Sunday, May 6, 2012

Battles of Puebla & Williamsburg

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of two battles, both worthy of note: the Battle of Puebla, Mexico and the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia.

The battle of Puebla is better known if only for its anniversary -- Cinco de Mayo.  At this battle a force of Mexicans fighting for the government of the anti-clerical Benito Juarez defeated a French force at the city of Puebla, state of Puebla, Mexico.  The French had intervened in Mexico, with the support of several other European states, because of President Juarez's decision to suspend payment of interest on foreign debts.  The battle at Puebla was a Mexican victory in the opening phases of the intervention.  Ultimately, however, the French would install an Emperor -- Mexico's second -- to replace Juarez.  Maximilian I, as he was known, would reign from 1864-1867, until he was defeated by Juarez and executed.  So, Cinco de Mayo is a splendid day to celebrate a refusal to pay interest on your debts, and anti-clerical governments!  I would postpone my celebration of Mexico to 12 December.
Battle of Puebla, 5 May 1862.

The other battle, that of Williamsburg, was part of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign in the American Civil War.  The Union Army of the Potomac under Major General George B. McClellan had landed on the peninsula between the James and York Rivers in Virginia in an effort to seize the capital, Richmond.  His massive force of 146,000 had practically nothing standing in his way at the outset of the campaign in April 1862, save a small force, 11,000 men, under the Confederate Major General John Magruder.  After carefully preparing to assault Magruder's lines at Yorktown, the Confederates, now reinforced and under the command of General Joseph Johnston, had withdrawn.  At Williamsburg, the Union army struck at the Confederate rearguard. (Here is a good battle description from the NPS:; and another from the Civil War Daily Gazette:  At the end of the month, Johnston and the Confederate army would strike back...
File:Battle of Williamsburg.png
Battle of Williamsburg, 5 May 1862, by Kutz and Allison (1893AD).

An interesting bit of trivia: General Magruder, who fought on the Peninsula in 1862 for the Confederacy, would later serve in Emperor Maximilian I's army in Mexico!

Major General John "Prince John" Magruder

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