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December 14: Battle of Lake Borgne, Battle of Kinston, US Military Defeats, and Other Events of the Date
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December 14: Battle of Lake Borgne, Battle of Kinston, US Military Defeats, and Other Events of the Date

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Today we'll talk about some battles that didn’t bring us anything good. We'll focus on battles where the United States lost not only people but also its influence on the global level.

Battle of Lake Borgne and British victory over the United States

Lake Borgne appeared an eligible route for the British to head to New Orleans. There were several routes from it towards the city. The British strategists soon ruled out the one which ran through waterways to the English Turn, 14 miles below New Orleans, because the waterways were not navigable for anything but small boats, and once at the turn, they would have to confront 2,000 American citizen-soldiers stationed there with their cannon. Even so, by mid-December, Admiral Alexander F.I. Cochrane and Major General John Keane had apparently decided that their approach would be either through Lake Borgne or Lake Pontchartrain, and they determined to establish an intermediate base closer to them than the current one at Cat Island.

They landed at Isle aux Pois (Peas Island) in the mouth of the Pearl River because their ships could ride at anchor there and troops could camp ashore. Before they could occupy the island, however, they had to deal with a small American flotilla of 5 nameless Jeffersonian gunboats, Numbers 5, 23, 156, 162, and 163, under the command of Lt. Thomas A.C. Jones.

Jones first discovered the British fleet at dawn on December 10. They were anchored between Cat Island and Ship Island. During the next 2 days, he reconnoitered them, and on December 13, they sailed for Bay St. Louis. When he learned that the British were moving in that direction too, he made haste toward Rigolets to plug up the narrows but was foiled by contrary winds. In the end, he had to anchor his 5 gunboats by the stern, facing northward in the mile-wide strip of shallow water between Malheureux Island and Point Claire on the mainland. He put springs on his cables in order to be able to wind his larboard broadsides into action, and with 23 guns and 185 men awaited the moves of the British.

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It was a big mistake by American Commodore Daniel T. Patterson, who allowed the British not only to take control of Lake Borgne during their invasion but also to give them the light draft American ships to move their troops as quickly as possible over a wide area of the lake to the landing point at Peas Island.

In addition, he deployed almost all of his naval forces to patrol and spy along the coastal zone of lake Born in December 1814, while he remained in New Orleans, showing the presence of military equipment that was not really ready for enemy forces

On December 14, they came at 10:30 A.M. Three columns of British boats, 42 to 45 in all, armed with 43 guns and loaded with 1,200 men, swept toward Jones under the command of Capt. Nicholas Lockyer. The American guns punished them severely while they rowed bows-on into his broadsides, but they closed in anyway, boarded, and by noon had captured all of his ships. Both Jones and Lockyer had been severely wounded early in the battle, and Jones was not able to make his official report for 3 months.

"The Americans being moored in line, at least four hundred yards apart from one other, the attacking boats were a good deal divided, and each boat pulling away wildly came to close quarters," wrote Capt. Cooke in his "Narrative of the British Attack on New Orleans." "The clouds of smoke rolled upwards, and the splashing of round and grapeshot in the water, and the loud exhortations of 'Give way!' presented an animated scene at mid-day."

"Capt. Lockyer, in the barge of the Seahorse, was first up to the mark (Jones' 156), and his boat's crew were most uncourteously handled by the American commodore, who at first would not let Capt. Lockyer get aboard, and a rough tussle took place, but other boats coming up, the sailors, sword in hand, being covered by the fire from the small arms of the marines, cut away their defensive netting that was coiled round her decks like a spider’s web," continued Cooke.

"The British at last mastered the Americans, and captured all the five vessels in succession, making their different crews prisoners, but not before some of the guns of the captured vessels had been turned upon those that still resisted, to enable the boarders to complete their victory."

When the British took control of No. 156, its guns were brought to bore on No. 163, and the rest in succession soon fell like a line of tipped over dominoes.

The whole battle took less than two hours. Both commanders were injured severely, and the battle took a significant toll on both sides. The Americans lost 10 killed in action, 35 wounded, with 86 captured, and the British had 17 killed in action, with 77 wounded in action. The wounded were evacuated, and the British renamed the gunboats HMS Ambush, Firebrand, Destruction, Harlequin and Eagle. They proceeded to use the gunboats to speed up transportation to their disembarkation point of Pea Island, 30 miles further up Lake Borgne, near the mouth of the Pearl River.

In his Dec. 16, 1814, letter to John Wilson Croker, secretary to the British Admiralty,  Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane had nothing but the highest praise for Lockyer and his men:

"Lockyer had the good fortune to close with the flotilla, which he attacked with such judgment and determined bravery, that notwithstanding their formidable force, their advantage of a chosen position, and their studied and deliberate preparation, he succeeded in capturing the whole of the vessels, in so serviceable a state as to afford at once the most essential aid to the expedition…Our loss has been severe, particularly in officers, but considering that the successful enterprise has given us command of Lac Borgne (sic), and considerably reduced our deficiency of transportation, the effort has answered our fullest expectations."

Other significant US losses at the Battle of Kinston

The Civil War battle at Kinston on December 13-14, 1862 was the first major Confederate opposition to the advance under the command of Gen. John G. Foster. He led a force of about 10,000 infantry, 640 cavalry, and 40 pieces of artillery. The defending Confederates numbered about 2,014 and were commanded by Brig. Gen. Nathan G. "Shank" Evans, who won fame at the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run).

