Special Report

The Pivotal Battles That Made America What It Is Today

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

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.

1. Battle of Lexington
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: Massachusetts
> Date(s): April 19, 1775

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2. Battle of Ticonderoga
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: New York
> Date(s): May 10, 1775

3. Battle of Bunker Hill
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: Massachusetts
> Date(s): June 17, 1775

4. Battle of Trenton
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: New Jersey
> Date(s): December 26, 1776

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5. Battle of Saratoga
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: New York
> Date(s): September 19-October 7, 1777

6. Battle of Monmouth
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: New Jersey
> Date(s): June 28, 1778

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7. Battle of Stony Point
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: Rockland County, NY
> Date(s): July 16, 1779

8. Battle of Kings Mountain
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: South Carolina
> Date(s): October 7, 1780

9. Battle of Guilford Courthouse
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: North Carolina
> Date(s): March 15, 1781

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10. Battle of Yorktown
> War: The American Revolution
> Location: Virginia
> Date(s): September 28-October 19, 1781

11. Battle of Lake Erie
> War: War of 1812
> Location: Ohio
> Date(s): September 10, 1813

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12. Battle of Chippewa
> War: War of 1812
> Location: Ontario
> Date(s): July 5, 1814

13. Battle of Lundy’s Lane
> War: War of 1812
> Location: Ontario
> Date(s): July 25, 1814

14. Battle of Lake Champlain
> War: War of 1812
> Location: New York
> Date(s): September 11, 1814

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15. Battle of Plattsburgh
> War: War of 1812
> Location: New York
> Date(s): September 11, 1814

16. Battle of New Orleans
> War: War of 1812
> Location: Louisiana
> Date(s): January 8, 1815

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17. Battle of Monterey
> War: Mexican-American War
> Location: Monterrey, Mexico
> Date(s): September 20-24, 1846

18. Battle of Buena Vista
> War: Mexican-American War
> Location: Monterrey, Mexico
> Date(s): February 22-23, 1847

19. Battle of Contreras
> War: Mexican-American War
> Location: Contreras, Mexico
> Date(s): August 19-20, 1847

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20. Battle of Churubusco
> War: Mexican-American War
> Location: Churubusco, Mexico
> Date(s): August 20, 1847

21. Battle of Molino del Rey
> War: Mexican-American War
> Location: Mexico City, Mexico
> Date(s): September 8, 1847

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22. Battle of Chapultepec
> War: Mexican-American War
> Location: Mexico City, Mexico
> Date(s): September 12-14, 1847

23. Battle of Fort Sumter
> War: Civil War
> Location: Charleston Harbor, SC
> Date(s): April 12-14, 1861

24. Battle of Donelson
> War: Civil War
> Location: Stewart County, TN
> Date(s): Feb 13-16, 1862

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25. Battle of Shiloh
> War: Civil War
> Location: Hardin County, TN
> Date(s): April 6-7, 1862

26. Battle of Malvern Hills
> War: Civil War
> Location: Henrico County, VA
> Date(s): July 1, 1862

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27. Battle of Antietam
> War: Civil War
> Location: Washington County, MD
> Date(s): September 16-18, 1862

28. Battle of Vicksburg
> War: Civil War
> Location: Warren County, MS
> Date(s): May 18-July 4, 1863

29. Battle of Winchester
> War: Civil War
> Location: Frederick County, VA
> Date(s): June 13-15, 1863

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30. Battle of Gettysburg
> War: Civil War
> Location: Adams County, PA
> Date(s): July 1-3, 1863

31. Battle of Chickamauga
> War: Civil War
> Location: Catoosa County and Walker County, GA
> Date(s): September 18-20, 1863

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32. Battle of Knoxville
> War: Civil War
> Location: Knoxville, TN
> Date(s): November 17-December 4, 1863

33. Battle of Chattanooga
> War: Civil War
> Location: Hamilton County and City of Chattanooga, TN
> Date(s): November 23-25, 1863

34. Battle of The Wilderness
> War: Civil War
> Location: Spotsylvania and Orange Counties, VA
> Date(s): May 5-7, 1864

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35. Battle of Resaca
> War: Civil War
> Location: Gordon County and Whitfield County, GA
> Date(s): May 13-15, 1864

36. Battle of Petersburg
> War: Civil War
> Location: City of Petersburg, VA
> Date(s): June 15-18, 1864

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37. Battle of Atlanta
> War: Civil War
> Location: Fulton County, GA
> Date(s): July 22, 1864

38. Battle of Mobile Bay
> War: Civil War
> Location: Mobile and Baldwin County, AL
> Date(s): August 2-23, 1864

39. Battle of Cedar Creek
> War: Civil War
> Location: Frederick County, Shenandoah County and Warren County, VA
> Date(s): October 19, 1864

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40. Battle of Franklin
> War: Civil War
> Location: Franklin, TN
> Date(s): November 30, 1864

41. Battle of Nashville
> War: Civil War
> Location: Davidson County, TN
> Date(s): December 15-16, 1864

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42. Battle of Appomattox
> War: Civil War
> Location: Appomattox County, VA
> Date(s): April 9, 1865

43. Battle of Manila
> War: Spanish-American War
> Location: Manila, Philippines
> Date(s): May 1, 1898

44. Battle of Santiago de Cuba
> War: Spanish-American War
> Location: Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
> Date(s): July 3, 1898

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