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York Captured - History

York Captured - History


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On April 27, 1813, American forces, under General Henry Dearborn, captured the British base at York, Canada.


York Ontario, which became Toronto, was located on the Northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. It was not strategically important, but was an easy target. More important there were reports that the British were building ships there.

American forces were under the command of Commodore Chancey. The Americans departed Sacketts Harbor on April 25th. The American force consisted of a corvette, a brig and twelve schooners. There were 1,600-1,800 troops aboard the ships commanded by General Pike- the famous explorer.

On the morning of April 27, 1812, American troops went ashore three miles from York. The Americans were lucky when the first wave of British troops arrived at the landing too late. By the time they did arrive the second wave of American troops arrived and it was too late. American troops outnumbered the British two to one. Initially, the British and their Indian allies put up a spirited defense, but the Americans were able to overpower them and push them back to York. The commanding British officer, General Roger Hale Sheaffe ordered his troops to withdraw leaving the Canadian militia alone to defend the town.

The American troops rapidly advanced on the city. The American forces then regrouped under the ramparts of Yorks Western ramparts. General Pike was interrogating a British prisoner, when a massive explosion shook the garrison. The British had blown up the armory. The explosion caused a bolder to hit Pike who died soon after.

American troops went on to occupy the city. Despite the fact that initially the American troops had been ordered not to loot the city, Americans troops soon looted the city and burned down government and other buildings in town.

The raid on York was publically hailed as the first US victory in the ground war against Canada. In fact the failure to capture British troops intact, the fact that the British regulars had escaped and Pike had been killed tempered that victory.

The Americans suffered 55 killed and 265 wounded. The British whose records of the day are a little less reliable suffered 82 killed 43 wounded, 69 wounded prisoner and 274 captured with 7 missing.



History of York

York changed when it was captured by the Vikings and the city became known as Jorvik.

The Anglian site at the junction of the rivers was abandoned in the mid-9th century. By contrast the street known as Coppergate sprang back to life at this time, after seemingly being unoccupied for the previous 450 years.

We have learned a great deal about life in Jorvik from the excavation of the Coppergate site.

Single-storey properties with wattle walls and thatched roofs were used as both homes and workshops. The buildings were typically about 7m x 5m with a large central hearth dominating the inside. The floors were made of trampled earth.

Later Viking buildings had more timber and small basements, around 2m deep, perhaps for storage.

These were built in two ranks along Coppergate: space was at a premium in this booming city.

As a result Jorvik people lived cheek-by-jowl. Living conditions were squalid. Human fleas and lice were found at Coppergate. Rubbish was thrown out in back yards, a fetid mix of discarded builidng materials, food remains and human waste. These deposits saw the ground level rise by around 1cm a year. But they also provided the perfect conditions to preserve the Viking way of life for the benefit of historians hundreds of years later.


In WW1, Alvin York Captured 132 German Soldiers Pretty Much Single Handed

Alvin York almost captured 132 German soldiers during WW1 using a rifle and pistol. The Germans had 32 machine guns together with rifles and pistols. They were also having an advantage of being above him in the forays.

The Germans killed almost all the soldiers who were in York unit including the commanding officer leaving him in charge. The original group had 17 soldiers. Those who survived guarded the prisoners they had captured leaving him alone to face more than 100 Germans.

During the fight York had no time to take cover since he was in an open area, so he started shooting the German soldiers who showed themselves one by one.

A German officer together with five soldiers charged towards him in a range of about 25 yards, York killed them using his pistol starting with the back ones so that those in-fronts could think they had support behind them.

He called for the Germans to surrender since he did not want to kill any more. The German commander who had witnessed his soldiers being killed ordered them to surrender. They all did except one who threw a grenade to him which exploded in-front of him leaving him with no choice but to kill him. He couldn’t take any chances.

Alvin York and his men found themselves in between two Germans front lines since the group they had captured was second in the rank, meaning they had to go through the next line before they arrived in the American base. One of his men told him that it was not possible for them to go through the next Germany line. After hearing this, the German major asked him how many men he had. He said he had plenty of them. The major also suggested that they use gully but Alvin new that it was not a good idea and he refused and gave a command that they were going to go through the next rank.

The German Major could speak English as any American because he had worked in Chicago before the war. This made it easier for York to order the Germans through him.

On reaching the next front line, the Germans opened fire to them. York ordered the major to blow a whistle which was a sign of surrender, he blew it and they too surrendered except one who he killed.

A statue of Alvin York as a respect to him

The number of prisoners was now over 100. It was a risky situation because the American could easily mistake them to be Germany retaliation. They met a squad that was sent to help them in the bush. They marched the prisoners to the post of command in the department of intelligence Lieutenant Woods counted all the prisoners who were 132 in number. He ordered Alvin and his men to take them to regimental headquarters at Chehery and hand them over to the military.

York and his men continued with their mission and they cut the Germans supplies by cutting the railroad which made them to back up.

The next morning Captain Danforth sent them back to check if had missed any American soldier, but they were all dead. They were 28 Germans dead exactly the number of shots York fired and thirty five machine guns.

According to “TODAY I FOUND OUT” news, York accounted for all the events that happened that day, his fellow soldiers confirmed his story.

York survived WW1 and fathered two daughters and five sons. He also founded a school called academic excellence.

He tried to re-enlist in WW2 but denied because of his age. He founded Tennessee State Guard in which he served as the colonel.


York Captured - History

The Battle of York was an easy win for Americans as they eyed expansion into Canada in the first years of the War of 1812. On April 27 th 1813 in York, Ontario, now present-day Toronto, 2,700 Americans stormed Fort York, defeating the 750 British and Ojibwa Indians defending what was at the time the capitol of Upper Canada. Though Americans managed to capture Fort York and forced the British to retreat to Kingston, this victory came at a high cost and had little strategic benefit.

American strategy at the beginning of the War of 1812 was one of a young country looking for room to grow. Seeing the rivers and lakes to the North as key routes for trade and transportation, Americans attempted, unsuccessfully at first, to gain control of Canada. Early in 1813, American strategy centered on Lake Ontario and the Niagara Frontier to the south. Secretary of War John Armstrong Jr. and General Henry Dearborn planned to concentrate soldiers in New York at Sackett’s Harbor, then use that force to capture Kingston, a hub for British naval vessels. After Kingston, Americans would capture other British positions, Fort York among them, to secure control of the lakes and rivers, cutting off transportation routes to upper Canada and positioning American troops on potential invasion routes.

This plan was executed in reverse and the desired outcome—American expansion and control in Canada—never came to fruition. General Dearborn received reports indicating that there were more British forces at Kingston than the Americans could defeat. Knowing that Fort York was barely guarded by a mere 700 soldiers under British General Roger Hale Sheaffe, Dearborn decided to take this easy win first with the help of Commodore Chauncey and General Zebulon Pike. After the Americans had captured York, they would then move on to Kingston once they could amass more troops to take that British military base. But first, the Americans waited for the thaw of the frigid Lake Ontario before launching their spring-time attack in 1813.

By mid-April, the ice cleared and Americans were ready for their assured victory. Commodore Chauncey took his schooners with Pike’s men across the lake from their post at Sackett’s Harbor to York. Americans landed west of York on the 27 th of April and met enemy fire. With the help of Chauncey’s guns, American forces led by Pike were able to beat back the Indian forces that had barraged them with bullets as they came ashore.

Once Americans gained control of the beachhead, Chauncey’s ships bombarded the battery and fort west of the town of York and Pike moved in with his troops. Pike steadily drove back the British militia and regulars who desperately rallied to hold their ground. British General Sheaffe soon realized that his men were outnumbered and overwhelmed by land and water. The only answer was death or surrender Sheaffe ordered his men to retreat East and left local militia to determine the conditions for surrender. As Sheaffe’s men left Fort York, they lit their abandoned supplies on fire to keep valuable gunpowder out of the hands of the invading Americans.

When fire met a magazine containing hundreds of barrels of gunpowder, it set off a devastating explosion. Americans, who were rounding up prisoners near the fort were devastated by the explosion, which pelted debris through the air, wounding or killing over 200 Americans. Among the dead was General Pike, and as a result, vengeful Americans ransacked the town of York, burning public buildings and businesses. This aggressive act would later be repaid when the British burned Washington D.C. in 1814.

Though an easy win for Americans at the time, the Battle of York would cost them many of their men who were killed or wounded in the explosion. The battle would also cost the Boston-born British General Roger Hal Sheaffe his reputation. Seen as a coward for giving up the fort, Sheaffe was soon called back to Britain, where he lived until his death. The battle did little to advance either side’s dominant control of Canadian waters, but the easy victory boosted American morale, fueling the fire for continued attempts at expansion into Canada.


