Union soldier of the American Civil War, in a note pinned to the inside of his jacket.
Many Union soldiers knew that their assault in the Battle of Cold Harbor (June 3rd, 1864) would be a massacre, and therefore placed final notes or love letters inside their jackets prior to leaving their entrenchments. It is remembered as one of American history’s bloodiest, most lopsided battles, and one that leading commander Ulysses S. Grant regretted for the rest of his life.
Every soldier anticipates the very real likelihood that they will die during their service. But I can’t imagine knowingly running headlong into certain death like this. What was it like to accept such a fate? What were their final thoughts?
This 260 page tome is about one of the most decisive but understated military battles in the history of Europe, pitting the ascendent Ottoman Empire against the Knights of St. John, some of Europe’s finest warriors.
At stake was a tiny island that not only allowed control over much of the trade-rich Mediterranean, but could be used to invade Italy and possibly Europe. So far it’s been an informative, balanced, and gripping read, and will likely appeal to those who particularly enjoy military and Medieval history.
Besides serving as the Mexican equivalent to St. Patrick’s Day (at least in the US), Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s resounding victory against the French in the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5th, 1862.
France invaded and occupied Mexico because it refused to pay interest to its foreign debt, and because Napoleon III had imperial ambitions (much like his more famous uncle). France was one of the most powerful countries at the time, while Mexico was weakened by instability and poverty. Mexico’s forces had been under-equipped and outnumbered (about 4,000 versus 8,000), but managed to hold their own and win through tactical superiority and greater morale. The nonetheless unlikely victory is why the battle remains celebrated to this day.
Well, sort of: Cinco De Mayo is actually not a major holiday in Mexico itself (except in the Puebla region where the battle was fought). It’s far more popular in the US, where it is often mistaken as Mexico’s independence day (which is actually on September 16). Apparently, the holiday began in California to protest the French occupation of Mexico. Afterward, it clearly caught on and evolved into a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture (any excuse to get sloshed right? :P)
In any case, I hope you all have a happy – AND SAFE! – Cinco De Mayo.
[Note that despite losing the battle, the French did actually go on to win the war, occupying Mexico until around 1867, when Maximilian I, who had been installed by the French as a monarch, was overthrown and executed by Mexican revolutionaries. So despite losing the bigger battle, Mexico remained proud that it was able to hold it’s own and eventually win it’s freedom.]