Friday, April 27, 2012

Learn our History Today: April 27

Learn Our History Today: During the Revolutionary War on April 27, the Battle of Ridgefield was fought in the state of Connecticut.  Although it is called the Battle of Ridgefield, it was actually a series of different little battles that all took place on April 27, 1777. Two days before the battle, British forces landed in Connecticut and quickly set out to destroy Continental Army supplies located in Danbury, Connecticut.
They easily destroyed the supplies in Danbury as there were few continentals there to guard them, but word of these actions spread quickly and Major General David Wooster, Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, and Brigadier General Gold S. Silliman hastily assembled a mixed force of 700 continentals and militiamen. Unfortunately for the Americans, by the time they got to Danbury the supplies had already been destroyed. They now turned their focus to harassing the redcoats on their return to their landing site. A small company under the command of General Wooster struck the British first, right as the redcoats were enjoying their breakfast. He attacked the British twice, the first time he and his men killed two redcoats and captured another forty.
The second time however, the British were much better prepared and they gave the Americans a fierce fight, in which Wooster was mortally wounded. This engagement gave Arnold and Silliman just enough time to set up defenses in the town of Ridgefield. When the British arrived they fought a running battle with the continentals and managed to capture the entire town. Benedict Arnold had an extremely close call during this fight when his horse was killed and he was pinned under it as the redcoats charged him and his troops.
A British soldier ran up to him demanding he surrender, but Arnold instead answered with a pistol shot, killing the redcoat. Arnold managed to escape these dire straits with simply a small leg wound.  For many Americans the name Benedict Arnold is synonymous with traitor, but prior to turning on his country Arnold fought valiantly for it.  Although this battle was technically a British victory, the actions of the continentals made for much stronger American sympathy in the State of Connecticut.
Also on April 27, 1813, one of the first major land battles of the war of 1812 war fought near York in Canada. American troops, under the command of Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, battled the British for more than three hours after landing near the city of York. After losing 62 killed and 94 wounded, British commander Sir Roger Sheaffe decided to pull out of the City of York. First, however, he ordered the destruction of the main powder magazine at the government house. General Pike and his men were just arriving at the government house when it exploded, sending stones and chunks of debris careening hundreds of feet through the air. This massive explosion killed thirty-eight Americans and wounded two hundred and twenty-two.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 26

On April 26, 1607, the first English colonists landed in Virginia, making landfall at Cape Henry. This became known as “the First Landing”. These colonists quickly moved inland and established the city of Jamestown, the New World’s first permanent settlement.

On April 26, the largest surrender of the Civil war took place at Bennett Place in North Carolina. On April 26, 1865, confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered 89,270 confederate soldiers to union General William Tecumseh Sherman. This effectively ended the fighting in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Also on April 26, 1865, union cavalry cornered John Wilkes Booth in a tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Booth was hiding in the barn along with David Herold, who was a fellow Lincoln Assassination conspirator. Upon noticing the cavalry, Herold promptly surrendered, leaving Booth alone in the barn. Unlike Herold, Booth refused to surrender saying, “I prefer to come out and fight”. Before Booth had a chance to fight however, he was shot in the neck through a crack in the barn wall. The Union men then carried him to the porch of the Garret Farm where he died about three hours after his wounding.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 25

Learn Our History Today: On April 25, 1846, a party of 70 U.S. Dragoons, under the command of Captain Seth Thornton, was ordered to scout an area northwest of current day Brownsville, Texas, to determine if the Mexican army had crossed the Rio Grande River into Texas. While investigating an abandoned hacienda, the dragoons ran into two thousand Mexican troops under the command of Colonel Mastasio Torrejon, who were camped near the hacienda. Immediately fighting broke out. For hours the two groups clashed until the dragoons, being hugely outnumbered, were forced to surrender. 16 U.S. Dragoons were killed and the rest were captured except for a single dragoon who was able to escape and report of the battle. After hearing of the fight that became known as the Thornton Affair, President James K. Polk asked congress to declare war on Mexico, beginning the Mexican-American War.

Another event that happened on April 25 was the Battle of Mark’s Mill, which was fought in Cleveland County, Arkansas, as part of the Camden Campaign. At Mark’s Mill on April 25, 1864, two confederate divisions under the command of James F. Fagan, launched a devastating attack on a small union force under the command of Francis M. Drake. The overwhelming confederate numbers obliged the union to surrender. The confederates lost 293 men in battle and the union lost over 1300 men.

April 25 is also remembered as Elbe Day...On this day in 1945, American and Soviet troops finally met along the Elbe River in Germany. This effectively cut Nazi Germany in two and was a large step towards the end of World War II in Europe.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 24

Learn Our History Today: On April 24, 1800 in Washington D.C. the Library of Congress was established. $5,000 was originally raised for the purchase of books for use by Congress. Unfortunately, the first collection was destroyed during the infamous burning of Washington during the War of 1812. After the war, Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection was used to replace the destroyed collection. Today the Library of Congress has approximately 140 million items and roughly 10,000 items are added daily.