War of 1812: Battle of York

At dawn on Tuesday, April 27, 1813, a squadron of American warships bore down upon the town of York, situated on the northwest corner of Lake Ontario. Aboard USS Madison, a 24-gun corvette, Major General Henry Dearborn, a 62-year-old veteran of the Revolutionary War, surveyed the shoreline where his army would land. Beside the general, Commodore Isaac Chauncey gave orders to bring the vessels as close to shore as possible. Throughout the squadron, armed men prepared to disembark. The initial invasion of British soil during the War of 1812’s second year was about to begin.But why would the Americans initiate hostilities against a weak garrison and a town of barely 700 people? The disappointing failure of American armies to conquer the Canadian provinces during 1812 had prompted Secretary of War John Armstrong to devise a new plan of attack for the 1813 campaign. He identified the important British military and naval base at Kingston and the vital transportation route of the St. Lawrence River as the prime targets of the invasion force. Gaining control of those points would isolate British posts on the lakes and make them easy prey for subsequent attacks. At first Dearborn and Chauncey, who were making preparations at Sackets Harbor, N.Y., had intended to implement Armstrong’s plan late in the winter. They changed their scheme, however, after a successful British sortie at Ogdensburg, on the St. Lawrence, and after hearing a rumor that the garrison at Kingston had been reinforced to the strength of 6,000 to 8,000 men. In addition, ice continued to clog the eastern end of Lake Ontario through April. Rather than risk their military and naval forces on a risky assault on Kingston, the two commanders selected York, whose harbor was already free of ice, as an alternate objective for their first expedition of the season. Armstrong reluctantly gave his consent.

York was an enticing target for the Americans. Although the town was the capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario) and the province’s government buildings were located there, it was only weakly defended. The British were also developing a naval base at York, which was intended to eventually supersede Kingston. In December 1812 work had begun on a 30-gun frigate to be named HMS Sir Isaac Brock, after the general who had taken Detroit on August 16, 1812, and subsequently died in defense of Queenston Heights on the Niagara River on October 13. That frigate, several storehouses full of naval materiel, plus two small Provincial Marine warships that had wintered there would make significant additions to Chauncey’s squadron — and their loss would significantly hamper British efforts to regain supremacy on the lake. Once York was secured, Dearborn and Chauncey expected that a quick invasion and conquest of the Niagara Peninsula would be assured, after which an attack could be made on Kingston.

Dearborn’s troops embarked at Sackets Harbor on April 22. Included among the 1,750 men were members from the 6th, 4th, 15th, 16th and 21st Infantry regiments, as well as detachments from the 3rd and the Light Artillery regiments and a company of Major Benjamin Forsyth’s Rifle Regiment. Militiamen from New York, Maryland and Vermont also joined the force as volunteer reserves. The warships were uncomfortably crowded Madison alone, with a gun deck measuring nearly 120 feet, held more than 600 seamen and soldiers. After a first attempt to sail on April 23 was cut short by a storm, the squadron weighed anchor on the 25th, its destination unknown to all but the commanding officers.

Brigadier General Zebulon Montgomery Pike had been appointed by Dearborn to lead the invasion force ashore. At 34 years of age, Pike had spent most of his life in the army, serving at frontier posts and earning some fame as an explorer in the western regions. As the colonel of the 15th Infantry Regiment during the fall campaign of 1812, he had seen his first action under fire. Pike’s plan for attacking York was forthright and simple: initiate a naval bombardment, establish a beachhead, cover the military landing, then move toward the target in well-delineated order with bayonets fixed, ready for close action. His orders emphasized the need for obedience and bravery from his men, while at the same time calling for humane treatment of civilians.

Late on April 26, the American squadron appeared west of York. By the following morning, Chauncey had brought his squadron toward the harbor, heading for a landing site three miles west of the town. At that point, a clearing around the ruins of an old French fort provided an ideal location for forming the troops into marching order. A stiff easterly breeze made their approach difficult, but by 8 a.m. the signal to disembark was given.

The first craft to head for the shore was a pair of bateaux carrying Forsyth’s riflemen. The adverse wind frustrated the mariners handling the boats, making it impossible to reach the shore at the French fort. Instead, they were blown a half mile up the shoreline toward a narrow beach lying at the foot of an embankment. As Forsyth’s group neared the beach, a fusillade of musket and rifle fire rained down upon them from the dense brush and forest atop the bank. Forsyth ordered his men to rest momentarily as the boats came to ground and then gave the command to load and fire at the defenders. Aboard Madison, Pike watched the flashes of musketry opposing the bateaux. Unwilling to be only an observer, the general climbed down into a boat along with his staff officers and joined the flotilla of small craft streaming toward the shore.

Leading the British was Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe, who had rallied British forces after Maj. Gen. Sir Issaac Brock’s death at Queenston Heights and marched them to ultimate victory over the American invaders. Sheaffe now had about 300 regular troops at his disposal, plus 45 Indians of the Missassauga and Ojibway tribes, 250 militiamen, some members of the Provincial Marine and 40 artificers from the shipyard. After the enemy had been sighted on the evening of April 26, Sheaffe had deployed his men at various points between the garrison and the eastern end of the town.

As the Americans’ point of attack became obvious the next morning, Sheaffe gathered his troops at the garrison and ordered the Indian detachment, commanded by Major James Givins of the Indian Department, to be the first to oppose the landing. Shortly thereafter he sent the Glengarry Infantry to support them while directing a militia patrol, under the command of Maj. Gen. Aeneas Shaw, to protect the right flank on a road north of the woods lying just past the lakeshore. Next, the Grenadier Company of the 8th, or King’s Regiment of Foot, led by Captain Neal McNeal and assisted by a handful of volunteers, marched toward the landing point. They were soon followed by two small companies of the Royal Newfoundland Fencibles, supplemented by a number of local militiamen. Last to join the procession was a battalion company of the 8th, under Captain James Hardy Eustace, which had spent the previous night on duty at the eastern blockhouse.

Sheaffe warned each party to make its advance through the cover of the woods to avoid drawing fire from the schooners, which were moving in closer to shore to cover the landing. The thick woods made the going too difficult for Sheaffe to order the garrison’s pair of 6-pounder field guns forward. Not involved in the attempt to turn back the invaders was the majority of the 3rd York Militia Regiment, commanded by Lt. Col. William Chewett. It remained close to the town during most of the fighting, apparently in defiance of Sheaffe’s instruction to join the regular troops, although the reason has never been determined.

While those deployments were being made, the American landing continued, the troops strung out along the shore near Forsyth’s bateaux and opposed only by Major Givins’ Indians. Pike had arrived and was directing the formation of the companies. Forsyth’s Rifles, dressed in green, had taken up positions among the trees and bushes that fringed the beach and were defending the boats as they approached the shore.

Assistance for Givins’ Indians was slow in arriving. Inexplicably, the Glengarries were drawn away from their objective through a miscommunication from General Shaw, so it was the Grenadiers of the 8th Regiment who arrived first at the landing to support Givins’ group. Led by Captain McNeal, the Grenadiers fired a volley and stormed down the bank toward the Americans. A steel-against-steel skirmish then erupted, during which McNeal’s men pushed some of the Americans back to their boats. McNeal was killed, as were his sergeant major, more than two dozen rank-and-file troops and Donald McLean, a prominent citizen of York. Among the Americans, Captain Hoppock of the 15th Regiment and Midshipmen John Hatfield and Benjamin Thompson lay dying in the boats, along with nearly 20 other casualties. Sensing victory in spite of the bloodiness of the fight, Forsyth’s buglers blared out in defiance, and the Americans managed to regain ground. Beaten, the survivors of the 8th turned and fled back up the bank and into the woods.

The Royal Newfoundlanders met the survivors from the 8th Regiment and were urged by General Sheaffe to attack. Supported by Eustace’s 8th Regiment company and the Glengarries, who had finally found their way into the fight, they pushed forward toward the beach but were repulsed after another bloody exchange. Conceding defeat at last, Sheaffe then ordered his troops to retreat out of the woods, to the accompaniment of ‘Yankee Doodle, coming from the fifes and drums of Major William King’s 15th Regiment.

The British fell back past the old French fort and through a second stretch of forest to a gun emplacement known as the Western Battery. They crowded around the earthen mound where gunners were gamely firing a pair of condemned 18-pounders, with their trunions broken off and tightly bound to wooden stocks, at the schooners moving along the shore toward the garrison.

