I took this photos last night with the temperature outside still above twenty and walking around town didn’t seem like a bad idea. It snowed again last night. Just a few inches but enough so that I have to shovel. Of course now that I have to go outside the temperature has fallen to minus seven Fahrenheit.
Archive for December, 2008
December 21, 1866
Indians massacre Fetterman and eighty soldiers
Determined to challenge the growing American military presence in their territory, Indians in northern Wyoming lure Lieutenant Colonel William Fetterman and his soldiers into a deadly ambush on this day in 1866.
Tensions in the region started rising in 1863, when John Bozeman blazed the Bozeman Trail, a new route for emigrants traveling to the Montana gold fields. Bozeman’s trail was of questionable legality since it passed directly through hunting grounds that the government had promised to the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. Thus when Colorado militiamen murdered more than two hundred peaceful Cheyenne during the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, the Indians began to take revenge by attacking whites all across the Plains, including the emigrants traveling the Bozeman Trail. The U.S. government responded by building a series of protective forts along the trail; the largest and most important of these was Fort Phil Kearney, erected in 1866 in north-central Wyoming.
Indians under the leadership of Red Cloud and Crazy Horse began to focus their attacks on Fort Phil Kearney, constantly harassing the soldiers and raiding their wood and supply parties. On December 6, 1866, Crazy Horse discovered to his surprise that he could lead a small detachment of soldiers into a fatal ambush by dismounting from his horse and fleeing as if he were defenseless. Struck by the foolish impulsiveness of the soldiers, Crazy Horse and Red Cloud reasoned that perhaps a much larger force could be lured into a similar deadly trap.
On the bitterly cold morning of December 21, about 2,000 Indians concealed themselves along the road just north of Fort Phil Kearney. A small band made a diversionary attack on a party of woodcutters from the fort, and commandant Colonel Henry Carrington quickly ordered Colonel Fetterman to go to their aid with a company of 80 troopers. Crazy Horse and 10 decoy warriors then rode into view of the fort. When Carrington fired an artillery round at them, the decoys ran away as if frightened. The party of woodcutters made it safely back to the fort, but Colonel Fetterman and his men chased after the fleeing Crazy Horse and his decoys, just as planned. The soldiers rode straight into the ambush and were wiped out in a massive attack during which some 40,000 arrows rained down on the hapless troopers. None of them survived.
With 81 fatalities, the Fetterman Massacre was the army’s worst defeat in the West until the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Further Indian attacks eventually forced the army to reconsider its commitment to protecting the Bozeman Trail, and in 1868 the military abandoned the forts and pulled out. It was one of only a handful of clear Indian victories in the Plains Indian Wars.
“Indians massacre Fetterman and eighty soldiers.” 2008. The History Channel website. 21 Dec 2008, 12:12 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4374.
1620 – The “Mayflower”, and its passengers, pilgrims from England, landed at Plymouth Rock, MA.
1898 – Scientists Pierre and Marie Curie discovered the radioactive element radium.
1925 – Eisenstein’s film “Battleship Potemkin” was first shown in Moscow.
1945 – U.S. Gen. George S. Patton died in Heidelberg, Germany, of injuries from a car accident.
1948 – The state of Eire (formerly the Irish Free State) declared its independence.
1968 – Apollo 8 was launched on a mission to orbit the moon. The craft landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on December 27.
1991 – Eleven of the 12 former Soviet republics proclaimed the birth of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
1998 – A Chinese court sentenced two dissidents to long prison terms for attempting to organize an opposition party. A third man was sentenced to 12 years in prison on December 22, 1998.
December 21, 1861
Trent crisis escalates
Lord Lyons, the British minister to the United States, meets with Secretary of State William Seward concerning the fate of James Mason and John Slidell, Confederate envoys arrested by the U.S. Navy aboard the British mail steamer Trent. During the meeting, Lyons took a hard line against Seward and forced the Lincoln administration to release the Confederates a few days later.
The arrest of Mason and Slidell on November 8 near the Bahamas triggered a major diplomatic crisis between Britain and the United States. The British had not taken sides in the American Civil War and they accepted any paying customers wishing to travel on their ships. When Mason and Slidell were arrested, the British were furious that their ship had been detained and their guests arrested. The British government demanded their release. The Lincoln administration refused, and the Americans waited for the British reaction. The British stood firm by their demand and prepared for war with the United States.
After Lyons met with Seward, he wrote to Lord Russell, the British Foreign Minister. “I am so concerned that unless we give our friends here a good lesson this time, we shall have the same trouble with them again very soon,” wrote Lyons. “Surrender or war will have a very good effect on them.” The Lincoln administration got the message, and Mason and Slidell were released within a week. “One war at a time,” Lincoln said. The Trent affair was the most serious diplomatic crisis between the two nations during the Civil War.
“Trent crisis escalates,” The History Channel website, 2008, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2426 [accessed Dec 21, 2008]
December 19, 1776
Thomas Paine publishes American Crisis
“These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
When these phrases appeared in the pages of the Pennsylvania Journal for the first time, General George Washington’s troops were encamped at McKonkey’s Ferry on the Delaware River opposite Trenton, New Jersey. In August, they had suffered humiliating defeats and lost New York City to British troops. Between September and December, 11,000 American volunteers gave up the fight and returned to their families. General Washington could foresee the destiny of a rebellion without an army if the rest of his men returned home when their service contracts expired on December 31. He knew that without an upswing in morale and a significant victory, the American Revolution would come to a swift and humiliating end.
Thomas Paine was similarly astute. His Common Sense was the clarion call that began the revolution. As Washington’s troops retreated from New York through New Jersey, Paine again rose to the challenge of literary warfare. With American Crisis, he delivered the words that would salvage the revolution.
