsula. Early settled by Greek colonists and by the Etruscans, the region was dominated by the city of Capua (modern Santa Maria Capua Vetere) after its foundation in the 6th century bc . Campani, the Roman name for the inhabitants of Capua and later those of the Campanian plain, is actually pre-Roman and appears with terminations (suffixes) inscribed in Oscan (an ancient Italic dialect) on coins struck for or by the Samnites, the conquerors of Campania in the late 5th century bc . Samnite Capua became the ally of Rome about 340 bc , and the whole region was Romanized by the end of the 4th century and later flourished as a coloniaand then a region of the Roman Empire. Cumae, Nola, and Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli) were important ancient centres. After the fall of Rome, Campania was occupied successively by the Goths, Byzantines, and Lombards. Conquered by the Normans in the 11th century and incorporated in the kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century, it became part of the Kingdom of Naples after the Wars of Sicilian Vespers against the French in 1282. Campania was united with Italy in 1860.

The major farming areas of Campania are the fertile coastal lowlands, particularly those of the Terra di Lavoro and the plains around Vesuvius. The land utilization in these areas is intensive and is characterized by interculture, with plots of land producing cereals on the ground, fruit on the trees along the edges of the plots, and grapes from vines trailing between the trees. The chief crops are fruit (apricots, apples, peaches, nuts, citrus, and grapes), early vegetables, and flowers and such industrial crops as tobacco and hemp. Campanian wines are famous throughout Italy. Fishing is important in the Bay of Naples, Procida and Torre del Greco being the leading ports. Campania is the only region of southern Italy with a major concentration of industry, most of it centred on Naples, the regional capital, and some around Salerno. Metallurgy, chemicals, machinery and tools, textiles, agricultural industries (canning, flour milling, macaroni, tobacco), and shipbuilding are the main branches. Naples and its suburbs have a flourishing artisan industry working coral, pearls, tortoiseshell, leather, and lace. The tourist trade in Naples, on the Sorrento peninsula, and on the islands of Capri and Ischia is a major source of income. Naples is a leading Italian port and is also the regional transportation centre. Internal coastal communications in the region are relatively easy, but the highly dissected character of the interior made road and rail travel “across the grain,” in the west-east direction, difficult until the construction of the expressway Autostrada del Sole. Area 5,249 square miles (13,595 square km). Pop. (2006 est.) 5,790,929.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry

Abolitionist John Brown leads a small group on a raid against a federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an attempt to start an armed revolt of enslaved people and destroy the institution of slavery.

Born in Connecticut in 1800 and raised in Ohio, Brown came from a staunchly Calvinist and antislavery family. He spent much of his life failing at a variety of businesses—he declared bankruptcy at age 42 and had more than 20 lawsuits filed against him. In 1837, his life changed irrevocably when he attended an abolition meeting in Cleveland, during which he was so moved that he publicly announced his dedication to destroying the institution of slavery. As early as 1848 he was formulating a plan to incite an insurrection.

In the 1850s, Brown traveled to Kansas with five of his sons to fight against the proslavery forces in the contest over that territory. On May 21, 1856, proslavery men raided the abolitionist town of Lawrence, and Brown personally sought revenge. On May 25, Brown and his sons attacked three cabins along Pottawatomie Creek. They killed five men with broad swords and triggered a summer of guerrilla warfare in the troubled territory. One of Brown’s sons was killed in the fighting.

By 1857, Brown returned to the East and began raising money to carry out his vision of a mass uprising of enslaved people. He secured the backing of six prominent abolitionists, known as the “Secret Six,” and assembled an invasion force. His 𠇊rmy” grew to include 22 men, including five Black men and three of Brown’s sons. The group rented a Maryland farm near Harpers Ferry and prepared for the assault.

On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown and his band overran the arsenal. Some of his men rounded up a handful of hostages, including a few enslaved people. Word of the raid spread, and by morning Brown and his men were surrounded. A company of U.S. marines arrived on October 17, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J. E. B. Stuart. On the morning of October 19, the soldiers overran Brown and his followers. Ten of his men were killed, including two of his sons.

The wounded Brown was tried by the state of Virginia for treason and murder, and he was found guilty on November 2. The 59-year-old abolitionist went to the gallows on December 2, 1859. Before his execution, he handed his guard a slip of paper that read, “I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.” It was a prophetic statement. Although the raid failed, it inflamed sectional tensions and raised the stakes for the 1860 presidential election. Brown’s raid helped make any further accommodation between North and South nearly impossible and thus became an important impetus of the Civil War.


Gaeta Today

Most of the places that characterized this historically relevant siege are still visible today, despite years of neglect and the ill-conceived act perpetrated by one of the city’s mayors, who in the ‘50s ordered the destruction of the remaining bastions to build a seaside promenade. Particularly worth a visit are the ruins of the powder depots on Monte Orlando, whose destruction cost the lives of hundreds and ultimately determined the surrender of Francis II, and the War Memorial of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the recently renovated Basilica of St. Erasmus. St. Francis Temple, built in 1850 by Francis II’s father King Ferdinand II, is another testimony of the reign of Bourbon in Italy and an outstanding example of neo-gothic architecture.