The schooners energetically returned fire, but they were not the cause of the next setback for the British. The traveling magazine in the battery suddenly exploded in flames, sparked by a carelessly handled match. In a flash the guns were blown off their mounts and a dozen or more men lay dead. Slowly the wounded were gathered up and carried toward the garrison. A witness to the disaster described them: Their faces were completely black….their clothes scorched and emitting an effluvia so strong as to be perceived long before they reached one. One man in particular presented an awful spectacle he was brought in a wheelbarrow, and from his appearance I should be induced to suppose that every bone in his body was broken.

Working frantically, Lt. Col. Rowland Heathcote and Lieutenant Philip Ingouville of the Royal Newfoundlanders managed to get one of the 18-pounders set up again just as Pike’s vanguard came within sight on the edge of the forest. Discovering that no grapeshot remained to oppose the assembling infantrymen, Heathcote and Ingouville fired several ineffective rounds and then joined the retreat.

By then it was nearing 11 a.m. Pike had been able to draw up his troops on the clearing at the old French fort before proceeding slowly along the bridle path that cut through the woods. When the Western Battery came into sight, Pike halted his march. He called on Captain John Wolworth of the 6th Regiment to assault the battery, but before Wolworth could do anything the British were seen abandoning their position and fleeing toward the town.

The York garrison, located about 11Ž2 miles east of the originally intended landing site, was lightly fortified. A single blockhouse stood within a palisade guarded by a pair of 6-pounder cannons and at least one other long gun. A second pair of guns, 12-pounders, was set up on the west side of Garrison Creek near a one-story building that was the governor’s residence. Some plans had been made to strengthen the garrison, but prior to the American attack only a dry moat and earthwork had been completed, connecting the creek to the lake shore just west of the governor’s house.

As noon approached, the retreating British reached the garrison. Soon Pike’s column was seen passing an unarmed earthwork known as the Half-Moon Battery. The guns by the governor’s residence opened fire on the Americans, while the garrison guns engaged the schooners that had managed to tack into position opposite the blockhouse. Pike ordered a field gun brought up to join in the contest.

Seeing the damage that had been inflicted upon his force, General Sheaffe gave orders to abandon the garrison. It was his intention to preserve his surviving troops, rather than sacrifice them for a losing cause. Sheaffe turned over command of York to militia officers Colonel Chewett and Major William Allan, with orders to negotiate a truce with the Americans. Unobtrusively, all but a handful of British troops and locals slipped away from the garrison and headed toward the town. Behind them, at the general’s instructions, a fuse was laid to the grand magazine that was located on the shore by the governor’s residence and contained 200 barrels of powder and prepared ammunition.

General Pike, at the head of his line, watched the British cannons fall quiet and wondered what they would do next. The large royal standard still flapped on the flagpole in front of the governor’s house, and there was no clear indication that the British had given up the fight. Pike held his force in position about 400 yards from the garrison, expecting an attack. Accompanied by his aides, he assisted with the removal of a wounded infantryman and then turned to interrogate a captured British sergeant. The general sat down on a tree stump, and at that instant the magazine exploded. The earth quaked and, in the words of an eyewitness, an immense cloud…a great confused mass of smoke, timber, men, earth, &c…rose, in a most majestic manner…[assuming] the shape of a vast balloon.

A deadly rain of debris fell on the American line, killing and wounding scores of men, among them Zebulon Pike. The fallen general — who suffered from either head or back injuries that would prove fatal — was gently transported to one of the schooners and then to Madison. Command of the brigade passed to Colonel Cromwell Pearce of the 16th Regiment, who had been sitting less than 15 yards from Pike. It was Pearce’s first experience in battle, but he showed no hesitation in taking charge. Along with Major Charles Hunter of the 15th and Lt. Col. George Mitchell of the 3rd Artillery, he shouted for his men to come to order. Within five minutes of the explosion, discipline had returned and the ranks had been restored. The Americans assumed that a subterranean mine had been ignited, and they expected the British would soon attack in full force.

No British counterattack was to come, however. Pearce waited and then sent Mitchell and Major William King ahead under a flag of truce to bargain for a cease-fire. They were met by militia officers Chewett and Allan. The royal standard, which had miraculously survived the explosion, was hauled down and replaced with the Stars and Stripes. The British flag was sent to Madison, where a corner of it was laid beneath the head of General Pike just before he died.

Mitchell and King met with Chewett and Allan and the Reverend John Strachan, one of the town’s leading citizens. They objected to negotiating with militiamen rather than General Sheaffe himself and then became more indignant when word came that the vast plume of smoke rising over the town was from the shipyard. In a short time the troops advancing upon the town discovered that Sheaffe had ordered the destruction of the yard and the unfinished frigate Sir Isaac Brock after negotiations for a truce had begun.

The Americans and British reached a rudimentary capitulation agreement, but its conditions were neither effectively established nor carried out. The wounded British rank and file were gathered into the garrison blockhouse and left unattended for 48 hours (Sheaffe had taken the surgeons with him). The captured regulars, militia and provincial navy men were also impounded at the garrison. All of the American troops were recalled to the same area except for Forsyth’s Riflemen, who were sent to occupy the village and to protect the safety of public property. Little was safe in York that night, however. In complete disregard of Pike’s orders, soldiers, sailors and local turncoats ransacked the homes and businesses of the village. Some American officers joined in the looting, while others, ashamed of the behavior of their comrades in arms, tried to protect locals from their depredations.

The next day, April 28, the militia officers and the Reverend Strachan again tried to settle the terms of capitulation with the Americans. The talks went on for six hours, and they seemed close to a resolution when Dearborn and Chauncey arrived at the garrison. According to Colonel Pearce, Dearborn had made a very brief visit to the garrison the day before and then left without giving orders. Now, in his first official act, the general rudely interrupted negotiations, harshly denigrating the British representatives. More debate followed before terms were agreed upon and the British wounded were finally tended to.

Members of the 21st Regiment were sent into the town to maintain order. Private property was to be respected, the militia and regular forces paroled, and the remaining war materiel confiscated. Ordnance, ammunition, provisions, a rich booty of 2,000 pounds sterling from the Provincial Treasury, plus the personal effects and papers of General Sheaffe were confiscated and loaded aboard the ships until no space remained to store them. The Americans also refloated a dismantled schooner, Duke of Gloucester, but had missed another ship that Chauncey had hoped to capture, the armed schooner Prince Regent, which had sailed for Kingston on April 23.

Ratification of the conditions of surrender did little to end the state of anarchy in York. Vandals roamed at will, the church was robbed on April 30, and shortly afterward the legislative buildings at the east end of the village were burned. Appalled by such outright disregard for authority, Dearborn returned control of civil law to the local authorities and ordered all military units re-embarked. He also distributed leftover flour and pork among the destitute people in the village.

On May 1, the occupation force began returning to the ships after burning the remains of the governor’s house. Stragglers were rounded up the following day. Dearborn sailed to Fort Niagara on May 3, but bad weather prevented the rest of the fleet from sailing until May 8. Even then, the severe conditions on the lake so debilitated the soldiers that when they arrived at Niagara they were completely unfit for the planned raid on Fort George that attack was delayed for almost three weeks.

The attack on York cost the British dearly. Although reports of the casualties varied, more than 60 regulars appear to have been killed and about 75 wounded, some of whom retreated with Sheaffe. Another 20 or so were made prisoners or were listed among the missing. Only 10 names of militiamen appeared on the list of killed and wounded, indicating the minor role the militia had played in defending the town. The citizens of York were completely disheartened, their worst apprehensions about the incompetence of their professional and military leaders having been realized. Sir Roger Hale Sheaffe’s active involvement in the war was at an end, as was all hope of building a well-fortified naval establishment at York. The loss of ordnance and stores would severely weaken the British naval squadrons, especially the ships that would face Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet on Lake Erie the following September.

For the Americans, the outcome of the raid on York was dubious at best. Fifty-five men had been killed and another 265 wounded, the detonation of the magazine alone accounting for 250 of those casualties. Among them had been the energetic Zebulon Pike and a number of promising young officers whose talents would have been valuable during the ensuing months of the 1813 campaign. The Americans had seized a significant amount of materiel, but their failure to capture the warships Sir Isaac Brock and Prince Regent was a disappointment. More than a third of the British regulars had been captured or killed, but Sheaffe had been allowed to retreat with the majority of his force intact. The morale of the American army was eroded by the days of lawlessness in the village and the week spent wallowing aboard the storm-bound ships. Secretary of War Armstrong — who had envisioned a two-pronged attack, rather than the single-pronged assault Dearborn had mounted, which had allowed most of Sheaffe’s forces to escape — was generally dissatisfied with the invasion’s results. He responded to Dearborn’s report with a private letter noting his official censure of the attack. Within two months, Dearborn, whose subsequent invasion of the Niagara Peninsula was marked by similar incomplete success, stepped down as head of the U.S. Army in Upper Canada — another one of the old guard replaced by younger, more ambitious officers.

