THE BEST SELLERS’ LIST- First Line of Defense: Ranking the most significant battles and wars in U.S. history


By Thomas Sellers Jr.

The United States just observed Veteran’s Day.
Every Nov. 11, our nation takes time to remember those who are currently serving us and those retired from the armed services that put their lives on the dotted line for our freedom.
Since the formation of the United States, combat, fighting for principles, protecting civil rights, establishing liberties and dying for freedom have been common.
Before the Great Civil War of the U.S., a lot of blood was shed on the soil of present day America through battles between the settlers and the Natives. Then after the declaration of Manifest Destiny, soldiers from the United States have engaged in conflict from Russia to Germany to the Middle East.
Putting your life on the line to protect those you’ll never meet takes a special person. Enlisting into the services and going to war to fight for freedom deserves all the respect in the world.
Below are the 12 wars that The Best Sellers’ List is ranking on significance and impact on our Nation. In my lifetime, I’ve met veterans going back to World War I. Thanks to present day conflicts, the men and women coming back from the Middle East have a eternal bond with soldiers from The Great War and beyond.

  1. Cherokee-American Wars
    The Cherokee–American Wars are the granddaddy of the battles between the Native Americans and the newcomers. These battles were also known as the Chickamauga Wars. They were a series of raids, campaigns, ambushes and several full-scale frontier battles in the Old Southwest from 1776 to 1795 between the Cherokee and American settlers on the frontier.
    The nearly 20-year window of battle had huge pockets of no conflicts. The Cherokee were led by Dragging Canoe. The Natives fought alongside other tribes during the wars.
    The wars can be divided into two phases. The first phase took place from 1776 to 1783, in which the Cherokee fought as allies of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The Cherokee War of 1776 encompassed the entirety of the Cherokee nation.
    The second phase lasted from 1783 to 1794 with the Cherokee serving as proxies of the Viceroyalty of New Spain against the recently formed United States of America.
  2. Iraq War
    Under a cloud of controversy, the United States enter the Iraq War. Looking back on history, the 2003 encounter is defined as a protracted armed conflict that began in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein.
    Although Hussein was eliminated shortly after the start of the war, the conflict continued for nearly a decade. An estimated 151,000 to 1,033,000 Iraqis were killed in the first three to four years of conflict. U.S. troops were officially withdrawn in 2011. The invasion occurred as part of the George W. Bush administration’s War on Terror, following the September 11 attacks.
  3. Korean War
    The Korean War started just a few years after a worldwide conflict. Following insurrections in the South which were backed by the Communist North, the war in Korea began June 25, 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. It ended unofficially on July 27, 1953 in an armistice.
    North Korean military, Korean People’s Army, forces crossed the border and advanced into South Korea that first day. The United Nations Security Council denounced the North Korean move as an invasion, and authorized the formation of the United Nations Command. More than 20 countries formed an alliance with the United States providing nearly 90 percent of the military personnel.
    After the first two months of war, South Korean Army (ROKA) and the U.S. forces rapidly dispatched to Korea were on the point of defeat. As a result, the ROKA and U.S. troops retreated to a small area behind a defensive line known as the Pusan Perimeter. The contribution of the Americans started to swing momentum to South Korea.
    However, no peace treaty was ever signed, and the two Koreas are technically still at war, engaged in a frozen conflict. In April 2018, the leaders of North and South Korea met at the DMZ and agreed to work toward a treaty to formally end the Korean War.
  4. Spanish-American War
    The Spanish–American War was an armed conflict between Spain and the United States in 1898. Not lasting a long time, this battle still packed a major punch for America. The conflict developed in the aftermath of the internal explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba. This led to the U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to the U.S. emerging as predominant in the Caribbean region and resulted in U.S. acquisition of Spain’s Pacific possessions. That led to U.S. involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately to the Philippine–American War.
    The main issue was Cuban independence. Revolts had been occurring for some years in Cuba against Spanish rule. The U.S. later backed these revolts upon entering the Spanish–American War. Hundreds of thousands died as a result of this short-lived war.
  5. Mexican-American War
    Known also as the Mexican War, the Mexican–American War was an armed conflict between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848. The war came shortly after the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas, which Mexico still considered Mexican territory since the government did not recognize the treaty signed by Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna.
    Some folks today still thank Texas is its country as of today.
    Beyond the disputed area of Texas, U.S. forces quickly occupied the regional capital of Santa Fe de Nuevo México along the upper Rio Grande, which had trade relations with the U.S. via the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and New Mexico. The United States had to win this war in order to gain control of the territory and have a chance for future expansion.
    The U.S. agreed to pay $15 million for the physical damage of the war and assumed $3.25  million of debt already owed earlier by the Mexican government to U.S. citizens. Mexico acknowledged the loss of what became the State of Texas and accepted the Rio Grande as its northern border with the United States.
    The victory and territorial expansion President James K. Polk envisioned.
  6. War of 1812
    The fighting spirit of most U.S. Americans can be traced back to the homeland of England. After an defeat to the American Colonies, the United Kingdom of Great Britain gave it another try in 1812. Joining forces with Ireland, Great Britain engaged the United States in the War of 1812.
    It began when the United States declared war in June 1812 and ended in a stalemate when a peace treaty agreed to earlier was ratified by the United States in February 1815. While the war ended in a draw, both sides were happy with the outcome that saw the war ending. This short battle was full of iconic and impactful moments like the Battle of New Orleans, burning of Washington D.C., the Treaty of Ghent and much more.
