On July 4, 1776, the American Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. While July 4 is celebrated as the birthday of the United States, the country was very different and smaller back then: a small cluster of 13 states with a combined population of about 2.5 million (about the same as Brooklyn today) seeking to break trans-Atlantic ties to King George III. (These are the origins of every American federal holiday.)
While the American Revolutionary War (fought from 1775 to 1783) birthed the nation, it would take more than a century for the country to fill out to its current borders. Along the way, throughout the late 18th and the 19th centuries, 44 watershed battles took place to help make that happen.
To provide a list of the battles that made America, 24/7 Wall St. compiled information about the 44 battles inscribed on the amphitheater of Arlington National Cemetery. These battles span the period from the American Revolution through the Spanish-American War. (Our list is arranged in chronological order, though Arlington doesn’t list them exactly that way.)
Click here to see the most pivotal battles that made America what it is today
On the list, you’ll find wars Americans fought against Great Britain, Mexico, Spain and – bloodiest of all – themselves. Twenty of these 44 battles were fought during the Civil War; a dozen of them drenched the soils of Tennessee and Virginia with the blood of tens of thousands of Americans. For example, more than 13,000 soldiers were killed in just two days at the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862. (These are the deadliest battles in U.S. history.)
Other key battles in took place during the War of 1812, a failed attempt by Britain to stop American expansion; the Mexican-American War, fought in the wake of the 1845 annexation of Texas; and the Spanish-American War of 1898, the country’s first military foray outside of the contiguous United States.
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