December 14: Battle of Lake Borgne, Battle of Kinston, US Military Defeats, and Other Events of the Date

On December 12, 1862, as his column approached Kinston from New Bern, Foster sent a small party of cavalry on a feint down the main road into Kinston. Meanwhile, the main body detoured to the south and west, intending to attack the town from the southwest, an unanticipated direction.

Evans positioned about 2,000 North Carolina and South Carolina troops in a semicircle. Supported by heavy artillery fire, the Union troops broke through the Confederate left flank. Evans ordered a retreat to Kinston, which was eventually abandoned by the Confederate troops as they retreated towards Goldsboro. The commander had to hold back the forces for a night.

The Union attack resumed at 9:00 am the next day. The inexperienced Federals faced both stiff Confederate resistance and casualties inflicted by their own artillery. Nevertheless, they crossed the swamp in front of the Confederate position and turned its left flank, sending that portion of the troops retreating north across the bridge. Evans, who thought that all of his men were safely across, ordered the bridge burned and turned his artillery on the troops remaining on the right and center of what had been the Confederate line.

It should be noted, that the target of Foster's Raid, as it came to be known, was the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad bridge that at Goldsboro, a prime strategic in eastern North Carolina. Along the way Foster's men also attacked the construction site of the ironclad CSS Neuse at what is now Seven Springs.

Shelled by the enemy and their own commander, the remaining Confederate troops made for the bridge. Closely pursued by the Federal advance, the organized retreat fell apart when the men approached the burning span. Nearly 400 of Evans's command were captured in the race for the burning bridge. Confederates north of the river retreated to establish a position two miles beyond Kinston. Foster's men extinguished the flames on the bridge and crossed on the partially destroyed span. Once across the river, Foster entered Kinston and sent a request for Evans's surrender, which was curtly refused.

Before Foster could reform his units for another attack, the Confederate commander withdrew once more. The Union forces camped near Kinston that night and recrossed the river the following morning to resume their advance. Foster had lost about 160 killed and wounded in the fight. Confederate casualties were 125 killed and wounded and 400 captured, and Kinston was thoroughly looted by the Federal troops.

1962 US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site

December 14: Battle of Lake Borgne, Battle of Kinston, US Military Defeats, and Other Events of the Date

The Nevada Test Site was founded a few years after the end of the Second World War, despite the fear of an all-out nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the US needed a place for the development and creation of the superpower nuclear arsenal. They served as the very center in Nevada.

Since 1951, for four decades, the U.S. government has conducted nearly a thousand nuclear tests at the test site, earning it the nickname "the most bombed place on Earth." Here they took the crude nuclear weapons that were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and honed their destructive power.

Every test shot was always carefully planned. Scientists and engineers have studied constantly and monotonously how weapons will work in different designs and variations.

Residents of nearby localities, according to experts, have always been safe because of "the lowest level of radiation that was during the tests."

"Radiation levels were only slightly more than normal radiation which you experience day in and day out wherever you may live," said that time in a 1955 brochure on atomic test effects in the Nevada Test Site region.

Between 1951 and 1992 there were 928 nuclear tests in general. Out of these tests, 100 were atmospheric, and 921 were underground. Test facilities for nuclear rocket and ramjet engines were also constructed and used from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

On January 27, 1951, nuclear testing at the NTS officially began with the detonation of Shot Able, a 1-kiloton bomb, as part of Operation Ranger.

The AEC originally intended for the NTS to be a testing site where quick experiments could be conducted with small-scale nuclear bombs. The results ideally would then lead to the development of bigger atomic bombs and advanced thermonuclear weapons. In reality, large-scale atmospheric tests became common and lasted for nearly 12 years.

Underground nuclear testing began at the NTS with Operation Nougat in September of 1961. The Armed Forces Special Weapons Project (AFSWP) originally planned underground tests to be conducted on the island of Amchitka off the coast of Alaska. This changed after the creation of NTS when the AFSWP decided they wanted to test in Nevada in order to develop a more comprehensive map of fallout.

One of the most powerful tests occurred on December 14, 1968, when, according to experts today, at least 25 shots were fired simultaneously. Of these, 15 were underground, the rest were launched into the air. All of them were successful, but to this day there are disputes that such a number could greatly affect the environment and people living nearby.

The tests served various purposes such as: determining the impact of nuclear weapons on the physical environment and on manmade structures like military equipment; searching for possible peaceful uses of these weapons; testing the strength and effectiveness of new weapons; proof-testing existing weapons; and studying the effects of nuclear fallout. Some tests also involved military personnel who conducted operations near atomic ground zero, the point on the Earth's surface closest to the detonation of a bomb, for the purpose of developing new battleground tactics. These tests occurred in four regions: 'Frenchman Flat,' 'Yucca Flat,' 'Rainier Mesa,' and 'Pahute Mesa.'

The site was scheduled to be used to conduct the testing of a 1,100-ton conventional explosive in an operation known as Divine Strake in June 2006. The bomb is a possible alternative to nuclear bunker busters. After objections from Nevada and Utah's members of Congress, the operation was postponed until 2007. On February 22, 2007, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) officially canceled the experiment. On December 7, 2012, the most-recent explosion was conducted, an underground sub-critical test of the properties of plutonium.

In 2018, the State of Nevada sued the federal government to block a plan to ship "more than a metric ton" of plutonium to the site for storage.

Today the government still carries out classified work on the site, and access is limited to a small number of carefully vetted visitors each year, who are not allowed to take photographs.

Author: USA Really