Thursday, May 17, 2012

Learn Our History Today: May 17

Learn Our History:
On May 17, 1792, the New York Stock Exchange was founded by 24 stockbrokers who were meeting under a buttonwood tree near what is today 68 Wall Street. Little did these 24 men know that their small company would grow to be the world’s largest stock exchange, with an average daily trading value of over 150 million US dollars.

In Addition, on May 17, 1863, the Battle of Big Black River Bridge was fought during the Civil War as part of the Vicksburg Campaign. On the morning of May 17, Union Major General John A. McClernand, with three divisions of the Union’s 13th corps, encountered Confederate troops, under the command of Brigadier General John S. Bowen, who were entrenched behind cotton bales near the Big Black River Bridge. The Union men were soon forced to take cover due to rebel artillery fire. Soon, however, Union Brigadier General Michael K. Lawler formed his brigade, and surged out of a meander scar, strait into the Confederate breastworks. The confederates in the breastworks quickly panicked and began to flee across the Big Black River, but not before burning the bridges across it. In all, the battle was a complete disaster for the Confederates, who lost around 200 men killed or wounded, and 1,800 captured. In contrast, the Union lost a mere 273 total casualties. This battle essentially sealed Vicksburg’s fate: the Confederates were bottled up.

Also, on May 17, 1875, the first ever Kentucky Derby was run, at a distance of 1 ½ miles, which in the future would be changed to the current distance of 1 ¼ mile. Only 3 horses competed in the first derby, in front of a crowd of around 10,000 people, with a colt named Aristides winning the race.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Learn Our History Today: May 15

Learn Our History Today:
On May 15, 1864, the Battle of New Market, Virginia, was fought. This battle occurred as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864, during the Civil War. The battle began when union troops under the command of Major General Franz Sigel opened fire on Confederates, under the command of Major General John C. Breckenridge, prompting the Confederates to launch a frontal attack on the Union troops.  Soon, however, the rebel attack began to falter and a gap opened in their line. This caused Sigel to launch a counterattack. Seeing that he had no choice, Breckenridge sent his reserves, 257 young cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, to plug the hole. Breckenridge was very resistant to using the cadets, and when he finally realized he had no other options he said, “Put the boys in and may God forgive me for that order.” The cadets turned back the union charge, and the Confederate troops, with the cadets at the head, soon swept the Union troops from the field.

Also, on May 15, 1940, the very first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in San Bernardino, California. It started out as barbecue restaurant, but by 1948 they reorganized the restaurant as a hamburger stand, using production line principles. Today, McDonald’s restaurants are found in 119 countries and serve 58 million customers per day.

Another event that occurred on May 15 was the attempted assassination of presidential candidate George Wallace by Arthur Bremer. On May 15, 1972, while campaigning for president in Laurel, Maryland, politician George Wallace was shot five times in the abdomen and chest by Bremer, who also hit three bystanders. This assassination attempt left Wallace paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of his life. Bremer was sentenced to 63 years in prison, but served only 35 years, being released in 2007.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Learn Our History Today: On May 14, 1607, Jamestown was formed in the English Colony of Virginia. It was established by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort”, and was the first permanent English settlement In the New World.  Jamestown would serve as the Capital of the Virginia Colony for 83 years.

Also On May 14, 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition departed St. Louis, Missouri to explore the massive territory acquired by the United States through the Louisiana Purchase. The Historic expedition was led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, both Military veterans. The objectives of the expedition were scientific and commercial- they were to study the region’s plant and animal life, study the vast region’s geography, and figure out how the region could be economically exploited. In all, the expedition took three years, and traversed 7,689 miles of some of North America’s most rugged terrain.

In Addition, on May 14, 1973, the United States’ first space station, Skylab, was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Skylab orbited earth from 1973 to 1979, and numerous scientific experiments were done aboard Skylab, including one which confirmed the existence of coronal holes in the Sun. Skylab reentered the earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated on July 11, 1979.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Learn Our History Today:
On May 11, 1943, during World War II, the Allies began an operation to recapture the Island of Attu in the Aleutian Island chain, which had been captured by Japanese forces earlier in April 1942. Unfortunately, the Allies were plagued by problems. First off, the Allies did not have nearly enough landing craft to properly land all their troops and equipment. In addition, the equipment that was available struggled to operate properly due to the bitter cold. There was also a shortage of suitable beaches where the landings could take place. This lack of beaches caused some of the troops to suffer from frostbite because proper supplies could not be delivered.  The fighting on Attu was brutal because the Japanese decided to dig in on the hills of the Island, instead of contesting the landings. At the end of the campaign, the last Japanese forces on the Island launched one of the largest banzai charges of the entire war, resulting in brutal, furious hand-to-hand combat.  A total of 3,929 U.S. troops were lost taking Attu, with many being killed or wounded by Japanese booby traps.  The Japanese lost over 2,850 men killed, almost their entire force. Only 29 Japanese soldiers were taken alive.

Also on May 11, during the Second World War, in 1945, off the coast of Okinawa, the USS Bunker Hill was hit by two Japanese kamikaze planes. One plane hit the flight deck destroying warplanes filled with gasoline and ammunition, igniting a massive fire. 30 seconds afterward, a second plane crashed through the area where the fire had erupted, dropping a 550-pound bomb simultaneously. Several huge explosions then shook the ship and the already massive gasoline fires flared up even further. The Bunker Hill’s crew suffered 346 killed, 264 wounded, and 43 missing. The ship itself was heavily damaged and required months of repair to be fully operational once again.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Learn Our History Today: May 10

On May 10, a group a continental militia known as the Green Mountain Boys, under the command of Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold, attacked and captured British held Fort Ticonderoga. In the early morning, on May 10, 1775, patriot forces rushed into the Fort Ticonderoga, after the only sentry posted fled, following a musket misfire. The Green Mountain boys quickly roused and disarmed the few redcoats in the fort, while Arnold and Allen charged towards the officer’s quarters. Upon noticing Arnold and Allen running towards him, a British officer demanded to know by what authority Fort Ticonderoga was being entered. Allen replied, “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!” Soon after this, the Captain of the fort emerged and surrendered to Arnold and Allen.  The capture of Fort Ticonderoga was of great significance to the young United States. The Cannons from the fort were taken to Boston by Henry Knox and played a crucial role in breaking the standoff of the Siege of Boston. The fort also gave the Continental Army a great staging point for the invasion of Quebec, which took place in winter 1775.

On a sad note, May 10 marks the death of Confederate Lieutenant General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson was wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville, his arm later amputated from the injury. Unfortunately, pneumonia set in and Stonewall died on May 10, 1863 in Guinea Station, Virginia. His last words were, “let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

Also on May 10, 1865, during the Civil War, near Irwinville, Georgia, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops. Upon spotting the Union troops approaching, Davis threw his wife’s overcoat over his shoulders, in an attempt to disguise himself. This guise did not fool the troops however and he was quickly captured. Davis’ attempted disguise led to many caricatures being made of him trying to escape in women’s clothing.

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