This Day in U.S. Military History…… November 27

27 November
1826 – Jedediah Smith’s expedition reached San Diego, becoming the first Americans to cross the south-western part of the continent. He crossed the Mohave Desert and the San Bernadino Mountains from Utah. In 1826 at the Cache Valley summer rendezvous, in what is now northern Utah, but at that time a part of Mexico, General William H. Ashley sold out his interests in the fur trade to Jedediah Smith, David Jackson, and William Sublette. Following the purchase, Smith and seventeen fellow trappers began the famous South West Expedition, which proved to be instumental in combating the pretensions of Mexico, Great Britain, France, and even Russia, to a vast domain, which would become (in large part) the western United States. Those eighteen men became the first Anglo-Americans to traverse the harsh Mojave Desert, before reaching California in November 1826. They had also been the first of their race to cross the high Sierra Nevada range of the Rockies and the Great Basin, the latter encompassing most of Nevada, along with parts of Utah, California, Oregon, and Idaho. In the process the expedition disproved the existence of a river, which it had been thought could be found, with an unobstructed flow from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco.
1863 – Battle of Payne’s Farm, Va. Payne’s Farm and New Hope Church were the first and heaviest clashes of the Mine Run Campaign. In late November 1863, Meade attempted to steal a march through the Wilderness and strike the right flank of the Confederate army south of the Rapidan River. Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early in command of Ewell’s Corps marched east on the Orange Turnpike to meet the advance of William French’s III Corps near Payne’s Farm. Carr’s division (US) attacked twice. Johnson’s division (CS) counterattacked but was scattered by heavy fire and broken terrain. After dark, Lee withdrew to prepared field fortifications along Mine Run. The next day the Union army closed on the Confederate position. Skirmishing was heavy, but a major attack did not materialize. Meade concluded that the Confederate line was too strong to attack and retired during the night of December 1-2, ending the winter campaign.
1863 – Confederate cavalry raider John Hunt Morgan and several of his men break out of the Ohio state prison and escape safely to the South. Morgan was raised in Kentucky and served in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor. He was a successful hemp manufacturer before the war, but he moved to Alabama when Kentucky did not secede with the rest of the South. Morgan became a hero in the South when he made four daring raids on northern-held territory in 1862 and 1863. Though these raids were of limited strategic value, they boosted Southern morale and kept thousands of Federal troops occupied trying to hunt down Morgan. On his last raid, however, his reach exceeded his grasp. He took a large band and headed into Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. After riding past Cincinnati, Morgan and his men tried to cross the Ohio River back into Kentucky, but they were surprised and routed by a larger Federal force at Buffington Island, Ohio. With his escape blocked, Morgan turned into northeastern Ohio but was finally surrounded by pursuing Yankee cavalry at Salineville on July 26, 1863. Morgan and several of his top officers were incarcerated in the newly constructed Ohio State Penitentiary at Columbus while the rest of his men were sent to various Northern prisoner of war camps. Morgan and his men burrowed out of the prison by cutting a hole in the cell of one of the inmates. Below the cell was a crawl space for ventilation and they tunneled to the outside and journeyed safely to Confederate territory. Morgan returned to his cavalry activities in Tennessee after his escape. At Greeneville, Tennessee, in 1864, Morgan fell victim to the same kind of raid that he so often conducted and Yankee cavalry killed him.
1864 – An explosion and fire destroyed General Butler’s headquarters steamer Greyhound, on the James River, Virginia, and narrowly missed killing Butler, Major General Schenck, and Rear Admiral Porter, on board for a conference on the forthcoming Fort Fisher expedition. Because of the nature of the explosion, it is likely that one of the deadly Confederate coal torpedoes had been planted in Greyhound’s boiler. “The furnace door blew open,” recalled Butler, “and scattered coals throughout the room.” The so-called “coal torpedo” was a finely turned piece of cast iron containing ten pounds of powder and made to resemble closely a lump of coal, and was capable of being used with devastating effect. As Admiral Porter later described the incident: ”We had left Bermuda Hundred five or six miles behind us when suddenly an explosion forward startled us, and in a moment large volumes of smoke poured out of the engine-room.” The Admiral went on to marvel at the ingenuity which nearly cost him his life: ”In devices for blowing up vessels the Confederates were far ahead of us, putting Yankee ingenuity to shame.” This device was suspected of being the cause of several unexplained explosions during the war.
