Home Lost Battalion Games Dispatch Lost Battalion Dispatch #10 Sept. 4, 2022

Lost Battalion Dispatch #10 Sept. 4, 2022

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Important Historical Occurrences for this Week

The Lost Battalion


Dispatch #10


Lost Battalion Dispatch #10 for the Week of September 4, 2022

This Week in History

The French Help Secure American Freedom. A War Hero Becomes a Movie Star.

Philadelphia burns after a successful raid by USS Intrepid (shown escaping in the foreground)
On September 4, 1804, USS Intrepid blew up in Tripoli harbor during an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the fleet of corsairs sheltering under the walls of the city. Intrepid was a French-built bomb ketch (equipped with mortars, rather than cannons) that was sold to Tripoli and dubbed Mastico. She was among the vessels that captured USS Philadelphia after the frigate ran aground on an uncharted reef near Tripoli in October of 1803.

Two months later, Mastico was captured by USS Enterprise and renamed Intrepid. Commodore Edward Preble, commander of the United States squadron in the Mediterranean, decided to use Intrepid for a raid into Tripoli harbor to destroy Philadelphia and thus prevent the pirates from using the powerful frigate as a corsair. Since Intrepid was fitted out in North African fashion, she had a chance of slipping into the harbor unnoticed. Lt. Stephen Decatur, Jr., who had been commanding Enterprise when Intrepid was captured, was put in command of Intrepid for this operation. On February 16, 1804, the ruse succeeded and Intrepid was able to tie up alongside Philadelphia without any alarm being sounded. Decatur led a 60-man boarding party that overwhelmed the ship’s watch with cutlasses and boarding axes before setting fire to Philadelphia and escaping aboard Intrepid. British Admiral Horatio Nelson is said to have commented that this was “the most bold and daring act of the age” when he heard of Decatur’s feat.

During late August, Intrepid was fitted out for her final mission; that of a fire ship. Loaded with 100 barrels of gunpowder and 150 armed shells, she sailed into Tripoli harbor commanded by Lt. Richard Somers with a crew of 12 volunteers. Fast-rowing boats from the three ships that escorted her to the harbor were dispatched to take the crew off after they maneuvered into position and lit the fuses. Intrepid was not so lucky on this occasion. She was recognized and fired upon by shore batteries before she could get into position amidst the corsair fleet. She exploded shortly after. Commodore Prebble concluded that Somers blew up the ship rather than be captured and enslaved when boats with Tripolitanian boarding parties approached. The bodies of all 13 Americans washed ashore the next day and were buried in an unmarked mass grave until 1949 when the Libyan government disinterred them and had them reburied in Tripoli’s Protestant Christian cemetery.

The Battle of the Virginia Capes
The Battle of the Virginia Capes was fought on September 5, 1781, between a French fleet under Rear Admiral Comte de Grasse and a British fleet under Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves. Opposing frigates on picket duty spotted the main fleets around 9:30 AM and the British, possessing the weather gage, maneuvered to engage. Many of DeGrasse’s ships were at anchor with large shore parties away. The tide was also against him, but he made the difficult decision to cut his anchors and sail out to fight with undermanned ships, many of which could not work all their guns. He ordered his ships to form a line as soon as they exited the Chesapeake Bay, without regard to normal sailing order. As a result, three ships-of-the-line were well ahead of the rest, giving the British an opportunity to cut them off. Fortunately for the French, Graves did not avail himself of this opportunity prompting one British observer to remark, “To the astonishment of the whole fleet, the French center were permitted without molestation to bear down to support their van.”

Graves hoisted contradictory signals as the two lines closed which resulted in a piecemeal arrival of his fleet to engage the French line. When battle was opened around 4 PM, the British were further hampered by high winds which forced them to keep their lower gun ports closed. The French employed their usual tactic of aiming for masts and rigging and, in this battle, it served them well. HMS Shrewsbury and Intrepid, at the head of the British line, became virtually unable to maneuver due to damage and fell out of line. The van of the French line also suffered considerable damage with the Diadème badly shot up and “utterly unable to keep up the battle.” About an hour into the battle, the winds began to shift in favor of the French and DeGrasse ordered his van to pull ahead of the British line. At this point, the center of both lines was able to effectively engage one another, but neither inflicted severe damage on their enemies. The rear squadrons of both fleets never really engaged.