St. Francis Temple – Gaeta

Other sites of historical relevance are the massive Aragonese-Angevine Castle the Mausoleum of Mark Antony’s fleet commander, Lucius Munatius Plancus the Sanctuary of the Holy Trinity, mentioned as early as the 11 th century and visited, among the others, by St. Francis and Saint Philip Neri the Sanctuary of Santissima Annunziata, a church and adjacent hospital built in the 14 th century and renovated at the beginning of the 17 th century in Baroque style the church of St. John at Sea, initially built outside the old sea walls by Gaeta’s hypate Giovanni IV in the 10 th century.


Looking at History

In this period, the Normans further extended their control over southern Italy. After 1059, Robert Guiscard continued his personal conquest of Calabria[1] with increasing success finally taking Reggio and Squillace in 1060. However, this left Bari and much of southern Apulia in Byzantine hands. Among the twons that still had Greek garrisons and acknowledged imperial rule were Brindisi, Oria, Taranto, Otranto and Gallipoli. The complete subjugation of Apulia too Guiscard a further twelve years and was not completed until the seizure of Brindisi and more importantly, Bari in 1071. Then, with the help of Richard of Capua, he took over the principality of Salerno in 1076 and the cities of Benevento and Naples in 1077. By 1080 the Normans controlled all of the southern Italian mainland and much of Sicily.

Robert Guiscard’s position was considerably strengthened by the Melfi agreement. He decided to intensify the conquest of the whole of Mezzogiorno while controlling potential rebellion by other Norman barons (for example, Robert of Montescaglioso, Geoffrey of Conversano, Peter of Trani etc.). In 1060, he captured Troia, the only town of any size in the Capitanata, albeit already paying tribute to the Normans. It became the centre of ducal authority. A year later, he captured Acerenza though it is unclear from whom[2]. The ways in which Guiscard’s authority in Apulia developed during the 1060s is not covered particularly well in the chronicle. William of Apulia’s poem ignores events in Apulia between the synod of Melfi and the beginnings of the siege of Bari (1059-1068) and Amatus of Montecassino has only a little to say about Apulia but is more than usually disorganised. Historians have to rely on the annalistic sources and they are especially cryptic for this decade.

The continued resistance of the Byzantine towns in southern Apulia owes as much to extraneous factors as to any very coherent response from the Byzantine empire. Robert Guiscard was engaged elsewhere: in 1061 and again in 1064 he was in Sicily with a substantial force. Early in 1062, Robert captured Brindisi and Oria but most of the campaigning season that year was devoted to a fruitless revival of his dispute with his brother Roger that this time led to fighting between the rival forces. The dispute ended when both parties agreed to abide by the terms agreed earlier: Roger was to have the southern half of Calabria. There was also a rebellion in the Cosenza region in 1064-5 that took several months to suppress. Consequently, Guiscard was unable to turn his attention to the completion of the conquest of Apulia for several years.

Advances were made in Apulia by other Norman lords in the early 1060s. In 1063, Godfrey, a son of count Peter of Andria (one of the ‘sons of Amicus’ kin-group) captured Taranto, one of the main Apulian ports. The following year, the duke’s nephew Robert of Montescaglioso took Matera and the nearby town of Montpeloso. These victories ended the Byzantine presence on the Apulia-Lucania border. At the other end of Apulia, Robert’s brother Geoffrey and after his death his son Robert (who became known as the count of Loritello) pushed northwards across the Biferno and Trigno rivers into the Abruzzi. By 1064, Robert’s attacks had begun to destabilise the lands of the abbey of St Clement of Casauria in the Percara valley. Guiscard had appeared briefly in the area to help his borther in 1060-61 but after this the success of the other Normans in Apulia were carried out independently of the duke. Robert’s brother William and his allies attacked the principality of Salerno and in 1067 he was excommunicated, along with Guimund des Moulins and Turgisius of Rota for their attacks on the property of the archbishop of Salerno.

Besides the Byzantine territories, to the south, his attention was drawn to the north of his territories, next to Campania and the Abruzzes, where he was faced with a most dangerous rival, occasionally an ally but more often an enemy, Richard of Aversa, who, since he had become prince of Capua in 1062[3] had launched attacks against the Lombard territories coveted by Robert Guiscard. Richard of Aversa strengthened his authority by acquiring the duchy of Atenulf of Gaeta and the county of Aquino in 1063. Richard’s authority in the north of the principality was not finally secured until 1065 despite his alliance with the abbey of Montecassino that profited considerably from the lands of the Lombards who had rebelled in 1063.

The Normans did not have everything their own way and there was a brief Byzantine counter offensive in the mid-1060s. Brindisi was recaptured at some point after 1062 and it is probable that Vieste on the Gargano peninsula was retaken in 1065-66. Whether these advances were linked to the arrival of a contingent of the Varangian guard at Bari in 1066 is debatable but the Byzantine revival was short-lived. In 1066, Robert was finally able to devote his attention to Apulia, retaking Vieste and also Otranto. However, the Byzantines were successful in stirring up and financing a widespread revolt among the Normans in Apulia in 1067-68 including Robert’s nephews Geoffrey of Conversano and Abelard. Geoffrey was the son of Guiscard’s sister and Abelard the son of his elder brother count Humphrey[4]. Guiscard was in Calabria when news of the revolt reached him. Acting quickly, he caught the rebels before they were ready and suppressed the revolt in the autumn of 1067 and spring of 1068.