1864 – Ram U.S.S. Vindicator, Acting Lieutenant Gorringe, and small stern-wheeler U.S.S. Prairie Bird, Acting Master Burns, transported and covered a successful Union cavalry attack on Confederate communications in western Mississippi. Thirty miles of track and the important railroad bridge over the Big Black River, east of Vicksburg, were destroyed. Major General Dana praised the part of the gunboats in the expedition: ”The assistance of the vessels of the Sixth Division Mississippi Squadron rendered the expedition a complete success.
1868 – Without bothering to identify the village or do any reconnaissance, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer leads an early morning attack on a band of peaceful Cheyenne living with Chief Black Kettle. Convicted of desertion and mistreatment of soldiers earlier that year in a military court, the government had suspended Custer from rank and command for one year. Ten months into his punishment, in September 1868, General Philip Sheridan reinstated Custer to lead a campaign against Cheyenne Indians who had been making raids in Kansas and Oklahoma that summer. Sheridan was frustrated by the inability of his other officers to find and engage the enemy, and despite his poor record and unpopularity with the men of the 7th Cavalry, Custer was a good fighter. Sheridan determined that a campaign in winter might prove more effective, since the Indians could be caught off guard while in their permanent camps. On November 26, Custer located a large village of Cheyenne encamped near the Washita River, just outside of present-day Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Custer did not attempt to identify which group of Cheyenne was in the village, or to make even a cursory reconnaissance of the situation. Had he done so, Custer would have discovered that they were peaceful people and the village was on reservation soil, where the commander of Fort Cobb had guaranteed them safety. There was even a white flag flying from one of the main dwellings, indicating that the tribe was actively avoiding conflict. Having surrounded the village the night before, at dawn Custer called for the regimental band to play “Garry Owen,” which signaled for four columns of soldiers to charge into the sleeping village. Outnumbered and caught unaware, scores of Cheyenne were killed in the first 15 minutes of the “battle,” though a small number of the warriors managed to escape to the trees and return fire. Within a few hours, the village was destroyed–the soldiers had killed 103 Cheyenne, including the peaceful Black Kettle and many women and children. Hailed as the first substantial American victory in the Indian wars, the Battle of the Washita helped to restore Custer’s reputation and succeeded in persuading many Cheyenne to move to the reservation. However, Custer’s habit of boldly charging Indian encampments of unknown strength would eventually lead him to his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
1901 – The Army War College was established in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Army War College was established by General Order 155. Our founding father was Secretary of War Elihu Root, one of the great visionaries of the era. As he laid the cornerstone for the War College building at Washington Barracks (now Fort McNair) on 21 February 1903, Secretary Root made the following statement about why the College was founded: “Not to promote war, but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression….” It endures today as the U.S. Army War College motto. At the same time, he charged the College: “To study and confer on the great problems of national defense, or military science, and of responsible command.”
1909 – U.S. troops land in Bluefields, Nicaragua, to protect American interests there. In October, 1909, there was an anti-Zelaya rebellion in Bluefields, a foreign and Conservative stronghold. The rebels supported the local governor, Juan Estrada. The rebellion “at least” had the sympathy of the US mining company and probably its connivance. When the Zelaya forces caught and executed two US citizens (professional dynamiters who worked for the company) for being in the rebellion, Taft broke relations with Zelaya and sent Marines to Bluefields. Zelaya was forced out and, in August, 1910, Estrada became the provisional president.
1942 – During World War II, the French navy at Toulon scuttled its ships and submarines to keep them out of the hands of the Nazis.
