A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical Occurrences

This Week in History: Recorded military history begins, San Fransisco is destroyed, and a shot is heard ’round the world.

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The Lost Battalion Dispatch #42 for the Week of April 16, 2023

Inscription of Thutmose III Slaying Canaanites at the Temple of Karnak

The annuals of military history date back to April 16th, 1457, BC, when the battle of Megiddo was fought between Pharaoh Thutmose III and the king of Kadesh.

Kadesh was the leader of a coalition of Canaanite cities that rebelled against their Egyptian overlord and allied with powerful Mesopotamian kingdoms. Thutmose III viewed these cities as a buffer between his empire and rivals in the Land between the Rivers. As soon he reached his majority and was no longer subject to the regency of his stepmother Hatshepsut, he gathered his armies and marched north.

His scribe Tjaneni kept records of the campaign. Some of these were later inscribed on the walls of the Temple of Karnak, making them the earliest more or less reliable account of a military engagement. Tjaneni records that the pharaoh assembled an army of between 10 and 20 thousand infantry and chariots for the campaign and advanced rapidly toward Megiddo, a fortress city that controlled the Jezreel Valley and what would later be called the Via Maris, or Way of the Sea, the only viable trade route between Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The king of Kadesh and his allies blocked the direct approaches to Megiddo with large troops of infantry, but Thutmose III bypassed these by personally leading an advance force of chariots and light infantry through a narrow ravine at Wadi Ara. The surprised Canaanites drew up for battle outside Megiddo but did not immediately engage Thutmose III, allowing him to bring up the rest of his infantry during the night. The next day, he routed the Canaanites. They fled into Megiddo. Thutmose III laid siege to the city and captured it seven months later. Tjaneni records that the pharaoh returned to Egypt with 340 prisoners, 2,041 mares, 191 foals, six stallions, 924 chariots, 200 suits of armor, 502 bows, 1,929 cattle, 22,500 sheep, and the royal armor, chariot and tent-poles of the king of Megiddo. The king of Kadesh managed to escape. The subsequent subjugation of Canaan was the high-water mark of the Egyptian Empire.

Thutmose III’s battle of Megiddo was the first of many recorded battles in the area. Napoleon fought the Ottomans in the Jezreel Vally in 1799. He famously called Megiddo “the most natural battleground on the whole earth.” British general Edmund Allenby’s victory over the Ottomans in 1918 earned him the moniker “Allenby of Armageddon.”

The word Armageddon is Hebrew for “hill of Megiddo.” It is in the context of the strategic importance of Megiddo as a battlefield that the book of Revelations uses the word as a symbol for the final battle at the end of time.

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A Sparse Gathering for Syrian Evacuation Day Ceremonies in 2019

April 17th is Evacuation Day in Syria, the national holiday marking the date in 1946 when the last French troops left the country. The country’s civilian government survived the French’s departure by only three years. Since 1949 a series of military dictators have controlled Syria. The idea of Syrian independence has taken on an even more hollow ring in recent years. SANA, the state-controlled news agency, has not published an article about Evacuation Day celebrations since 2019.
San Fransisco was virtually destroyed by an earthquake and fire on April 18th, 1906.

Novelist Jack London wrote of the devastation of the quake and the battle against the fire:

On Wednesday morning at a quarter past five came the earthquake. A minute later the flames were leaping upward In a dozen different quarters south of Market Street, in the working-class ghetto, and in the factories, fires started. There was no opposing the flames. There was no organization, no communication. All the cunning adjustments of a twentieth century city had been smashed by the earthquake. The streets were humped into ridges and depressions, and piled with the debris of fallen walls. The steel rails were twisted into perpendicular and horizontal angles. The telephone and telegraph systems were disrupted. And the great water-mains had burst. All the shrewd contrivances and safeguards of man had been thrown out of gear by thirty seconds’ twitching of the earth-crust.

By Wednesday afternoon, inside of twelve hours, half the heart of the city was gone. At that time I watched the vast conflagration from out on the bay. It was dead calm. Not a flicker of wind stirred. Yet from every side wind was pouring in upon the city. East, west, north, and south, strong winds were blowing upon the doomed city. The heated air rising made an enormous suck. Thus did the fire of itself build its own colossal chimney through the atmosphere. Day and night this dead calm continued, and yet, near to the flames, the wind was often half a gale, so mighty was the suck.

Wednesday night saw the destruction of the very heart of the city. Dynamite was lavishly used, and many of San Francisco proudest structures were crumbled by man himself into ruins, but there was no withstanding the onrush of the flames. Time and again successful stands were made by the fire-fighters, and every time the flames flanked around on either side or came up from the rear, and turned to defeat the hard-won victory.

San Fransisco was the largest city on the West Coast and the ninth largest in the United States at the time. 80% of the building were wiped out, and up to 300,000 of the 410,000 inhabitants were left homeless. Broken gas mains caused most of the fires described by London. Some residents reportedly burned their own homes because they were insured for fire but not for earthquakes. Although the city was quickly rebuilt, the economic disruption resulted in a permanent redirection of trade south to Los Angeles.