By August 1068, Robert Guiscard was finally ready to move against Byzantine Apulia and to begin his most ambitious military operation: the siege of Bari. This was a difficult operation and could only be attempted when Robert had the full support of his Norman vassals. Count Roger also temporarily abandoned his conquest of Sicily to take part in the later stages of the attack on the city. Bari was a trading city with access to the sea for reinforcements and supplies from the Byzantine Empire and was strongly defended on the landward side. However, the Normans were by this time well versed in siege warfare. Bari was not prepared to surrender as, for example Reggio had been in 1060. Bari proved to be a formidable obstacle though the timing of Robert’s attack was fortuitous. By 1068, the situation on the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire was critical. Turkish raids had penetrated into Asia Minor and the emperor Romanus IV was determined to do something about this. The situation in Byzantine Italy was severe but it was not seen as a major priority in Constantinople. Even so, the siege of Bari lasted almost three years. Robert recruited ships and sailors from Calabria to blockade the town from the sea and he also was highly successful in exploiting divisions within Bari itself. The Byzantines made two attempts to break the blockade: in 1068 they were partially successful bringing in supplies so prolonging the siege but in 1071 the Byzantine fleet was intercepted from count Roger with ships from Sicily and defeated. The loss of this supply fleet led to Bari’s surrender on 16 th April 1071. Although the city was near to starvation, Robert offered generous terms returning land seized from its inhabitants outside the walls, freeing it from tribute that had previously been paid to the Normans and refraining from imposing any new demands. It seems that the local patriciate remained largely in control of the city. Robert almost certainly had no choice but to do this. Bari was a large and prosperous town with a diversified economy that he needed to remain prosperous coercion was not really a viable economic or political option.

The fall of Bari brought all of Byzantine Apulia under Norman hands. Brindisi, the only other substantial Byzantine town had been captured shortly before Bari fell. Guiscard then turned his attention to Sicily, transferring his forces to support Roger in the siege of Palermo which surrendered in January 1072. However, in 1072-3 he was distracted by another revolt among the Apulian Normans, encouraged by Richard of Capua and his troublesome nephew Abelard. This delayed further his attempts to bring the remaining Lombard territories under his control. Amalfi and its little duchy voluntarily submitted in late 1073 after the death of duke Sergius IV. However, he did not capture Aberlard’s stronghold of Santa Severina in northern Calabria until 1075. A peace treaty with Richard of Capua was brokered with difficulty by abbot Desiderius of Montecassino in 1076 and this allowed Robert to move finally against what was left of the principality of Salerno.

The reason for the attack of Salerno that all the chroniclers agree on was the continued poor and brutal government of Gisulf IV. However, Amatus, William of Apulia and Malaterra were pro-Norman apologists and it is important not to accept their witness unequivocally. Amatus’ denunciations of Gisulf are so extreme as to suggest a strong personal motive[5]. In addition, there is ample evidence for the growing internal weakness in the principality for at least a decade that meant that it was not a question of if Robert was going to attack Salerno but when. The siege of Salerno began in early May 1076 and lasted for seven months when the city was betrayed to him. Gisulf and his brothers took refuge in the citadel but this too surrendered early in 1077. They were expelled from the city and their land confiscated. Robert’s policy was to reconcile the local population to his rule as quickly as possible. Henceforward Salerno rather than Melfi or Venosa became the centre of his power. The acquisition of the city and the remaining part of the principality was the most significant and successful step towards the consolidation of the whole of mainland southern Italy in Norman hands.

Success at Salerno did not mark the end of Norman attempts to extend their authority. Richard of Capua, with Robert’s support attacked the papal Campagna in 1076. Bad weather and problems with food supplies meant this achieved little other than the excommunication of Richard and Robert by Pope Gregory VII. In May 1077, Richard began his siege of Naples with the city blockaded with Duke Robert’s ships. The city was still resisting when Richard of Capua died on 5 th April 1078. His son Jordan, who had been in dispute with his father for several years and had already made his peace with the pope, then abandoned the siege on the payment of tribute and a de facto Capuan protectorate over Naples. In December 1077 Duke Robert attempted to seize Benevento after the death of Prince Landulf IV on 17 th November. This ended in failure after five months. The city was saved by the intervention of Jordan of Capua who was anxious to cement his good relations with the papacy but was also determined not to allow Guiscard to extend his power any further. Further revolts in Apulia in the winter of 1078-9, his preoccupation with the Byzantine Empire and his reconciliation with the papacy in 1080, all combined to prevent Robert from threatening Benevento again.

Norman aggression was not discontinued in the mountains of the Abruzzi where a group of Lombard counties lay under the nominal sovereignty of the German Empire. Guiscard’s nephew, Count Robert of Loritello threatened this region in the 1060s but the Capuan Normans were also probing northwards into the inland county of Marsia into which Richard of Capua led an expedition in 1067. By 1074, Normans were excommunicated after seizing the property of the abbey of Casauria and they were actively menacing the Pescara valley. Pope Gregory VII excommunicated Normans on three occasions in the 1070s for attacking the Abruzzi: in 1074, 1075 and 1078. This had little effect and the northward thrust into the Abruzzi did not peter out until around 1100. After this a degree of coexistence between Norman and Lombard counties appears to have existed with the Normans holding the coast while the Lombard count held the inland areas.