Washington commanded that the freshly printed pamphlet be read aloud to his dispirited men; the rousing prose had its intended effect. Reciting Paine’s impassioned words, the beleaguered troops mustered their remaining hopes for victory and crossed the icy Delaware River to defeat hung-over Hessians on Christmas night and on January 2, the British army’s best general, Earl Cornwallis, at the Battle of Princeton. With victory in New Jersey, Washington won not only two battles, but also “the love and thanks of man and woman.”
“Thomas Paine publishes <I> American Crisis</I>.” 2008. The History Channel website. 19 Dec 2008, 11:15 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=48.
The American Crisis
* The present winter is worth an age, if rightly employed; but, if lost or neglected, the whole continent will partake of the evil; and there is no punishment that man does not deserve, be he who, or what, or where he will, that may be the means of sacrificing a season so precious and useful.
December 18, 1620
Mayflower passengers come ashore at Plymouth Harbor
On December 18, 1620, passengers on the British ship Mayflower come ashore at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.
The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers–dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony–crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.
On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Before going ashore, 41 male passengers–heads of families, single men and three male servants–signed the famous Mayflower Compact, agreeing to submit to a government chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the good of the colony. Over the next month, several small scouting groups were sent ashore to collect firewood and scout out a good place to build a settlement. Around December 10, one of these groups found a harbor they liked on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They returned to the Mayflower to tell the other passengers, but bad weather prevented them reaching the harbor until December 16. Two days later, the first group of Pilgrims went ashore.
After exploring the region, the settlers chose a cleared area previously occupied by members of a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoag. The tribe had abandoned the village several years earlier, after an outbreak of European disease. That winter of 1620-21 was brutal, as the Pilgrims struggled to build their settlement, find food and ward off sickness. By spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead. The remaining settlers made contact with returning members of the Wampanoag tribe and in March they signed a peace treaty with a tribal chief, Massasoit. Aided by the Wampanoag, especially the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to plant crops–especially corn and beans–that were vital to their survival. The Mayflower and its crew left Plymouth to return to England on April 5, 1621.
Over the next several decades, more and more settlers made the trek across the Atlantic to Plymouth, which gradually grew into a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing center. In 1691, Plymouth was incorporated into the new Massachusetts Bay Association, ending its history as an independent colony.
“Mayflower passengers come ashore at Plymouth Harbor.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Dec 2008, 10:49 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=52289.
1796 – The “Monitor,” of Baltimore, MD, was published as the first Sunday newspaper.
1903 – The Panama Canal Zone was acquired ‘in perpetuity’ by the U.S. for an annual rent.
1912 – The U.S. Congress prohibited the immigration of illiterate persons.
1915 – U.S. President Wilson, widowed the year before, married Edith Bolling Galt at her Washington home.
1916 – During World War I, after 10 months of fighting the French defeated the Germans in the Battle of Verdun.
1940 – Adolf Hitler signed a secret directive ordering preparations for a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Operation “Barbarossa” was launched in June 1941.
1944 – The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also stated that undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not be detained.
1950 – NATO foreign ministers approved plans to defend Western Europe, including the use of nuclear weapons, if necessary.
1972 – The United States began the heaviest bombing of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The attack ended 12 days later.
1987 – Ivan F. Boesky was sentenced to three years in prison for plotting Wall Street’s biggest insider-trading scandal. He only served about two years of the sentence.
1999 – After living atop an ancient redwood in Humboldt County, CA, for two years, environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill came down, ending her anti-logging protest.
December 18, 1941
Japan invades Hong Kong
On this day, Japanese troops land in Hong Kong and a slaughter ensues.
A week of air raids over Hong Kong, a British crown colony, was followed up on December 17 with a visit paid by Japanese envoys to Sir Mark Young, the British governor of Hong Kong. The envoys’ message was simple: The British garrison there should simply surrender to the Japanese–resistance was futile. The envoys were sent home with the following retort: “The governor and commander in chief of Hong Kong declines absolutely to enter into negotiations for the surrender of Hong Kong. …”
The first wave of Japanese troops landed in Hong Kong with artillery fire for cover and the following order from their commander: “Take no prisoners.” Upon overrunning a volunteer antiaircraft battery, the Japanese invaders roped together the captured soldiers and proceeded to bayonet them to death. Even those who offered no resistance, such as the Royal Medical Corps, were led up a hill and killed.
The Japanese quickly took control of key reservoirs, threatening the British and Chinese inhabitants with a slow death by thirst. The Brits finally surrendered control of Hong Kong on Christmas Day.
On this same day: Censorship is imposed with the passage of the 1st American War Powers Act
The War Powers Act is passed by Congress, authorizing the president to initiate and terminate defense contracts, reconfigure government agencies for wartime priorities, and regulate the freezing of foreign assets. It also permitted him to censor all communications coming in and leaving the country.
FDR appointed the executive news director of the Associated Press, Byron Price, as director of censorship. Although invested with the awesome power to restrict and withhold news, Price took no extreme measures, allowing news outlets and radio stations to self-censor, which they did. Most top secret information, including the construction of the atom bomb, remained just that.
The most extreme use of the censorship law seems to have been the restriction of the free flow of “girlie” magazines to servicemen-including Esquire, which the Post Office considered obscene for its occasional saucy cartoons and pinups. Esquire took the Post Office to court, and after three years the Supreme Court ultimately sided with the magazine.
“Japan invades Hong Kong.” 2008. The History Channel website. 18 Dec 2008, 10:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6647.