Pike’s orderly management of the attack earned him credit at the moment of his valorous death. Much had been sacrificed and little gained, however, by the Americans in their attempt to gain control of Lake Ontario. A pattern was set for the mismanaged campaign they would wage fitfully for the remainder of 1813, as well as a precedent for the burning of the town of Niagara in December 1813. That and the earlier sack of York caused an outraged cry for revenge from the residents of Upper Canada. Vengeance would come in August 1814, when a British force landed at Bentinct on the Patuxent River and — after routing an opposing force of American militia, Marines and seamen at Bladensburg on August 24 — entered Washington and burned the public buildings of the United States capital.

This article was written by Robert and Thomas Malcomson and originally appeared in the October 1998 issue of Military History magazine.

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York, England – The Viking Capital of England

In the first five years following their conquest of Britain in AD43, the Roman armies advanced slowly from their administrative and economic centre, London. They advanced on three fronts north to Lincoln, and west to Wroxeter and Gloucester.

The Romans spent the next thirty years attempting to tame the ‘wild barbarians’ of northern England and Scotland (see Hadrian’s Wall). In order to protect their toga-clad rears, the legions of Lincoln, Wroxeter and Gloucester were moved forward to York, Chester and Caerleon, these points becoming the effective limits of the ‘civil zone’. The Romans found Britain divided into little states or kingdoms, each under a native king. The Romans used these native kings and nobles to keep control over each state or canton – the native Bricantes tribes ruling most of the canton now called Yorkshire came under the control of the legionary fortress of Eburacum, thought to mean ‘a place of yew trees’ (York). The famous Ninth Roman Legion settled here in AD71.

Britain underwent a remarkable change as the Romanisation of the ‘civil zone’ proceeded. Order and discipline replaced prehistoric disorder. Towns, houses and political institutions rapidly appeared. The ‘great unwashed’ were even introduced to the social institution of public baths and the country settled down to be as Roman as it could.

When the Romans left in AD410, Britain again reverted to a series of little Celtic states enjoying various degrees of Romanisation. A time of temporary but relative prosperity – yippee! No Roman taxes to pay! The ‘wild barbarians’ that the Romans had failed to subdue in the North, namely the Irish, Picts and Scots, dropped in from time to time to plunder this wealth. Time for some protection – some bodyguards – the Saxons.

The Saxons, at first brought in as mercenaries, liked the place and the people so much that they decided to stay, bringing their own Germanic culture and social system to the area. The Saxon system had no need of the towns or roads of Roman Britain and York’s influence declined.

In 866, Danish Viking invaders ransacked the city and changed it’s name to Jorvick. A Viking kingdom which stretched from the River Tees in the north to the River Thames in the south, was under Danish control (Danelaw). By AD1000 York had expanded and had some 8,000 inhabitants. The influence of the Vikings is apparent in York and throughout Yorkshire today in many street and place names – Stonegate, Swinegate, village names ending in ‘by’ and ‘thorpe’. Danish territorial divisions survive in the three Ridings (Thirdings) of Yorkshire.

The Norman invasion of 1066 changed the face of York and Britain to one easily recognisable today. Saxon and Viking buildings were mostly wooden and few of them stood above tree level. The Normans however brought with them a genius for architecture. They possessed building skills which in their day would have amounted to an industrial revolution. Stone churches replaced wooden structures, castles and castle mounds like York’s Clifford’s Tower demonstrated the Norman desire for order, unity and good government. Surely the finest example is the 800 year old York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.

New scientific thought and religious freedom of the 16th and 17th centuries led through to technical advances based on iron, steel and powered machinery. Ultimately this took us to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. York played a significant role in this as a major manufacturer of railway rolling stock. The National Railway Museum houses the world’s largest collection of engines and carriages in it’s three unique galleries.

Tours of historic York
For more information concerning tours of tours of historic York, please follow this link.

Getting here
York is easily accessible by both road and rail, please try our UK Travel Guide for further information.

Roman Sites
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Clifford’s Tower in York (pictured above) – Originally built as a motte (mound) in 1086 with a wooden castle on the top, Cliffords Tower’s stone tower was completed in 1313, only to crack from top to bottom some 50 years later when part of the mound collapsed into the moat. In 1322, Roger de Clifford was hanged by chains from the wall of the tower for opposing Edward II, and after that the keep was known as ‘Clifford’s Tower’.


Sergeant York, War Hero, Dies Killed 25 Germans and Captured 132 in Argonne Battle

NASHVILLE, Sept. 2—Sgt. Alvin C. York, the reluctant World War I infantryman who became an American legend, died this morning at Veterans Administration Hospital after a long illness. He was 76 years old.

On Oct. 8, 1918, during the final offensive of the war, the Tennessee mountaineer whose religious convictions at first kept him from fighting, singlehandedly captured or killed an entire German machine‐gun battalion.

Thereafter his life became a tangle of parades, political appearances and unpaid taxes. But the sergeant's modesty and devotion to his people in the steep Cumberland hills kept him clear of the hero's life and added to the legend.

The old soldier, winner of the Medal of Honor and nearly 50 other decorations was brought to the hospital on Saturday from his home in Pall Mall, 120 miles northeast of Nashville. His illness, the 11th in the last two years, was described as an acute internal infection.

Sergeant York had been in a coma since Sunday. His death at 10:40 A.M. today was caused, a hospital statement said, by ”general debility resultant of a combination of conditions incident to his age and complicat‐ ing illnesses over the past 10 years.”

This afternoon an American Legion Guard of Honor stood by as the doughboy's body was taken to a hearse for the trip back to Jamestown, the seat of his home county. Mrs. Gracie York, the girl he married when he came back a hero from the war, accompanied the body.

Sergeant York's death followed by one day the death of another hero of the Argonne Forest, Col. Sterling L. Morelock, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for wiping out a series of German machine‐gun nests.

In Washington, President Johnson issued a statement saluting the sergeant.

“Sgt. Alvin Cullum York has stood as a symbol of American courage and sacrifice for almost half a century. His valor above and beyond the call of duty, in World War I, was recognized with the nation's highest award, the Medal of Honor. As the citizen‐soldier hero of the American Expeditionary Forces, he epitomized the gallantry of American fighting men and their sacrifices in behalf of freedom.

“As Commander in Chief, I know that I express the deep and heartfelt sympathy of the American people to his wife and family.”

The sergeant's family said that a funeral service would be held Friday or Saturday at 2 P.M. at York's Chapel, a church in Jamestown. Burial is to be at Wolf Creek Cemetery nearby.

The White House said the President would designate a personal representative to attend the funeral.

Marshal Ferdinand Foch, the commander of Allied forces in World War I, called Sergeant York's exploit in the Argonne Forest “the greatest thing accomplished by any private soldier of all the armies of Europe.” General of the Armies John J. Pershing called him ”the greatest civilian soldier of the war.”

The red‐haired, freckle‐faced Tennessee mountaineer would color and say it was “nuthin'.”

“I wanted to do the best I could,” was his usual expalnation.

Sergeant York was the latterday descendant of the American frontier, a plain‐talking, nononsense sharpshooter who combined in his big, lanky frame the backwoods world of turkey shoots and corn liquor and the fundamentalist piety of his mountain home. For an America fighting its first war on foreign soil, he was the perfect hero.

Later, when he was surrounded but not taken by fame, he extended the legend beyond the limits set by such as Davy Crockett. He founded an agricultural and industrial school for the undereducated children of the mountains, and he issued statements that made sense to his rural countrymay — and some patriots in the big cities.

“Hitler and Mussolini jes' need a good whuppin',” he said in 1938, “and it looks like Uncle Sam's gonna have to do it.” The phrase was widely quoted in the nation's press.

Until this century military history had been dominated by the names of generals and great strategists. But with the rise of the popular press the common soldier was discovered and adulated. Sergeant York was the first in this line—a line continued by Audie Murphy, Roger Young and a number of other World War II enlisted men.

On Nov. 11. 1941, in an Armistice Day speech that preceded the second war by 26 days, President Roosevelt paid tribute to Sergeant York and the common soldier by quoting the sergeant's answer to the cynics and scoffers who sneered at World War I.

“The thing they forget,” the sergeant had said, “is that liberty and freedom and democracy are so very precious that you do not fight to win them once and stop.”

Alvin Cullum York was born in Pall Mall, Tenn., then a hamlet of a half‐dozen cabins, on Dec. 13. 1887. He was one of 11 children and the living was hard and rough in the almost inaccessible Wolf River country. He left school after the third grade to help bring in money for the family by working in his father's blacksmith shop.