Also on April 24, the post-Civil War reconstruction of the south was ended. In 1877 the final U.S. soldiers stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana, were removed by President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Another April 24th event was the Operation Eagle Claw debacle. On April 24, 1980, the United States launched a raid to free the Tehran hostages. Before the U.S. Special Forces troops even began their advance to rescue the hostages there was a devastating crash in the Iranian desert. A C-130 airplane and a RH-53 helicopter crashed into each other and burst into flames. 8 crewmen lost their lives. While this event was a tragedy for the service members and our nation as a whole, the military was able to examine and learn from this event and make procedural changes to ensure the safety of its forces in the future. The hostages would later be freed on January 21, 1981 as Jimmy Carter left office and Ronald Reagan was sworn in.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 23rd

Learn Our History Today:  On April 23rd, 1910 Theodore Roosevelt delivered his famous Citizens in a Republic speech. The most familiar, and often re-quoted, portion of the speech is where the more well-known name for the speech, “The Man in the Arena”, is derived:
 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
Originally delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, it was enthusiastically received by the French people. It was also well loved by President Richard Nixon, who quoted from it in on November 6th, 1968 and used parts of it in his resignation speech.  Before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of the speech to the captain of the South African Rugby team.
Also on April 23, 1934 in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, a fierce fire fight broke out at the Little Bohemia Lodge between John Dillinger, his gang, and FBI agents under the leadership of Melvin Purvis. In the early morning, Purvis and the G-men crept up on the Little Bohemia Lodge, where they knew the Dillinger gang was staying. Armed to the hilt with Thompson sub-machine guns and Browning automatic rifles, the G-men were clearly ready for a fight. As they approached the lodge, the FBI agents noticed three men jumping into a car and suspected they were part of the Dillinger gang. After the men neglected an order to halt, the agents showered their car with bullets, killing one of them and wounding two. Unfortunately, the men in the car were actually civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
All of the noise and gun fire was enough to rouse John Dillinger, Baby-face Nelson and the rest of the gang in the lodge. They grabbed their Tommy guns and sprayed automatic fire at the FBI agents, who returned fire, sending bullets flying through the walls and windows of the lodge. In the end all of the members of the Dillinger gang managed to escape the melee. FBI Agent Carter Baum wasn’t as lucky, he as killed in the firefight by Baby-face Nelson.
And in pop-culture history, on April 23, 1985 the Coca-Cola Company introduced America to its new formula, handing out the first samples to workers renovating the Statue of Liberty and in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.  – hoping to sell America on the New Coke. An extremely negative reaction to this new formula spread swiftly across the country, and prompted Coca-Cola executives to bring back the original formula after only 77 days. The original formula, under the name Coca-Cola Classic, is still being stocked on the shelves of American stored today.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 5

Learn Our History Today:  Here’s what happened on April 5th in American History...

In 1774, Ben Franklin published an open letter to British Prime Minister Lord North in the British newspaper, The Public Advertiser.  A tongue-in-cheek, comical letter in which Franklin suggested that the British impose martial law upon the colonies, Franklin implied that the British view these “Yankee Doodles” as inferior, stating that “one born in Britain is equal to 20 Americans.”  Ironically, the letter proved to be prophetic...the following Month, Lord North did in fact impose martial law on Massachusetts with the passage of the Massachusetts Government Act!

In 1792, President George Washington exercised the very first presidential veto, a veto of a bill that introduced a plan to divide the seats in the House of Representatives and increasing the number of seats for northern states.  He claimed that the plan was unconstitutional because it would have introduced a number of reps that was greater than that dictated by the Constitution.  Instead of overriding Washington’s veto with a two-thirds vote, Congress threw out the original bill and instituted a new one that distributed representatives at the ration of one for every 33,000 people in the respective states.

And in 1862, Union forces established siege lines against the Confederacy in what was known as the Siege of Yorktown.  General George McClelland sailed his massive Union Army down the Chesapeake toward the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. His strategy was to cause the Confederates angst as they would be forced to gather scattered forces from around the James Peninsula.  He was met with resistance at Yorktown, with about 11,000 troops under General John B. Magruder.  Magruder, who was outnumbered by McClelland’s vast army, came up with a clever scheme to paint logs black, giving them the appearance of numerous artillery pieces, and ordered his troops to march back and forth around the logs to further enhance the illusion.  Magruder’s performance worked, convincing McClelland that it would be too dangerous to make a frontal assault.  Instead, McClelland opted to lay siege, surrounding Yorktown.

And in 1951, at the height of the “red scare,” Julius and Ethel Rosenberge were sentenced to death one week after the couple was found guilty of conspiring to provide atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.  The couple was accused of convincing Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, to provide Philadelphia chemist, Harry Gold with atomic secrets.  Harry Gold was an accomplice of Klaus Fuchs, a German-born U.S. scientist who earlier confessed to passing classified information about America’s atomic program to the Soviets.  During the trial in which Greenglass testified against the couple, the Rosenbergs maintained their innocence.  Despite appeals and pleas for executive clemency, the Rosenbergs became the first U.S. civilians to be given the death penalty in an espionage trial.  The couple was executed by electrocution on June 19, 1953.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Learn Our History Today: April 2

Learn Our History Today:  On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war when he requested that U.S. troops be sent into battle against Germany in World War I.  His request came after two months of increased attacks by Germany against neutral shipping in the Atlantic and offers to Mexico to regain Arizona, Texas and New Mexico if Mexico would join Germany in a war against the United States.  Public outcry toward Germany persuaded President Wilson to ask Congress to forfeit America’s neutrality and declare war.

On the same day, April 2, 1917, Jeannette Pickering Rankin—a representative from Montana—entered Congress, making her the first woman ever to be elected to Congress. A social worker in both Montana and Washington, Rankin became involved in the women’s suffrage movement in 1910, campaigning for the women’s vote on a national level.  In 1914, she played a key role in the passage of suffrage legislation in Montana.  During her campaign, she stood for total women’s suffrage, child protection laws and U.S. neutrality in the European war.  In her first day in office, as President Wilson asked Congress for approval to go to war against Germany, Rankin was one of the only 50 representatives who voted against taking America to war.

Also on this day in 2005, Pope John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century, died at home in the vatican.