12 May: This Day in Military History

1780: Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, commanding American forces at Charleston, S.C., surrenders to Gen. Sir Henry Clinton after a six-week siege. Although the fall of Charleston and capture of thousands of Continental Army soldiers is the largest setback of the war for the Americans, British operations in the Southern colonies will quickly prove to be the undoing of the king’s men in North America.

1864: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant orders his forces to assault the Confederate salient known as the “Mule Shoe” during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. 15,000 Union soldiers break through, but Gen. Robert E. Lee quickly plugs the gaps and the Confederates counterattack. Over the next 20 hours, the two sides engage in intense close combat – much of it hand-to-hand. The carnage at “Bloody Angle” is some of the most brutal fighting of the Civil War with 9,000 Union and 8,000 Confederate casualties in just one day.

General Ulysses S. Grant

1865: Although President Andrew Johnson proclaimed an end to the Civil War three days ago, a Union force led by Col. John S. Ford attacks Confederate forces in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, Tex. The Confederates repulse the attack, killing four of the attacking Union soldiers and capturing over 100, at the cost of only a handful of wounded and captured themselves. The one-sided engagement is the last encounter between organized Union and Confederate troops in the war.

1941: The German U-boat U-507 torpedoes the SS Virginia at the mouth of the Mississippi River, sinking the 10,000-ton tanker and killing 26 sailors. The German sub sinks nine ships in the Gulf of Mexico on its two-month patrol.

U-507 under attack two years after sinking the SS Virginia

1943: After his capture by the British, German Gen. Hans-Jürgen von Arnim surrenders his Army Group Africa to the Allies in Tunisia. Hundreds of thousands of Axis forces are taken prisoner and the war in North Africa is over.

German General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim

1975: (featured image) In what is considered to be the last official action of the Vietnam War, Khmer Rouge forces seize the merchant ship SS Mayaguez off the coast of Cambodia. During the rescue operation, Marines boarded and secured the Mayaguez – the first such operation since 1826 – and the 39 prisoners were released. 41 Marines and airmen died assaulting nearby Kaoh Tang island where the prisoners were mistakenly believed to be held.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter is an OpsLens contributor, the director of the Victory Institute, and deputy regional director of the U.S. Counterterrorism Advisory Team. His work appears at The US Report, International Analyst Network, Human Events, Canada Free Press, Family Security Matters, Deutsche Welle, NavySEALs.com, Blackfive and other publications. Chris is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, non-commissioned officer in the South Carolina State Guard, and retired firefighter.

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