He once recalled that in his youth he was much a part of the hard‐bitten mountain life. He went into town on Saturday night with his rifle to fight and gamble and drink white lightning. He shot squirrels and turkeys with his long‐barreled rifle and avoided church.

In 1911 there came what he later called his “awakening.” His father died, and he became the head of the family and its principal means of support. He joined a strictly pietistic sect called the Church of Christ and Christian Union and gave up drinking, gambling and cussing. He also took the church's vow to obey the commandment ”Thou shalt not kill.”

Eventually young Alvin, by then a 6‐foot, 200‐pound giant became the second elder of his Church and met Miss Gracie Williams, who persuaded him to join the Possum Trot Church Choir.

In 1917, when he was earning $1.65 a day swinging a pick on a road gang, he received a notice of induction into the United States Army. He pleaded for exemption on the ground that he had religious scruples against war, but his appeal was denied twice.

He was inducted on Nov. 14 and sent to Camp Gordon, Ga. He soon acquired a reputation for remarkable marksmanship with the Springfield 1903 rifle. but he was still reluctant to fight.

His company commander, Maj. George E. Buxton — for whom he later named one of his sons — was sympathetic and quoted Old Testament passages to the youth to convince him of the legitimacy of a just war. Private York was swayed, but not convinced.

The story is that during a furlough he spent two days on a mountain near his home working out the problem. When he came down he had an answer: ”I'm going.”

He was assigned to Company G of the 328th Infantry, part of the 82d Division, and shipped overseas on May 1, 1918. During the summer he participated in a number of campaigns and became a corporal.

The Meuse‐Argonne offensive — the last great push of the war — began on Oct. 2, 1918. The dawn of Oct. 8 found Corporal York's company on Hill 223 near Chatel Chehery. France, with the assignment of advancing on a railway two miles in front.

As the company moved across a valley and a stream toward the objective it was met by withering machine‐gun fire. Most of the first wave was killed or injured and 17 men in the second wave who were still fit for battle made a detour along the valley to get behind the German guns.

The commander was Sgt. Bernard J. Early of New Haven. Corporal York was the nextranking man left. The detail picked its way through heavy underbrush and came up on the side of the machine‐gun battalion.

“One of our men shot at them, and he sure started something,” the corporal recalled later. “They fired on us from every direction.” The burst killed or wounded 10 of the 17 men, including Sergeant Early.

Six of the remaining seven men took cover. Corporal York stayed put. “I sat right where I was, and it seemed to me that every machine gun the Germans had was shooting at me,” he said. “All this time, though, I was using my rifle, and they was beginning to feel the effect of it, because I was shootin' pretty good.”

The corporal picked off 18 Germans with 18 shots. “Every time one of them raised his head, I jes' teched him off,” was the way he put it. Seven more members of the German battalion, realizing they faced only one man, charged with bayonets. The corporal shot them with his pistol.

At this point the commander of the German troops surrendered. Corporal York collected his own men and marched the column back to his own lines. Along the way, several more groups surrendered. By the time he reached American territory the corporal had 132 prisoners in tow, including three officers. He had killed 25—some said even more—and silenced 35 machine guns. The amazement of the German commander when he saw that his battalion had been taken by one man was matched only by the wonder with which Corporal York was met by his own commander.

In later years. despite a thorough Army investigation, supporting the corporal's claim, some sought to prove that SerSergeant Early was responsible for Corporal York's exploits. Soon after the engagement some members of the 328th Infantry signed a protest against the awarding of medals to the corporal, and in 1935 the Connecticut Department of the American Legion made a similar protest.

Corporal York was promoted to sergeant on Nov. 1, 1918, and the round of praise, medals and world renown began.

“I was sorter feeling like a red fox circling when the hounds are after it.” he wrote later. “They asked me that many questions that I kinder got tired inside of my head and wanted to get up and light out and do some hiking.”

In addition to the nation's Medal of Honor, highest decoration for bravery, Sergeant York received the Distinguished Service Cross, the Medaille Militaire, Croix de Guerre with palm, the Croce di Guerra of Italy, the French Legion of Honor, the War Medal of Montenegro and others.

In May, 1919, Sergeant York returned to the United States and a tumultuous welcome. The New York Stock Exchange suspended business and members carried the war hero around the trading floor on their shoulders. He got a standing ovation from Congress.

He received his discharge on May 29 and was immediately besieged by offers for lecture tours, acting assignments and other public appearances. The sergeant turned them down, saying, “This uniform ain't for sale,” and returned to Tennessee.

On June 7 he and Gracie Williams were married by Gov. A. H. Roberts on a hillside near her home. They turned town an offer to honeymoon in Salt Lake City as guests of the Rotary Clubs because they feared the trip was “merely a vainglorious call of the world and the devil.”

Sergeant York settled down on his 396‐acre farm on the Wolf River, given to him by the state, and continued blacksmithing and hunting. He also taught in a Sunday school and did some lay preaching.

His one acknowledgement of his fame was his drive to raise money for the Alvin C. York Industrial School in Jamestown. He served as president of the high school for mountain children until 1936.

When visitors went to see him they usually found the war hero out in the fields or working on farm buildings. It became obligatory for Tennessee politicians running for office to pose for campaign pictures with him.

In 1936 the Prohibition party nominated him for Vice President but he turned it down, although he remained an ardent ”dry.”

In his infrequent public appearances the sergeant asked for increased American military preparedness. Later in his life he lamented the fact that modern weapons were replacing the foot soldier and he advocated using nuclear weapons in any war with the Soviet Union. “If they can't find anyone else to push the button, I will,” he said.

During World War II he served as president of his local draft board and drafted two of his five sons. In 1942 he was made a major by Act of Congress and placed on the retired list.

There was a renewal of the Sergeant York legend in 1941 when a movie based on his life was released. The late Gary Cooper won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Tennessee doughboy.

In 1951 the Internal Revenue Service claimed that Mr. York owed $172,000 in taxes and interest on the royalties he received from the movie. The sergeant denied the claim, saying he had given most of the money to his industrial school or the Alvin C. York Nondenominational Bible School in Pall Mall. “I paid ɾm the tax I owed ɾm, and I don't owe ɾm no more,” he declared.

After 10 years of litigation, the Government said it would settle for $25,000. This amount was raised by a drive led by Speaker Sam Rayburn of the House of Representatives, and Sergeant York said he was ”mighty grateful.”

“Them tax folks been hounding me so long and I been fighting them so long I thought itɽ never end,” he said.

In the same year, 1961, S. Hallock du Pont, a Wilmington (Del.) financier, set up a trust fund that paid $300 a month to the sergeant for the rest of his life.

The old soldier's later years were clouded by illness and, until the establishment of the fund, shortage of money. He suffered the first of a series of strokes in 1949 by 1954 he was confined to a wheelchair. In the last few years he suffered a number of heart attacks. His last illness was an infection of the urinary tract.

The sergeant's last public appearance was in August, 1957, when he went to Jamestown for ceremonies in which the 82d Airborne Division, the successor to his old unit, presented him with a new car equipped to carry his wheelchair.

In 1960 the American Legion gave him a circular pushbutton bed so that he could move around despite semiparalysis and almost complete blindness. “Seems like everything is push‐button these days, including me,” he remarked.

Despite his ill health, he maintained a lively interest in national and world affairs. In 1962 he lent his name to a drive to prevent a reduction in the national guard. “Nothing would please Khrushchev better,” he said.

At his two‐story farm home on the Wolf River, which he built himself, the Springfield rifle Sergeant York used on that October day in 1918 still hangs over the soldier's bed. He had asked that it be given to the Alvin C. York Industrial School at his death.

Sergeant York is survived by his widow, five sons, the Rev. George Edward Buxton York of Nashville, a Church of the Nazarene minister Alvin York Jr. of Indianapolis, Woodrow Wilson York, Thomas Jefferson York and Andrew Jackson of Pall Mall, and two daughters, Miss Betsy Ross Lowrey and Mrs. Mary Alice Franklin of Pall Mall.


Alvin York and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive

October 8, 1918, was a hard morning for the 2nd Württemberg Landwehr Division at Châtel Chéhéry, France. The German division’s infantry regiments, the 122nd, 120th and 125th, were barely holding onto their piece of the Argonne Forest against an attack by the U.S. Army’s 82nd Division. Fortunately for the Germans, the Argonne favored the defense — and the Americans favored it further by attacking up a funnel-shaped valley right into a deathtrap.

