March 13, 1881
Czar Alexander II assassinated
Czar Alexander II, the ruler of Russia since 1855, is killed in the streets of St. Petersburg by a bomb thrown by a member of the revolutionary “People’s Will” group. The People’s Will, organized in 1879, employed terrorism and assassination in their attempt to overthrow Russia’s czarist autocracy. They murdered officials and made several attempts on the czar’s life before finally assassinating him on March 13, 1881.
As czar, Alexander did much to liberalize and modernize Russia, including the abolishment of serfdom in 1861. However, when his authority was challenged, he turned repressive, and he vehemently opposed movements for political reform. Ironically, on the very day he was killed, he signed a proclamation–the so-called Loris-Melikov constitution–that would have created two legislative commissions made up of indirectly elected representatives.
He was succeeded by his 36-year-old son, Alexander III, who rejected the Loris-Melikov constitution. Alexander II’s assassins were arrested and hanged, and the People’s Will was thoroughly suppressed. The peasant revolution advocated by the People’s Will was achieved by Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1917.
“Czar Alexander II assassinated.” 2009. The History Channel website. 13 Mar 2009, 02:01 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4833.
1519 – Cortez landed in Mexico.
1639 – Harvard University was named for clergyman John Harvard.
1781 – Sir William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus.
1861 – Jefferson Davis signed a bill authorizing slaves to be used as soldiers for the Confederacy.
1868 – The U.S. Senate began the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.
1902 – In Poland, schools were shut down across the country when students refused to sing the Russian hymn “God Protect the Czar.”
1925 – A law in Tennessee prohibited the teaching of evolution.
1935 – Three-thousand-year-old archives were found in Jerusalem confirming some biblical history.
1940 – The war between Russia and Finland ended with the signing of a treaty in Moscow.
1963 – China invited Soviet President Khrushchev to visit Peking.
1964 – 38 residents of a New York City neighborhood failed to respond to the screams of Kitty Genovese, 28 years old, as she was stabbed to death.
March 13, 1865
Confederacy approves black soldiers
In a desperate measure, the Confederate States of America reluctantly approve the use of black troops as the main Rebel armies face long odds against much larger Union armies at this late stage of the war.
The situation was bleak for the Confederates in the spring of 1865. The Yankees had captured large swaths of southern territory, General William T. Sherman’s Union army was tearing through the Carolinas, and General Robert E. Lee was trying valiantly to hold the Confederate capital of Richmond against General Ulysses S. Grant’s growing force. Lee and Confederate president Jefferson Davis had only two options. One was for Lee to unite with General Joseph Johnston’s army in the Carolinas and use the combined force to take on Sherman and Grant one at a time. The other option was to arm slaves, the last source of fresh manpower in the Confederacy.
The idea of enlisting blacks had been debated for some time. Arming slaves was essentially a way of setting them free, since they could not realistically be sent back to the plantation after they had fought. General Patrick Cleburne had suggested enlisting slaves a year before, but few in the Confederate leadership considered the proposal, since slavery was the foundation of southern society. One politician asked, “What did we go to war for, if not to protect our property?” Another suggested, “If slaves will make good soldiers, our whole theory of slavery is wrong.” Lee weighed in on the issue and asked the Confederate government for help. “We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves be used against us, or use them ourselves.” Lee asked that the slaves be freed as a condition of fighting, but the bill that passed the Confederate Congress on March 13 did not stipulate freedom for those who served.
The measure did nothing to stop the destruction of the Confederacy. Several thousand blacks were enlisted in the Rebel cause, but they could not begin to balance out the nearly 200,000 blacks that fought for the Union.
“Confederacy approves black soldiers.” 2009. The History Channel website. 13 Mar 2009, 01:57 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2134.