The impetus of Norman expansion ended in the 1090s largely because the internal cohesion of the Apulian and Capuan lands was breaking up. Guiscard died in 1085 and Jordan of Capua five year later in 1090. Both the dukes of Apulia and the princes of Capua faced serious challenges to their authority. In 1088, for example Amalfi threw off ducal authority and although Roger Borsa retored his authority there for a time, by 1100 the Normans had little impact on the duchy that remained effectively independent till its conquest by King Roger in 1131. The impact of the Normans on the larger towns like Bari and Salerno was limited. Most of these were captured late in the conquest and few Normans settled in them. They remained overwhelmingly Lombard in character and government. Benevento and Naples were never conquered. The duchy of Naples finally lost its independence to King Roger in 1137 by which time there is considerable doubt over whether southern Italy was really ‘Norman’ at all. Benevento retained its independence as a papal enclave in the southern Italian kingdom until 1860. Amalfi escaped from Norman control again in the early twelfth century and Bari was established as an independent principality under a Lombard prince Grimoald in 1118 that lasted until the time of King Roger. Most of southern Italy fell into the hands of the Normans in the eleventh century but the conquest always remained incomplete.

[1] Catherine Hervé-Commereuc ‘Les Normands en Calabre’, Les Normands en Méditerraneé, University of Caen, 1994, pages 77-88 is invaluable on what can be seen as the ‘forgotten’ conquest.

[2] The town had been part of the original share-out among the Norman leaders in 1042 when it was assigned to Asclettin, the later short-lived count of Aversa. Whether Asclettin had ever gained possession of it or whether the inhabitants may have later regained their independence, we do not know.

[3] Richard of Aversa had captured the city of Capua in 1058 but his authority in his nominal capital was limited by the agreement that secured the city’s surrender. It was only in 1062 that he foeced the citizens to hand over the defences to him and then only after a second siege.

[4] Abelard was a young boy when his father died in 1057. Robert had ignored his claims and took over the leadership of the Apulian Normans himself. Now in his teens, Abelard sought revenge.

[5] It is plausible that Amatus was a former bishop of Paestrum in the south of the principality of Salerno who had resigned his see in the 1050s and become a monk at Salerno. Why he did this is not known and Amatus himself provides no evidence for his reasons. However, we do know that in the 1050s Gisulf was trying to limit ecclesiastical privileges. If this is the case, then Amatus’ hostility to Gisulf is understandable.


Sues for peace

On December 8 Francis II issued a proclamation to all his subjects, promising new liberties in lieu of the prosecution of the struggle against the invaders, inciting them to guerrilla operations. The same day, Cialdini was ordered by the Piedmontese Prime Minister Cavour, to cease fire. Cavour, backed by the British government, had convinced Napoleon III to recall the French fleet from Gaeta and, in a letter sent on December 11, asked Francis II to leave Gaeta. However, the Neapolitan King did not accept the proposal. He in turn appealed to Napoleon not to recall his fleet, in order at least to save the military honour of the Kingdom and the Crown.

Hostilities began again on the night of December 13 and 14. In the meantime, epidemic typhus had begun to spread within the walls of Gaeta: Francis' field adjutant was himself struck down and died on December 12.

More victims among the civil population were caused by the new Piedmontese batteries firing from Monte Tortano from December 15.

On December 27, a new capitulation proposal was sent to the Neapolitan defenders or, as an alternative, a truce of 15 days. They were both rejected. The artillery duel restarted with increasing violence: 500 grenades a day were hurled against Gaeta, although most of them did not explode. The bombardment culminated on January 7, 1861, when the fortress received a shower of 8,000 shells, although, again, with modest results.


Siege of Capua, October -2 November 1860 - History

An Unlikely Victory
1777 to 1783

January 3, 1777 - A second victory for Washington as his troops defeat the British at Princeton and drive them back toward New Brunswick. Washington then establishes winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey. During the harsh winter, Washington's army shrinks to about a thousand men as enlistments expire and deserters flee the hardships. By spring, with the arrival of recruits, Washington will have 9000 men.

March 12, 1777 - The Continental Congress returns to Philadelphia from Baltimore after Washington's successes against the British in New Jersey.

April 27, 1777 - American troops under Benedict Arnold defeat the British at Ridgefield, Connecticut.

June 14, 1777 - The flag of the United States consisting of 13 stars and 13 white and red stripes is mandated by Congress John Paul Jones is chosen by Congress to captain the 18 gun vessel Ranger with his mission to raid coastal towns of England.

June 17, 1777 - A British force of 7700 men under Gen. John Burgoyne invades from Canada, sailing down Lake Champlain toward Albany, planning to link up with Gen. Howe who will come north from New York City, thus cutting off New England from the rest of the colonies.

