This Week in American Military History:
May 15, 1862: U.S. Marine Corporal John F. Mackie participates in an action against Confederate forces at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, for which he will become the first Marine in history to receive the Medal of Honor.
According to his citation, “As enemy shellfire raked the deck of his ship, Corporal Mackie fearlessly maintained his musket fire against the rifle pits on shore, and when ordered to fill vacancies at guns caused by men wounded and killed in action, manned the weapon with skill and courage.”
May 15, 1963: Astronaut, fighter pilot, and U.S. Air Force Maj. Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper Jr., piloting “Faith 7,” becomes the first American to spend an entire day in space, and the first man to sleep in space.
A former U.S. Marine private who ultimately was commissioned an Army second lieutenant, Cooper will retire an Air Force colonel.
May 18, 1775: Future turncoat Col. Benedict Arnold leads a successful surprise attack against a British fort and the adjacent shipyards at St. Johns, Canada. Among Arnold’s prizes is the British sloop HMS George which he renames “Enterprise,” the first of eight so-named American Navy ships.
May 18, 1863: Union Army forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant move against the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vastly outnumbered Confederate forces under Lt. Gen. John Pemberton fall back on prepared defenses. Pemberton’s army is quickly surrounded. Grant strikes Pemberton’s positions the following day hoping to destroy his army before it is properly positioned. Losses are heavy among the ranks of the assault forces. The siege of Vicksburg has begun.
May 21, 1881: Clara Barton, the Civil War’s famous “angel of the battlefield,” founds the American Red Cross.