In the thick of the fight was Lieutenant Paul Jürgen Vollmer. Vollmer, or ‘Kuno, as his friends called him, was a highly decorated officer who had recently assumed command of the 120th Württemberg Landwehr Regiment’s 1st Battalion, most of whose soldiers were from Ulm (in the semiautonomous German state of Württemberg), where Vollmer had been the assistant postmaster before the war.

Vollmer was directing his troops against the Americans when his battalion adjutant, Lieutenant Karl Glass, approached. Vollmer hoped that this was not another report that the Americans had penetrated the German lines. Such rumors had been common since October 2, when the so-called Lost Battalion of the U.S. 77th Infantry Division broke through a few miles west of his sector. Vollmer was relieved to hear that elements of the Prussian 210th Reserve Infantry Regiment had just arrived at his battalion command post 200 yards up the valley. The 210th was what Vollmer needed to push the Americans out of this portion of the Argonne. Vollmer told Glass to follow him to meet with the 210th’s commander, since they had only one hour to be ready for the counterattack.

Upon arriving at his headquarters, Vollmer was appalled to find that 70 soldiers of the 210th had laid down their arms and were eating breakfast. When he rebuffed them for their lack of preparedness, the weary Prussians replied, We hiked all night, and first of all we need something to eat. Vollmer told Glass to go back to the front and ordered the 210th to move quickly. He then wheeled around to rejoin his battalion.

Suddenly, down the side of the far hill, a group of German soldiers came running to the command post yelling, Die Amerikaner Kommen! Then, off to the right, Vollmer saw a group of 210th soldiers drop their weapons and yell, Kamerad, their hands high in the air. Bewildered, Vollmer drew his pistol and ordered them to pick up their weapons. Behind Vollmer came several Americans charging down the hill. Believing it was a large American attack, the 210th surrendered. Before Vollmer realized what had happened, a large American with a red mustache, broad features and a freckled face had captured him as well. That Yank, from the 82nd Division, was Corporal Alvin C. York.

Much has been written about York, but all the previous accounts have one significant flaw: They do not tell the German side of the story. In the course of recent research, hundreds of pages of archival information from across Germany have come to light, uncovering the full story of what happened on October 8.

October 7, 1918 — Initial German Defense
The German side of York’s story began on October 7, as the 2nd Württemberg Landwehr Division was preparing defensive positions along the eastern edge of the Argonne. Vollmer’s 1st Battalion, 120th Regiment, was the last of the division to pull back to the valley behind Châtel Chéhéry to serve as the reserve. This was welcome news for Vollmer’s men, who had been in the thick of the fighting since the Americans launched their Meuse-Argonne offensive on September 26, but the 10-kilometer move, harassed by American artillery, took most of the day before the battalion finally arrived near Châtel Chéhéry.

While Vollmer’s men were on the march, the U.S. 82nd Infantry Division moved into Châtel Chéhéry and prepared to attack Castle Hill and a smaller position a kilometer to the north, designated Hill 180 by the Americans but called Schöne Aussicht (Pleasant View) by the Germans. Both objectives were important, but Castle Hill, or Hill 223, as the Americans called it, was vital. Whoever controlled it controlled access to that sector of the Argonne. Elements of the German 125th Württemberg Landwehr, the Guard Elizabeth Battalion and the 47th Machine Gun Company were given the mission of holding that hill, under the overall command of Captain Heinrich Müller.
On October 7, the 1st Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Division attacked. Battalion Müller fought tenaciously but was pushed back to the western slope of Castle Hill. There, the Germans held on through the night at great loss and even attempted a counterattack. The 82nd Division also captured Hill 180. The near-complete losses of Castle Hill and Pleasant View put the Germans’ grip on the Argonne at serious risk.

General Max von Gallwitz, the German army group commander in the region, monitored these developments with grave concern and directed the 45th Prussian Reserve Division’s 212th Reserve Infantry Regiment to help the 125th Landwehr to retake Pleasant View and the 210th Reserve Infantry Regiment to assist the 120th Landwehr in recapturing Castle Hill. Those counterattacks would occur at 1030 hours on October 8. Vollmer would lead the assault on Castle Hill.

As the 2nd Württemberg Division prepared its defenses on October 7, Vollmer’s 4th Company commander, Lieutenant Fritz Endriss, identified gaps between his unit and the 2nd Machine Gun Company. One of Endriss’ platoon leaders, Lieutenant Karl Kübler, told Vollmer, I regard our situation as very dangerous, for the Americans could easily pass through the gaps in the sector of the 2nd Machine Gun Company and gain our rear. Vollmer directed Kübler to establish liaison with the 2nd Machine Gun Company. Failing to do that, Kübler sent Vollmer a message, I will, on my own responsibility, occupy Hill 2 with part of 4th Company. But Vollmer replied, You will hold the position to which you have been assigned.

October 8 — American Attack and German Counterattack
Three significant threats faced General Georg von der Marwitz, the German Fifth Army commander, on October 8. First, there was the Amerikaner nest along the western edge of the Argonne Forest, where an isolated element of the 77th U.S. Infantry Division was proving to be more than the neighboring 76th German Reserve Division could handle. That saga began on October 2, when 590 American soldiers penetrated a mile into German lines and settled down for five days in a 600-meter-long pocket. Despite several concerted German attacks, the Americans refused to surrender. Meanwhile the 77th Division launched attack after attack to relieve its Lost Battalion. Although unsuccessful thus far, these attacks were taking a heavy toll on the 76th Reserve Division. If the 76th failed to eliminate the Lost Battalion, Marwitz’s flank would be exposed.

A second problem was the advance of the U.S. 82nd and 28th divisions to secure the eastern part of the Argonne, which could sever German lines of communication in the forest and protect the flank of the main American attack in the Meuse River valley. The third trouble spot, and the most dangerous to the German Fifth Army, was the Meuse Valley, just east of the Argonne Forest. It was there that General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, sent the bulk of his First Army with the goal of ultimately cutting the main German supply artery in Sedan, some 30 miles to the north.

The 2nd Landwehr Division chronicled the German predicament in the region. Concerned about the situation, general headquarters committed elements of the 1st Guard Infantry Division, a portion of the 52nd Reserve Division, the 210th and 212th regiments of the 45th Reserve Division and the Machine Gun Sharpshooters of Regiments 47 and 58 to the fight. Headquarters reports stated: We had to stop the enemy’s main attack, which was now east of the Aire [in the Meuse River valley]. So our artillery around Hohenbornhöhe was used to provide fires against his flank.

Meanwhile, German lookouts reported American soldiers making their way toward Castle Hill. This was the 2nd Battalion, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Division — York’s battalion — which would attack via Castle Hill in a northwesterly direction after a 10-minute artillery barrage. The battalion would advance one mile across a funnel-shaped valley and seize a dual objective: the Decauville rail line and the North-South Road. These were the main German supply lines into the Argonne. The Americans had no idea that the Germans had positioned more than 50 machine guns and dug in several hundred troops to kill anything that dared move into that valley.

Fog blanketed the Aire River valley below the Argonne early on October 8. Things started to look up for Vollmer after the 7th Bavarian Sapper Company, under a Lieutenant Thoma, and a detachment of the 210th Prussian Reserve Regiment reported for duty. He placed the two units among the gaps on Hill 2 that Kübler and Endriss had previously complained about. It was 0610 hours.

Suddenly, out of the early morning fog, the Germans heard the uproar of an enemy infantry force attacking in the valley, where the stillness was shattered by the whine of ricocheting bullets. The Americans headed into the valley without a preparatory barrage because their supporting artillery unit had not received word to fire. The alarm was sounded across the 2nd Landwehr Division, whose troops quickly manned their positions. The American advance was immediately contested by Battalion Müller, which held on until it ran out of ammunition. After that, the Germans retreated across the valley to the forward trenches of the 125th Regiment. With Battalion Müller out of the way, the Americans cleared Castle Hill and plunged into the valley. They were greeted with heavy rifle and machine gun fire from hundreds of German soldiers dug in on the three surrounding hills. Vollmer moved forward with his battalion to bolster the 2nd Machine Gun and 7th Bavarian companies, which bore the brunt of the attack. After weeks of setbacks, it seemed that at last the Germans would take back the initiative in the Argonne. Alvin York later described that crucial engagement:

So you see we were getting it from the front and both flanks. Well, the first and second waves got about halfway across the valley and then were held up by machine gun fire from the three sides. It was awful. Our losses were very heavy. The advancement was stopped and we were ordered to dig in. I don’t believe our whole battalion or even our whole division could have taken those machine guns by a straightforward attack.

The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. They just stopped us dead in our tracks. It was hilly country with plenty of brush, and they had plenty of machine guns entrenched along those commanding ridges. And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. So our attack just faded out. And there we were, lying down, about halfway across, and no barrage, and those German machine guns and big shells getting us hard.

