The Tales of the Seven Presidential Wars


The tales of the seven presidential wars. In this article, we’ll discuss the facts about seven American presidents’ combat experiences, from James Monroe’s Revolutionary War heroics to George H.W. Bush’s brush with death during World War II.

James Monroe

A youthful James Monroe fought in the Revolutionary War as an officer in the Continental Army long before he became the fifth president. He took part in General George Washington’s legendary crossing of the cold Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776, as part of a surprise attack on a force of 1,400 Hessians stationed in Trenton, New Jersey.

Lieutenant Monroe was among the first Americans to set foot on American soil. When the action started, he led an attack on a couple of guns that the Hessians were frantically aiming at the approaching patriots. During the skirmish, Monroe was hit in the shoulder by a musket bullet, but he and his troops continued fighting and held off the enemy until reinforcements came and routed the Hessians.

Monroe’s wound was serious—the bullet had cut an artery—and he was on the verge of passing out before being treated by a volunteer doctor. In his iconic painting “Washington Crossing Delaware,” artist Emanuel Leutze depicted the future president holding the American flag.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson’s first war service was with a troop of patriot guerillas in the Carolinas during the Revolutionary War, when he was just 13 years old. In 1781, he and his brother Robert were besieged and taken prisoners by the British while hiding in a neighbor’s house after a battle.

One of the officers took Jackson and insisted that he clean his mud-caked boots as the soldiers trashed the house.

“Sir, I am a prisoner of war, and claim to be treated as such,” Jackson allegedly declared. The officer was enraged and cut Jackson with his sword. The child was able to intercept the strike with his hand, yet he was nonetheless injured. He subsequently said, “The sword point touched my skull and left a mark there…as well as on my fingers.”

The Jackson brothers were marched 40 miles to a prison camp, where they both caught smallpox, which killed Robert Jackson. During the Revolution, Jackson also lost his mother and another sibling, leaving him an orphan at the end of the conflict. Despite this, he went on to become a prominent lawyer and politician, as well as a general in the War of 1812, where he spectacularly destroyed an oncoming British force at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.

Zachary Taylor

After commanding US forces in the Mexican-American War, Zachary Taylor was elected president, but it was during the War of 1812 that he first rose to prominence as a soldier. Captain Taylor was commanding a 55-man garrison at Indiana’s Fort Harrison in September 1812 when it was attacked by 450 Native Americans who were associated with the British.

The locals set fire to the fort’s blockhouses, which quickly spread after the whiskey supply was lit.

“The raging of the fire—the yelling and howling of several hundred Indians—and the cries of nine women and children,” Taylor later recalled. His stronghold had collapsed into anarchy.

As the locals rushed to Fort Harrison’s outer walls, Taylor launched a furious resistance. After ordering the majority of his troops to return fire with muskets, he told a few others to take shingles off the roof and put out the fire with well water. Taylor and his men then constructed breastworks to fill in the gap in their wall that had been burned out. The improvised defenses held off the attack until sunrise, and Taylor and his besieged garrison were later freed by American reinforcements after a 10-day siege.

Rutherford B. Hayes

On September 14, 1862, at the Battle of South Mountain, the man who would become the 19th president was serving as a Union lieutenant colonel. A musket shot shattered the humerus of Rutherford B. Hayes’ left arm while he was leading his men in a frontal assault against the Confederate forces.

For a few moments, Hayes held the lead until collapsing. While he writhed in pain, his company temporarily retreated, leaving Hayes isolated in a no man’s land between the two armies. While lying bleeding on the battlefield, Hayes spoke with a wounded Confederate soldier and even gave him letters to convey to his wife and friends if he died.

After the firing stopped, one of Hayes’ soldiers took him off the field and laid him down behind a big log and handed him a canteen of water, which tasted so good, so he wrote. Hayes almost lost his arm to a musket ball, but it wasn’t the first time he was injured during the Civil War. Hayes would endure four distinct injuries and have four horses shot out from beneath him before ending the war as a major general.

Teddy Roosevelt

Although America’s 26th president had a lifetime passion for the military, he didn’t see battle until he was 40 years old. When the Spanish-American War broke out, Theodore Roosevelt was serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but he quickly quit and formed the Rough Riders, a volunteer cavalry regiment.

The regiment took part in the Battle of San Juan Hill, a frontal attack against an established Spanish position on the heights near Santiago, Cuba, on July 1, 1898, alongside black Buffalo Soldiers and other US troops. Roosevelt threw himself into the battle with gusto, leading his men up a peak known as Kettle Hill before storming San Juan Hill, the major goal.

Despite the bullets zipping by and the scores of troops injured, the future president was at ease. He subsequently described the conflict as “a lot of fun,” and he put on a show of daring by racing ahead of his column so far that he ended up in no man’s land with absolutely no backup. Roosevelt was nominated for the Medal of Honor for his bravery in combat, which he dubbed “the great day of my life.” However, the Army denied him. Roosevelt won the award posthumously from President Bill Clinton in 2001, making him the only American president to win the nation’s highest military accolade.

John F. Kennedy

PT-109, a small torpedo boat in the Pacific during WWII, was commanded by the man who would eventually reign over “Camelot.” The Japanese destroyer “Amagiri” unintentionally hit and split PT-109 into half on the night of August 2, 1943, as it was secretly following enemy warships near the Solomon Islands.

The crash killed two of Kennedy’s 12 crew members and injured numerous others. The survivors clung to their ship’s splintered hulk for 11 hours, but when it began to sink, they had to swim four kilometers to an uninhabited island. Kennedy, a former competitive swimmer at Harvard, led the way, hauling injured swimmers after him with his teeth, grabbing a life jacket strap.

The soldiers arrived on the island after a five-hour journey, only to discover that they were stuck with no supplies. They lasted for over a week on coconuts, and Kennedy braved repeated solo swims to try to notify nearby ships. After Kennedy gave them a coconut husk with a rescue message cut into it, two native islanders discovered the ragged crewmen and offered help. The event was survived by all eleven soldiers, and Kennedy was later awarded the Navy and Marine Corps medal for his bravery.

George H.W. Bush

President George H.W. Bush performed 58 attack missions as a torpedo bomber pilot in World War II’s Pacific theater, and at the age of 19, he was the Navy’s youngest aviator. On September 2, 1944, he and two crew members boarded a TBM Avenger and flew to the Japanese-held island of Chi Chi Jima to destroy a radio station.

As Bush and his squadron approached their target, they were engulfed in a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. Bush’s plane was hit by flak and caught fire, but he was able to dump his bombs and navigate his plane away from the island before jumping out over open water.

The future president safely deployed a life raft after parachuting into the water, but his crewmen, radioman John Delaney and gunner William White were both slain. Bush would float helplessly on his raft for four hours, almost being intercepted by a Japanese boat, until a fellow Avenger pilot strafed it and drove it away. He was eventually rescued by the US submarine “Finback” and flown to Midway with the help of hovering American planes. For his bravery in the face of adversity, Bush was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.




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