1942 – Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix is born in Seattle. Hendrix grew up playing guitar, imitating blues greats like Muddy Waters as well as early rockers. He joined the army in 1959 and became a paratrooper but was honorably discharged in 1961 after an injury that exempted him from duty in Vietnam. In the early 1960s, Hendrix worked as a pickup guitarist, backing musicians including Little Richard, B.B. King, Ike and Tina Turner, and Sam Cooke. In 1964, he moved to New York and played in coffeehouses, where bassist Bryan Chandler of the British group the Animals heard him. Chandler arranged to manage Hendrix and brought him to London in 1966, where they created the Jimi Hendrix Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. The band’s first single, “Hey Joe,” hit No. 6 on the British pop charts, and the band became an instant sensation. In 1967, the Jimi Hendrix Experience made its first U.S. appearance, at the Monterey Pop Festival. Hendrix made a splash by burning his guitar and was quickly established as a rock superstar. In the next two years, before the band broke up in 1969, it had released such classic songs as “Purple Haze,” “Foxy Lady,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” The band’s albums included Are You Experienced? (1967), Bold as Love (1969), and Electric Ladyland (1969). After the band dissolved because of creative tensions, Hendrix made his famous appearance at Woodstock, playing a masterful, intricate version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Later that year, he put together a new group called the Band of Gypsies, which debuted on New Year’s Eve in 1969. The band put out only one album, Band of Gypsies (1969). (A second album, Band of Gypsies II, was released in 1986.) Hendrix then recorded another album, without the band, called The Cry of Love, which was released in 1971. Hendrix, one of the most innovative guitar players of the rock era, established an advanced recording studio in New York called the Electric Lady, boasting 46-track recording technology. The studio opened in August 1970, shortly before Hendrix died in London in September 1970, following a drug overdose. He was 28.
1944 – The second B-29 Superfortress bombing raid on Tokyo nominally targets the Musashi aircraft engine plant.
1944 – Around Burauen, on Leyte, Japanese force continue to attack and receive a small number of parachute reinforcements. There is heavy fighting around Burauen airfield. At sea, the battleship USS Colorado and 2 light cruisers are damaged in Kamikaze attacks.
1944 – Cordell Hull resigns his post as Secretary of State. Edward Stettinius is appointed to succeed him.
1945 – Gen. George C. Marshall was named special U.S. envoy to China to try to end hostilities between the Nationalists and the Communists.
1950 – Eighth Army’s 2nd, 24th and 25th Infantry Divisions began withdrawing to the south of the Chongchon River in the face of the Chinese offensive. In the east, X Corps launched its planned offensive, not knowing Eighth Army’s plight.
1950 – East of the Chosin River, Chinese forces annihilated an American task force. Col. Barber (d.2002 at 82) and 220 soldiers in Fox Company withstood a 5-day assault to protect an escape pass.
1951 – 1st rocket to intercept an airplane was fired at White Sands, NM.
1951 – Cease-fire and demarcation zone accord was signed in Panmunjom, Korea.
1954 – After 44 months in prison, former government official Alger Hiss is released and proclaims once again that he is innocent of the charges that led to his incarceration. One of the most famous figures of the Cold War period, Hiss was convicted in 1950 of perjury for lying to a federal grand jury. Specifically, Hiss was judged to have lied about his complicity in passing secret government documents to Whittaker Chambers, who thereupon passed the papers along to agents of the Soviet Union. Upon his release, Hiss immediately declared that he wished to “reassert my complete innocence of the charges that were brought against me by Whittaker Chambers.” He claimed that his conviction was the result of the “fear and hysteria of the times,” and stated that he was going to “resume my efforts to dispel the deception that has been foisted on the American people.” He was confident that such efforts would “vindicate my name.” Some observers remained skeptical of Hiss’s protestations. Senator Karl Mundt felt that further investigation of the matter would probably be a waste of time, unless Hiss decided “to come clean and tell the whole story.” Chambers issued a brief statement in which he declared that the “saddest single factor about the Hiss case is that nobody can change the facts as they are known…They are there forever. That is the inherent tragedy of this case.” The controversy over the facts in the Hiss case is also here forever. It remains a highly charged issue. His defenders argue that Hiss was a victim of the Red Scare that swept through the U.S. during the 1940s and 1950s. Others are equally adamant in maintaining his guilt, claiming that documents recently released from Soviet archives strongly support the case that Hiss was a spy for the Soviet Union.
