Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Learn Our History Today: February 28

Learn Our History Today:  On February 28, 1844, President John Tyler, who was aboard the Navy ship USS Princeton, narrowly escaped death.  The ship sported a 12-inch, 27,000 lb cannon called the Peacemaker.  The Captain of the ship, Robert Stockton—who was also the co-designer of the cannon—was eager to show off the weapon, despite warnings that it hadn’t been sufficiently tested yet.  Stockton fired two successful shots and the 400 passengers on board went wild with applause. 

Below deck, 54-year old President Tyler toasted the Princeton, her commander and the Peacemaker cannon.  Then, the secretary of war requested a third firing in honor of George Washington.  The third firing proved deadly...the cannon exploded and killed several passengers, including David Gardiner, the father of 20-year old Julia Gardiner, whom Tyler was courting and had recently proposed.  The explosion also took the lives of two of Tyler’s cabinet members. Tyler was far enough away from the blast that he was spared, as was Julia, who was climbing up the ladder to the upper deck when the explosion occurred.  The story has a happy ending, however.  Julia and Tyler were married later that year.

And, on this day in 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev indicated that the Soviet Union was ready to sign a treaty that would eliminate U.S. and Soviet medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe.  The offer led to the eventual signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in December of that year.

And on February 28 in 1784, John Wesley charters the first Methodist Church in the United States.   The move was Wesley’s response to provide church structure for his followers during the American Revolution, after the Anglican Church abandoned its American patrons.

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