12
Apr
09

On This Day, April 12: FDR Dies

April 12, 1945

President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies

While on a vacation in Warm Springs, Georgia, President Roosevelt suffers a stroke and dies. His death marked a critical turning point in U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, as his successor, Harry S. Truman, decided to take a tougher stance with the Russians.

By April 1945, Roosevelt had been elected president of the United States four times and had served for over 12 years. He had seen the United States through some of its darkest days, from the depths of the Great Depression through the toughest times of World War II. In early 1945, shortly after being sworn in for his fourth term as president, Roosevelt was on the verge of leading his nation to triumph in the Second World War. Germany teetered on the brink of defeat, and the Japanese empire was crumbling under the blows of the American military. In February 1945, Roosevelt traveled to Yalta in the Soviet Union to meet with Russian leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to discuss the postwar world. Roosevelt returned from these intense meetings drawn and sick. He vacationed in Warm Springs, Georgia, but the rest did not lead to recuperation. On April 12, 1945, he suffered a massive stroke and died.

Roosevelt left a controversial legacy in terms of U.S.-Soviet relations. Critics charged that the president had been “soft” on the communists and naive in dealing with Stalin. The meetings at Yalta, they claimed, resulted in a “sellout” that left the Soviets in control of Eastern Europe and half of Germany. Roosevelt’s defenders responded that he made the best of difficult circumstances. He kept the Grand Alliance between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain intact long enough to defeat Germany. As for Eastern Europe and Germany, there was little Roosevelt could have done, since the Red Army occupied those areas. Roosevelt’s successor, Harry S. Truman, decided that a “tougher” policy toward the Soviets was in order, and he began to press the Russians on a number of issues. By 1947, relations between the two former allies had nearly reached the breaking point and the Cold War was in full swing.

“President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2635 [accessed Apr 12, 2009]

 

On This Day

1204 – The Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople.

1782 – The British navy won its only naval engagement against the colonists in the American Revolution at the Battle of Saints, off Dominica.

1811 – The first colonists arrived at Cape Disappointment, Washington.

1861 – Fort Sumter was shelled by Confederacy, starting America’s Civil War.

1864 – Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest captured Fort Pillow, in Tennessee and slaughters the black Union troops there.

1944 – The U.S. Twentieth Air Force was activated to begin the strategic bombing of Japan.

1961 – Soviet Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin became first man to orbit the Earth.

1963 – Police used dogs and cattle prods on peaceful civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, AL.

1981 – The space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral, FL, on its first test flight.

1989 – In the U.S.S.R, ration cards were issued for the first time since World War II. The ration was prompted by a sugar shortage.

April 12, 1861

Fort Sumter fired upon

The American Civil War begins when Confederates fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

The fort had been the source of tension between the Union and Confederacy for several months. After South Carolina seceded, the state demanded the fort be turned over but Union officials refused. A supply ship, the “Star of the West,” tried to reach Fort Sumter on January 9, but the shore batteries opened fire and drove it away. For both sides, Sumter was a symbol of sovereignty. The Union could not allow it to fall to the Confederates, although throughout the Deep South other federal installations had been seized. For South Carolinians, secession meant little if the Yankees still held the stronghold. The issue hung in the air when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, stating in his inauguration address: “You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.”

Lincoln did not try to send reinforcements but he did send in food. This way, Lincoln could characterize the operation as a humanitarian mission, bringing, in his words, “food for hungry men.” He sent word to the Confederates in Charleston of his intentions on April 6. The Confederate Congress at Montgomery, Alabama, had decided on February 15 that Sumter and other forts must be acquired “either by negotiation or force.” Negotiation, it seemed, had failed. The Confederates demanded surrender of the fort, but Major Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, refused.

At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, the Confederate guns opened fire. For thirty-three hours, the shore batteries lobbed 4,000 shells in the direction of the fort. Finally, the garrison inside the battered fort raised the white flag. No one on either side had been killed, although two Union soldiers died when the departing soldiers fired a gun salute, and some cartridges exploded prematurely. It was a nearly bloodless beginning to America’s bloodiest war.

“Fort Sumter fired upon,” The History Channel website, 2009, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2168 [accessed Apr 12, 2009]

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