1957 – Army withdrew from Little Rock, Ark., after Central HS integration. 1959 – Demonstrators marched in Tokyo to protest a defense treaty with the US.
1961 – Navy reports first use of its cyclotron at Harvard University to treat a human brain tumor. After three treatments, the tumor of the 2-year old patient shrank by eighty percent.
1965 – The Pentagon informs President Johnson that if General Westmoreland is to conduct the major sweep operations necessary to destroy enemy forces during the coming year, U.S. troop strength should be increased from 120,000 to 400,000 men.
1965 – The Viet Cong release two U.S. special forces soldiers captured two years earlier during a battle of Hiep Hoa, 40 miles southwest of Saigon. At a news conference in Phnom Penh three days later, the two Americans, Sgt. George Smith and Specialist 5th Class Claude McClure, declared that they opposed U.S. actions in Vietnam and would campaign for the withdrawal of American troops. Although Smith later denied making the statement, U.S. authorities announced that the two men would face trial for cooperating with the enemy.
1970 – A South Vietnamese task force, operating in southeastern Cambodia, comes under North Vietnamese attack near the town of Krek. The South Vietnamese command reported repelling the assault and killing enemy soldiers. The South Vietnamese command also reported killing 33 Viet Cong in the Rung Sat special zone, 23 miles southeast of Saigon.
1973 – The Senate voted 92-3 to confirm Gerald R. Ford as vice president, succeeding Spiro T. Agnew, who’d resigned.
1991 – The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution paving the way for the establishment of a U.N. peacekeeping operation in war-ravaged Yugoslavia.
1995 – Defense Secretary William Perry, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” suggested the Bosnian government had lost the war in the Balkans, and acknowledged NATO was powerless to stop the Serbs.
1996 – Evan C. Hunziker, an American jailed by North Korea on spy charges, was set free, ending a three-month ordeal.
1996 – In Bosnia Gen’l. Ratko Mladic agreed to resign. He passed authority to his deputy Gen’l. Manojlo Milovanovich. Mladic is still at large and wanted for war crimes.
1997 – aA day fter saying it would open its presidential palaces to international observers, Iraq declared that U.N. weapons monitors were not included in the invitation.
2001 – In Afghanistan the Northern Alliance declared the Taliban prisoner uprising at Qala Jangi crushed after 50 hours.
2001 – Afghan factions met in Bonn, Germany, and agreed to give former King Mohammad Zahir Shah a role in a new Afghan government. 4 factions included 11 delegates from the Northern Alliance, 11 from the Rome Group, 3 from exiles in Cyprus, and 3 from exiles in Pakistan.
2002 – Pres. Bush selected Henry Kissinger to lead an investigation into intelligence lapses before the Sept. 11 attacks. Report deadline was mid-2004. The following month Kissinger stepped down, citing controversy over potential conflicts of interest with his business clients.
2002 – International arms monitors searched a military missile-testing range and a state factory outside Baghdad, starting a new round of inspections that could determine the future of peace in the Middle East.
2003 – Pres. Bush flew to Iraq under extraordinary secrecy and security to spend Thanksgiving with US troops.
2009 – Space Shuttle Atlantis returns to Earth following the completion of its STS-129 mission. STS-129 (ISS assembly flight ULF3) was a NASA Space Shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Atlantis was launched on November 16, 2009 at 14:28 EST, and landed at 09:44 EST on November 27, 2009 on runway 33 at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. STS-129 focused on staging spare components outside the station. The 11-day flight included three spacewalks. The payload bay carried two large ExPRESS Logistics Carriers holding two spare gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly, a spare latching end effector for the station’s robotic arm, a spare trailing umbilical system for the Mobile Transporter, and a high-pressure gas tank. STS-129 was the first flight of an ExPRESS Logistics Carrier. The completion of this mission left six space shuttle flights remaining until the end of the Space Shuttle program, after STS-135 was approved in February 2011.

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