July 6, 1777 - Gen. Burgoyne's troops stun the Americans with the capture of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. Its military supplies are greatly needed by Washington's forces. The loss of the fort is a tremendous blow to American morale.

July 23, 1777 - British Gen. Howe, with 15,000 men, sets sail from New York for Chesapeake Bay to capture Philadelphia, instead of sailing north to meet up with Gen. Burgoyne.

July 27, 1777 - Marquis de Lafayette, a 19 year old French aristocrat, arrives in Philadelphia and volunteers to serve without pay. Congress appoints him as a major general in the Continental Army. Lafayette will become one of Gen. Washington's most trusted aides.

August 1, 1777 - Gen. Burgoyne reaches the Hudson after a grueling month spent crossing 23 miles of wilderness separating the southern tip of Lake Champlain from the northern tip of the Hudson River.

August 16, 1777 - In the Battle of Bennington , militiamen from Vermont, aided by Massachusetts troops, wipe out a detachment of 800 German Hessians sent by Gen. Burgoyne to seize horses.

August 25, 1777 - British Gen. Howe disembarks at Chesapeake Bay with his troops.

September 9-11, 1777 - In the Battle of Brandywine Creek , Gen. Washington and the main American Army of 10,500 men are driven back toward Philadelphia by Gen. Howe's British troops. Both sides suffer heavy losses. Congress then leaves Philadelphia and resettles in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

September 26, 1777 - British forces under Gen. Howe occupy Philadelphia. Congress then relocates to York, Pennsylvania.

October 7, 1777 - The Battle of Saratoga results in the first major American victory of the Revolutionary War as Gen. Horatio Gates and Gen. Benedict Arnold defeat Gen. Burgoyne, inflicting 600 British casualties. American losses are only 150.

October 17, 1777 - Gen. Burgoyne and his entire army of 5700 men surrender to the Americans led by Gen. Gates. The British are then marched to Boston, placed on ships and sent back to England after swearing not serve again in the war against America. News of the American victory at Saratoga soon travels to Europe and boosts support of the American cause. In Paris the victory is celebrated as if it had been a French victory. Ben Franklin is received by the French Royal Court. France then recognizes the independence of America.

November 15, 1777 - Congress adopts the Articles of Confederation as the government of the new United States of America, pending ratification by the individual states. Under the Articles, Congress is the sole authority of the new national government.

December 17, 1777 - At Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, the Continental Army led by Washington sets up winter quarters.

February 6, 1778 - American and French representatives sign two treaties in Paris: a Treaty of Amity and Commerce and a Treaty of Alliance . France now officially recognizes the United States and will soon become the major supplier of military supplies to Washington's army. Both countries pledge to fight until American independence is won, with neither country concluding any truce with Britain without the other's consent, and guarantee each other's possessions in America against all other powers.

The American struggle for independence is thus enlarged and will soon become a world war . After British vessels fire on French ships, the two nations declare war. Spain will enter in 1779 as an ally of France. The following year, Britain will declare war on the Dutch who have been engaging in profitable trade with the French and Americans. In addition to the war in America, the British will have to fight in the Mediterranean, Africa, India, the West Indies, and on the high seas. All the while facing possible invasion of England itself by the French.

February 23, 1778 - Baron von Steuben of Prussia arrives at Valley Forge to join the Continental Army. He then begins much needed training and drilling of Washington's troops, now suffering from poor morale resulting from cold, hunger, disease, low supplies and desertions over the long, harsh winter.

March 16, 1778 - A Peace Commission is created by the British Parliament to negotiate with the Americans. The commission then travels to Philadelphia where its offers granting all of the American demands, except independence, are rejected by Congress.

May 8, 1778 - British General Henry Clinton replaces Gen. Howe as commander of all British forces in the American colonies.

May 30, 1778 - A campaign of terror against American frontier settlements, instigated by the British, begins as 300 Iroquois Indians burn Cobleskill, New York.

June 18, 1778 - Fearing a blockade by French ships, British Gen. Clinton withdraws his troops from Philadelphia and marches across New Jersey toward New York City. Americans then re-occupy Philadelphia.

June 19, 1778 - Washington sends troops from Valley Forge to intercept Gen. Clinton.

June 27/28, 1778 - The Battle of Monmouth occurs in New Jersey as Washington's troops and Gen. Clinton's troops fight to a standoff. On hearing that American Gen. Charles Lee had ordered a retreat, Gen. Washington becomes furious. Gen. Clinton then continues on toward New York.

July 2, 1778 - Congress returns once again to Philadelphia.

July 3, 1778 - British Loyalists and Indians massacre American settlers in the Wyoming Valley of northern Pennsylvania.

July 8, 1778 - Gen. Washington sets up headquarters at West Point, New York.

July 10, 1778 - France declares war against Britain.

August 8, 1778 - American land forces and French ships attempt to conduct a combined siege against Newport, Rhode Island. But bad weather and delays of the land troops result in failure. The weather-damaged French fleet then sails to Boston for repairs.

September 14, 1778 - Ben Franklin is appointed to be the American diplomatic representative in France.

November 11, 1778 - At Cherry Valley, New York, Loyalists and Indians massacre over 40 American settlers.

December 29, 1778 - The British begin a major southern campaign with the capture of Savannah, Georgia, followed a month later with the capture of Augusta.