Jack London Photograph of San Fransisco After 1906 Earthquake

Replica of Concord’s North Bridge at Minute Man National Historical Park

The Shot Heard ’Round the World was fired on April 19th, 1775.

Warned by the “midnight rides” of Paul Revere, Willian Dawes, and Samuel Prescott that a large party of British “redcoats” had left Boston and were bound for Lexington, Colonial militia from towns as far as 25 miles away began to assemble before the British had even debarked from their boats in Cambridge. After it was determined that the target of the British was a cache of militia supplies in Concord, the residents hid many of the stores while militia and Minutemen began to converge along the expected route of march.

The first confrontation between the militia and the British Regulars came shortly after sunrise. Captain John Parker’s Lexington militia of about 80 men was assembled on the village common when a British officer rode up to them and demanded, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels.” Parker ordered the militia to disperse and not to fire. They began to leave slowly but without laying down their arms. Someone fired a shot. Both sides later claimed the other was responsible. The Regulars began firing volleys at the militia. The militia fled. Eight of them were killed, and ten were wounded. The British column, 700 strong, marched on toward Concord.

In Concord, about 250 militia had assembled when word arrived of events in Lexington. They marched toward the town until they met the British column. Then, being outnumbered, they retreated back to Concord and across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile from town where they could watch the British while more militia arrived.

The British sent only a few light troops to secure the North Bridge while they acted on intelligence from Loyalist spies and destroyed whatever they could find in Concord. With less than 100 men at his disposal, the British commander at the North Bridge became uneasy as more Minutemen and militia gathered on the hill. He sent for reinforcements, but none arrived. His fears were realized when about 400 Colonials began to approach the bridge. Both sides had orders not to fire unless fired upon. Some of the British troops panicked and fired a few shots. The rest, thinking the order to fire had been given, loosed a volley, killing two militiamen. The Colonials returned fire, wounding several officers and killing some British troops. The British retreated from the bridge, and some Colonials crossed it and took up a defensive position behind a stone wall. At about that time, British reinforcements arrived. A stand-off ensued. Not willing to provoke further fighting but unwilling to withdraw, the British continued to search Concord and then ate lunch before beginning the march back to Boston. The delay would prove costly.

Swarms of militia had now assembled along the road between Concord and Lexington. They harried the British column. One militiaman wrote, “We pursued them and killed some; when they got to Lexington, they were so close pursued and fatigued, that they must have soon surrendered, had not Lord Percy met them with a large reinforcement and two field-pieces.”

Lt. General Hugh Smithson, Earl Percy, whose 1700-man reinforcing column rescued the beleaguered redcoats at Lexington, had hurried along with little ammunition. His men had only 36 rounds each, and his cannon had only enough for a few shots. The ammunition wagons trailing him had been ambushed by elderly colonials too old to join the militia companies. He quickly retreated toward Boston, with the Colonials pursuing and ambushing along the way.

He wrote:

During the whole affair the Rebels attacked us in a very scattered, irregular manner, but with perseverance & resolution, nor did they ever dare to form into any regular body. Indeed, they knew too well what was proper, to do so. Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob, will find himself much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about, having been employed as Rangers against the Indians & Canadians, & this country being much covered with wood, and hilly, is very advantageous for their method of fighting.

The exhausted British finally reached the hills of Charlestown as evening drew near. They sheltered under the cover of cannons from the HMS Somerset, having suffered 73 killed, 174 wounded, and 53 missing. By morning, over 15,000 militia surrounded Boston. The American Revolution had begun.

In 1837 poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Concord Hymn” for the dedication of a monument commemorating the battles of Lexington and Concord. Describing the action at the North Bridge, he wrote:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,

Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,

Here once the embattled farmers stood,

And fired the shot heard round the world.

Hitler Awards Iron Crosses to Boys of the Hitler Youtn

Adolph Hitler emerged from his subterranean hiding place in Berlin on April 20th, 1945. On his 56th and final birthday, the Führer awarded the Iron Cross to several boys from the Hitler Youth. It would be the last time he saw daylight. Ten days later, he was dead.

Replica of the Red Baron’s Fokker Dr. I

Manfred von Richthofen, known as the “Red Baron,” was killed on April 21st, 1918. The RAF credited Arthur Roy Brown with shooting down the dreaded German ace who had scored his 79th and 80th aerial kills just the day before. Brown was the last airman to fire at Richthofen, but autopsy records indicate a gunner on the ground likely inflicted the wound that killed the German. Two Australians, Cedric Popkin, and W.F. “Snowy” Evans, are the most likely suspects.
On April 22nd, 1944, Carter Harman performed the first helicopter combat rescue. Harman was part of the USAAF’s first class of five helicopter pilots. After training at Sikorsky Aircraft’s headquarters in Connecticut, he became part of 1st Air Commando Group. When the Japanese shot down a medical evacuation plane over Burma, his YR-4B helicopter was the only one of the four that was serviceable. Because the small size of the cabin limited him to two passengers, Harman needed to make two flights on April 22nd and 23rd to rescue the American pilot and three wounded British soldiers.

Sikorsky YR-4B

A Spirited Game of Sergeants at Adepticon 2023

Big things have come out of our trip to the convention! Look for announcements about new products and other great stuff in the coming months!

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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.

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