Among the Americans trapped in that fight was Sergeant Harry Parson, who ordered Acting Sergeant Bernard Early to lead a platoon of 17 men behind the Germans and take out the machine guns. York was part of that group. While the three American squads moved toward German-occupied Hill 2, a terrific commotion shook the area as American artillery belatedly opened up in support of the besieged 328th Infantry. The barrage inadvertently covered the movement of Early’s men, who found a gap in the lines. They made their way through it and into the German rear area. Despite that, Vollmer felt confident of victory. As the German 120th report stated: Without any artillery preparation, the adversary launched a violent attack and there was heavy fighting….The enemy was repulsed almost everywhere. 1st BN absorbed the brunt of the enemy attack without wavering, due to its good defensive position.

It was at that point in the fight that Vollmer, learning from Lieutenant Glass that the 210th had at last arrived, returned to his command post to find the 210th eating breakfast. He was taken prisoner before he had a chance to rectify the situation. Glass, who returned to the front lines moments before Vollmer departed, went back to the command post to report that he had seen American troops moving on the hill above. Before he realized it, Glass too was York’s prisoner. Everything occurred so suddenly that both Vollmer and the 210th Regimental soldiers believed that this was a large surprise attack by the Americans.

As the 17 Americans busily gathered their 70-plus prisoners, the 4th and 6th companies of the 125th Württemberg Landwehr on Humser Hill saw what was happening below. They signaled to the captured Germans to lie down and then opened fire. The hail of bullets killed six and wounded three of their captors. Several prisoners were also killed by the machine-gunners, which caused the surviving captured men to wave their hands wildly in the air and yell, Don’t shoot — there are Germans here! Lieutenant Paul Adolph August Lipp, commander of the 6th Company, had his men aim more carefully. He brought up riflemen to join the machine-gunners in killing the Americans.

Of the eight American survivors, Corporal York was the only noncommissioned officer still standing. He worked his way partly up the slope where the German machine-gunners were. For the gunners to fire at York, they had to expose their heads above their positions. Whenever York saw a German helmet, he fired his .30-caliber rifle, hitting his target every time.

Vollmer, the nearest to York, was appalled to see 25 of his comrades fall victim to the Tennessean’s unerring marksmanship. At least three machine gun crews were killed in this manner, all while York, a devout Christian who did not want to kill any more than he had to, intermittently yelled at them to Give up and come on down. Meanwhile Lieutenant Endriss, seeing that Vollmer was in trouble, led a valiant charge against York. York used a hunting skill he learned when faced with a flock of turkeys. He knew that if the first soldier was shot, those behind would take cover. To prevent that, he fired his M1911 Colt .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, targeting the men from the back to the front. The last German he shot was Endriss, who fell to the ground screaming in agony. York later wrote in his diary that he had shot five German soldiers and an officer like wild turkeys with his pistol.

Vollmer was not sure how many Germans were killed in that assault, but knew it was a lot. Worse yet, his wounded friend Endriss needed help. In the middle of the fight, Vollmer, who had lived in Chicago before the war, stood up, walked over to York and yelled above the din of battle, English? York replied, No, not English. Vollmer then inquired, What? American, York answered. Vollmer exclaimed: Good Lord! If you won’t shoot any more I will make them give up.
York told him to go ahead. Vollmer blew a whistle and yelled an order. Upon hearing Vollmer’s order, Lipp told his men on the hill above to drop their weapons and make their way down the hill to join the other prisoners.

York directed Vollmer to line up the Germans in a column and have them carry out the six wounded Americans. He then placed the German officers at the head of the formation, with Vollmer in the lead. York stood directly behind him, with the .45-caliber Colt pointed at the German’s back. Vollmer suggested that York take the men down a gully in front of Humser Hill to the left, which was still occupied by a large group of German soldiers. Sensing a trap, York took them instead down the road that skirted Hill 2 and led back to Castle Hill and Châtel Chéhéry.

Meanwhile, forward of York and the prisoners was Lieutenant Kübler and his platoon. He told his second in command, Warrant Officer Haegele, that things just don’t look right. Kübler ordered his men to follow him to the battalion command post. As they approached, he was surrounded by several of York’s men. Kübler and his platoon surrendered. Vollmer told them to drop their weapons and equipment belts.

Lieutenant Thoma, the 7th Bavarian commander, was not far off and heard Vollmer’s order to Kübler to surrender. Thoma ordered his men to follow him with fixed bayonets and yelled to the 100-plus German prisoners, Don’t take off your belts! Thoma’s men took a position near the road for a fight. York shoved his pistol in Vollmer’s back and demanded that he order Thoma to surrender.

Vollmer cried out, You must surrender! Thoma insisted that he would not. It is useless, Vollmer said. We are surrounded. Thoma then said, I will do so on your responsibility! Vollmer replied that he would take all responsibility. With that, Thoma and his group, which included elements of the 2nd Machine Gun Company, dropped their weapons and belts and joined the prisoners.

As the large formation crossed the valley, York’s battalion adjutant, Lieutenant Joseph A. Woods, saw the group of men and, believing that it was a German counterattack, gathered as many soldiers as he could for a fight. After a closer look, however, he realized that the Germans were unarmed. York, at the head of the formation, saluted and said, Corporal York reports with prisoners, sir.

How many prisoners have you, Corporal?

Honest Lieutenant, York replied, I don’t know. Woods, who must have been stunned but kept his composure, ordered, Take them back to Châtel Chéhéry, and I will count them as they go by. His count: 132 Germans.

German Line in the Argonne Shattered
York’s men frustrated the German counterattack plan and bagged elements of the 120th Regiment, 210th Prussian Reserve Regiment, 7th Bavarian Company, 2nd Machine Gun Company and 125th Landwehr. This cleared the front and enabled the Americans to press on up the valley to take their objective, the Decauville rail line and the North-South Road. The German line was broken, and the 120th Landwehr would never recover from the day’s losses. Its report stated: The flank of 6th Company reported an enemy surprise attack. Next, the remnant of 4th Company and personnel from the 210th Regiment were caught by this surprise attack, where Lieutenant Endriss was killed. The company was shattered or was captured. Also First Lieutenant Vollmer ended up in the enemy’s hands. Now the situation was worse.

The planned German counterattack to take Castle and Pleasant View hills had been preempted by York and his men. If the 82nd Infantry Division pressed the attack now, it could cause the collapse of German defenses in the Argonne and lead to the capture of thousands of troops, supplies and artillery. But the American 328th Infantry had taken such a beating that it did not take advantage of this opportunity. Shortly after that the Germans were ordered to withdraw from the Argonne. The 120th Wurttenberg Infantry’s report noted:

[We received] the depressing order at 1030 to withdraw. In good order did we move. We did have some luck….There was no fire on the North-South Road. But we did see terrible things on the road. The results of the artillery dead men, dead horses, destroyed vehicles blocking the way and destroyed trees were scattered to and fro. And what about the enemy? The North-South Road was closed by machine gun fire. This happened around 1200….It was amazing that the Americans did not press the attack. In the afternoon of 8 October, the headquarters of 3rd and 5th Army ordered a withdrawal from the Argonne line.

On October 9, the final order was issued to withdraw into the fortified Hindenburg Line for the final defense before the war ended. It was now that General von der Marwitz, the leader of 5th Army, gave the last word, the 120th’s report stated. We needed to occupy the secondary defensive positions further back. In the evening of 9/10 October, the regiment departed from the Argonne. The German soldiers gave so much after hard battles since 1914 — more than 80,000 dead were left here. American artillery briefly hit the Humserberg line during the retreat and always there was the shrapnel. We were dead tired, too tired to contemplate, but able to hold onto hope.

Postscript
Paul Vollmer served on the Western Front for four years. He fought with the 125th and 120th Württemberg Landwehr Infantry regiments in 10 campaigns and was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class in 1914, the Knights Cross 2nd Class in 1915 and the Iron Cross 1st Class and the Queen Olga of Württemberg Medal in 1918. Released in 1919, he moved to Stuttgart, where he again became a postmaster. In 1929 Vollmer was asked to provide a statement about the events of October 8, 1918, to the German Archives in Potsdam, which he did not want to do. After several formal requests, he arrived to answer questions. He was visibly uneasy about submitting a formal report. Vollmer insisted that there was a large group of Americans, not just York and his small squad. It must have seemed impossible that so few men could have captured so many highly trained German soldiers.

