April 24th, 1863
April 25th, 1781
On this day in 1781, British General Lord Charles Cornwallis retreats to Wilmington, North Carolina, after being defeated at Guilford Courthouse by 4,500 Continental Army soldiers and militia under the command of American Major General Nathanael Greene.
With Cornwallis’ defeat, the British task of defending North Carolina fell to a young Irish-born nobleman, Francis, Lord Rawdon, an officer of marked ability, who went on to execute an unlikely victory over Greene at Hobkirk’s Hill, a ridge just north of Camden, North Carolina.
Rawdon, who was being provided information on the Continentals’ movements by British Loyalists, learned of the movements of General Greene and his troops. A deserter from the Continental Army informed Rawdon about the precarious supply situation of the Continental Army, and the commander sprung into action. Although outnumbered by a Continental Army of 1,174 men to Rawdon’s 800 British troops, the British managed to surprise Greene and the Continentals at Hobkirk’s Hill. Although casualties were approximately the same on each side, the British won a tactical victory, taking the field. Greene retreated, but managed to save his supplies and artillery, while Rawdon and the British fell back to Charleston, South Carolina.
April 26th, 1937
Although the independence-minded Basque region opposed General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, Guernica itself was a small rural city of only 5,000 inhabitants that declared itself nuetral in the conflict. With Franco’s approval, the cutting-edge German aircraft began their unprovoked attack at 4:30 p.m., the busiest hour of the market day in Guernica. For three hours, the German planes poured down a continuous and unopposed rain of bombs and gunfire on the town and surrounding countryside. One-third of Guernica’s 5,000 inhabitants were killed or wounded, and fires engulfed the city and burned for days.
April 27th, 1805
After marching 500 miles from Egypt, U.S. agent William Eaton leads a small force of U.S. Marines and Berber mercenaries against the Tripolitan port city of Derna. The Marines and Berbers were on a mission to depose Yusuf Karamanli, the ruling pasha of Tripoli, who had seized power from his brother, Hamet Karamanli, a pasha who was sympathetic to the United States.
The First Barbary War had begun four years earlier, when U.S. President Thomas Jefferson ordered U.S. Navy vessels to the Mediterranean Sea in protest of continuing raids against U.S. ships by pirates from the Barbary states–Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripolitania. American sailors were often abducted along with the captured booty and ransomed back to the United States at an exorbitant price. After two years of minor confrontations, sustained action began in June 1803, when a small U.S. expeditionary force attacked Tripoli harbor in present-day Libya.
In April 1805, a major American victory came during the Derna campaign, which was undertaken by U.S. land forces in North Africa. Supported by the heavy guns of the USS Argus and the USS Hornet, Marines and Arab mercenaries under William Eaton captured Derna and deposed Yusuf Karamanli. Lieutenant Presley O’ Bannon, commanding the Marines, performed so heroically in the battle that Hamet Karamanli presented him with an elaborately designed sword that now serves as the pattern for the swords carried by Marine officers. The phrase “to the shores of Tripoli,” from the official song of the U.S. Marine Corps, also has its origins in the Derna campaign.
April 28th, 1972
The North Vietnamese offensive continues as Fire Base Bastogne, 20 miles west of Hue, falls to the communists. Fire Base Birmingham, 4 miles to the east, was also under heavy attack. As fighting intensified all across the northern province of South Vietnam, much of Hue’s civilian population tried to escape south to Da Nang. Farther south in the Central Highlands, 20,000 North Vietnamese troops converged on Kontum, encircling it and cutting it off. Only 65 miles north of Saigon, An Loc lay under siege and continued to take a pummeling from North Vietnamese artillery, rockets, and ground attacks. To the American command in Saigon, it appeared that South Vietnam was on the verge of total defeat by the North Vietnamese, but the South Vietnamese were able to hold out.
April 29th, 1946
Also on this day in 1946, Tojo Hideki, wartime premier of Japan, is indicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East of war crimes. In September 1945, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself but was saved by an American physician who gave him a transfusion of American blood. He was eventually hanged by the Americans in 1948 after having been found guilty of war crimes.
April 30th, 1864
At the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry in Arkansas, Union troops under General Frederick Steele fight off a Confederate army under General Edmund Kirby Smith as the Yankees retreat towards Little Rock, Arkansas.