April 1-30, 1779 - In retaliation for Indian raids on colonial settlements, American troops from North Carolina and Virginia attack Chickamauga Indian villages in Tennessee.

May 10, 1779 - British troops burn Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia.

June 1, 1779 - British Gen. Clinton takes 6000 men up the Hudson toward West Point.

June 16, 1779 - Spain declares war on England, but does not make an alliance with the American revolutionary forces.

July 5-11, 1779 - Loyalists raid coastal towns in Connecticut, burning Fairfield, Norwalk and ships in New Haven harbor.

July 10, 1779 - Naval ships from Massachusetts are destroyed by the British while attempting to take the Loyalist stronghold of Castine, Maine.

August 14, 1779 - A peace plan is approved by Congress which stipulates independence, complete British evacuation of America and free navigation on the Mississippi River.

August 29, 1779 - American forces defeat the combined Indian and Loyalist forces at Elmira, New York. Following the victory, American troops head northwest and destroy nearly 40 Cayuga and Seneca Indian villages in retaliation for the campaign of terror against American settlers.

Sept. 3 - Oct. 28 - Americans suffer a major defeat while attacking the British at Savannah, Georgia. Among the 800 American and Allied casualties is Count Casimir Pulaski of Poland. British losses are only 140.

September 23, 1779 - Off the coast of England, John Paul Jones fights a desperate battle with a British frigate. When the British demand his surrender, Jones responds, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Jones then captures the frigate before his own ship sinks.

September 27, 1779 - John Adams is appointed by Congress to negotiate peace with England.

October 17, 1779 - Washington sets up winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey, where his troops will suffer another harsh winter without desperately needed supplies, resulting in low morale, desertions and attempts at mutiny.

December 26, 1779 - British Gen. Clinton sets sail from New York with 8000 men and heads for Charleston, South Carolina, arriving there on Feb. 1.

April 8, 1780 - The British attack begins against Charleston as warships sail past the cannons of Fort Moultrie and enter Charleston harbor. Washington sends reinforcements.

May 6, 1780 - The British capture Fort Moultrie at Charleston, South Carolina.

May 12, 1780 - The worst American defeat of the Revolutionary War occurs as the British capture Charleston and its 5400-man garrison (the entire southern American Army) along with four ships and a military arsenal. British losses are only 225.

May 25, 1780 - After a severe winter, Gen. Washington faces a serious threat of mutiny at his winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey. Two Continental regiments conduct an armed march through the camp and demand immediate payment of salary (overdue by 5 months) and full rations. Troops from Pennsylvania put down the rebellion. Two leaders of the protest are then hanged.

June 11, 1780 - A new Massachusetts constitution is endorsed asserting "all men are born free and equal," which includes black slaves.

June 13, 1780 - Gen. Horatio Gates is commissioned by Congress to command the Southern Army.

June 23, 1780 - American forces defeat the British in the Battle of Springfield , New Jersey.

July 11, 1780 - 6000 French soldiers under Count de Rochambeau arrive at Newport, Rhode Island. They will remain there for nearly a year, blockaded by the British fleet.

August 3, 1780 - Benedict Arnold is appointed commander of West Point. Unknown to the Americans, he has been secretly collaborating with British Gen. Clinton since May of 1779 by supplying information on Gen. Washington's tactics.

August 16, 1780 - A big defeat for the Americans in South Carolina as forces under Gen. Gates are defeated by troops of Gen. Charles Cornwallis, resulting in 900 Americans killed and 1000 captured.

August 18, 1780 - An American defeat at Fishing Creek, South Carolina, opens a route for Gen Cornwallis to invade North Carolina.

September 23, 1780 - A British major in civilian clothing is captured near Tarrytown, New York. He is found to be carrying plans indicating Benedict Arnold intends to turn traitor and surrender West Point. Two days later, Arnold hears of the spy's capture and flees West Point to the British ship Vulture on the Hudson. He is later named a brigadier general in the British Army and will fight the Americans.

October 7, 1780 - Gen. Cornwallis abandons his invasion of North Carolina after Americans capture his reinforcements, a Loyalist force of 1000 men.

October 14, 1780 - Gen. Nathanael Greene, Washington's most able and trusted General, is named as the new commander of the Southern Army, replacing Gen. Gates. Greene then begins a strategy of rallying popular support and wearing down the British by leading Gen. Cornwallis on a six month chase through the back woods of South Carolina into North Carolina into Virginia then back into North Carolina. The British, low on supplies, are forced to steal from any Americans they encounter, thus enraging them.

January 3, 1781 - Mutiny among Americans in New Jersey as troops from Pennsylvania set up camp near Princeton and choose their own representatives to negotiate with state officials back in Pennsylvania. The crisis is eventually resolved through negotiations, but over half of the mutineers abandon the army.

January 17, 1781 - An American victory at Cowpens , South Carolina, as Gen. Daniel Morgan defeats British Gen. Tarleton.

January 20, 1781 - Mutiny among American troops at Pompton, New Jersey. The rebellion is put down seven days later by a 600-man force sent by Gen. Washington. Two of the leaders are then hanged.

