Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

the military milestones

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This page captures key milestones in military history. Primary emphasis will be on American Military history or items impacting it.

Milestones Impacting American Military History

1804 – Captain Meriwether Lewis and Lieutenant William Clark leave St. Louis for their continental expedition, the first direct federal aid in developing the West.

1811 – John H. Hall patents a breechloading rifle. [FTCD, 130]

1812 – The Army abolishes flogging for punishment. It is reinstated in 1833 for desertion. [FTCD, 141]

1814 – Robert Fulton builds the world’s first steam warship, the Fulton, to defend New York harbor. [FTCD, 130]

1816 – United States establishes, first ever, peace-time long-range naval building program.

Congress votes $1 million annhttps://wigwags.wordpress.com/wp-admin/page.php?action=edit&post=386ually for eight years to build nine 74-gun ships of the line, twelve 44-gun frigates, and three coast defense steam batteries – a larger building program that ever before. [FTCD, 124]

1817 – President James Monroe appoints Captain Sylvanus Thayer superintendent of West Point who revives and models it after French professional standards. He recruits Dennis Hart Mahan as Professor of Civil and Military Engineering and the Art of War. [FTCD, 134]

1819 – John H. Hall signs contract to produce his breechloading rifle at Harpers Ferry Armory. [FTCD, 130]

1820 – Joshua Shaw perfects the copper percussion cap.

The percussion cap is simpler and more reliable than the flintlock so that an infantryman can fire faster than ever. [FTCD, 129]

1823 – French artillery officer Henri-Joseph Paixhans solves the technical difficulties in firing shells from naval guns leading to adoption of shell guns by France and the United States in the late 1830s. [FTCD, 131]

1830 – The daily liquor ration is ended for the American army. [FTCD, 141]

1831 – Karl von Clausewitz’s abstract commentary on the Napoleonic Wars, On War is published postumously, arguably the most important study dealing with the theory and principles of war. It will remain unknown to Americans until translated in 1873. [FTCD, 133]


  • The first official American armed intervention in Asia takes place at Quallah Battoo, Sumatra as sailors and marines from the American frigate Potomac, commanded by John Downes, avenge an attack on a merchant vessel killing at least 100 Sumatrans and destroy a town and several forts. The order came from President andrew Jackson. [FTCD, 140]
  • The Black Hawk War errupts in April and ends in August with the slaughter of Indian men, women, and children by whites at the “Battle of Bad Axe.” [FTCD, 142]

1837 – A new Fulton steam warship is completed as ordered by Sectretary of the Navy Mahlon Dickerson. [FTCD, 131]


  • Congress abolishes Board of Navy Commissioners, creates five Bureaus of Navy: Yards and Docks; Construction, Equipment, and Repair; Medicine and Surgery; Provisions and Clothing; and Ordnance and Hydrography. According to Millett and Maslowski, the bureaus cause problems for decades because they are independently managed and failed to cooperate. [FTCD, 125]
  • Two seagoing paddlewheeler steam warships, the Mississippi and Missouri are completed. [FTCD, 131]


  • The Michigan is launched on the Great Lakes, the first public armed vessel built of iron which negates the threat of incendiary shell guns. [FTCD, 131]
  • The first screw-propeller warship, the Princeton is launched.

“Its design made steamships equal to sailing vessels in fighting power, with the additional advantage of machine propulsion, and in the fifteen years preceding the Civil War the Navy increasingly converted to steam.” [FTCD, 131]

1844 – S.F.B. Morse transmits first telegraphy message transforming military communications.

1845 – Then Secretary of the Navy (and of War), Geroge Bancroft, creates the first professional school for Naval officers at Fort Severn, Annapolis. [FTCD, 135]

1846 – May 13, the United States declares war on Mexico, formally initiating The Mexican War.


  • The naval officer training school begun in 1845 by George Bancroft is named the Naval Academy. [FTCD, 135]
  • The self-contained metallic cartridge is developed making possible effective breechloaders and repeating rifles. [FTCD, 130]


Written by Rene Tyree

May 3, 2008 at 8:02 pm

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