The Pequot War
In the New World during the 17th century, battles were raging as colonists struggled against Native Americans. One of the first was known as the Pequot War, which lasted two years from 1634 through 1638.
At the heart of this conflict, the Pequot and Mohegan tribes fought each other for political power and trading capabilities with the newcomers. The Dutch sided with the Pequots and the English with the Mohegans. It all ended with the Treaty of Hartford in 1638 and the English claiming victory.
Hostilities on the continent were quelled until King Philip's War broke out in 1675. This, too, was a battle over Native American rights to lands being inhabited by settlers. Both wars would shadow the white and native relationship into a civilization versus savagery debate for two more centuries.
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
The French Revolution began in 1789 after famine, excess taxes, and a financial crisis hit the common people of France. Their overthrow of the monarchy in 1791 led to one of the most notorious wars in European history.
It all began in 1792 with French troops invading Austria. From there, it spanned the globe and saw the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte (r. 1804–1814). The Napoleonic Wars began in 1803.
By war's end in 1815, most of Europe had been involved in the conflict. It also resulted in America's first conflict known as the Quasi-War.
Napoleon was defeated, King Louis XVIII (r. 1815–1824) was crowned in France, and new borders were drawn for European countries. In addition, England took over as the dominant world power.
The Mexican-American War
After fighting the Second Seminole War in Florida, American army officers were well-trained to handle their next conflict. It began when Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836 and culminated with the U.S. annexation of the state in 1845.
By early 1846, the first stage was set for battle and in May, U.S. President James K. Polk (served 1845–1849) asked for a declaration of war. The battles stretched beyond the Texas borders, reaching all the way to the California coast.
In the end, the southern border of the United States was established with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. With it came land that would soon become the states of California, Nevada, Texas, and Utah as well as portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
The American Civil War
The American Civil War would become known as one of the bloodiest and most divisive in history. At times, it literally pitted family members against each other as North and South fought hard battles. In total, over 600,000 soldiers were killed from both sides, more than in all other U.S. wars combined.
The cause of the Civil War was the Confederate desire to secede from the Union. Behind this were many factors, including slavery, state's rights, and political power. It was a conflict that had been brewing for years and despite best efforts, it could not be prevented.
War broke out in 1861 and battles raged until General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) at Appomattox in 1865. The United States was preserved, but the war left scars on the nation that would take quite some time to heal.
World War I
While the previous century had a good deal of conflict, no one could predict what the 20th century had in store. This became an era of global conflict and it started in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914, led to this war that lasted through 1918. In the beginning, it was two alliances of three countries each pitted against one another. The Triple Entente included Britain, France, and Russia while the Central Powers included Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire.
By war's end, more countries, including the U.S., became involved. The fighting spanned and devastated most of Europe, and over 15 million people were killed.
Yet, this was only the beginning. World War I set the stage for further tensions and one of the most devastating wars in history.
World War II
It is hard to imagine the devastation that could take place in six short years. What would become known as World War II saw fighting on a scale like never before.
As in the previous war, countries took sides and were divided into two groups. The Axis powers included Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japan. On the other side were the Allies, made up of Great Britain, France, Russia, China, and the United States.
This war started due to numerous factors. A weakened global economy and the Great Depression and Hitler and Mussolini's rise to power were chief among them. The catalyst was Germany's invasion of Poland.
World War II was truly a global war, touching every continent and country in some way. Most of the fighting occurred in Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia, with all of Europe taking the most devastating hits.
Tragedies and atrocities were documented all over. Notably, the Holocaust alone resulted in over 11 million people killed, 6 million of which were Jewish. Somewhere between 22 and 26 million men died in battle during the war. In the final act of the war, between 70,000 and 80,000 Japanese were killed when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Vietnam War
The French had fought in the Southeast Asian country of Vietnam during the 1950s. This left the country split in two with a communist government taking over the north. The stage is very similar to that of Korea just a decade earlier.
When leader Ho Chi Minh (served 1945–1969) invaded the democratic South Vietnam in 1959, the U.S. sent aid to train the southern army. It was not long before the mission changed.
By 1964, the U.S. forces were under attack by the North Vietnamese. This caused what is known as the "Americanization" of the war. President Lyndon Johnson (served 1963–1969) sent the first troops in 1965 and it escalated from there.
The war ended with U.S. withdrawal in 1974 and the signing of a peace accord. By April 1975, the lone South Vietnamese army could not stop the "Fall of Saigon" and the North Vietnamese prevailed.
The Gulf War
Turmoil and conflict are nothing new in the Middle East, but when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the international community could not stand by. After failing to comply with U.N. demands to withdraw, the Iraqi government soon found out what the consequences would be.
Operation Desert Shield saw a coalition of 34 countries send troops to the border of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Organized by the U.S., a dramatic air campaign took place in January 1991 and ground forces followed.
Though a ceasefire was declared shortly after, the conflicts did not stop. In 2003, another American-led coalition invaded Iraq. This conflict became known as the Iraq War and led to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (served 1979–2003)'s government.
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