March 15, 1781 - Forces under Gen. Cornwallis suffer heavy losses in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina. As a result, Cornwallis abandons plans to conquer the Carolinas and retreats to Wilmington, then begins a campaign to conquer Virginia with an army of 7500 men.

May 21, 1781 - Gen. Washington and French Gen. Rochambeau meet in Connecticut for a war council. Gen Rochambeau reluctantly agrees to Washington's plan for a joint French naval and American ground attack on New York.

June 4, 1781 - Thomas Jefferson narrowly escapes capture by the British at Charlottesville, Virginia.

June 10, 1781 - American troops under Marquis de Lafayette, Gen. Anthony Wayne and Baron von Steuben begin to form a combined force in Virginia to oppose British forces under Benedict Arnold and Gen. Cornwallis.

June 11, 1781 - Congress appoints a Peace Commission comprised of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay and Henry Laurens. The commission supplements John Adams as the sole negotiator with the British.

July 20, 1781 - Slaves in Williamsburg, Virginia, rebel and burn several buildings.

August 1, 1781 - After several months of chasing Gen. Greene's army without much success, Gen. Cornwallis and his 10,000 tired soldiers arrive to seek rest at the small port of Yorktown, Virginia, on the Chesapeake Bay. He then establishes a base to communicate by sea with Gen. Clinton's forces in New York.

August 14, 1781 - Gen. Washington abruptly changes plans and abandons the attack on New York in favor of Yorktown after receiving a letter from French Admiral Count de Grasse indicating his entire 29-ship French fleet with 3000 soldiers is now heading for the Chesapeake Bay near Cornwallis. Gen. Washington then coordinates with Gen. Rochambeau to rush their best troops south to Virginia to destroy the British position in Yorktown.

August 30, 1781 - Count de Grasse's French fleet arrives off Yorktown, Virginia. De Grasse then lands troops near Yorktown, linking with Lafayette's American troops to cut Cornwallis off from any retreat by land.

September 1, 1781 - The troops of Washington and Rochambeau arrive at Philadelphia.

September 5-8, 1781 - Off Yorktown, a major naval battle between the French fleet of de Grasse and the outnumbered British fleet of Adm. Thomas Graves results in a victory for de Grasse. The British fleet retreats to New York for reinforcements, leaving the French fleet in control of the Chesapeake. The French fleet establishes a blockade, cutting Cornwallis off from any retreat by sea. French naval reinforcements then arrive from Newport.

September 6, 1781 - Benedict Arnold's troops loot and burn the port of New London, Connecticut.

September 14-24, 1781 - De Grasse sends his ships up the Chesapeake Bay to transport the armies of Washington and Rochambeau to Yorktown.

September 28, 1781 - Gen. Washington, with a combined Allied army of 17,000 men, begins the siege of Yorktown. French cannons bombard Gen. Cornwallis and his 9000 men day and night while the Allied lines slowly advance and encircle them. British supplies run dangerously low.

October 17, 1781 - As Yorktown is about to be taken, the British send out a flag of truce. Gen. Washington and Gen. Cornwallis then work out terms of surrender.

October 19, 1781 - As their band plays the tune, "The world turned upside down," the British army marches out in formation and surrenders at Yorktown. Hopes for a British victory in the war against America are dashed. In the English Parliament, there will soon be calls to bring this long costly war to an end.

October 24, 1781 - 7000 British reinforcements under Gen. Clinton arrive at Chesapeake Bay but turn back on hearing of the surrender at Yorktown.

January 1, 1782 - Loyalists begin leaving America, heading north to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

January 5, 1782 - The British withdraw from North Carolina.

February 27, 1782 - In England, the House of Commons votes against further war in America.

March 5, 1782 - The British Parliament empowers the King to negotiate peace with the United States.

March 7, 1782 - American militiamen massacre 96 Delaware Indians in Ohio in retaliation for Indian raids conducted by other tribes.

March 20, 1782 - British Prime Minister, Lord North, resigns, succeeded two days later by Lord Rockingham who seeks immediate negotiations with the American peace commissioners.

April 4, 1782 - Sir Guy Carleton becomes the new commander of British forces in America, replacing Gen. Clinton. Carleton will implement the new British policy of ending hostilities and withdraw British troops from America.

April 12, 1782 - Peace talks begin in Paris between Ben Franklin and Richard Oswald of Britain.

April 16, 1782 - Gen. Washington establishes American army headquarters at Newburgh, New York.

April 19, 1782 - The Dutch recognize the United States of America as a result of negotiations conducted in the Netherlands by John Adams.

June 11, 1782 - The British evacuate Savannah, Georgia.

June 20, 1782 - Congress adopts the Great Seal of the United States of America.

August 19, 1782 - Loyalist and Indian forces attack and defeat American settlers near Lexington, Kentucky.

August 25, 1782 - Mohawk Indian Chief Joseph Brant conducts raids on settlements in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

August 27, 1782 - The last fighting of the Revolutionary War between Americans and British occurs with a skirmish in South Carolina along the Combahee River.

November 10, 1782 - The final battle of the Revolutionary War occurs as Americans retaliate against Loyalist and Indian forces by attacking a Shawnee Indian village in the Ohio territory.