As darkness fell and the firing ceased, both admirals assessed the results of the day. DeGrasse noted, “We perceived by the sailing of the English that they had suffered greatly.” Graves found that five of his ships were either leaking or unable to maneuver. HMS Terrible was so severely damaged that she was eventually scuttled. Nevertheless, the British retained the weather gage overnight to be able to close with the French again on the morrow. A standoff was maintained for the next three days, with the French briefly threatening to attack when the wind was in their favor on September 8th and 9th. On the 9th, French scouts spotted a reinforcing French fleet and DeGrasse returned to the Chesapeake Bay to join forces with them. The British sailed away for New York, leaving the French in control of the Chesapeake Bay and Cornwallis’ British army at Yorktown cut off from supply.

Stonewall Jackson’s troops occupied Fredrick, MD on September 6, 1862. This was the opening gambit of Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Maryland. Lee hoped that, by occupying Fredrick, Union garrisons at Harper’s Ferry and Martinsburg would be withdrawn, opening his line of supply into the Shenandoah Valley. Instead, Union General-in-Chief Henry Halleck ordered the garrisons to remain in place. This forced Lee to move against Martinsburg and Harper’s Ferry directly, dividing his force in the process. To make matters worse, a copy of Lee’s order for the Harper’s Ferry operation was discovered wrapped around three cigars in an abandoned Confederate camp. This gave the newly appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, George McClellan, the perfect opportunity to defeat the Confederate army in detail and set the stage for the bloodiest single-day battle in American history: Antietam.
Jackson at Antietam as painted by Mort Künstler
Charge of the Chevau-Leger Lancers at the Battle of Borodino
On September 12, 1812, the Battle of Borodino was fought between the French, under Napoleon, and the Russians, under Kutuzov. 68,000 men were killed or wounded, making it the deadliest day in the history of warfare prior to the 1914 Battle of the Marne. A third of the Russian army was destroyed and the French held the battlefield, but it was something of a Pyrrhic victory for Napoleon. While the Emperor of France would succeed in driving the Emperor of Russia out of his capital at Moscow as a result, attrition would soon drive the French army out of Russia and lead to the War of the Sixth Coalition wherein Napoleon was defeated and exiled to the island of Elba.
Sir Jeffery Amherst
The French surrendered the city of Montreal to Sir Jeffery Amherst on September 8, 1760. This effectively ended the French presence in North America. Amherst owed his success to General James Wolfe whose brilliant victory almost a year earlier at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, outside Quebec, had so weakened and demoralized the French that they surrendered without a fight.

Amherst would achieve infamy for his approval of a plan to spread smallpox among the native population he was fighting during the French & Indian War. Montreal removed his name from city streets and Amherst College changed its mascot to the Mammoth to distance itself from the general after whom the town where it is located is named.

In 1955, September 9th marked the premiere of “To Hell And Back,” the movie version of Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy’s story. Murphy portrayed himself in the film. Murphy would go on to star in numerous films including John Houston’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” He also bred racing Quarter Horses, a hobby which would later lead him into financial difficulties due to gambling. Even when hard-pressed by the IRS over back taxes, Murphy refused to appear in advertisements for alcohol or cigarettes since he considered himself a role model for American youth.
To Hell And Back Movie Poster
Oliver Hazard Perry, with his “Don’t Give Up the Ship” pennant flying above his flagship USS Lawrence, namesake of the Revolutionary War captain who had made the saying famous, won the Battle of Lake Eire on September 10, 1813. When the Lawrence was disabled during the battle, Perry transferred his flag to USS Niagra which subsequently moved into position to rake the British ships Detroit and Queen Charlotte, forcing them to surrender. Perry then reboarded Lawrence to formally accept the British capitulation.
Oliver Hazard Perry
Refight the Battle of the Virginia Capes with Enemy In Sight

Enemy In Sight is an exciting card game of skill and luck for two to eight players that puts you in command of a fleet of Age of Sail warships. Sail your line of battle into harm’s way, open fire with broadsides, dismast the enemy, grapple, and send your Marines to board through the smoke! If things go badly, put out the fires with a bucket brigade and send your ship back to port for repairs. Whatever happens, don’t give up the ship! Check it out by clicking here: Enemy in Sight.

Watch a short video preview of Enemy  In Sight here if clicking on the image doesn’t work.
About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

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