  7. Afghanistan
    Maybe the second American conflict that needed to introduction or grace period for engagement, the War in Afghanistan came about after the most deadly attack on U.S. soil. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks deserved an immediate response. The War in Afghanistan stems from the United States invasion of Afghanistan on Oct. 7 of that year. The war still continues today.
    The U.S. Forces drove the Taliban from power in order to deny Al-Qaeda a safe base of operations in Afghanistan. Since the initial objectives were completed, a coalition of more than 40 countries, including all NATO member, formed a security mission in the country called International Security Assistance Force.
    New forms of the Taliban keep emerging during this battle leading to the continuous presence of the United States in Afghanistan. The war is code named by the U.S. as Operation Enduring Freedom (2001–14) and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (2015–present). This is now the longest war in U.S. history. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the war, including more than 4,000 from the U.S., allied force soldiers and civilian contractors. Also more than 62,000 Afghan national security forces, 31,000 civilians and even more Taliban are a part of that death toll… and still counting.
  8. Revolutionary War
    How did this country go from the Colonies to the United States? The Revolutionary War also known as the American Revolution.
    For several years, the animosity between Great Britain and the North American colonies kept growing. The French and Indian War, or Seven Years’ War from 1756-1763 brought new territories under the power of the crown. Those victories had a price and the taxes were shared with the developing America. Attempts by the British government to raise revenue by taxing the colonies, notably the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Acts of 1767 and the Tea Act of 1773 pushed the U.S. Colonies to the brink of war. Skirmishes between British troops and Colonial militiamen in Lexington and Concord in April 1775 kicked off the American Revolution.
    After French assistance helped the Continental Army force the British surrender at Yorktown, Va., in 1781, the Americans had effectively won their independence. The last battles were fought a couple of years later.
  9. World War I
    Military training is vital to the success of protecting your interests. The Great War that started in 1917 would serve as a measure of preparation for the United States down the line. At the outbreak of the war, the United States pursued a policy of non-intervention.
    The U.S. was avoiding conflict while trying to broker a peace deal. But when a German U-boat U-20 sank the British liner RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915 with 128 Americans on board, President Woodrow Wilson insisted that America is “too proud to fight” but demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships. Germany complied. Wilson unsuccessfully tried to mediate a settlement.
    In January 1917, Germany decided to resume unrestricted submarine warfare. By taking on the method of attack on Britain, the United States was primed to join the fight. The United States was never formally a member of the Allies but became a self-styled “Associated Power.” The United States had a small army, but, after the passage of the Selective Service Act, it drafted 2.8 million men. Let’s just say the U.S. Navy helped to swing the momentum of the war to the Allies side.
  10. Vietnam War
    Most of the sage veterans you’ll meet today were a part of this conflict. The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, is called the Resistance War Against America in Vietnam. The official combatants of the war were North Vietnam vs. South Vietnam.
    North Vietnam was supported by the Soviet Union, China and other communist allies. Meanwhile South Vietnam was supported by the United States, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Thailand, and other anti-communist allies. The war, considered a Cold War-era proxy war by some lasted 19 years. The U.S. involvement came to an end in 1973.
    To begin to understand the war, research terms like Tet Offensive, Vietnamization, ARVN, and Gulf of Tonkin incident. This was a bloody war that caused thousands of American lives and cost nearly $1 billion. And that impact on the lives that were able to make it back home is immeasurable.
  11. World War II
    Once again trying to mind our own business, the United States was pulled into a major worldwide conflict. Japan launched an attack on Pearl Harbor back on Dec. 7, 1941. Those actions declared war on the United States. The U.S. and the United Kingdom and invades Thailand and British Malaya and launched aerial attacks against Guam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Shanghai, Singapore and Wake Island. Canada declared war on Japan. Australia declared war on Japan. That is how World War II quickly developed.
    The global war lasted from 1939 to 1945. It took that action of the Japanese to pull the United States into the war officially. It involved the vast majority of the world’s countries forming the military alliances known as the Allies vs. Axis. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, causing 70 to 85 million fatalities.
    World War II is considered to have begun on Sept. 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. WWII changed the political alignment and social structure of the globe.
  12. Civil War
    The most significant war in our nation’s history is the American Civil War. By the beginning of the 1860s, the United States was clearly divided. The Northern states would become known as the Union. Meanwhile the Southern states fought under the name of the Confederacy.
    War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina just over a month after President Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the U.S. Constitution. The Confederate States in the South advocated for states’ rights to uphold slavery.
    America had 34 states by the time of the Civil War. Seven Southern slave-holding states seceded from the country to form the Confederate States of America. Now we had brother vs. brother on the battlefield. American blood was shed all over American soil.
    The Union and the Confederacy fought mostly in the Southern states. Combat left between 620,000 and 750,000 soldiers dead. The Civil War remains the deadliest military conflict in American history. The Civil War accounted for more American military deaths than all other wars combined until the Vietnam War.
    The war effectively ended on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. Since 1865, our country has had moments of division but never to the point of war. Let’s pray we remember the deadly lessons from our ancestors 160 years ago and not head back down that deadly road.
    THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to