Alvin Cullum York was promoted to sergeant and received the Medal of Honor for his deeds of October 8. He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the French Croix de Guerre and several other medals. After the war, he returned to his hometown of Pall Mall, Tenn., where the people of his state gave him a house and a farm. He married his sweetheart, Gracie Williams, and they raised seven children — five boys and two girls. The faith that brought him through the war stayed with him throughout his life. An October 1918 diary entry just after the Argonne fight summarized his view of life: I am a witness to the fact that God did help me out of that hard battle for the bushes were shot up all around me and I never got a scratch.


Alvin York, Who Single-Handedly Captured 132 Enemy Soldiers In WWI – Great Pictures Too (he even addressed the 82nd AB)

Sergeant Alvin York was seemingly born to a hardscrabble existence and anonymity in death, but World War One changed that forever. The story of York is one that twists and turns like the Mississippi river as he went through redemption and battled personal demons.

At the end of it all was the story that could have secured fame, finance, and his future – but York turned his back on it all to go back to the simple life and try and make a positive impact on the community in which he lived. York’s early upbringing laid the foundations for the heroic feats that he would perform later on in life. He was born in a log cabin in 1887 close to Pall Mall in Tennessee, the third of 11 children.

He received the Medal of Honor for leading an attack on a German machine gun nest, taking 32 machine guns, killing 28 German soldiers, and capturing 132 others.

His upbringing was typical of the poor, subsistence farmers living in the area. Alvin was only sent to school for nine months as his father wanted him to help out on the farm and hunt to provide extra food on the table. This lack of schooling may have set York back in some ways, but it gave him the essential skills that he would later use to achieve his fame.

When his father died in November 1911, Alvin took charge of supplementing the family income as he was the oldest sibling still living in the area. To do this, he took a job on the railways at Harriman, Tennessee. York was a skilled worker who always had the welfare of his family in his mind, but despite this was a raving alcoholic who loved nothing more than getting into drunken fights. This led the authorities to arrest him on several occasions.

Valley near Chatel Chéhéry, France, where Sgt. York fought.

His mother was a pacifist Protestant and tried to get her son and dominant breadwinner to change his ways – although he only did so after his close friend Everett Delk was beaten to death as a result of a saloon brawl. And so York went from one end of the spectrum to another as the former fighter and drinker became a member of the extreme pacifist sect called the Church of Christ in Christian Union – who forbade almost anything fun.

Gary Cooper and Alvin York chat before the New York world premiere of ‘Sergeant York’.

As a fundamentalist sect, this church believed in a strict moral code that denied its followers drinking and fighting. York had undergone a complete moral U-turn, and the consequences of that would trouble his conscious for his whole life in the Army. When York found out that World War One had broken out, it caused him immense trouble. In response to the news, he simply wrote: “I was worried clean through. I didn’t want to go and kill. I believed in my Bible.”

Alvin York with his mother Mary York, c. 1919. Sergeant York

This conscientious stance to fighting continued into 1917 when he was required to register for the draft. Every man between the age of 21-year-old and 31 was required to do so – however, they could claim exemption from the draft on conscientious grounds. On his draft slip, he simply wrote, “Don’t want to fight.” As a result, his claim was denied. It’s difficult to say what would have happened if York had undergone more than nine months of schooling – had he been able to put his thought down more eloquently there is every chance his story would never have happened.

In November 1917 York was drafted and sent to Camp Gordon in Georgia to begin his Army service. It was from there that he was drafted into the United States Army and assigned to Company G, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division. York remained at odds with his pacifist code and held in-depth discussions with his company commander and battalion commander, during which they quoted him biblical passages that condoned violence.

Alvin C. York’s home and farm in 1922.

After returning home for ten days to think, York returned to the Army convinced it was his duty to fight for the Lord – and that God would keep him safe. He was then sent to France and served in the St Mihiel Offensive. After the fighting was concluded, he was sent on to take part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive.

On the 8th of October, 1918 York and his unit received an order to capture German positions around Hill 223, which was along the Decauville rail line north of Chatel-Chehery in France. York was about to enter the fight that would earn him a Medal of Honor. Talking about the engagement, he said: “The Germans got us, and they got us right smart. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home.”

Known also by his rank, Sergeant York, He was one of the most decorated American soldiers in World War I.

In short, it was a terrible situation. The enemy held a ridge they were pouring machine gun fire into Allied men, and it was taking a horrible toll. They needed a hero and in the form of an anti-war, deeply religious crack shot they found one.

York at the hill where his actions earned him the Medal of Honor, three months after the end of World War I, February 7, 1919.

Sergeant Bernard Early, four non-commissioned officers including the then Corporal York and 13 privates were sent to get behind German lines and take out the machine guns. The men worked their way behind the Germans and took the German headquarters in the area by surprise – capturing a large number of the enemy.

As Early and his men worked to secure their new prisoners, the German guns on the hill turned their fire on the small group – killing six and wounding three others. Because of the loss, York was now in charge of the men.

York then worked his way into position to target the machine guns, after leaving the rest of his squad behind to guard the prisoners.

Using all that knowledge from hunting as well as his incredible skill, York began firing at the guns. There were around 30. In his own words, all he could do was ‘touch the Germans off as fast as possible.’

One hell of a warrior.

But this brought about another moral dilemma for the soldier, who was also calling out for the enemy to surrender so he could stop killing them. At one point in the engagement, six Germans charged York’s position – but the man calmly drew his pistol and shot them all down before they could reach him.

Eventually, the German Commander First Lieutenant Paul Vollmer took into account his mounting losses and offered to surrender to York – who gleefully accepted. York and the remaining seven Americans then marched 132 prisoners back to friendly lines.

This battle scene was painted in 1919 by artist Frank Schoonover. The scene depicts the bravery of Alvin C. York in 1918.

Upon being presented with this haul, York’s brigade commander is said to have remarked: “Well York, I hear you have captured the whole damn German army.” To which the hero responded: “No sir. I got only 132.”

York was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was swiftly upgraded to the Medal of Honour. France also decorated the man with the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour.

Sgt. Alvin York, addressing the 82nd Division, May 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.

Back home in the States, York turned down several offers that would have secured his future – and instead fell into debt by 1921 after several well-meaning public schemes to provide for the hero fell flat.

Alvin and Gracie York inside their store during WWII

He also founded the Alvin C. York Foundation, whose goal was to increase education for those in Tennessee, and in 1935 York began work with the Civilian Conservation Corps. During World War Two, he tried to re-enlist in the Army but was denied because of his physical condition. York was, however, commissioned as a major in the Army Signal Corps.

He had eight children with his wife Grace and died in 1964 in Nashville, Tennesse.


Richard, 3rd duke of York

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Richard, 3rd duke of York, (born Sept. 21, 1411—died Dec. 30, 1460, near Wakefield, Yorkshire, Eng.), claimant to the English throne whose attempts to gain power helped precipitate the Wars of the Roses (1455–85) between the houses of Lancaster and York he controlled the government for brief periods during the first five years of this struggle. He was the father of two English kings, Edward IV and Richard III.

In 1415 Richard succeeded his uncle Edward as duke of York. As a descendant of Lionel, duke of Clarence, third son of King Edward III (ruled 1327–77), York had a hereditary claim to the throne that was stronger, by primogeniture, than that of Henry VI (who became king in 1422), who was descended from Edward’s fourth son. Nevertheless, York served Henry faithfully as governor of France and Normandy from 1436 to 1437 and 1440 to 1445. At the same time, he became an opponent of the powerful Beaufort family, which was gaining control of Henry’s government. The death of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, in 1447 left York next in line for succession to the throne, and the Beauforts had him sent—virtually banished—to Ireland as lord lieutenant. He returned to England in 1450 and led the opposition to Henry’s new chief minister, Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset. When the King suffered a nervous breakdown in July 1453, the ambitious queen, Margaret of Anjou, backed by Somerset, claimed the regency, but her rule was so unpopular that Parliament appointed York protector of the realm in March 1454. York was hated and feared by Margaret because he was a potential rival to the throne she hoped to obtain for her son, then an infant. Consequently, upon Henry’s recovery, in December 1454, Margaret persuaded him to dismiss York and restore Somerset to power. York immediately took up arms. At St. Albans, Hertfordshire, on May 22, 1455, his forces killed Somerset in battle, and he had control of the government until Margaret again gained the upper hand in October 1456. Hostilities between the two sides reopened late in 1459 in July 1460 York’s able lieutenant Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, defeated the Lancastrians at Northampton and captured the King. A compromise was then worked out whereby Henry was to remain king for life and York was to succeed him. But Margaret, who would never agree to the disinheritance of her son, raised a rebellion in northern England. York’s attempt to deal with her resulted in his death when he was attacked by the Lancastrians outside his castle near Wakefield. His son Edward seized power the following year as Edward IV.


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