16
Oct
08

On This Day, 10-16-2008: The Long March

October 16, 1934

The Long March

The embattled Chinese Communists break through Nationalist enemy lines and begin an epic flight from their encircled headquarters in southwest China. Known as Ch’ang Cheng–the “Long March”–the retreat lasted 368 days and covered 6,000 miles, nearly twice the distance from New York to San Francisco.

Civil war in China between the Nationalists and the Communists broke out in 1927. In 1931, Communist leader Mao Zedong was elected chairman of the newly established Soviet Republic of China, based in Kiangsi province in the southwest. Between 1930 and 1934, the Nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek launched a series of five encirclement campaigns against the Soviet Republic. Under the leadership of Mao, the Communists employed guerrilla tactics to resist successfully the first four campaigns, but in the fifth, Chiang raised 700,000 troops and built fortifications around the Communist positions. Hundreds of thousands of peasants were killed or died of starvation in the siege, and Mao was removed as chairman by the Communist Central Committee. The new Communist leadership employed more conventional warfare tactics, and its Red Army was decimated.

With defeat imminent, the Communists decided to break out of the encirclement at its weakest points. The Long March began at 5:00 p.m. on October 16, 1934. Secrecy and rear-guard actions confused the Nationalists, and it was several weeks before they realized that the main body of the Red Army had fled. The retreating force initially consisted of 86,000 troops, 15,000 personnel, and 35 women. Weapons and supplies were borne on men’s backs or in horse-drawn carts, and the line of marchers stretched for 50 miles. The Communists generally marched at night, and when the enemy was not near, a long column of torches could be seen snaking over valleys and hills into the distance.

The first disaster came in November, when Nationalist forces blocked the Communists’ route across the Hsiang River. It took a week for the Communists to break through the fortifications and cost them 50,000 men–more than half their number. After that debacle, Mao steadily regained his influence, and in January he was again made chairman during a meeting of the party leaders in the captured city of Tsuni. Mao changed strategy, breaking his force into several columns that would take varying paths to confuse the enemy. There would be no more direct assaults on enemy positions. And the destination would now be Shensi Province, in the far northwest, where the Communists hoped to fight the Japanese invaders and earn the respect of China’s masses.

After enduring starvation, aerial bombardment, and almost daily skirmishes with Nationalist forces, Mao halted his columns at the foot of the Great Wall of China on October 20, 1935. Waiting for them were five machine-gun- and red-flag-bearing horsemen. “Welcome, Chairman Mao,” one said. “We represent the Provincial Soviet of Northern Shensi. We have been waiting for you anxiously. All that we have is at your disposal!” The Long March was over.

The Communist marchers crossed 24 rivers and 18 mountain ranges, mostly snow-capped. Only 4,000 troops completed the journey. The majority of those who did not perished. It was the longest continuous march in the history of warfare and marked the emergence of Mao Zedong as the undisputed leader of the Chinese Communists. Learning of the Communists’ heroism and determination in the Long March, thousands of young Chinese traveled to Shensi to enlist in Mao’s Red Army. After fighting the Japanese for a decade, the Chinese Civil War resumed in 1945. Four years later, the Nationalists were defeated, and Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. He served as chairman until his death in 1976.

“The Long March.” 2008. The History Channel website. 16 Oct 2008, 11:47 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=7052.

On This Day

1701 – The Collegiate School was founded in Killingworth, CT. The school moved to New Haven in 1745 and changed its name to Yale College.

1793 – During the French Revolution, Queen Marie Antoinette was beheaded.

1859 – Abolitionist John Brown led a raid on Harper’s Ferry, VA (now located in West Virginia).

1916 – Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in New York City, NY.

1928 – Marvin Pipkin received a patent for the frosted electric light bulb.

1941 – The Nazis advanced to within 60 miles of Moscow. Romanians entered Odessa, USSR, and began exterminating 150,000 Jews.

1946 – 10 Nazi war criminals were hanged after being condemned by the Nuremberg trials.

1962 – U.S. President Kennedy was informed that there were missile bases in Cuba, beginning the Cuban missile crisis.

1964 – China detonated its first atomic bomb becoming the world’s fifth nuclear power.

1973 – Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were named winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Vietnamese official declined the award.

1995 – The “Million Man March” took place in Washington, DC.

1997 – Charles M. Schulz and his wife Jeannie announced that they would give $1 million toward the construction of a D-Day memorial to be placed in Virginia.

2002 – The Arthur Andersen accounting firm was sentenced to five years probation and fined $500,000 for obstructing a federeal investigation of the energy company Enron.

October 16, 1854

Lincoln speaks out against slavery

On this day in 1854, an obscure lawyer and Congressional hopeful from the state of Illinois named Abraham Lincoln delivers a speech regarding the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which Congress had passed five months earlier. In his speech, the future president denounced the act and outlined his views on slavery, which he called “immoral.”

Under the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, two new territories—Kansas and Nebraska—would be allowed into the Union and each territory’s citizens would be given the power to determine whether slavery would be allowed within the territory’s borders. It was believed that the act would set a precedent for determining the legality of slavery in other new territories. Controversy over the act influenced political races across the country that fall. Abolitionists, like Lincoln, hoped to convince lawmakers in the new territories to reject slavery.

Lincoln, who was practicing law at the time, campaigned on behalf of abolitionist Republicans in Illinois and attacked the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He denounced members of the Democratic Party for backing a law that “assumes there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another.” He believed that the law went against the founding American principle that “all men are created equal.” Lincoln was an abolitionist at heart, but he realized that the outlawing of slavery in states where it already existed might lead to civil war. Instead, he advocated outlawing the spread of slavery to new states. He hoped this plan would preserve the Union and slowly eliminate slavery by confining it to the South, where, he believed, “it would surely die a slow death.”

Lincoln and his fellow abolitionists were dismayed when Kansans voted a pro-slavery candidate into Congress in November. As Lincoln’s political career picked up momentum over the next several years, he continually referred to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the seeming inevitability that Kansas should become a slave state as “a violence…it was conceived in violence, passed in violence, is maintained in violence, and is being executed in violence.”

Lincoln continued to actively campaign against slavery in Kansas and helped to raise money to support anti-slavery candidates in that state. Meanwhile he continued his law practice and ran for the U.S. Senate in 1859. Although he lost to Democrat Stephen Douglas, Lincoln began to make a name for himself in national politics and earned increasing support from the North and abolitionists across the nation. It was this constituency that helped him win the presidency in 1860.

“Lincoln speaks out against slavery .” 2008. The History Channel website. 16 Oct 2008, 12:00 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=51395.

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