November 30, 1782 - A preliminary peace treaty is signed in Paris. Terms include recognition of American independence and the boundaries of the United States, along with British withdrawal from America.

December 14, 1782 - The British evacuate Charleston, South Carolina.

December 15, 1782 - In France, strong objections are expressed by the French over the signing of the peace treaty in Paris without America first consulting them. Ben Franklin then soothes their anger with a diplomatic response and prevents a falling out between France and America.

January 20, 1783 - England signs a preliminary peace treaty with France and Spain.

February 3, 1783 - Spain recognizes the United States of America, followed later by Sweden, Denmark and Russia.

February 4, 1783 - England officially declares an end to hostilities in America.

March 10, 1783 - An anonymous letter circulates among Washington's senior officers camped at Newburgh, New York. The letter calls for an unauthorized meeting and urges the officers to defy the authority of the new U.S. national government (Congress) for its failure to honor past promises to the Continental Army. The next day, Gen. Washington forbids the unauthorized meeting and instead suggests a regular meeting to be held on March 15. A second anonymous letter then appears and is circulated. This letter falsely claims Washington himself sympathizes with the rebellious officers.

March 15, 1783 - General Washington gathers his officers and talks them out of a rebellion against the authority of Congress, and in effect preserves the American democracy. Read more about this

April 11, 1783 - Congress officially declares an end to the Revolutionary War.

April 26, 1783 - 7000 Loyalists set sail from New York for Canada, bringing a total of 100,000 Loyalists who have now fled America.

June 13, 1783 - The main part of the Continental Army disbands.

June 24, 1783 - To avoid protests from angry and unpaid war veterans, Congress leaves Philadelphia and relocates to Princeton, New Jersey.

July 8, 1783 - The Supreme Court of Massachusetts abolishes slavery in that state.

September 3, 1783 - The Treaty of Paris is signed by the United States and Great Britain. Congress will ratify the treaty on January 14, 1784.

October 7, 1783 - In Virginia, the House of Burgesses grants freedom to slaves who served in the Continental Army.

November 2, 1783 - George Washington delivers his farewell address to his army. The next day, remaining troops are discharged.

November 25, 1783 - Washington enters Manhattan as the last British troops leave.

November 26, 1783 - Congress meets in Annapolis, Maryland.

December 23, 1783 - Following a triumphant journey from New York to Annapolis, George Washington, victorious commander in chief of the American Revolutionary Army, appears before Congress and voluntarily resigns his commission, an event unprecedented in history.

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AIM occupation of Wounded Knee begins

On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, some 200 Sioux Native Americans, led by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM), occupy Wounded Knee, the site of the infamous 1890 massacre of 300 Sioux by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry. The AIM members, some of them armed, took 11 residents of the historic Oglala Sioux settlement hostage as local authorities and federal agents descended on the reservation.

AIM was founded in 1968 by Russell Means, Dennis Banks, and other Native leaders as a militant political and civil rights organization. From November 1969 to June 1971, AIM members occupied Alcatraz Island off San Francisco, saying they had the right to it under a treaty provision granting them unused federal land. In November 1972, AIM members briefly occupied the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., to protest programs controlling reservation development. Then, in early 1973, AIM prepared for its dramatic occupation of Wounded Knee. In addition to its historical significance, Wounded Knee was one of the poorest communities in the United States and shared with the other Pine Ridge settlements some of the country’s lowest rates of life expectancy.

The day after the Wounded Knee occupation began, AIM members traded gunfire with the federal marshals surrounding the settlement and fired on automobiles and low-flying planes that dared come within rifle range. Russell Means began negotiations for the release of the hostages, demanding that the U.S. Senate launch an investigation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and all Sioux reservations in South Dakota, and that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hold hearings on the scores of Indian treaties broken by the U.S. government.

The Wounded Knee occupation lasted for a total of 71 days, during which time two Sioux men were shot to death by federal agents and several more were wounded. On May 8, the AIM leaders and their supporters surrendered after officials promised to investigate their complaints. Russell Means and Dennis Banks were arrested, but on September 16, 1973, the charges against them were dismissed by a federal judge because of the U.S. government’s unlawful handling of witnesses and evidence.

Violence continued on the Pine Ridge Reservation throughout the rest of the 1970s, with several more AIM members and supporters losing their lives in confrontations with the U.S. government. In 1975, two FBI agents and a Native man were killed in a shoot-out between federal agents and AIM members and local residents. In the trial that followed, AIM member Leonard Peltier was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. With many of its leaders in prison, AIM disbanded in 1978. Local AIM groups continued to function, however, and in 1981 one group occupied part of the Black Hills in South Dakota. 

Congress took no steps to honor broken Indian treaties, but in the courts some tribes won major settlements from federal and state governments in cases involving tribal land claims. Russell Means continued to advocate for Native rights at Pine Ridge and elsewhere and in 1988 was a presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. In 2001, Means attempted to run for the governorship of New Mexico, but his candidacy was disallowed because procedure had not been followed. Beginning in 1992, Means appeared in several films, including Last of the Mohicans. He also had a guest spot on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. His autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread, was published in 1997. Means died on October 12, 2012, at age 72.


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